Tag Archives: identity

My unofficial geographic CV – I am Australian #digiwrimo

I love Maureen Crawford’s geographic CV which she has written for Kevin Hodgson and opened up for response and remixing to all.

Here is my offering, my geographic CV of sorts:

Somehow I manage to stand without falling

with all the other Australians

at the bottom of the world

or so the map says.


I shiver when you, at the top, are walking sleeveless through the park.

I shelter in air conditioned rooms, curtains drawn,

with my European trees burning before they get the chance to turn red

at the same time as you shovel snow and boast about snow days.

I want heat days.


In my early schooling I learned about convicts

farewelling England forever

to come to the place of my birth

which was not the birthplace of my parents.


My double life was week days a certain kind of world view

and weekends different in language and customs

but I questioned not

and kept the other life quiet.

I danced to Greensleeves in the asphalt playground;

on Saturdays I sang acapella in Russian and recited Pushkin.


Tic Tac Toe, here I go, where I land

I do not know.

What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

There’s a green oak-tree by the shores
Of the blue bay; on a gold chain,
The cat, learned in the fable stories,
Walks round the tree in ceaseless strain.

The textbook of my life is sewn together

from pages torn from books in libraries

at opposite ends of the world.


I ignore the footy on tv –

my country’s religion,

the races also,

but enjoy the public holiday.

I wonder about the words of my country’s anthem:

Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free;

We are not so young, surely,

We are old but some of us have only just arrived

and chosen to forget who lived here first.


I question also

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share…


Along with many others

I remark on the falsehood;

We sing what is not true

but should be.


I am Australian.

Here is the Hackpad with everyone’s versions of the #DiGiWriMo unofficial CV.


Identity shattering. A six word poem for #clmooc


Photo by Sarah Wynne

Challenge: A #clmooc identity shattering in six words

As we consider who we are, our identities in the spaces and places of the neighborhoods in our lives — what essence is there in all of them?

What six concepts shape you as you shape them?

Challenge: Consider your beliefs. Using six words, arrange them as phrases read horizontally and vertically to express an essence of your identity.

Okay. I looked at examples. I fiddled with some words. I rearranged words and phrases. I deleted. I remain unsatisfied. I settled.

Understand solitude

Create together

Colour transforms

I know, it’s contradictory and it’s supposed to be.


Understand and create colour.

Solitude together transforms.

That works for me. What about you? Is it too confusing? Now I feel shattered. And synthesized.



To be or not to be cartoon characters. In a Greek tragedy.

It started with a tweet (mine)…

I swear it was only minutes before Simon Ensor @sensor36 published a post with enough substance for a PhD – or at least a 3-part TV series. A cartoon program.

Simon says:

Then there was Tania suggesting in a tweet that tweeps such as @Bali_Maha, @dogtrax, @sensor63  et al in her PLN were ‘cartoon characters’ – if she had not met them F2F or should I say 3D?

So is that my friends what we are to one another – Cartoons – (on)line drawings?

Now Simon thinks in colour:

Like a canary to a black and white cat that was a red rag to a bull.

He also believes in getting straight down to (serious) business:

Existential questions

1) Are our online ‘friends’, ‘follows’ ‘followers’, akin to Loony Tunes?
2) Are our offline ‘friends’, ‘follows’, ‘followers’ not akin to Loony Tunes?

I will pause here before the ‘cartoon preamble’. Simon has muddied the waters (in my head) with his cartoon world/real world questions. I’m propelled back into my early childhood when I wished that my world was the cartoon world. We all knew it was much more fun. Cartoon worlds were more colourful, more exciting, funnier – and risk taking was never a problem because even if you ended up falling off a cliff and being squashed into a flat pancake upon landing, you would always, always be able to stretch yourself out and back into your normal body shape. And with a cool sound effect.

Simon is playing with my head. He should not tempt me into going down the rabbit hole into fantasy land. Mixing realities. Switching worlds.

So now, we’re up to Simon’s

Cartoon preamble.

