Sometimes, Twitter raises my stress levels

One thing I’ve noticed during this holiday break, is that increased access to Twitter is raising my stress levels.

Why, I hear you asking?

During the working week, my exposure to Twitter is infrequent. I read and share when I can, and that’s usually at the end of a working day. I just don’t have time to check in regularly at work, unless I’m seeking information to help us solve an issue. Holidays afford me the leisure of watching the stream more frequently throughout the day, but I’m noticing the obsessive hold it can have on you. What comes with the stream is the need to read more, to engage with the content, to think. I’m supposed to be relaxing, and instead my mind is racing as I think about the recent changes to Facebook and what that might mean for our students, the release of the Kindle Fire, Seth Godin’s thoughts about  the forever recession and the coming revolution, and just what on earth is Google Gravity?

Maybe it’s because I’d found what I thought was a kind of balance in my life in recent times, that this imbalance seems to make my heart and mind race.

I know the answer. Tune out. Check in at set times. Don’t constantly watch the stream. All things I’ve told myself before, but I think I need reminding…

School’s out Friday

This is the second time I’ve posted a Halloween video from Matthew Weathers, a Maths Lecturer at Biola University in California. As one of the comments on YouTube says about him, “You are seriously the coolest teacher in the planet.” Halloween’s approaching pretty fast; Matthew better start planning if he’s going to come up with something to rival this!

It’s school holidays here in Victoria, and I’ve had a bit of a lazy week. Not that I’m complaining. Lazy beats frantically busy right now! One thing I have been able to do is to keep up with my Twitter and Google+ stream, and there have been some interesting announcements over the past week. Things are firing up in the Tablet market with the release of the Kindle Fire. It’s a Kindle for movies, music, apps, games, reading & more. The price point, US $199, might just make it a serious contender up against the iPad 2.

It’s powered by a Cloud Accelerated browser they are calling Amazon Silk. What they are doing is utilising the Amazon cloud to provide a faster user experience and to enable streaming for your content. Rather than me try to explain what that means, take a look at the experts from Amazon explaining it below.

It’s release date in the US is November the 15th, and as yet, there seems to be no information about when we might be able to obtain it here in Australia. If they’re smart, they’ll make sure it’s available prior to Christmas. I could see quite a few Yuletide stockings being filled with one of these.

Enjoy the weekend. AFL Grand Final day here in Melbourne tomorrow. I’m gunning for Geelong – go Cats!


TAGGED – A cautionary tale about cyberbullying and sexting from acma

Make sure you watch this brilliant piece of film-making here from the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Cybersmart program, and then champion for it to be shown to students in your schools. I’m sure this 18 minute film will relay the important message of protecting yourself and others online, far more effectively than any lecture from a teacher. From the acma site:

Tagged is supported by lesson plans and compelling character reflection interviews. It explores themes of personal and peer safety and responsibility that are crucial to maintaining positive online behaviours and digital reputation into adulthood.

Thanks go to acma for working so hard to ensure quality resources are available for teachers not only in Australia, but worldwide. These issues cross all continents, and a resource like this can be used in classrooms everywhere.

A Shoe Story

I’m fussy about the shoes I wear. I don’t like shoes that make me feel masculine; I like a feminine cut and something that’s stylish. That doesn’t mean I’m teetering around on stiletto heels or anything like that. Far from it in fact, but I will sacrifice comfort if it means I’m wearing a shoe that I really like.

Which brings me to this week’s tale.

While visiting our close friends this past weekend, I noticed the shoes my God-daughter was wearing. Here, take a look.

Nice shoe, huh? I thought so too. Exactly what I’ve been looking for to help me trek through Italy next term with a group of students. (Lucky me – that’s another tale I’ll be telling soon!) My God-daughter informed me they were Tony Bianco shoes that cost her $190. She had tried to get them from an online site called Styletread for $142, but no stock was available in her size so she’d had to venture to a retail store to make the purchase.

On my return home, I began the search. I found Styletread, located the shoe and saw my size was available. I then thought there might be an even better deal available, so I did a bit more hunting. I discovered a site offering a $10 discount if I input the code on the Styletread site. By 10.30pm Sunday night, I’d placed the order paying $132, and saved myself $58 by doing it this way rather than the traditional retail store method of purchase.

I received an email with details that helped me track the order. I checked around 10.30am this morning (Tuesday), and noted my order had been dispatched from Sydney, had arrived in Melbourne and was with a courier on its way to my address. When I arrived home at 2.30pm this was what greeted me.

Less than 48 hours since I’d placed the order, and the shoes were in my hands. On my feet, actually, and I’m pleased to say they fit perfectly, have a feminine cut and are really comfortable!

So, what’s the lesson here?

The lesson is this. Business models are changing. If I, as a consumer, can save myself $58 on a purchase, not have to leave my home, and have an item on my doorstep in less than 48 hours, then this is something I’m going to do. I’m going to bypass the traditional method of purchasing, and I’m figuring plenty of other people are going to be doing this too. This IS going to have ramifications for society as we know it. I’ve written about this already this year, and I’m starting to wonder what we in schools today are doing to prepare our students for a different way ahead. Are we still fostering ideas of employment in industries that will find themselves in serious decline? Are we thinking about industries that will thrive in new conditions and promise employment opportunities? Are we teaching our students enough about how they might use the Web for interaction and how they create sites that can support new business models?

