China – land of contrasts.

We hiked today through the rice terrace fields but the hike was shortened due to rain. These fields are spectacular and it is enlightening to see the Chinese people participating in village life. Much of the work is backbreaking stuff and makes you appreciate the lifestyle you lead in countries like Australia. Even just navigating the terrain takes effort – high inclines and irregular stone steps. It is a land full of contrasts, even here in what are remote valleys. Today I saw men preparing a newly slaughtered dog for consumption and snakes were being killed in the street outside our inn for people’s dinner. And yet I sit here in this inn and am able to access the internet and listen to The Rolling Stones as they are played over the speaker system here. Whenever you visit an inn you see internet facilities available, they even have free wifi. Mobile phones are everywhere.In the midst of this you see young children running past with a newly caught rabbit obviously for family dinner. This is a very interesting place and I’m wondering how long it will be until the western world starts its creep into this traditional community lifestyle. It’s obviously already happening. It would be very interesting to return here in five years time to see what change has occured. Off to Yangshou tomorrow, my favourite part of this journey. Need to get some sleep to prepare for the bike ride up and down a few choice hills tomorrow.

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Village life – very different from Melbourne.

Finally have some internet access! The trip is going very well. We are currently in Ping An village and are gearing up for a six hr hike tomorrow. We hiked to a neighbouring village this afternoon and have just finished a very satisfying dinner at a local inn. Our time in Hong Kong was very busy. We visited the Temple Street market in the afternoon and then negotiated the subway system and found a recommended restaurant for dinner. Ater this we caught the ferry across Victoria Harbour and found our way to the Peak Tram. At the top of the Peak we went on the skydeck and took in the view. It was spectacular. Also very stressful negotiating your way in a non English speaking country with students under your charge. We had few laughs along the way as we fumbled our way through. The next day saw us boarding a train into mainland China. On arrival we boarded another train, but this time an overnight one taking us to Guilin. Thnkfully I still have all my possessions -last year I lost my camera on that train! Today we arrived at the rice terrace fields which are truly an amazing sight.The views are spectacular and seeing the Chinese people living their village life makes you appreciate how life can be lived in a different way from the fast paced lives we seem to have. The hike tomorrow will be an arduous one but the weather is more temperate than last year so that should take the edge off. I hope so anyway!

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Not blocked in Bangkok

I’m sitting here at Bangkok airport taking advantage of the free wifi. Interestingly this blog isn’t blocked here like it is in China so I’m not having to go the Posterous route.  A two hour layover and then onto another flight to Hong Kong. Once there it will be full on, so it’s fortunate that we all got some good sleep on our overnight flight.

Hong Kong will be interesting to revisit. It’s a bit like Shanghai, difficult to appreciate during the day due to pollution but magnificnet at night when the lights transform the city. Visiting the peak is a must do, but this time I’ll make sure we catch the Peak tram up rather than the double decker bus that takes the winding journey around the mountainside. Not a good feeling whn you’re sleep deprived!

I’ce got a HP mini PC with me on this trip. Much easier to carry around and I’m getting used to the smaller interface. Handy really – I could become converted!

Check in with you again when I find me some access! (wherever that may be??)

Going off the grid- China here I come!

Tomorrow I leave for an 18 day trip to China with the students from my school. I did this trip last year so I am well aware of what I am in for. Lots of trekking, bike riding and scaling that incredible wall. We start with a day in Hong Kong, then travel on an overnight train to Guilin to the village of Ping An where we stay and hike through the rice terrace fields that surround this area. Arduous stuff it is, lots and lots of uneven stairs but amazing scenery. This year we are there later in the year so I will be interested to see the changing landscape due to seasonal change.

We leave the rice terrace fields and travel to Yangshou for the bike riding part of the journey through the neighbouring villages. This is far and away my favourite part of the trip. The haunting karst mountains that surround this area are surreal. Yangshou is such an inviting township. Friendly people and a sensational night market. The Li River is a working river and it is a wonderful experience for our students to immerse themselves in the traditional lifestyle of the Chinese people.

