Tag Archives: blog

What am I hoping to achieve by encouraging my students to use social media?

What am I hoping to achieve with social media and my interest group, Writing Interest Group (WIG), formerly known as Competition Writing?

Why am I insisting so much on the students’ participation in the comments section of the Facebook Group or the blog, Unicorn Express?

The screen capture below gives a clue. I had shared on Facebook Jason’s blog post (sonnet).

I want the blog to be a publishing platform for student writing. I want students to write for a real audience – both their peers as well as anyone outside the school and even in other countries.

I want students to know their work is being read and appreciated, and that other students will take the time to tell them so, or to leave constructive comments.

My aim is connected learning, interaction and reflection after writing.

I love the fact that former MHS students are still part of the Facebook group and read current students’ work, and even more when they come in to say something about it. That connection beyond the classroom, beyond the year level, the school – that’s what I want for our students.

How do you think Jason Li feels when he reads what Hanford, a former MHS/WIG student, says in the comment section of the Facebook group:

I stay to get the opportunity to read things like that poem!

New Melbourne-based collaborative blog – Brassofthebear

Photo by Alexander (Sasha) Sheko

Brazen plug for my son, Sasha’s, new collaborative blog about Melbourne – Brassofthebear. It’s just new but there’s plenty to read already.  Here’s the ‘about’ –

Welcome to Brass of the Bear, a collaborative blog with a local focus written by people in and around Melbourne, Australia. The name of the blog is derived from Bearbrass, one of a few names by which Melbourne was originally known.

Brass of the Bear (BB) aims to feature a broad range of content within its local focus, such as:

  • Reviews of cafes, restaurants, bars and the such,
  • Information on local events, art, cinema and music
  • Photography, writing and other locally based creative content
  • Secrets, quirks, hidden locations and adventures to be had
  • Information and opinion pieces on local community and political issues

BB is seeking contributors in any of the above areas (or even anything relevant that doesn’t fit into the above categories). Contact us at brassofthebear@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Sasha asked me to contribute and so I wrote about Melbourne as a UNESCO City of Literature, highlighting events at the Wheeler Centre. Here’s a selection –

You  may or may not know that Melbourne is ‘a City of Literature’. I have no real way of predicting that since most of what I don’t know is common knowledge. In fact, Melbourne’s designation as aUNESCO City of Literature is apparently “acknowledgment of the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the city’s literary culture”. That makes me happy. And so Melbourne boasts a variety of literary organisations  and events to promote a culture of reading and engagement, events such as  Writers VictoriaExpress Media, the Australian Poetry Centre, the Melbourne Writers Festival and theEmerging Writers’ Festival.

You can read the rest here.

The Gertrude St Projection Festival is a good read.

Over the past couple of weeks (from 20 – 29 July, to be precise), Gertrude Street in Fitzroy has been home to a variety of projection art pieces, ranging from hypnotising geometric animations in shop windows to colourful patterns projected onto the entirety of one of the 20-odd story public housing towers. This year saw the fifth Gertrude Street Projection Festival (GSPF), featuring a large number of artists, including a number of collaborative works.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Projection Festival, and I really enjoyed it. Gertrude Street is one of my favourite streets, so much character.

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Other posts include Adventure – Footscray, Le Miel et La Lune restaurant review by James Zarucky, a very informative post about Yarraville by Ashley Onori, a story about the old Children’s Hospital (with photos which look apocalyptic) which is being demolished, and a review of the White Rabbit Record Bar in Kensington. The blog includes posts expressing political concerns (a letter to Daniel Andrews) and commentary on a film  from the National Film and Sound Archive’s Film Australia Collection.

I’m always supportive of collaborative efforts, especially when they’re shared online for others’ enjoyment, and I do love my city, so I’m looking forward to reading more from hopefully a growing list of contributors. If you have any expertise in any area of knowledge pertaining to Melbourne, or if you’ve recently attended an event which is worth writing about, leave a comment in the ‘About’ section of the blog.

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Looking back through 2011

Looking back through 2011, and trying to come to grips with how much has changed, how many people suffered or died, how many sorrowed or rejoiced, who was married. Remembering political dramas, ethical battles, private and public celebrations.

In 2011 I visited the Google Academy and changed schools. Challenges and new beginnings stir up the pot and create new possibilities and relationships. As we age we acquire more empathy whilst being more aware of our own human failings. Don’t we?

I hope you have all grown and collected good memories this year, and I wish you an excellent New Year. My hopes for the new year include new connections with teachers and students at Melbourne High School, and a return to a more regular conversation with my PLN. Conversation has become scarce on this blog and I miss it.

