Commuting? Take a podcast with you for the ride.

My daily commute to work used to be 8 minutes tops. Enough time to tune into a bit of breakfast radio, listen to some banal commentary and maybe a good tune, then turn into the school gate and begin the working day. That was then…

…this is now. Get up at the crack of dawn, get ready, then spend the next hour in the car making my way to work. I started with breakfast radio, switched channels over the course of a few days, then realised that the presenter’s tendency to drag a story out over a laborious 20 minutes really wasn’t how I wanted to spend my waking hours.

Solution. The podcast.

Serial, a podcast from the creators of This American Life and hosted by Sarah Koenig, got me hooked last year. It was a twelve episode podcast recounting the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior whose body was found in a city park in Maryland. Her ex boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested and found guilty of her murder and has been incarcerated since 1999. Serial reinvestigated the evidence and sparked massive Internet interest in the case. I binge listened to the first five episodes, then waited with baited breath for the weekly updates that would be posted around 10.00pm on a Thursday night in Australia. I’d tune in straight away, ear buds at the ready, waiting to see what new evidence had been located that made Adnan’s incarceration seem questionable. No spoilers here – if you haven’t listened, I suggest you head to the Serial site and tune in. 2015-08-29 22-25-05

So, I’ve been hitting the podcasts pretty hard. When you commute an hour each way, you can power through a lot of content. Here’s what I’ve been listening to and what I’d recommend you give a try.

  1. Invisibilia. 2015-08-29 22-31-16

I LOVED this podcast. Literally couldn’t wait to get into the car to be consumed by the stories being shared. Here’s the description of the podcast from the NPR site:

Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

They’re right – the hidden gems they unveil do help you make connections to your own life. I’d find myself nodding my head as I drove along, making connections. Cannot wait for the next season to start!

2. TED radio hour. 2015-10-01 21-59-09

Guy Raz has me mesmerised. He has one of those voices that makes him instantly familiar. I’ve listened to nearly every TED radio hour podcast over the last few weeks and the pearls of wisdom shared have me heading home to explore links to find out more. Here’s the description of the podcast;

Based on Talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections – and injects soundscapes and conversations that bring these ideas to life.


According to ‘my podcasts’, I have only two episodes to listen to until a new one is released. Tragic! And yes, I am subscribed. This is a podcast I can’t miss.

3. On Being 2015-10-01 21-56-42

How did I find ‘On Being’? Why, by listening to the TED radio hour and hanging in there for the last couple of minutes where they recommend other podcasts. And I’m very glad I found it. Here’s what it’s about.

On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.

Krista Tippett’s interview with Brene Brown is well worth a listen, especially if you’ve read any of her books about vulnerability.  On Being will keep me going when the TED radio hour dries up!

4. Limetown 2015-10-01 22-54-39

Now this is interesting. Here’s what it is;

Limetown is a fictional podcast from Two-Up Productions. Limetown follows journalist Lia Haddock as she investigates the infamous disappearance of a doomed research facility.

It’s a seven part podcast, with only the first two currently available. It reminds me of Orson Welle’s ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast from the 1930’s. (interestingly, a recent Telegraph article claimed the mass panic that surrounded this was a myth) The production quality is reminiscent of techniques used in Serial, and listening to it has made me think of how the creation of a podcast like this would make for a wonderful English class project. Scripting, characterisation, learning how to utilise multimedia effectively – doing something like this would tick a lot of boxes, and I’d bet students would love it too!

5. Snap Judgement 2015-10-01 22-52-51

Snap Judgement is storytelling.

My favourite episode thus far – Legendary. The story of the Yellowstone wolf known as O6 is going to stay with me for a long time. Listen, and think of how you might weave this into the fabric of a class you teach. Students need opportunities to hear great storytelling like this.

As Molly Meldrum used to say, ‘Do yourself a favour’ and tune into a podcast. Doing so has enriched my world. It just might do the same for you.