I can quite accept that @dogtrax or should I say Mr Hodgson K. qualifies as an honorary cartoon character.

His lifetime achievement to cartooning in itself would merit such an accolade.

I am not sure that I am quite yet ready to take on the caricature mantle without a fight.

Simon, how can you resist the lure of the cartoon reality? You, whose prose is poetry, references labyrinthine, whose playfulness is akin to the Dadaists.

But, yes, I will play your game.  I see it’s four rounds and then you’re out.  Or so you think you are. You concede defeat and accept the cartoon character identity. You have chosen wisely.  You have chosen the cartoon reality. No more ‘He he he’ as part of the Queen’s court which was as taken with Boy George’s superficial mask as the people who insisted they saw the king’s finery in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes‘.

Round one.

The strange case of Culture Club.

I can boast quite openly that I once met Boy George F2F (3D) outside the Mud Club in central London, while driving a London cab.

Boy George was undoubtedly a larger than life character, dressed to the nines, painted in broad strokes, armed with an infectious laugh.

He was surrounded by acolytes, disciples, hangers-on, groupies, and various fawning clubbers, similarly attired.

They appeared to be infected with George’s laugh.

“Ho ho ho ho.” (George)

Micro-second later

“He he he he.” (Queen’s court)

I am quite sure the boy George had more depth than this vignette.  There was no apparent desire among the performers to go beyond the make-up.

Well done. You have not been fooled into thinking the pantomime of school is real – surely you must choose the cartoon world again. You will never again be able to be that teacher operating the Cambridge textbook franchise.  You will never again be the teacher conducting the masked chorus who played out the lesson scenario to the last letter.  Surely your cartoon avatar had already escaped down the rabbit hole or up the Magic Faraway Tree into magical lands.

Many of the my 3D colleagues are unknown to me, they remain line-drawings.

Yes, you are losing control here; worlds are colliding and changing places. Can you feel it? You admit to have a more lifelike exchange with unseen friends online than in your 3D pantomime life.  You/we all speak the same Cartoon language.

And in Round Four you have a strong inkling that brings you closer to your unreality. Your blog is the Tardis, and you are all the Doctors.

You have one voice, you have another voice. (Some voices have trouble throwing off the old voices to take their place).  Time and place matter not. Your voice, your identity do not reside in one body, are not located in the 3D world.

I sometimes feel that a distinct voice, that is evidenced in this Touches of Sense blog, has become a distinct character.

There are times when I feel distanced from it’s mannerisms, its annoying ways with words.

You are ready for the new Doctor.

There are times when I feel that I shall introduce a new character to stem its irritating flow.

CARTOON character.

Do not despair of your identity breakdown. In your last hours as a 3D  entity of the pantomime world, you are having brief flashes of revelation.

I am reminded of Maha’s reflections on how she feels at times as catalogued as an ‘exotic’.

I am reminded of Susan’s reflections on her various incarnations.

I wonder if despite ourselves we become characters in others’ performances.

And there it is:

CARTOON character.

You are reborn. You throw off the skin and step out of the world you’ve been taught to accept as the real one.

OK Tania, I accept defeat. I am a caricature.

Do not think for a second that you are accepting defeat. On the contrary, you have returned home. You are where you belong, in the Cartoon World, the colourful world, the exciting and funny world.

This comic metaphor has become too complex for the cartoon @sensor63.

He accepts the mask.

He is one of the Connected Comic Characters.

He must live with it.

Oh the tragedy!

And it’s a genuine tragedy you now inhabit. Your comic tragedy has a speaker and a chorus and everyone is in costume. Everything is brightly coloured. You have many lives and you live your fantasy life.  We are all there too – Maha, Kevin, Susan and the others. Me.  In our cartoon world.

But who is watching us play out our online lives?

Taking control of our digital lives

In a few weeks our team will be running sessions on digital citizenship with all the year 10 students. In an attempt to make sense of a very dense session I thought I’d throw it into a blog post.  I’m open to suggestions or advice if you’re kind enough to read the post. Thank you.

