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21st Century way of learning: Inquiry-based Learning

Human curiosity has been the backbone to how we have perceived the world and the application of this knowledge. As an education centre, The Lab strive to not just impart knowledge to our students, we use inquiry based learning as part of our pedagogy.

What is inquiry-based learning?

Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios. It contrasts with traditional education, which generally relies on the teacher presenting facts and his or her knowledge about the subject. Inquiry-based Learning is often assisted by a facilitator rather than a lecturer. Inquirers will identify and research issues and questions to develop knowledge or solutions. Inquiry-based learning includes problem-based learning, and is generally used in small scale investigations and projects, as well as research.The inquiry-based instruction is principally very closely related to the development and practice of thinking and problem solving skills.

Inquiry based learning is more than just asking students what do they want to learn. In most scenarios, students are unable to tell you specifically what do they want to know at the beginning of the lesson. It is through the analysis of information and finding out, in their own ways, how to best apply the information will students find new questions and scenarios in which they would need guidance to answer. Students will then be able to ask the questions that they really want answered, and the curiosity they foster is the core tenet of inquiry based learning.

What is inquiry-based learning in programming?

In the case of programming, knowing particular data structure or function, commonly known as theoretical concepts, is insufficient for students. It is only when students are able to utilise this knowledge to solve the challenges given to them will the learning take place. Everyone can copy and paste code in the process to consider themselves to have learnt the language, but knowing how to tweak the code will they be able to have mastered it.

Benefits and challenges of inquiry-based learning

Like all concepts of learning, inquiry based learning presents its own benefits and challenges. Some challenges include the lack of coverage of the subject matter, the willingness and readiness of students to be engaged.  Overcoming these challenges would require effort on the facilitator’s parts. To ensure that the students are adequately covered in terms of subject matter, key learning objectives must be set before hand and the focus on these learning objectives will be reiterated during every lesson.

With regards to encouraging students to be ready and willing to ask their own questions, facilitators should ensure that the appropriate questions are first posed, regardless of ability or interest level. The entry level and essential questions would help pique the student’s interest and the onus in on themselves to realise that they are ultimately responsible for their own learning. These would ensure that inquiry based learning can be conducted in an effective and fun manner.

That being said, inquiry based learning does bring about its unique sets of benefits. Putting students on the front bench of their own learning ensures a high level of engagement and curiosity. Facilitators would have then evolved their roles to be feeders of information to be the guardians of information – the students know who to go to when they seek the answers for questions that they have come up with themselves.

In the long run, this method trains students to be critical thinkers instead of sponges of information. This is useful as their role as programmers, or any other role that requires programming. Students will be able to ask the critical and relevant questions whenever needed, which will boost and help on their own learning journey, beyond just programming.

So how does The Lab promote inquiry based learning?

Our facilitators are well versed in the subject matter of programming concepts, and can grasp the key learning objectives in every section. Students will not be taught in a traditional class format, but will instead complete the challenges on their own, consulting the facilitators if necessary. This ensures that students are engaged sufficiently and put in a scenario where they must be responsible for their own learning. The challenges pose the questions that they would need to formulate by themselves, and the solutions derived from it is something that they can take pride in.

 

The “Perfect” Father is at The Lab Singapore

The Lab Singapore is delighted to have one of the most famous daddy bloggers in Singapore, the “Perfect” Father, to visit our lab and have his children attend one of our June holidays camp!

Here is what he has to say about us:

Have you been taking leave to bring the kiddos out during this June holidays? Or had enrichment classes planned for them already? Let you in on a fun 3-day camp that Steffi, Leroy and Stacci attended recently at The Lab Singapore, located in Katong V.

I must admit that the word coding sounds difficult and even alien to this old man, but with our reliance on computers and programs these days, knowledge in coding would no doubt be beneficial to our kiddos. And for my kiddos, learning the very basics using the Tynker app in a fun environment is definitely a plus!

They reminisced how the instructors brought them down to the supermarket to select fruits for their experiment on electricity, and learnt about circuitries and voltages in a way that they would remember for a long time. But it was not all classroom work as they also went on an excursion to HP Learning Academy to learn and see for themselves, the high-tech equipment available.