After a few days in Yangshou we fly to Xian where we visit the Terracotta Warrior army that Emperor Qin commissioned be built to protect him in the afterlife. It is one of those experiences where you have to pinch yourself to convince yourself that you are really there. On the same day we scale Mt. Huashan and stay at a hotel at the top of the mountain. I can tell you, this is tough going, but you feel an incredible sense of satisfaction that you have achieved the climb. I know it’s going to be like labour. I’m OK with it now, but it will all come rushing back at me once I see the scale of the mountain once again!

We return to Xian and ride bikes around the city wall that surrounds the city. A fun day, then off on a sleeper train to Beijing where we visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Hutong traditional homes. Then it’s off to Si Ma Tai and Jinshanling where we tackle the wall. Back to Beijing, the Summer palace and markets for last minute shopping before we head back to Melbourne!

I’m wondering how I am going to go being off the grid for three weeks. This will be the longest period of time I’ve had away from the network since I started writing this blog so it’s going to be interesting for me. I wonder if I’ll show any signs of withdrawal. Restless fingers, tracking eyes, internet envy of those with iphones with internet access! I’m taking the laptop and will avail myself of internet access when I can, but realistically it’s going to be pretty spasmodic. It may do me good!

If you want to see how things are going check in every now and then and see if I’ve managed to get anthing posted. This blog is blocked in China so I’m going to be using Posterous to post updates. It worked for me in Shanghai so it should be fine once again.               

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School’s out Friday

Thank God for Hamish and Andy. Sometimes it’s really hard to source a School’s out Friday post, but not when Hamish and Andy are around to provide good fodder. This time they are indulging in the good old Australian tradition of knick knocking. This involves going around and knocking on people’s windows or doors and hiding before you are detected.  They’ve added a twist. This time they have a bag over their head when they knock on the door and have only three steps to take to hide. The results are typical Hamish and Andy.

I’ve got a weekend of hard work before I head off to China very early Tuesday morning for 18 days with students from my school. I really don’t know how I’m going to get everything done but I’m going to give it a red hot go. Hope your weekend is nowhere near as busy!!

Blog or thesis?

I attended our School’s Yr 12 Valedictory dinner last night. A wonderful celebration of the incredible young women who attend the school I teach at. The guest speaker was a former student who had left the school 10 years ago. She spoke of time at university and post graduate studies completing her Master’s degree. It got me thinking.

I’ve never pursued post graduate study, feeling for many years that effort was beyond me. And yet I look at the body of work that is this blog and I wonder. I wonder about the intrinsic motivation that drives me to share my thoughts with others, I wonder about the hours of effort that have gone into this, I wonder about the remarkable experiences I have been privy to as a result of this space on the web. I wonder all this because no amount of effort on my part in this space is going to give me the piece of paper or credentials at the end of my name that would allow me to pursue a career beyond a secondary school setting or accrue a higher income.

This blog is the place where I am developing my thinking and testing a few theories along the way. I suppose my assessors are the audience of readers. I suppose this could be seen as the evolution of education. Blogs are spaces where self directed learners are writing their own thesis and are allowing readership and interaction to determine success or failure. 

I received an email today about a post graduate course of study in ICT education. At the moment I can’t conceive of any going anywhere near it because I just can’t imagine how I’d be able to fit it in. Some might say that is foolish on my behalf. Why not invest some time in getting qualifications doing something that you are immersed in anyway? At this stage I just don’t want to go to a place where assessment will be driving what it is I am learning. I’m happy to create my own agendas and see where this will take me.

Who knows? Maybe a technorati ranking will hold some weight in years to come.

Google things to do.

I have to admit to really liking the services Google offers. I love Google Docs and the flexibility they offer for working collaboratively and for storing documents online. I still find myself defaulting to Google as my search engine of choice even though I know there are other search engines doing a great job delivering results in interesting ways. Phil Bradley referred to this page on the Google site in a post recently and I found it pretty cool. It’s called Google things to do.


On the page are 52 things to do. They include ‘Watch your favourite YouTube clips in high resolution’, ‘Make your homepage YOUR homepage’, ‘Read a newspaper written in a language you don’t speak’, and there are 49 others for you to check out. What you do is click on the title of the thing to do and you will find a prompt redirecting you to YouTube video or one will appear in the text box on the page. Other options include a Google search box pop up that enables you to search for the answer to life, the universe and everything.

