My first impression of the class, however, only brought positive feelings.
The computer lab was air-conditioned and carpeted, and students took off their shoes before entering. On the tables were school-issued laptops – called personal learning devices – and boxes of virtual reality (VR) goggles.
The widespread use of technology in a secondary school class was impressive but not surprising. Nowadays, tablets and smartphones are teenagers' best friends.
Before the lesson, I was told that the VR goggles would be used to view 360-degree videos of the breakwater site at East Coast Park that we would visit in the second half of the day. The aim was to "investigate" the effectiveness of one of Singapore's coastal protection measures.
Granted, I was probably invited to their most eventful and tech-filled class, but this was still a far cry from my time learning geography. Back then, we learnt about land features in faraway countries, teachers referred to textbooks and wrote on whiteboards, and all of us never strayed from our fan-ventilated classroom.
OF GROYNES AND GABIONS
The first part of the class, taught by another Geography teacher Ms Shirin Shaik Muhyideen, quickly set the tone for relevancy.
We were shown two maps of the east coast area in the present day and from many years ago, and were asked to compare how the coastline had changed. Then we were shown a video of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's remarks at the 2019 National Day Rally, where he talked about the seriousness of climate change and how Singapore was going to tackle it.
"How do you think sea level rise will affect East Coast Park, and then what can we do about this?" Ms Shirin asked in a clear and sharp voice.
I immediately knew the point behind the lesson, and I could see the students buying in too.
Students viewed the maps on slides in Google Classroom and actively typed their answers on the Padlet page, meaning everyone's responses instantly appeared on a large screen in front. Some who gave verbal replies later also referenced Mr Lee's comments.