The leading question is:

In the digital age what are the most important skills we need to develop?

We will explore digital literacies and what it is to be a digital citizen in today’s information age. In particular, how can we take control of our digital lives?

In no set order, and depending on the dynamics of the class and their receptiveness to engage in discussion, we will look at:

  • attention (mindfulness) – thanks to the work of Howard Rheingold
  • online privacy
  • critical evaluation of information
  • your digital profile

With mobile devices and technology ubiquitous in our lives, is it possible that we are not in control of the balance in our lives?

To start discussion about whether we are online too much, I will show students this video.

I hope to talk a little on mindfulness. Mindfulness is something we can practice. It helps us have control over what we give our attention to.

We might do this one-minute meditation exercise or we might ask students to do this in their own time.

Mindfulness during study would be really appreciated by students; it’s so easy to get distracted especially with the ping of social media inviting us to take a ‘quick’ break. We will recommend to students the SelfControl app which allows them to lock themselves out of social media and email for any period of time. Sounds good to me. Students can download this app to their devices for free.

Next we’ll move on to the question: ‘Are we doing everything we can to secure our online privacy?

Then we’ll show students this video about nothing being free online and about how their online activity is stolen for the purpose of data collection.  Hopefully they’ll start to feel a little uncomfortable as they realise how little control they have over what is taken from what they do online . But will this lead to some good discussion?

At this point we’ll introduce our students to Duck Duck Go, an anonymous, encrypted search engine.  We’ll take a look at why Duck Duck Go is better for privacy than other search engines.  We’ll look more closely at how our search results are generally filtered and how we can escape our search engine’s filter bubble.

We’ll watch the following video to discover that our search results are far from objective and that the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see.

Moving on to our digital identities, we might google each other and see what comes up. When I did this last year there wasn’t much which – as I said to the boys – is good and bad. It’s great if they don’t have inappropriate things on their public profile, but what if somebody wants to find out more about the, for example, when they apply for a job?

Here’s an revealing video about why our Facebook likes say more about us than we think, and why we should care.

At this point I’d like the students to take a look at what others see about them on Facebook by going to their public profile. Since Facebook changes privacy settings constantly and these are never simple, it should be an interesting exercise. Facebook allows a user to view their page as a person they haven’t ‘friended’ and also as a ‘friend’. Then I’ll ask the students to check out the Facebook Help Centre – I don’t think they will have looked at this in detail.

Although I’m not an advocate of the fear tactics used to scare young people off social media, I also want to make them aware of what can and does happen.  What happened to Alec Couros very recently is a sobering story. Alec Couros is Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Someone stole his online identity and created an internet relationship scam. Read about it here in his very open blog post where he explains how scammers stole his photos to lure women into online romantic relationships to get at their money. Alec lists a long list of things he recommends to fight internet scams. He says that ‘digital literacy is necessary for determining the validity of sources, including the integrity and authenticity of our relationships.’ He recommends that ‘this needs to be a topic in school as part of a required digital citizenship curriculum’. Yes, it does. And so, our one session is not enough, but we are squeezing in at least this one session.

Alec’s final words in this second blog post are:

Likely, what I’ve learned the most throughout this predicament is that we need better systems for identity verification. I don’t actually like proposing this because I’m a strong proponent for rights to anonymity on the web. But, there must be a way to allow for anonymity and to also build mechanisms in place for identity verification where necessary. Ideas, anyone? Maybe my life’s work is in this problem somewhere.

After this frightening real story we are actually going to go back to encouraging our students to cultivate a positive online profile. I know that many of them will ask why. Why do they need to go public online? Doesn’t this go against what we’ve just been discussing – all the negative stuff? While thinking about how I could possibly make this case convincingly with something our students could identify with, I was on Twitter and had asked a question about saving archived webpages from the Wayback Machine. A few seconds later I received an answer from Nick Patsianas (@nickpatsianas) – someone I followed a while ago. He is a year 11 student who lives on the Central Coast in NSW. Nick is an inspirational young man (as you will understand when you read his blog bio) and his blog is an outstanding example of how a student can create a positive digital footprint. I will introduce Nick to my students. Nick is part of an active network on Twitter, as you can see from his Twitter conversations if you follow him.  Nick is part of Oz Minecraft Educators. If I were an employer and were looking for evidence that Nick was an intelligent, literate, responsible, engaged and thoughtful young man, I would have everything I needed in the digital footprint he has created for himself.