ACE 2015 National Conference: Educators on the Edge

Last week I attended the ACE (Australian College of Educators) National Conference in Brisbane. The conference theme was ‘Educators on the Edge: Big ideas for change and innovation’. I created a Storify of my tweets that you can find by following this link. 2015-09-27 23-34-45

I’d encourage you to take a look. As I’ve said before, my tweets are the notes I take at conferences, and I try to source links to what presenters are referring to. I took quite a few photos of presenter’s slides and they are attached to these tweets so it’s quite a rich source of information about what was being shared in the presentations I attended. Some of the presenters included John Hattie, talking about ‘What is the role of students in the learning and teaching equation?’, Dr. Stanley Rabinowitz who discussed ‘Moving Naplan online’, and Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission discussing ‘Innovative technologies and human rights education’,

I’d like to spend some time here mentioning the presentation that I thought was worth the visit to Brisbane. Dr Paul Browning from  St. Paul’s School in Queensland delivered a presentation entitled, ‘Future planning: The school of 2028’. Here’s the conference abstract:

Futures Planning: The school of 2028

In the words of Al Gore: ‘the future that is emerging will be extremely different from anything we have ever known in the past… There is no period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience’ (p. xv). Two critical uncertainties are converging right now, both of which will significantly disrupt education and schools as we know them now: technology and employment.

St Paul’s School has just completed a scenario planning project, imagining the world of 2028 when its youngest students reach their final year of school. 30 global leaders participated in the development of four scenarios, or stories that describe that world including: Professor Pasi Sahlberg, Professor Yong Zhao, Professor Andy Hargreaves, Saul Eslake, Tim Costello, David Price, Mark McCrindle and Andrew Fuller.

This interactive workshop will present the process of scenario planning and share with the participants the four scenarios. Participants will be asked the question: “if these scenarios are true, then what are the implications for education; for their school?”

Gore, A. (2013). The Future. NY: Random House.

Paul shared this video that explains the process followed with scenario planning.

And here is the video their students produced as a result of the process.

What a wonderful way to involve your current school population and engage the wider community with your school’s thinking about the directions you will be taking into the future. Paul is an enigmatic presenter – I’m sure he is an inspiration to his school community. To find out more about St. Paul’s and the thinking that drives their community, visit the Centre Online, the site where they explore research innovation and future development. While in Brisbane, I also had the good fortune to meet Jon Andrews, who I discovered is Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at St. Paul’s. Jon is one of my ‘go to’ people on Twitter- he shares wonderful resources and challenges my thinking. What a think tank at St. Pauls – a school to watch.

Side note. My very good friend, Cameron Paterson, from Shore School in Sydney, was awarded a Fellowship of the Australian College of Educators at the conference dinner. It was wonderful to see a teacher who is an inspiration to many educators be acknowledged. I was very pleased that I was able to be there to take some pics. Very well deserved Cameron. :)

School’s out Friday

I wish I was as confident as Hank Green in thinking that Yellowstone National Park poses no threat to our current existence.

When the Tsunami struck on December 26th 2004, I remember taking Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ off my bookshelf to see what he had to say about Tsunamis. What that led me to was his description of Yellowstone National Park and what this place actually is. Here’s an extract, thanks to a posting on

“In the 1960s, while studying the volcanic history of Yellowstone National Park, Bob Christiansen of the United States Geological Survey became puzzled about something: … he couldn’t find the park’s volcano. …

By coincidence, just at this time NASA decided to test some new high-altitude cameras by taking photographs of Yellowstone, copies of which some thoughtful official passed on to the park authorities on the assumption that they might make a nice blow-up for one of the visitors’ centers. As soon as Christiansen saw the photos, he realized why he had failed to spot the [volcano]: virtually the whole park — 2.2 million acres — was [a volcano]. The explosion had left a crater more than forty miles across-much too huge to be perceived from anywhere at ground level. At some time in the past Yellowstone must have blown up with a violence far beyond the scale of anything known to humans.

Yellowstone, it turns out, is a supervolcano. It sits on top of an enormous hot spot, a reservoir of molten rock that rises from at least 125 miles down in the Earth. The heat from the hot spot is what powers all of Yellowstone’s vents, geysers, hot springs, and popping mud pots. … Imagine a pile of TNT about the size of Rhode Island and reaching eight miles into the sky to about the height of the highest cirrus clouds, and you have some idea of what visitors to Yellowstone are shuffling around on top of. …

Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, [the Yellowstone volcano] has blown up about a hundred times, but the most recent three eruptions are the ones that get written about. The last eruption was a thousand times greater than that of Mount St. Helens; the one before that was 280 times bigger and the one before was … at least twenty-five hundred times greater than St. Helens.”

Bill Bryson (2003) A Short History of Nearly Everything  Broadway Books, P.224 – 228.

Comforting, huh?