3D printing is also common these days and the kiddos finally got to experience designing their 3D model and getting them printed in class! They also even got to try their hands at shooting missiles from a drone while controlling its flight! Leroy loved it for sure! There is still one more session with limited slots happening from 17-19 June, you can check out here – https://www.thelab.sg/programs/electives/!

#SGKids #KidsSG #SGSiblings #SiblingSG #ActivitySG #JuneHolidays#TheLabSG #CodingForKids #CodingKids #RoboticsForKids #StemKids#StemEducation #StemEducationForKids #CodingIsFun #SGEnrichment#SmartNationSG #SmartNation #MediaInvite #ThePerfectFather @ The Lab Singapore

Why a Raspberry Pi? Raspberry Pi VS Micro:Bit

Why a Raspberry Pi over Micro:bit

Micro Bit has been commonly known as an entry-level microcomputer. It aimed at very basic, entry-level use cases. Raspberry Pi, due to its economical price and versatile use, it is commonly used for tertiary education.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Design

While the Raspberry Pi 3 resembles a rudimentary PC – a board with multiple recognisable connections – the BBC Micro Bit is essentially a 5 x 4cm circuit board with five basic I/O rings for hooking up other devices and even power.

This means that the project that a student can do is limited to five basic I/O rings while a Raspberri Pi has four USB ports, 40 GPIO pins, and an Ethernet port.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Power

Raspberry Pi 3: 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and Broadcom Videocore IV GPU, 1GB RAM

BBC Micro Bit: 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU, 16KB RAM

We don’t know about the BBC Micro Bit’s specs, but we do know that it runs on an ARM Cortex MO CPU chip, which is the smallest ARM processor available. It’s designed to be extremely small and energy efficient, as well as easy to program for.

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Connectivity

Raspberry Pi 3: 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio jack, 40 GPIO pins, Camera interface, Display interface, MicroSD card slot, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

BBC Micro Bit: 5 x I/O rings, Bluetooth Low Energy, Micro-USB controller, edge connector, compass, accelerometer

Once again, the Raspberry Pi 3, despite being very basic, actually has the recognizable connections of a modern computer.

It has an HDMI slot, four USB 2.0 slots, an ethernet port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, something which its predecessor, the Raspberry Pi 2, missed out on. That makes it great for using as a media center.

The BBC Micro Bit has a basic set of five I/O rings, meaning you’ll need crocodile clips to physically hook it up to other devices (such as sensors or robots).

Raspberry Pi 3 vs BBC Micro Bit – Software

Raspberry Pi 3: Variety of Debian-based OSs, primarily Raspbian OS, free Windows 10 version

BBC Micro Bit: Embedded software platform, web-based interface

Raspberry Pi 3 is a full applications processor-based device that runs Linux and Windows 10, while the BBC Micro is an embedded software platform that doesn’t run a full operating system. The Pi even features a web-based UI for editing in JavaScript, Python, C++ and Blocks.

The BBC Micro Bit is suited to teach the raw building blocks of coding at the heart of it. It’s highly basic. If students were to purse into more advanced programming, a Raspberry Pi would be more suited. That is the reason why The Lab Singapore uses a Raspberry Pi so that students are able to learn a much more robust curriculum with one of the most powerful and economical microcomputer in the world today.

** The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries.  

** The Micro Bit (also referred to as BBC Micro Bit, stylized as micro:bit) is an open source hardware ARM-based embedded system designed by the BBC for use in computer education in the UK.

The Lab Singapore Parent Portal

The Lab Singapore is proud to present The Lab Parent Portal designed for busy parents in a digital age. Parents are now able to track your child’s learning progression with us real-time. Available to students ages 10-16 in our The Lab program.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions – Robotics and Programming competitions in Singapore

1. What are the well-known competitions for Robotics and Programming?

For Robotics focused competitions, the World Robot Olympiad (WRO) is generally considered the most popular, while for Programming focused competitions, Singapore has the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI).