To finish the session (if there is time remaining), I will take my cue from Alec Couros when he says

Detection of these scams requires critical thought, a healthy skepticism, and active digital literacy.

We’re going to look at photos and text posted online and try to evaluate their validity. Hopefully this will be a fun exercise, and we might do it together. We will ask our students if the following photos are real or fake, and if the accompanying information is real of fake. We will see how well they can uncover a hoax.

After discussion, I’ll ask the boys to find out here.

What about this?

Find out here.

What about this one?

Find out here.

What about “15-ton prehistoric shark captured off coast of Pakistan”?

Find out here.

And “New York artist creates ‘art’ that is invisible and collectors are paying millions.”

Find out here.

Next we’ll have a look at some fake news websites.

In Australia:

The Shovel

World Daily News Report

See a list of international fake news sites here. 

We’ll look at some of the information taken from the article by Paul S. Piper,Librarian, Western Washington University, Better read that again: web hoaxes and misinformation. These categorise web hoaxes and misinformation, for example, parody and spoof sites, malicious sites, counterfeit, fictitious, questionable and malicious websites, and finally product sites and subject-specific misinformation.

Finally we will ask the students which of the following websites are reputable and which are not? Of those which are not, they are to specify which are counterfeit, parodies, fictitious, questionable, malicious or product sites:

I’ll leave the students with the following sites which are dedicated to tracking internet hoaxes.

Don’t Spread That Hoax


Snopes (Rumour has it)

Vmyths (Rhode Island Soft Systems produces this site designed to counter myths and hoaxes about computer viruses.

The National Fraud Center is a consumer centre for fraud, including internet fraud.

I think that ending with this lengthy activity is a safe way to approach different classes which may delve deeply into a couple of things listed here, and not complete all activities, or they might be less willing to join a discussion, in which case we will whizz through these activities.

So this lesson will be about 45 minutes long. If you are reading, please leave a comment at the end of this post. I would really appreciate it, and there is still time to edit the lesson plan.



Art is not just pretty pictures: The deep process of artistic creation

My topic today is Art as a subject in schools. I wonder if we sometimes underestimate or misunderstand the role of Art in a student’s learning. It’s so much more than making pretty pictures. Art personifies learning through a transparent process of deep exploration and problem solving – with an end product to show for it. Just as with literature, the end product can be unpacked to reveal the influences which were part of the creative process. Fortunately this is not a purely scientific process but one which invites the exploration and interpretation of the viewer. Art is a model for problem solving in other areas of learning. We should hold onto Art, and not be fooled into thinking that it is less valuable than subjects which are associated with occupational success. We need Art.

I visited a year 9 class today to see the students happily working on large representations of themselves based on their exploration of the unit ‘Home and Place’. My part in this project was the collaboration with Mihaela Brysha, Head of Art, in resourcing the project  in our library website (Libguides). I’m including the project brief:

This unit explores ideas about belonging and is designed to question our relationship and interaction with:

  • Others
  • Pop culture
  • Consumerism
  • Cultural beliefs,
  • Personal histories
  • The natural world

The aim of the exploration is to make and visually interpret personal statements about what home and place means to you and how it shapes personal and cultural identity.

Australian artists Patricia Piccinini, Fiona Hall, Gordon Bennett, and Howard Arkley address some of these ideas from very different perspectives, influences, art forms, aesthetics, materials and techniques. The study of their ideas and studio art practice as well as interpretation and analysis of their artwork aims to provide stimuli for the exploration of ideas, content and techniques for practical explorations.

