Adha Shaleh

Adha Shaleh

Thursday, 27 June 2019 09:33

Mastering the art of freewriting

SF: It can generate the best ideas, insight and contentSOLID writing skills still represent the core foundation in education. It is normal for young minds to think of unresolved issues as they are bidding for answers to local problems, global opportunities, and, of course, vacancies in the job market.

Freewriting about those matters relieves the stress of inhibition which is detrimental to psychological wellbeing. It also helps teachers to form greater perspectives with students as they seek self-understanding, trust and confidence.

(Freewriting is a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar or topic. It produces raw thoughts and helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism.)

The present state of education allows school teachers to use countless digital tools — ranging from GoogleDocs, Hemmingway Editor, Grammarly — to teach key writing skills. They understand that the central pillar in freewriting offers excellent writing experience, and they know writing remains the requisite to flourish in the working world. Further, the rise of digital tools makes freewriting available to anyone, particularly with schools now emphasising collaborative online activities to work alongside students.

The digital age has given rise to a new breed of writers — content writers, copywriters, bloggers, and reviewers. They are indeed creating a powerhouse in the writing industry.

Nevertheless, the success of students who want to pursue a career in writing, be it academic and beyond, depends on their insightful use of keywords, their opinions and attempts to persuade the reader, their creativity and ability to tell fact or fiction, and the use of five senses to paint a picture for the reader.

Freewriting is a fast method of drafting new ideas that enable students to think — a skill that often elevates one’s thinking capabilities by training one’s mind to think fast and focus on the topical and utilitarian aspects of the subject of one’s concerns. Done properly, it helps teachers to understand students’ perspectives about topical issues that are usually difficult to penetrate in daily interaction.

Early exposure to this technique of writing may also lead to the mastery of other writing styles, including literary, prose, poem, academic, business, technical, and translation.

Notwithstanding the impressive work of one’s mind to think, it is also easily turned into a lazy mode, especially because of the massive penetration of the Internet of Things into one’s life. Left to its own, the mind may also be inclined to recycle thoughts, copy and paste (plagiarism) other works, and resort to poor assumptions and cynicism. In a culture that favours truncated forms of expression, brief messages, abbreviation, Internet slang, students are not willing to write at length.

Furthermore, free access to the Internet prevents the love for reading books, critical thinking, and face-to-face conversation.

It is believed that the solution to this problem is in freewriting as it pushes the brain to think longer, deeper before one comes up with the big idea. Furthermore, the point of freewriting is not to come up with the correct answer, but the valuable lesson here is to use it to generate the best ideas, insight and content.

To ensure the desired results of freewriting, and to benefit students in the long run, trainers need to observe the three golden rules:

One, the act of recording reflective notes about what the writer has written in the text. This point suggests that abstract ideas have always been about developing new concepts and making sense of the relationship between them. In the initial stage of freewriting, the writer is an “accidental genius”, as he switches his indefinite attention to form opinions per se. This internal mind of exploration is a creative process to generate reams of ideas in order to form a hypothesis about a specific concern.

Two, the act of identifying a significant passage in the text. This speaks more about the writer’s recurring ideas, inclination, and future ideas. Often in a normal process of writing a draft for a review, for instance, the writer stops to question its acceptance to the wider audience. But in rule two of freewriting, it bypasses that tendency as one owns the freedom to explore more ideas, identifying significant points, and processing information. There is no fear of rejection in this particular period of exploration as one continues to break through ideas and solutions.

Three, the act of writing a specific topic as students pour ideas for a limited amount of time. By allowing students to free-write within a specific time, they will come up with a fresh interpretation of a specific topic, forcing them to think fast and write a key point to connect with different points in the text. This technique aims to teach students to focus by paying attention to every single word, sentence structure, and linguistic rules. It also teaches them how to refine the text, and make a distinction between fact and reality.

DR ADHA SHALEH is a research fellow at International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

Published in: New Straits Times, Thursday 27 June 2019

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Friday, 20 July 2018 19:00

Let's not neglect the soft skills

Given that the discussions about the future of education have shifted to world ranking, means of learning, and students’ mastery of languages, this writer forecasts a surge in commitment to improving these areas in the coming years.