2. What is the difference between these two competitions?

WRO involves designing, building and programming a competition robot. NOI focuses mainly on programming and problem-solving skills.

Image result for wro Image result for national olympiad in informatics
What is it? The World Robot Olympiad is a global robotics competition for young people. The World Robot Olympiad competition uses Lego Mindstorm Robots manufactured by LEGO Education. The Singapore National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) is modelled after the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI), the ultimate international competition in computing.
What are the categories in the competition. The tournament comprises of four categories:

(1) Primary for ages 9 – 12;

(2) Secondary for ages 13 – 15;

(3) Tertiary for ages 15 – 19;

(4) Open for all categories

The tournament is broken up into four categories:

(1) Secondary;

(2) Junior College

What is the programming language used in the competition? Lego Mindstorms C++, Java, Python
When is the competition held? September Annually March Annually
How long is the competition? Typically, across 5 days 1 day
Is it an individual or team competition? Team of 3-4 Individual

3. How long does it take for a student to train for the above competitions?

Typically, a student is required to be exposed to robotics and/or programming for 1 – 2 years. It would then take approximately 50 hours of training focused purely on the competition. Hence, a high level of commitment from the student is paramount.

4. What is my child learning in The Lab Singapore that will assist in the above competitions?

In the Lab Junior program, students are required to build and program different robots each week using Lego Mindstorms. Lego Mindstorms is the programming language used in WRO. At the end of each term, students are required to complete project work which requires all three aspects, i.e. design, build and program, similar to WRO.

In the Lab program, students start with Google Blockly, enabling them to grasp the concepts of programming and progress on to Python in the advanced stages of the curriculum. Python is one of the programming languages used in the NOI.

5. Is attending The Lab Singapore classes sufficient to participate in the competition?

Unfortunately, no. The competitions are thematic and they vary year on year. Nonetheless, the concepts learnt in The Lab Singapore will assist students in understanding and applying core skills and concepts during the competitions.

As such, we have specially engaged instructors who have experienced in training students for competitions to train our students.

6. What is the suggested learning journey if my child is interested in taking part competitions?

We suggest your child to have at least 6 months to 1 year of exposure in robotics and/or programming before taking part in any competitions. We highly encourage students to take part in their first competition as part of their learning journey and to participate in our internal The Lab monthly competitions. This will allow them to be better prepared when they take part in serious competitions the following year.

A Guide to DSA (Direct School Admission)

As all secondary schools are increasing the proportion of students’ intake though the DSA, more and more parents are considering that route for their child.

Here is a guide to:

What is DSA and how it works?

Direct School Admission for secondary schools (DSA-Sec) allows students to apply to some schools before taking the PSLE. Students apply based on their talent in sports, CCAs and specific academic areas.

How do schools select students for the DSA?

The selection process varies from school to school, and across DSA categories. For instance, they may have to submit a portfolio of their achievements, result slips, CCA records and a personal statement or character reference. The student may also have to go through interviews, camps, trials or tests for that particular area of talent.

Who can apply?

Primary 6 students can apply for DSA-Sec based on a wide-range of talents, including:

  • Sports and games
  • Visual, literary and performing arts
  • Debate and public speaking
  • Science, mathematics and engineering
  • Languages and humanities
  • Uniformed groups
  • Leadership (e.g. prefects)

Which DSA schools are Technology-focused talent area?

As technology related interests are gaining in popularity, so are schools in adopting students who are talented in that particular area. Schools who adopt the DSA program with a focus in technology related talent areas typically require students to have a portfolio and/or go through an interview process to present themselves and their achievements.

