Farmer's Market at TAMU

10/04/2009 03:05

Walked out to lunch with Sarah like I did yesterday and we were supposed to see student protest at the university center but there was no sign of any student gathering at all. However, I saw a very interesting farmer's market. That's wherwe I got the strawberries.


Attending Dissertation Proposal Defense

09/04/2009 00:13

Sarah invited me to Aya's PhD Dissertation Proposal defense this morning. Her topic is on Senior Citizens' Travel Behaviour in Yao City, Osaka, Japan.

After hearing about the Dissertation Committee system in the US for many years, I finally got to see and experience one in action.

Still preparing for the seminar tomorrow.


Thinking about Professional Development in Geography

24/03/2009 16:35

I have been thinking about how professional development for Geography teachers can be enahnced. This is also in line with one of the goals of my study trip. So I posted an online survey on polldaddy at

The questions asked included:


1.     Describe what you understand by the term “Professional Development for Geography Teachers”.

2.     In your opinion, what is the purpose of PD?

3.     Who are the stakeholders in PD? What role do they play?

4.     What are some ways in which PD is carried out? Workshops? School based, mass lectures? Which do you think is most effective? Why?

5.     Are there any cultural, social understandings that shape PD? For example, school culture, MOE initiatives?

6.     Can you describe what successful PD in Geography will result in?


If you look carefully, you can see that I am approaching it from an activity theory perspective.



Feel-trips and our senses

12/10/2008 14:40

When asked by Guoyong if everything can be taught by framing it around big ideas, I launched into a long discourse on how big ideas can generally help us frame "What to teach". I cautioned that an over-dependence may not really be a good idea though. The conversation drifted to my strong encouragement to include all the five senses when conducting fieldtrips for students and Guoyong said instantaneously that "Oh so the big idea of fieldtrips is really 'feel-trips'". How brilliant... I told him I will quote him forever on that.


Today, I went for a Buddhist Seminar on Positive Psychology by Ajahn Brahm. And on story he told inspired me.

One day Ajahn Brahm decided that instead of taking a ride in the car up the hill to his monastery 60 km south of Perth, he would like to take a nice stroll. As he walked he realised to his amazement that there were many beautiful things on the path which he had traveled so often, that he has not noticed over the last 9 years since the monastery was set up. He could see the colours vividly, sights with a new perspective and even grains on the rocks.

Moral of the story, slow down and truly see the world as it is. Do not lock yourself in a fast travelling vehicle, for you will certainly lose a great deal of detail in what you perceive.

Of course Ajahn Brahm said this to inspire us all to meditate, for when you meditate that you can slow down enough to gain perspective. But as Geographers, isn't that what we want to do in the field; we would like to take in the field and experience it to the fullest?
Just a thought.


Impact or Impacts

28/09/2008 11:45

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with Pat. She argued that "impact" is an uncountable noun, and that people have been abusing the verb form "impacts" even in textbooks and scientific literature. I argued that words are invented and re-invented even as we speak but I must admit that to say "climatic impacts" is grammatically incorrect.


Back to the impact. As an academic, we are usually measured by our research productivity and publication output. Another aspect that we often take for granted is the impact our work has on society. The main reason for publication is to disseminate findings and more fundamentally to educate. When I was interviewed on tv sometime in May this year, some colleagues gave me the usual shrug of the shoulder, perhaps as indifference has seeped in after my repeated tv exposure. Perhaps, some were thinking of the irrelevance of a tv interview to academic work in general.

Several months down the road, I am still receiving comments from students who have viewed the show and found that it has educational impact on their geographical understanding. The interview was posted on facebook and my students whom I have "invited" to be my friends have full access to the clip. I am glad that such endeavours have not been futile and that some educational good has arisen.

The following is a transcript of the comments made (and my reply to them). Pseudonyms are used to protect the identity of my students.

Dr Chang

I have a question. The usual path for cyclones from Indian oceans is that they move towards Bangladesh. 'Experts' say for it to travel to and raze Myanmar, it only happens once in every 40years.

May I know why is it a '40 yr phenomenon'? Are there any direct local causes that have caused Nargis to blaze the route of Myanmar this time round?

Also, is climate change to be blamed for unpredictability of cyclonic paths?

Awaiting for enlightenment,

Chew-Hung Chang wrote
at 3:26pm on May 12th, 2008
Dear Don,

40 yr is a statistical figure. When they say 1 in 40 yr storm, it means, statistically, it occurs once every 40 years.

Normally, the cyclones will drift NWards as it is driven largely by tropical easterlies. However in the case of Nargis (and in some cases too), a high pressure area was present immediately north of the stationary Nargis system from 30 Apr to 1 May. On 2 May as the cyclone moves off, it veered to the east as there was a barrier to the north. That's from what I have read. I have yet to collect barometric and satellite data on this.

Word of caution on climate change. Don't blame it for everything. It may be an indirect cause for Nargis (only if we can confirm it with data at a much later date) but the main reason for the change in path is usually the same reasons for the cyclone's genesis and decay, eg. topography, atmospheric pressure changes, availability of moisture, etc.

Chew Hung

Don wrote
at 3:59pm on May 12th, 2008
Thank you for the quick reply.

I would love to see satellite pics if possible!

Also, XXX from NUS said 80% of the mangroves which were cleared for development at Irrawaddy contributed largely to the harsh impact of Nargis. If mangroves were still intact at Irrawaddy Delta, would you think it would have cushioned the impact of Nargis and not caused so much damage? Are mangroves really such great cyclonic absorbers, given it's a cat 4 cyclone?