My shoe purchase tells a story. There are lessons here that need learning.


School’s out Friday

My husband sent this to me this week, and I think my reaction was just as extreme as the guy’s girlfriend! He’s lucky she didn’t keel over from a heart attack!

And because it’s the end of term here in Victoria, here’s another to warm the cockles of your heart and send you off to the holiday break with a smile on your face (if you’re a teacher here in Victoria at least!)

I found this on a Tumblr blog called Dancing Dads, and I think I’m going to have to visit there whenever I’m needing a good laugh. A good laugh is medicine for the soul, and it comes in high doses at this site!

Yes, it’s our spring holiday break here in Victoria, and from my perspective, it couldn’t come soon enough. These last two weeks have been huge for me at work. I’m exhausted and in need of sleep. I’m looking forward to no routine, no school lunches to make, and no alarm waking me at 6.30am. I’m also looking forward to trying to pen a few words here as I feel I’ve seriously neglected this blog of late. Seth Godin wrote a post tonight entitled ‘Talker’s block‘ and it really sounded like me. I have very few problems talking to people about the work I’m doing, but it seems arduous to write it down. I’ve had a blog post simmering for well over two months about the work I’ve been involved with all year, but every time I try to get it finished, something stops me. I need to stop thinking and just write it. When I think about when I started this blog and how I committed to writing nearly every day for 6 months, I really wonder how on earth I managed to do it. So, to get me moving again, I’m going to commit to write at least six posts over the next two weeks. Watch this space!

Have a great weekend. Find some sunshine and warm your bones. : )


School’s out Friday

Surely it’s still Friday somewhere in the world. I hope so, anyway, because my eyes could not stay open last night. It’s that time of the year here; we’re nearing the end of term, planning budgets for 2012, and Speech Night preparations are well underway. This is a lethal cocktail that results in overload and lack of sleep. Worse still, there’s no cure. The work just has to be done.

I struggled a bit to find a vid for this this week, but this enthusiastic Maths teacher warms my heart. If Flo-Rider can help kids learn processes, then more power to teachers like this in my opinion.

It’s Saturday morning, the sun is shining, and it’s supposed to be 26 degrees here today. It doesn’t get better than that!

Enjoy your weekend. Make the most of it. : )


On September 11th, 2001, I was home with my two children, then aged five and two. My husband was away with work, and at around 11.00pm, I was lying in bed with the television on, watching Channel 10’s late night news. Sandra Sully was delivering the headlines, and suddenly breaking news was announced, and the screen shifted to vision of smoke plumes streaming out of one of the buildings of the World Trade Centre. The word was that a light plane had flown into the building, but even then, I was wondering how a small plane could cause so much damage. Channel Ten toggled between Australian news and what was happening in New York, and on one cross back to the scene, I saw a large passenger plane fly behind the South Tower, and then just disappear. Smoke began streaming, and my first thought was ‘this is no accident, it’s a terrorist attack.’

For the next three and a half hours, I lay there, fixed to the screen, watching first the South Tower, and then the North, come crashing down. What I was witnessing was unthinkable. Those towers represented the might of the United States, a nation that seemed impenetrable. Reports were coming in that people were jumping from the towers. Again, unthinkable. The news shifted to the Pentagon, where something had happened to cause a huge rupture in another symbol of the might of the USA. As news came in that another plane had been hijacked and was heading to Washington DC, it seemed that we were potentially on the brink of World War III. I surrendered to sleep,  knowing that the world that would meet me in the daylight would be markedly different from anything I had ever encountered.

For the next few days, I saw that unthinkable footage over and over, until discussion started to surface that maybe those scenes were too damaging for young eyes, and older eyes too.

My immediate experience of 9/11 was just me and television commentary. I was by myself, my husband was away, and I had no-one to talk through what I was witnessing. 10 years on, I am following Jeff Jarvis’ tweets about his experiences that morning. My twitter stream is full of people’s memories of that day.

@jeffjarvis If we’d had Twitter and cameras and been connected that day, the world’s view of 9/11 would have been at eye-level. #911

@ASE: It was only a matter of a couple weeks after #911 that my name, Ahmed, became problematic while I was in undergrad. #racism

Will never forget the initial puzzled feeling when lined up to give blood and found out–so horrible and telling– there was no need.#911

campbellsuz  The water memorial at Ground Zero looks beautiful; families trace the names of loved ones etched in bronze with pencils and paper#911
My thoughts go to all those affected by this disaster, both in the United States, and in every country with citizens who were involved. I think too, of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the loss of innocent human life in those countries after 9/11. It has impacted on us all. Our world is different, our approach to life is different. I still think of the potential of a terrorist attack whenever I attend an occasion that brings large swathes of people together. Prior to 9/11, thoughts like these never really crossed my mind.
The world suffers from the actions of the few. Now we are hearing of those in the immediate vicinity on the day who are suffering from lung diseases and cancers from the toxic dust cloud they encountered.
9/11 is a disaster that will continue to haunt us all for many years to come.