Schools that adopted the DSA program with a focus in technology related talent areas:

Schools

Talent Area

Admiralty Secondary School Robotics and Computing
Anderson Secondary School Robotics
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) Robotics (Boys)
Bukit View Secondary School Coding and Computational Thinking Skills
Changkat Changi Secondary School STEM
Chua Chu Kang Secondary School Robotics and Automation
Clementi Town Secondary School Coding
Commonwealth Secondary School Robotics
Dunman High School Infocomm and Robotics
Fuchun Secondary School Robotics
Gan Eng Seng STEM
Hai Sing Catholic School Robotics
Hillgrove Secondary School STEM
Jurongville Secondary School STEM
Kent Ridge Secondary School Computational Thinking
Loyang View Secondary School STEM
Manjusri Secondary School Science and Technology
Maris Stella High School Robotics
NUS High School Science, Mathematics
Pei Hwa Secondary School Robotics
Regent Secondary School Robotics
River Valley High Coding
School of Science and Technology Computing, Electronics
Singapore Chinese Girls’ School Robotics
Tampines Secondary School STEM
West Spring Secondary School Infocommunications
Woodlands Ring Secondary School Robotics
Yio Chu Kang Secondary School Coding
Yishun Town Secondary School Robotics
Zhonghua Secondary School Computer Programming

 

 

 

The Lab Singapore Expands To Central West

We are thrilled to announce today that The Lab Singapore is expanding to Singapore’s Central West region.

Through an exciting partnership with Repton Schoolhouse, our The Lab Infant and The Lab Junior programmes will find their new premises in the Central West starting today.

“The Lab Singapore is focused on high quality member journey and experience,” said Adelene Fong, Managing Director of The Lab Singapore. “With our huge success in Katong, positive feedback and strong validation from existing parents and students, we are expanding to bring about more awareness on the importance of programming/coding in Singapore.”

Free coding bootcamp trial classes will still be held at The Lab Singapore @ Katong V.

The Repton Schoolhouse is located at 321, Alexandra Central Road #03-11 Alexandra Central, 159971.

 

About Repton Schoolhouse

Repton Schoolhouse offers a unique curriculum combining the best of the British and Singaporean education systems and traditions. The combination of these and the finest educational practitioners, enable each child to be guided and encouraged to grow and develop their potential within a nurturing and supportive environment.

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5 Top Questions Parents Ask About Coding For Their Kids

Here are the 5 Top Questions Parents Ask about Coding for their kids:

1. Why should my child learn Coding even though he/ she does not wish to work in the IT industry in the future?

Learning to code is not able being software engineers or programmers, it is about developing computational thinking skills. Computational thinking is how software engineers solve problems. It combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches you a new way to think about the world.

Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. It allows you to tackle complex problems in efficient ways that operate at huge scale. It involves creating models of the real world with a suitable level of abstraction, and focus on the most pertinent aspects. It helps you go from specific solutions to general ones.

2. Isn’t programming too complex for kids? I have heard of C, Java – how can young kids learn those?

Traditionally programming required knowledge of syntax, that is, the use of sequences of text including words, numbers, and punctuation. You are right, this is a complexity that children cannot successfully navigate.

But visual-based programming, such as Blockly, that uses blocks like pre-created code, and ensures kids can focus on the fundamental programming logic, rather than syntax.

Children can easily drag and drop to write a program (that is, build a game, a story) that works. Kids don’t get frustrated with a program not working because of a missing semi colon!

3. When should I start my child to learn how to code?

It’s common knowledge that children under the age of 7 acquire foreign languages extremely rapidly. So why not the computer vernacular?  Researchers have found that the best age range to begin teaching children a second language is between 2 and

Childhood and early adolescence are the critical age ranges for children to learn anything, including programming, because their brains are still developing and learning how to learn.

4. I don’t know anything about computers or programming. How do I know how he./ she is progressing?

Every member of The Lab is meticulously tracked by our system. From the time taken to finish a challenge, to number of attempts taken, all these are captured and recorded in our cloud database. Parents can log in into our system to see your child’s learning progression. Our curriculum is well-documented and reviewed by Dr. Oka Kurniawan, a professor in SUTD.

5. There are so many programming languages. Which one should my child learn?

The easiest coding language to learn for the first time learners is Python. Python is open source and free to use, even for commercial applications. Thanks to its flexibility, Python is one of the most widely used high-level programming languages today.

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Coding In The Classroom: Is MOE Ready For It?