Perhaps, this could be a step forward in harnessing the latest technological revolution, in addition to stressing teacher’s hard work and commitment, and student’s participation in current initiatives.

In recent years, this writer has noticed that the tech industry and its cumulative impacts on today’s education are proliferating via the nuances of “digitalisation”. How technology continuously barges its way into sales, marketing, and supply chains is also not a “fleeting” thing. The Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) on businesses could create an economic value of US$2.7 trillion (RM39.4 trillion) over the next 20 years. Many fret that it could wipe out jobs, and take over the psychical and cognitive aspects of labour. Hence, it is not a mere historic event. Technology is playing out to assert its supremacy in education in the 21st century. This writer is certain that there will be more clarity than conviviality in technology than education.

Nevertheless, banking too much on technology makes one less familiar with education. In reality, technology might not be helping students to acquire the much needed social skills and emotional intelligence. Technological advancement causes disruption, and to depart from being held a captive of technology, this writer calls for the mastering of humanities, civic literacy, global awareness, cross-cultural skills, cultural diversity and ecological literacy.

Life is remarkably complex as society matures through human inter-relationships, behaviours, attitudes, norms, and foremost, social factors — they all play a central role in shaping our intellectual capabilities. These human trajectories eventually dictate the development of society. The essence of education involves nurturing students with “real skills”. It is because of the following fundamental difference — in AI, the key word is “artificial”, while the human being is “real”.

So, how does education help a student acquire the other essentials? The rule is to re-route intellectual commitment to “engagement” in education. Many are already clamouring that the issue in today’s education is more than just revolutionising the means of teaching and learning. Rather, at the heart of learning is engagement. In principle, engagement influences the process of teaching, and is the key to innovation.

Acknowledging the significance of “engagement”, Professor Andrew Walker of Monash University said, “Engagement is the key to what universities do. We are perfectly situated to engage with industries, and to shape a research agenda that will meet the productivity challenges of industry in the new Malaysia”.

Clearly, the goal of higher education should be consistent with literature that supports the view that, to thrive in the 21st century, universities must engage, and students must participate. This vision of education can be enhanced by:

EXPERIENTIAL entrepreneurial education, in which students take up a year internship at startups overseas; and,

SERVICE learning, in which students engage with local communities to create distinctive solutions to social problems.

The goals of such initiatives commensurate with the long-term agenda of nurturing global leaders with amazing social skills, socio-ecological intelligence and leadership. In a similar vein, it facilitates research.

This writer envisions the 21st century education in the following ways: for scholars, it means the overall work of the academy moves towards increasing participation involving broader public discourses. For students, it will mean nursing creative thinking and empathy. For communities and the public, it will mean they simply cannot be detached from the higher education discourse. The further reality is education’s role in sharing knowledge between learners and for learning from the masses.

Hence, it is called a cross-fertilisation of facts. And, for that reason, a multi-disciplinary approach to research and teaching via engagement warrants an attention. This writer has greatly benefited from embracing diversities through engagement. Why not others from all sections of society?

DR ADHA SHALEH is a research fellow at International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 20 July 2018

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Friday, 02 February 2018 13:00

Matching IoT with ethics

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about a synergy between devices and people. It aids lives, businesses and education by leveraging the network of communication, which is done by the Internet.

At the very basic, the understanding of IoT involves deriving information as it lets users collect a wealth of data from the Internet. As for its application, the emergence of IoT has passed its infancy stage, as the profound social impact is a testament of its benefits. In the examples below, certain trends, figures and the application of IoT have proved its increasing significance in society.

Last year, the time that people spent on using apps globally hit 1.6 trillion hours. That figure will be staggering in future as the connection of devices with the Internet is inevitable.

Affirming this point, app analytics company (Flurry) found that the average time spent per day on mobile devices is two hours 38 minutes. The most significant revelation was that 80 per cent of mobile device users spent their time in apps, while the remaining 20 per cent in website browsing.