School’s out Friday

OK, time for a bit of good old Aussie humour. Hamish and Andy, an Australian comedy duo (remember ‘ghosting‘- featured here before on School’s out Friday) are here to entertain you once again with ‘Stranger Racing.’ If you haven’t already chuckled through the 6 minutes above, then you need to know that Stranger Racing involves attaching a helium balloon to two strangers without them being aware of this, and then seeing who can make it across the road first. My kids and I were laughing our way through this segment last night. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

I promised last week that I’d post about the work we are doing at my school that has occupied so much of my time this year. I’m halfway through the post, and with any luck, will actually manage to complete it this weekend. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I just haven’t had a spare minute to get to it during this week. My energies went into supporting our Ning for our Yr 8 Inquiry Week, and it was worth every minute of the time invested. The sharing that took place in that space made the learning very transparent, and was due reward for the teachers who worked diligently to ensure the students were supported and encouraged.

I hope the sun is shining where you are this weekend. I don’t think the forecast here in Melbourne is looking that flash, but I’ll gladly grab some moments in the sun when and if they present themselves.

Enjoy. : )


Why we’re paying for Ning

It’s Inquiry Week for our Year 8 students, and we are using a Ning to support the students to communicate and archive evidence of their research. We collapse curriculum for a week, and allow our students to investigate in groups a topic in depth around the idea of Triumph over Adversity. We first used a Ning two years ago, when they were free for educators and it was a dynamic learning environment then. What was great was that our students could form groups within the space and use the chat function at night to help them organise themselves for the next day. Last year, after Ning started charging for the service, we looked for an alternative. We used, but it was fraught with problems that I outlined in a post and not something I would use again. One of the stumbling blocks last year was the price Ning charges for a network that includes groups and chat. At the time, we felt that the $200 outlay was too expensive.

This year, our Head of Year 8 really wanted to run a paperless inquiry week. We had a wiki we used last year for the inquiry week, and we added pages that incorporated what the students would formerly receive in booklet form. When we discussed an online environment to support the project, I recommended that we bite the bullet and outlay what is now a $239.00 a year cost to run a Ning that has the features we needed; in particular, groups and chat.

I’m glad we did. I spent time last week in classes explaining the Ning environment and making sure the students were signed up so that we could hit the ground running this week. Yesterday the students went on an excursion and were asked to post a reply to a discussion prompt in the evening. Over half of them got something up last night, and those who didn’t were busily posting this morning. What has been amazing is watching it develop during today and this evening. Groups are formed, and the students have posted their topics and guiding questions within these spaces. This afternoon’s discussion prompt has seen over 100 replies this evening. These are from students, detailing what has inspired them about their topic, and replies from teachers who are encouraging their efforts. The chat space has been used this evening, and i’ve been pleased to see students suggesting that they move to Google Docs to work on their planning for tomorrow. (There’s some transference happening : ) They used Google Docs earlier this year in a Humanities project) The Head of Year 8 sent me an email late this afternoon and said,

The Ning’s like some living organism!

Here’s a screenshot of part of the front page from earlier tonight.

It is most certainly a living organism. It’s providing focus, encouragement, and transparency to our learning environment this week. Even though I’d love to see the powers that be at Ning work more closely with education and provide better pricing, our financial outlay is already paying off. I can’t wait to what it’s hosting by the end of the week!

School’s out Friday

Improveverywhere‘s latest effort, ‘Say Something Nice’, is like visiting an old friend. It’s filmed in Union Square and this was where I caught the subway every day when I visited New York last year. The shoe store in the background is where I purchased shoes for my family. It’s funny living here in Australia and seeing something that is so far away and yet so familiar to me. Here’s hoping I get back there some day. It’s definitely my kind of town.

I’ve had an interesting week. I wrote a post for the VFLR blog called ‘5 Reasons Why Our Students Are Writing Blogs and Creating ePortfolios‘ and it was picked up by Zite, the iPad app that creates a personalised magazine based on your interests. It got a lot of attention as a result and was retweeted from people all around the world. Thanks to John Norton, who helps us with the Voices blog, it was picked up by the Mind/Shift blog in the United States. It was formatted for their readership and titled, ‘Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog.‘ The post has been tweeted out 279 times and liked 76 times on Facebook according to the stats running on their page. It was also picked up by Zite. I know it’s being read throughout the US, UK, Finland, Canada, Germany, France and many other countries. Interestingly, it hasn’t seemed to spread too far throughout Australia, and yet the example being provided is from this country. I’d like to see more Australian educators reading it, and sharing it around their networks. I think the message it holds is an important one for our consideration, and for the futures of the young people we teach. I’m in the process of writing a lengthy post detailing how these blogs form part of a wider initiative at my school, and I hope to get it posted in the coming days.

Gorgeous weather is descending on Melbourne tomorrow. I intend to get my fair share of Vitamin D in the process. I hope you get an opportunity like this too.

Enjoy your weekend. : )