I think this would be fun to use with kids, provided you weren’t hampered by a firewall blocking YouTube!! Imagine setting the task to find a new thing to learn and present back to their peers after a set period of time to demonstrate what they’ve learnt. I think I’d find that a pretty interesting lesson. Just wish the firewall didn’t exist so that I could actually do it with the kids I teach.

School’s out Friday

Yes, I know it is Saturday. Got a bit behind myself this week due to heaps of commitments. We had the Powerful Learning Practice launch on Monday and my school’s Speech Night last night. I organise all the prizes for that so I was quite literally run off my feet this week.

A funny accidents video this week. Thought I’d go with this because it reminds me of my effort on Monday at our Powerful Learning Practice launch. I sat down only to discover my seat had flipped up and I landed on the floor. Caused much mirth and Dean Groom saw fit on Twitter to nominate the day as ‘Jenny Luca funniest Librarian day’. I could only agree.  

Weather is gorgeous in Melbourne, friends are coming over for a barbie tonight, life is good. Hope the same goes for you. Enjoy your weekend.

Web Search Strategies in Plain English from Commoncraft – cast your vote.

The latest from Lee and Sachi Leefever Web Search Strategies in Plain English. In my opinion, another useful video for my students and yet another great tool for me to use. I’m indebted to them both for making my job so much easier over the last year.

 I noticed  a new button on my blog’s toolbar tonight and realised that I could insert a poll. All going well there should be a poll at the end of this post that you can use to cast your vote about the latest offering. All a bit of fun really- I’m just keen to see how it works.

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. There are 10,300 Sites participating and these sites have 11,048,452 RSS Readers. That’s a pretty impressive readership. Hopefully these readers will take something away that they can share with others to spread the message even further. Here’s what it’s all about;

What is Blog Action Day?

Today thousands of bloggers will unite to discuss a single issue – poverty. We aim to raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web!

I thought I’d talk about poverty, but in a bit of a different light. I thought I’d talk about poverty of spirit.

Sometimes I think we get too caught up in thinking about what we want. We focus on the materialistic aspects of our lives and let our spirits starve. We build our wealth but let our moral compass go astray. Sometimes we just need to get a focus on what really matters and get perspective back in our lives.

Recently I wrote about Working together 2 make a difference, the ning site I set up with Angela and Laura Stockman, in the hope that we could get educators to join and share their experiences of trying to make a difference by doing something positive to support their local or wider communities. To date, there are 22 members. I’ve set up a page under my name to chronicle what the students at my school are doing this term to make a difference. Our Yr 7 students have decided to raise funds by doing good deeds in their own time. They are going to donate their earnings to the Menzies organisation, a local not for profit organisation that assists children who can no longer live with their families. The other organisation they are raising money for is Cheerful Givers, a not for profit organisation who,

“provide toy-filled birthday gift bags to food shelves and shelters so that parents living in poverty can give their child a birthday gift.”  

This is an organisation that Laura has been supporting and our students would like to support Laura’s efforts.  

We’re hoping the ning becomes a site where people do chronicle what they are doing to make a difference. It’s like what we say on our front page, we would like to see what the sum total of all of us can achieve. Angela has written about Laura’s feelings about this initiative and her words are worth quoting here;

“…Laura would rather invest herself in the work of this new online community, because she is realizing that it has the potential to accomplish what her blog cannot: it can bring people together who want to do good things simply because they can and simply because it offers them a connection to those who share their values, not because there are other rewards attached to it.

We’re hoping that other students and teachers will get involved there. Please consider doing so if you haven’t yet. We’re looking for more than mere readers, and Laura is looking forward to meeting others who are interested in giving HER less attention and the WORK OF THE PROJECT more.”

Hopefully the site will become a true reflection of the good intentions of the members who have chosen to participate. If we do see people chronicling their efforts to do something good we’ll be doing something to enrich the lives of others. 

We’ll all be the richer for it, but not in the materialistic sense.