Cikgu Ruth Ling is an educator who challenges the conventions of teaching and learning by adopting fun and innovative ways to incorporate tech in the classroom. She shares her journey with tech in class and how it has led to remarkable impact in the classroom.
Close your eyes. Think back to a time when you were a student learning the concept of percentages in Math class for the first time. What do you remember? Perhaps you remember sitting through a long lecture on why percentages are important. Or maybe, you recall having to practice endless sums on it.
But have you ever had a lesson on percentages done through a game of Candy Crush? Probably not…
... unless of course, you were a student in Cikgu Ruth Ling’s class.
Cikgu Ling is a primary school teacher from SK Seri Bayu Perak who uses technology creatively in the classroom to connect with her students and engage them in lessons. In her class, the traditional mode of teaching via “chalk and talk” is replaced with a digital invitation to explore, engage, and learn in a fun and immersive way. Digital games for example, aren’t the antithesis of learning but rather, harnessed as a powerful teaching tool. A standard lesson on fractions can be replaced with a game of Mario chess and students learn how to calculate perimeters from a game of Tetris. The way she innovatively uses technology to create unique learning experiences for her students is an inspiration to educators everywhere on how to break conventions in teaching and learning. This has also earned her the Frog Teacher Award prize for ‘Thinking Ahead and Out of The Box’ in education.
But it is a journey which she says, has come a long way from when she first began.
If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, for Cikgu Ling, that proverbial first ‘step’ began when her school was equipped with 20 computers in 2007. Confronted with the reality that she wasn’t familiar with technological tools like Powerpoint, she saw the need to learn more about it. Partnering with other teachers who had a similar desire to learn how they could adopt technology in the classroom, they created a group where they could explore the use of technological tools together.
Learning from a senior teacher in the group, she discovered how beneficial technology can be for teachers.
“That really was the starting point of my journey. From there, I found it quite interesting to use technology in teaching. It really helped me a lot and was convenient to use,” she says.
Then in 2017, Cikgu Ling shared how she was lucky to meet a former FrogAsia employee who introduced her to more advanced teaching tools like Virtual Reality (VR).
“He asked me what other technological tools I knew of and I told him there were only a few, so he introduced me to Google Expedition. And that was how I first knew how to use VR in the classroom.”
With the Google Cardboards she received, Cikgu Ling was able to create unique learning experiences for her students such as virtual expeditions to the Burj Khalifa for a lesson on ‘heights’. “I found it really fun and my students liked it too,” says Cikgu Ling.
Fast forward to today, Cikgu Ling not only uses VR but has also discovered how to adopt Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) in her classroom. As a combination between VR and AR, Cikgu Ling shares how her discovery of MR from teachers in Taiwan has unlocked a new level of excitement and engagement in her classroom. The most interesting being a virtual castle she created for her students to visit instead of an assessment.
Once you get feedback from students, saying ‘Teacher, your lesson is very good. We love it,' you really feel like any effort and time you take is worth it. So I always want to make my lessons more creative and more interesting.
Reflecting on her experience, she shares that educators must be willing to take the initiative to invest time and effort. Only then will they discover new technological tools that can be used to transform learning experiences for their students.
Be positive and open minded. Don’t reject things and go, ‘Oh, this is wasting my time because I need to learn some more or it’s a risk to ask my students to bring a handphone. When you consider these things, you really won’t do it. But when you think of the student’s benefit, you will.
Cikgu Ling shares that the benefits of using technology in the classroom may not be immediately apparent to teachers but can reap meaningful results in the long-run.
“Two years ago when I first used technology in the classroom with my Year 6 students, I may not have seen much progress but now, I can see how fast they catch things. It’s very easy to teach them and I can move faster with the syllabus. This is like a ‘harvest’ of the work I planted with them back then,” she shares proudly.
“As a teacher, you need your student to imagine concepts. Maybe when you draw, you can’t draw nicely and are limited by it. But if you have technology like a smartboard where your students can come and drag-and-drop or mix-and-match, it helps you to explain the concept better to students and there’ll be fewer chances for misconception to happen,” she shares.
Citing the positive differences she has witnessed when tech is used in the classroom, she says that this also inspires her to share what she knows with others.
Through her Youtube channel, Cikgu Ling creates short tutorial videos to help teachers incorporate technology creatively in the classroom. There are guides on how teachers can use Powerpoint to create interactive games all the way to how they can use AR in the classroom. The goal she says is to help teachers everywhere enjoy embracing technology in the classroom just as she has.
“When I use technology, I found it quite fun and quite easy to use so I thought, ‘Why not share with other teachers, so they won’t have to go through the hard way and would have a shortcut to learning how to make their lessons more interesting!’
Consequently, embracing technology in the classroom does not need to be an intimidating process when there’s a community of teachers supporting the effort.
Don’t be afraid to embrace technology and learn to adapt with digitalisation. There’s always support and we should embrace the different possibilities in making learning better. - Cikgu Ling