Chew-Hung Chang wrote
at 5:04pm on May 12th, 2008

It's anybody's guess. The storm surge sent waves up to 3.5 m high. It could rival the Tsunami waves in some areas in 2004. However, mangroves can cushion some of the storm surge and reduce its impact inland. Moreover, the damage from cyclones is not just from storm surges. There's the sustained high wind speeds and the torrential rains as well. Plus the lack of proper evacuation procedures - a main human factor in the fatality if you ask me.

Don wrote
at 6:03pm on May 12th, 2008
btw, you looked so solemn in the video...your grasp of geographical language in mandarin is simply amazing.

great info btw, all that were being discussed - so LORMS lor! i was like wah all the discussion is so ultimate level 3 LORMS. hahaha.

a suggestion: ask your NIE IT support to include eng subtitles? Should be archived as educational videos lah!

On a sidenote, I love QiQi! She's my favourite zao an ni hao gal. Heheh.

Chew-Hung Chang wrote
at 8:36pm on May 12th, 2008
she's really nice.... all my past experiences were good and I am indeed blessed to have her each time as the host.

I'll try doing the sub titles myself la....

Elvin wrote
at 10:15pm on May 12th, 2008
Cher I got question not at all relevant to the video!

There was a Straits Times article showing a diagrammatic illustration of a cyclone. I understand that the cyclone was spinning in an anti-clockwise manner (N Hemisphere and deflection to the right, right?) but how come at the top of the cyclone there were arrows showing a clockwise rotation? I was kinda confused.

I understand you might not understand what I'm trying to say/describe here. But... it'll be great if you do! Heh.

Oh and btw.. I realise that recently there have been loads of natural hazards occurring! From Nargis to the earthquake at Japan last week, to one 7.8 earthquake that just happened in China today!

Is the world going to end?!

Or is tis the season for the earth to be going mantle. Oops. I meant 'mental'.

Ok... I blame this spastic comment on my need to type stuff for the sake of typing. I need my distractions.

Chew-Hung Chang wrote
at 11:30pm on May 12th, 2008
The air aloft in a tropical cyclone in the Northern Hemisphere does spin clockwise. As air is expelled from the system aloft, the air gets deflected to the right as well, thus causing it to turn clockwise. Look at the diagram again and you should understand what I mean.

As for more natural hazards occurring... perhaps blame it on better reporting. I received no less than 4 emails from UGUS about the sichuan earthquake today... 3 aftershocks, all above 5.5 Ritcher....

Nothing to worry about... just more awareness....

Don wrote
at 7:04am on May 13th, 2008
yes and better awareness...i think there were like lots of natural disasters in the past but i didn't care. only until when i became a geog teacher these events mattered to me.

you wldn't believe this - i have a colleague (guess which dept, heh) who didn't even know that myanmar was hit by cyclone. -_-"'

Elaine wrote
at 10:17am

Dr Chang! I was always very blur and unclear about tropical cyclones, but just listening to your short 10 minutes or so interview enlightened me so much!


Differentiated Instruction

23/09/2008 15:29

The class ended with a task for the trainees to comment on how the course has been run so far. They have to reflect on how the EUs, EQs, DI and performance tasks have been designed and practised. Let's see how it goes....


Quote of the day "A person who writes is a writer.... a person who draws is a .... A person who cooks is a ....." So i suggested that a river is a flower!




Podcast on Teaching Physical Geography Thru Movies

18/09/2008 18:47


Map Reading thru IT

11/09/2008 18:11

At the end of the 2nd run of this course, I have learnt quite a few points:

  1. Provide an instructional manual even though the focus of the whole exercise was for hands-on activities. Perhaps I have over estimated the ease of using Gogole Earth.
  2. Build in some structure to ensure that participants do their "homework". This may be tough given the buy schedules of the teachers coming for the course.
  3. The course could be lengthened to 12 hours instead of 6.

However, the course participants gave rather good feedback.... most of them were happy they have learnt how to use Google Earth.


Any Questions

02/09/2008 18:00

In an attempt to avoid having no questions at all, I ended today's session with an exercise in which everyone had to generate ONE question. I ended up with 14.

Several important questions were raised but a main concern I heard was the need to reconcile the need to produce results (in relation to national exams) and the desire and ideal of empowering learners. This is a theme that occurs with each batch. Whether this is due to the experience gained during contract teaching and ESE or through opinions shared by their seniors, I will be unable to tell. But the concern is valid and warrants some further discussion. I shall blog more about it as we discuss the issue further in the coming lessons.

There is also the fixation on "Knowing is not the same as being". After saying this phrase the last session, it has been picked up and quoted by no less than 2 individuals in the class. Perhaps I should write more about the need for learning for being vs learning for knowing....

What is being?


Teaching Map Reading Thru ICT

28/08/2008 17:27

I had a couple of teachers nodding off in my workshop today. I did this 3 hr professional development workshop for teachers on using google earth for map reading. It didn’t help that the teachers cam after a full day at school. But two people started nodding off when i was explaining the rationale for some of our activities. I had to stop, take stock. Close the powerpoint slideshow. Jump on to something else. It worked.

The session was well received generally and I have included some of the reflections of what they have learnt from the session here:

"I have learnt a range of tolls in Google Earth"

"I've learnt how to make teaching map reading more exciting and interesting through using GE. It is very interesting to be 'brought' to the places virtually."

"Can't wait to share with my pupils. It's so exciting to be able to locate the places on Google Earth"

"Today I have learnt some basics of GE and I have gained some insights on how to harness and incorporate the use of GE to teach landscape interpretation"

"GE can bring the field to the students, giving them the physical and cultural context of maps"

"I've learnt make GE relevant to classroom teaching. I enjoyed the lesson very much"

"At last the topo map has come alive"

"I've learnt how to use GE to aid students visualise and gather information to construct explanations"

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