In 2017, Singapore announced a $3 million plan, dubbed the Digital Maker Programme, that aims to distribute 100,000 micro:bits to schoolgoing children and adults over the next two years to teach basic coding.

Coding is an enrichment programme in schools, like music and ballet. Computing is now offered as an O-level subject at Secondary 3, starting in 19 schools. If digital literacy could be as important as reading and writing, should coding be part of the school curriculum in Singapore?

There are practical difficulties to such an approach includes a lack of qualified teachers. The bottom line? If coding is the language of the future, the answer to whether it should be taught in all schools is obvious. As with all things, the devil is in the details. When will MOE be ready for it?

Australia: In 2017, Australian schools introduced the new Digital Technologies curriculum. Every child from the first year of school to Year 10 will be working on the curriculum.

Japan: Starting with the primary schools in 2020, computer programming will be made a compulsory subject in Japanese primary schools. It will be followed by the implementation in middle schools in 2021 and high schools in 2022.

UK: Since 2014, UK is the first country in the G20 to ensure that every child is schooled in coding from Primary until G.C.S.E.

China: Many Chinese children are now getting exposed to coding by the time they reach preschool, as private coding classes for preschoolers open up. Normally, youths of this age are working on mastering math and Chinese, but they are soon possess new skills in technology to go alongside these others.

US: Though Obama’s initiative of Hour of Code, 28 million Americans has been exposed to Coding. One quarter of K-12 schools have integrated Computer Science into their curriculum.

References:

  1. https:// fossbytes.com/ japan-computer-programming-compulsory-subject-schools/
  2. https:// bigthink.com/ ideafeed/ china-is-already-teaching-coding-to-the-next-generation
  3. https:// pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/ articles/ coding-in-the-classroom
  4. https:// edtechnology.co.uk/ Article/ digital-learning-day-coding-in-schools
  5. https:// www.straitstimes.com/ opinion/ add-coding-to-basic-skills-taught-in-schools

 

Computational Thinking and Human Development

Future-Proof Your Child Through Coding

Computational thinking is effectively a way that humans have been figuring out every aspect of life since time immemorial. We have spent centuries understanding what the component parts of any subject matter could be, and the really important ones, we note down so that these can be taught to future generations, such as with music, mathematics, economics, and similar. Other skills that we acquire through socialisation, such as language and social-emotional development for example, require the same steps in order to develop effectively, we just don’t call it computational thinking.

Computational thinking is quite obviously required for coding computers but in a more explicit, concrete and inflexible manner. Coding is a relatively new human activity that is likely to lead the next stage of human development but computational thinking has been around for much longer and is required of us in every aspect of life and from nearly day one.

Computational thinking is described as a process of analysing an array of information in order to identify basic parts (decomposition), ways that the parts consistently work together effectively (pattern recognition), ignoring the unrelated bits (abstraction), logging these elements as steps involved to achieve the process repeatedly (algorithm), and testing out the identified system for faulty assumptions, correcting them where necessary (evaluating solutions).

We do this more often when we are young as a necessary part of learning how to exist in the world and much less as we age and define reliable (enough) rules to live by. When we are young, our brains are primed to do this, but over time we capitalise less frequently on this natural ability. Capitalising on this innate way of learning about the world, ensuring we can identify and positively utilise the ability is one way to ensure that we are all able to continue this important process well beyond the natural developmental period of youth and retain this critical skill throughout life.

Computational thinking has been embedded into standard school curricula in many nations now, whether taught as a discrete learning area, as with the UK and USA, or embedded in each class, as occurs in Finland. The

Given that estimates of up to 60% of current work that can be coded into a logarithm is estimated to be given to machines in the next couple of decades, it is important not just to have an important workforce skill of programming or coding computers in the future but also understanding the way they work, or don’t, is potentially the next step in the development of the critical life skill of computational thinking. For those who are not supported in learning this apparently future-critical skill, there may be a different array of career opportunities, but they are likely to be limited and limiting. Whether one wants to learn to code or not, Computational Thinking is already with us and is here to stay.

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