Thanks to Hamish Curry for the video. Agreed, Google+ has the good stuff.

Hello, anybody out there? Writing for someone

Somehow I managed to create a visual presentation in the period before coming into a Year 9 English class to talk to the boys about blogging. My focus was on the motivation for writing and the reason why you would want to write a blog. I wanted the students to think about people writing from earliest times, what motivated people to write so that others would read. Whether it’s the love message scratched onto a tree or the messages on the back of a toilet door – or on Facebook – people seem to want others to read what they have to say. I told the boys that when I was their age, in order to have your writing in print, you had to either be super talented or important, or perhaps succeed in having your letter to the editor make the local paper. Not so anymore – we can all be published online and enjoy the satisfaction of audience participation through comments.

I’m sharing the visual part of this lesson in case anyone else finds it useful.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”present/embed” query=”id=dcb397dn_157f26fq4dh” width=”410″ height=”342″ /]

Kick Start Activity 3 (Advanced) – Add Some Muscle to your Blog

Well, my participation in the Edublogs-supported blogging activities is erratic to say the least…
I wasn’t sure if I should skip to the latest activity number 6 or contribute belatedly to previous activities. As you can see I’ve gone for the latter option, and I’m glad I did because it’s given me a chance to take a broom to my About Me page and to think about what other pages I could create.
Here’s what I did to my About Me page:
  • I moved my photo to the top of the page
  • I added my name and teaching role at the beginning of the page. Seems obvious to do that, but somehow I had neglected it.
  • I introduced myself at the beginning and started with a more personal, conversational tone
  • I added my passion for art and animation and linked to my newish art blog, Art does matter.
  • To encourage conversation, I asked the readers to feel free to leave a comment or introduce themselves.
  • I wasn’t sure about naming my school, so I thought I might just say that I was in Melbourne, Australia. After all, my blog is personal, and not in any way representational of my school.
  • I added a Google Map of my location
  • This year I will have the added role at school as coordinator of learning enhancement. I added this information and invited people to share their knowledge with me.
  • I added my involvement with Powerful Learning Practice since this was seminal to my connection to other people and networks

I’d like to add a page which links directly to my wiki but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, so any help would be appreciated. It makes sense to link everything you do to your blog. In that case, should I have pages for all my other blogs or is it enough to include them in the links on the side? Comments are welcome and appreciated.

Holiday bloggy sluggishness. But wait! something… mathematical?

Apologies for my rare postings of late  to those who still take an occasional peek into this blog  – although I doubt the existence of these people very much because there has been an unmistakable lapse in eventful posting. This is due mainly to school holidays and family things, not all pleasant. Nevertheless, here I am, and even if nobody is here to witness my thoughts falling into this post, I will proceed undeterred because I haven’t got anything better to do. OR, I actually have something interesting to share with you.

Today a Facebook link shared by my dear online friend and PLP colleague, Hiram Cuevas (@cuevash on Twitter), gave me the pleasure of discovering a rare talent, Vi Hart, who is obviously a very gifted young lady. Vi is as passionate about maths as she is about music, art and other things.  Her website made my jaw drop. Often I’m astounded by how much of value very young people have achieved in their short lives; how much more do they have to offer.

Here’s the first video that caught my attention. Let me know what you think.


I love the doodling videos; here’s another one


What did you think?

I haven’t explored everything in Vi’s site but the music boxes are fascinating.


The balloon page looks challenging. Not sure if the average party clown would be game for these.

A little about Vi from her own website:

I like most creative activities that involve making a lot of noise, mess, or both. Aside from composing, I love improvising on various instruments, drawing, sculpting, and other methods of making things. My main hobby is mathematics, with special interests in symmetry, polyhedra, and surreal complexity. This usually manifests as collaborative research in computational geometry and other areas of theoretical computer science, or as mathematical art. I think the human brain is incredible and strange, so I have developed a great interest in dreaming and consciousness. As a result, I am a trained hypnotist and a lucid dreamer. The human body is pretty neat as well, so I enjoy dancing and judo. I always love to learn new things—variety is the food of creativity!

It would be interesting to trace Vi’s learning history to peek at the environment which supports such an intelligent, creative and unique person. I will be taking on a new role at school next year, Coordinator of Learning Enhancement, and I’m mentally hovering over different mental images of how best to support and inspire those responding to learning enhancement opportunities. All suggestions and ideas are very welcome.