What this has done is make me attuned to any news that is reported as coming from Yellowstone National Park. When I saw a video posted on YouTube in 2014 purportedly showing Bison fleeing the park, I thought end of days was coming. Turns out, the Bison were running into the park! Verification matters, especially when you’re thinking a cataclysmic event is on the horizon!

But Hank’s message is a good one. After completing a term in a new school, I’m very aware that change is a constant. And when you’re working in the kind of job I have, you’re in a constant state of helping people try and get comfortable with change. Not always easy, but necessary!

Coincidentally, in terms of the Yellowstone connection anyway, I was driving to work today listening to a podcast called Snap Judgement. First story was about Yellowstone National Park, and a legendary female wolf who researchers dubbed ’06’ – her birth year. It’s quite the extraordinary tale, so follow this link for your listening pleasure. Do partake, and have a great weekend. :)


The ease of taking a trip down memory lane…

In 1973, this was the toy I got for my eighth birthday. I remember how desperately I wanted it, and how disappointed I was when I finally got it. What looked amazing on the television ad paled in comparison to the clunky experience it was in real life.

I was talking about this to friends last night over dinner (can’t recall what spurred the memory!) and no-one at the table could remember this toy. So of course, as you do in today’s world, we retreated the Internet to help fill the gaps. And it didn’t disappoint.

This began the search for other childhood memories. Drowsy, my close friend’s favourite childhood doll, was found.

Smash up derby cars, a boy’s dream.

And then we found the ultimate object of desire for young girls in the early 1970’s. Chrissy, she of the hair that extended when you pulled her ponytail. I vividly recall standing in a local store looking longingly at this doll, hoping that it would be mine one day.

We had so much fun recalling childhood memories, and the experience was made that much better because we could find the original television ads. TV, the visual medium we consumed as we used up our cognitive surplus sitting in front of black and white screens in the early 70’s. The new medium our children consume is what we sourced last night. The difference for the children of today will be that they are less likely to be exposed to the repetitive screening of ads selling them a message. What will their memories be like when they are older recounting their youth. Will they be recalling memes? YouTube stars? Apple ads?

Who knows? Even more intriguing, what will they be using to revisit those memories?

Starting a new job is like…

…becoming a Mother for the first time.

There’s the anticipation of something new. The transition phase you move through as you leave one life behind and approach the next. The sense you have of being competent in what it is you do and a quiet assuredness that this next stage will be OK, you’ll be up for it.

Then it happens. The birth of the new. There’s the intake of breath when you walk through the door and appreciate the expectation, the responsibility that lies with you.  The realisation that you really don’t know the rules, that you have so much to learn. You need to understand the personality, appreciate that it’s developed and you need to work with it, not fight against it.

You leap in, because it demands that you do. Sometimes there is calm, but often there is chaos as you stumble from one new experience to the next. You are constantly learning, and it engulfs you. You feel out of your depth and you seek reassurance  – you are grateful when others reach out and offer support, a kind word, an encouraging smile.

As the weeks go by, the new becomes more familiar. There are ups and downs, moments where confidence reigns and moments where it plummets, but gradually, you begin to find a routine. You begin to move in step with the new.

You’ve reached an understanding, a reciprocal relationship. You’re in this together.

School’s out Friday

Otherwise Engaged from Jack Sidey on Vimeo.

You know, if this didn’t make me laugh so much I’m pretty sure I’d be crying instead.

What’s happened to moments? What’s happened to shared experiences between two people that necessitate and deserve alone time? Why do we feel a need to share beyond the moment?

I don’t have the answer, but I do know that I participate in this new era of sharing beyond the moment. I did it tonight, although not in the context of a moment like a marriage proposal. My husband and I were at a trivia night, and I was engaged in a dialogue via text message with a new colleague who is making my life at a new school joyous. We were sharing repartee via text about my husband’s purchase of a sleeping bag that weighed enough to warrant the hiring of a sherpa when my son ventures on a school trip to Central Australia.

And you know what, even though it took me away from the people I was sitting with, it was a shared experience with someone who is making a difference in my life, someone I truly value right now when life is tough negotiating a new landscape. And that means something. So, even though we exit real life spaces for brief moments to engage in online spaces with others, sometimes we do it because the connections there matter deeply.

Is that enough of a answer to the questions posed above?

Maybe. It worked for me tonight.

Have a great weekend. Make a connection with someone. Face to face or otherwise, just make a connection. :)