In the healthcare sector, the recent news on Malaysia’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) stethoscope (Stethee) is absolutely cutting edge. Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the health director-general, said he device allows users to listen to heart and lung with detailed analysis.

Amplified with the geotagging system, Stethee provides insight into problem areas and locations, and environmental data for healthcare professionals to do analysis. Moreover, this sophisticated device will empower remote and rural healthcare with precise detection of heart and lung diseases.

In education, the disruptive technology enhances and replaces existing methods of research in higher-learning institutions. Technology bodes well with social scientists — in sociology, anthropology, and psychology — as they are intrigued by big data.

As a result, the power of big data has transformed the way social scientists distill raw data, i.e. information that has not been processed for use.

Then, data collection used to be interviews, focusing on group discussions to get insights from research participants.

Now, social scientists deal with equally large amounts of data from mixed sources (unstructured texts from social media, pictures, emails, news feeds and text colours). For the analysis of the big data today, the process of deriving high-quality information with “text mining software” helps researchers to understand colour, texture and text.

The text mining analytics tool helps researchers to discover patterns, themes and concepts, with an emphasis on statistical approaches. This unique rise of big data and IoT technologies (cloud computing, data analytics, natural language processing, text and data mining) are useful to improve research quality. Furthermore, it encourages a digital research culture.

No doubt, the enthusiasm in IoT, which today’s society has embraced, is a living testimony of its widespread success. But, the euphoria should not outpace ethics as it holds a prominent place in this brave new world.

With ethics, the question that follows is how to bring out the best in IoT.

Social scientists and healthcare professionals can obviously embrace big data to make their research and analysis more reliable, credible and scalable. But, they also have to think about privacy — what is private and what is not.

For example, the geotagging system allows professionals to track specific locations from a device, but, when it comes to privacy, some data has to be encrypted and a person’s privacy should be maintained.

Although the use of educational apps and other smart forms of technology will enhance the learning experience, the concern is that it will only become an amazing experience for students if they are accelerating new ideas, solutions and issues.

Chief executive officer Satya Nadella of Microsoft said: “We don’t celebrate technology for technology’s sake; we celebrate how others harness the power of technology to go out and change the world.”

For teachers, their role is to facilitate students to benefit from e-learning resources, assist the process of doing assignments, and explain the ethics regarding tasks completion (for instance, citing resources to avoid plagiarism).

In addition, teachers must also empower students by taking them on field visits, so they can learn hands on. It is the practice that makes ethics prevail.

The brave new world is merely at the tip of the iceberg. As there will be many changes and more autonomous systems, the unmatched benefits of IoT should be consistent with ethics. With ethics at its core, the world will be a better place, as technological breakthroughs will bring enormous benefits to society.

Adha Shaleh is a research fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia. He can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in: New Straits Times, Friday 2 February 2018

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Thursday, 16 November 2017 16:01

Going green by being nature smart

Naturalistic intelligence (NI) develops during periods of long observation of natural patterns in the environment. This kind of intelligence matures from childhood, as people feel connected to nature. Important skills become apparent when people like naturalists, botanists and traditional medicine practitioners gain the ability to analyse natural facts, and begin exploring human and environmental relationships.........................Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)



It is known that every society teaches wisdom to its next generation. Wisdom makes life easier as it contains experiences, knowledge, and guides people to distinguish the truth from falsehood. The virtue of wisdom lies in one’s ability to use reason, to act wisely for himself and for his surroundings. Or, perhaps, to judge correctly at the point of decision with regard to the application of experience and knowledge........................Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)



In the future, environmental education will be increasingly important as no one wants to see the journey to sustainable environment being plagued by ignorance, nature deficit, environmental illiteracy and a selfish attitude. With the rise of environmental issues that have the potential to compromise the needs of future generations, we will need young people to be the change-makers, open to regional collaborations and proficient bearers of socio-ecological knowledge. Young people today have to be involved in environmental education programmes that foster caring communities while making a difference to our environment........................Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)