It helps to have a hand from the top

I think I have mentioned that I’ve been working at Kew High School one day a week. It’s been 9 weeks now, and I’m happy and excited to play a small part in connecting the school community with transformative aspects of new technologies . It’s the ideal role for me – introducing Web 2.0 tools, creating and sharing blogs and wikis, helping teachers integrate connective technologies into their curriculum.

This could have been a frustrating experience, considering I’m only at Kew one day a week – trying to catch people throughout a very busy day which happens NOT to be their day for professional development. It could have been, but it wasn’t thanks to the brilliantly supportive and proactive deputy principal, Bernie Lloyd, who organised a lunch in the library (my ‘office’) and lured staff with free lunch. Not only did she bring the sandwiches but she also cut up the fruit and washed the dishes afterwards! How many DPs would do that? She is definitely a linchpin.

That lunchtime session made all the difference. I was introduced to teachers, I pulled out my bag of tricks, gave them a whirlwind tour of Web 2.0 projects and possibilities, and answered questions. I wasn’t sure how much of an impact this would have – although Bernie had assured me that Kew teachers were open to new things – my past experiences had made me somewhat sceptical. Not so at Kew. Teachers gave positive feedback and some immediately arranged meetings to get started. Wow.

I’d started a blog for Kew which Kevin Whitney, Head of Library, named I get to say what’s culture. Just as in my Whitefriars blog, Fiction is like a box of chocolates, I wanted to bring the school community in to assume ownership. Kew’s blog, though, will have a broader base, since it’s not  library-centred, and will showcase people’s talents and passions. That’s why I’ve only thrown a few posts in, just to populate it a little, but have stopped posting with the intention of handing it over to the Kew school community. In order to do this I need the collaboration of teachers and their knowledge of the students.

Collaboration with the deputy principal, collaboration with the staff, eventually collaboration with the students. I can’t wait to see the blog in the hands of the Kew High School community.

Thanks, Bernie.

Creating a community of readers

We all read, don’t we? If not books, then newspapers, if not hardcopy then online, if not novels, then graphic novels – does it really matter?

Having started my reading blog for school, I soon realised that it had to move from being limited to my own reading to including that of all the members of my school community. Of course, this is still an unrealised dream, but I was happy that so many teachers (and some students) offered their diverse reading reviews.

This year I’d like to expand the scope a little more to include anything and everything related to books, reading, film and whatever catches my eye and leads to a love of literature and ideas, as well as interaction and possibly a good laugh or at least a chuckle.

The variety of topics will hopefully mean that something will appeal at least some of the time. Ideally, interaction and collaboration with others is the goal.

Here are some examples of my recent posts:

The Age Resource Centre not only contains great resources you’d expect, but also a Reading and Writing page which includes extracts from great books (as described in this post):

Currently, Andy Griffiths has contributed a hilarious short story, Just commenting,  as part of a special series on the Summer Kids pages of The Sunday Age.

Here’s the first half of Andy’s story (you’ll love it):

WHEN I grow up I’m going to be a commentator. I’m getting really good at it, too, because I practise every chance I get. In fact, I’m practising right now.

I’m sitting at the dinner table using the pepper grinder as a microphone.

“It looks like we’re in for an exciting night’s eating,” I say in a hushed voice. “Anything can – and probably will – happen. The father is chewing on a chicken bone. The mother is pouring gravy over her potatoes. And the sister . . . well, the sister is looking directly at the commentator.”

“Can you pass the salt please, Andy?” says Jen.

“And the sister has opened play by making a direct request to the commentator to pass the salt,” I say. “The question is, will he give her the salt or is he too busy commentating?”

“Mum,” sighs Jen, “Andy’s commentating again.”

“Oh dear,” I exclaim. “The sister seems to have forgotten about the salt and has decided to tell on her little brother for commentating instead.”

“Just ignore him,” says Mum.

“I can’t,” says Jen. “I want him to pass the salt.”

“She’s getting impatient now,” I say. “She’s thrown away all pretence of politeness and good manners. Looks like she still really wants that salt. But her little brother is just shaking his head. Looks like we have a stand-off on our hands.”

Jen rolls her eyes. “Can you pass me the salt, please, Dad?”

“A brilliant change of tactics on the sister’s part,” I say. “Let’s see how it works out for her.”

Dad nods, picks up the salt and leans in front of me to pass it to Jen.

“What a pass!” I say into the pepper grinder.

“Straight from his hand to hers, no fumbling – and Jen is wasting no time in transferring the contents of the salt shaker to her dinner. Just look at her shaking that thing – she’s giving that shaker everything she’s got. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the salt-shakingest salt-shaker action we’ve seen around this dinner table in a long time.”

“Jen,” says Mum, “that’s quite enough salt.”

“Looks like the mother has stepped in to shut down the sister’s salt offensive.”

“Shut up, Andy,” says Jen.

“Jen!” says Mum. “Please don’t talk like that at the dinner table.”

“But, Mum . . .”

“I know your brother can be very annoying, but there’s no excuse for language like that.”

“Oh dear,” I say.

“Looks like Jen’s dinner has definitely taken a turn for the worse. Not only has she been cautioned for excessive salt use but now she’s getting into trouble for being rude at the dinner table.”

“All right, that will do now, Andy,” says Dad. “Just eat your dinner.”

“But who will do the commentating?”

“NOBODY will do the commentating!” says Mum. “We’ll all just eat our dinner in peace and quiet.”

“But that’s boring.

“And unfair.

“How can I be a professional commentator when I grow up if you don’t let me practise?”

“Just eat your dinner,” says Dad, “or else you’ll have to leave the table.”

When I found Nancie Atwell’s quote about reading and how it makes you smart, I knew I had to put that in.

There’s nothing better for you – not broccoli, not an apple a day, not aerobic exercise. In terms of the whole rest of your life, in terms of making you smart in all ways, there’s nothing better. Top-ranking scientists and mathematicians are people who read. Top-ranking historians and researchers are people who read. Reading is like money in the bank in terms of the rest of your life, but it also helps you escape from the rest of your life and live experiences you can only dream of. Most important, along with writing, reading is the best way I know to find out who you are, what you care about, and what kind of person you want to become.

When I found the homonymic (is that a word?) poem, Sum thyme’s I’m ache Thai pose (Sometimes I make typos), I thought I had to put that into a post. I love quirky stuff, and I think many students do too. Anything that has value but isn’t what they expect to be ‘academic’, classroomy (another made-up word).


Then I found out about an exhibition which included the biggest book in the world, and thought this would be perfect for the blog too.

I’m hoping that the diversity and quirkiness of the post content will work well with the reviews and trailers, so that members of the school community and readers outside the school will turn to the blog for enjoyment. It would give me deep satisfaction.

Your contribution is very welcome, wherever you are.

threesixtyfivephotos – daily photo challenge

This year I decided to take up the challenge of posting at least one photo a day as part of a Flickr group challenge. I ended up creating the blog, threesixtyfivephotos, so that the daily photos and small amount of written description would have somewhere to live. Now that I’ve almost finished, I realise that this exercise has proved to be surprisingly more than I expected.

Here are some of the themes:

My stuff, what I love and why Day 29 Toys     Day 232 Stuff

My garden and its seasonal transformation, how it responds to extremes in temperature in the summer (fellow bloggers in North America have documented how their natural surroundings have responded to extremes in temperature in the winter – interesting for me since we don’t have snow) Day 31 Heat damage in the garden  Day 242 First blossom   Day 225 Winter garden  Day 269  Rain rain  Day 256 The whole blooming lot

Good friends Day 13 Getting together with friends

Odd things around the place Day 20 The burning giraffe

Favourite Routines Day 17 Victoria Market

Traditions   Day 6 Christmas eve  Day 358  Christmas eve   Day 109  Orthodox Easter

Family Dramas     Day 5 Sasha doesn’t get his year 12 results  Day234  19th birthday saga  Day 302 Fencing

My City of Melbourne   Day 178 Federation Square  Day 164 Royal Arcade  Day 339  City sights

Food preparation   Day 212 Guest Photographer makes tarts  Day 348  Christmas baking

School events   Day 210  School Gala

Overseas visitors   Day 206  PLP and bloggers’ dinner at Southbank

Milestones and triumphs     Day 197  16th birthday  Day 187  He has wheels  Day 238  Namesday  Day 264 Day of Triumph  Day 246  Still smiling about yesterday  Day 338  Last day of school

Holidays   Day 185  Heaven  Day 318 Back to Barwon Heads

Special occasions    Day 312  Anna and Pat’s wedding   Babies Day 172 Baby’s first communion  Engagement Day 297

Self-fulfilling prophesies   Day 265 Once upon a time and Day 266 Lalo Symphony Espagnole


Special things    Day 288 Russian carving

The photoblog has been a surprisingly rich journey without even trying to be. It’s like a time capsule of sorts. And best of all, it’s connected me in a personal way with people I would otherwise not communicate with.

This could work as an individual student or collaborative class project. Definitely. Just one photo and minimal written description a day.

Why don’t you try it?