The online resources were a starting point for further research into these artists:

Fiona HallGordon BennettHoward ArkleyPatricia Piccinini

The art of Gordon Bennett strikes a chord with many of our students whose families come from different countries. Bennett’s art depicts the cultural tension between his ties to his Indigenous roots and his association with Western culture.

I loved the size of these art works, their bold colours and strokes, delicate details, diverse imagery and visual storytelling. I loved the energy and focused activity in the classroom, the productive interaction between students and teacher. I took photos.

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I’m looking forward to the hanging of these in the art show. Well done, boys, and well done, Mihaela.

An introduction to digital citizenship for year 8s – in 20 minutes

Our new Year 9s (still 8s) arrived today for their orientation. Thanks, Nick, for inviting me to do a few sessions as an introduction to their ipads. I’ve shared the slideshow and hope it will make sense without much of the talk behind it.

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Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production

Listen to John Seely Brown’s talk where he addresses the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Stanford, CA, 2008.


I am what I create is how John Seely Brown defines our new identity.

I’d like to paraphrase what John says in his talk ‘Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production’, and also to offer some of my own thoughts.

Here’s the gist: Since many of the skills that we learn today have become obsolete several years ago, we must find a way to get today’s kids to embrace change, to want to constantly learn new kinds of things, to find a way to play with creating knowledge on the fly by experimenting with things. Notice how different this is to the traditional learning of finite knowledge imparted by the omniscient teacher . How do we initiate this tinkering, this creating of knowledge? John Seely Brown says we need to look for ways to foster the imagination; if there’s no imagination, there’s no creativity. And he places the tinkering learners within a new culture of sharing, in peer-based learning communities, where kids learn from each other. The challenge, he says, is to find new learning environments. We need to go back in time, so to speak, to the comprehensive classroom that had students of all ages in it, where the teacher was the organiser, the facilitator, and where students’ learning was as much from other students as from the teacher. We need to construct an environment where we are constantly learning from and teaching each other. And now for the tinkering.

What is tinkering? John Seely Brown sees it as the creation of something concrete as opposed to abstract or theoretical learning out of context.

Let me take my imagination and build something from it. Build something concrete instead of decontextualised knowledge. Once we’ ve created this concrete thing, we can see if it hasn’t worked, why doesn’t it work, and ask questions: how to build it better. We expect this thing to do something.

Why do we need this new learning environment? We live in a different type of world, one of rapid change. We need to find ways to tinker with ideas, ask good questions, and be able to take criticism. We need to learn in this architectual studio, where all work in progress is made public .

This makes so much sense to me. Currently, as part of our project for the Powerful Learning Practice program in which our school is involved, we have decided to create a NING, a whole-school online learning network, in order to bring the members of our school together, learning from each other, sharing, and making all our processes and projects transparent. In the new learning environment Brown speaks of, we are all able to witness each other’s struggle, understanding the process each of us is going through. What a powerful way of learning with and from each other. As Brown says, when the design is finished, and you overhear the master critiquing another’s design, this has tremendous meaning to us as well because we’ve been part of the process of the each other’s constructing of design. In this distributed learning environment, you learn to accept criticism. You want to be critiqued, you appreciate criticism, you learn from it. Brown sees this as one of the key platforms for lifelong learning and in embracing change.

Today’s networked technology allows us to build distributed communities of practice. Instead of us physically working shoulder to shoulder with others, our avatar is working shoulder to shoulder with others. We have infinitely more powerful tools to craft things, to mash this up. Creativity takes on new possibilties through tinkering – our tools not only allow us to create but also remix. In a short space of time, we can take what we see from others, rework it and recreate it, then give it back to the community for further reworking. How much better is this than isolated learning and creating?

The second message in John Seely Brown’s talk is something I’m very excited about. It’s a positive statement about young people today, and I urge everyone to think about it seriously, because it counters the many negative statements that are thrown out about young people in the age of technology. We are on the cusp of the creation of a new identity. In prior decades a lot of kids grew up thinking ‘I am what I wear’, or what my parents own, or how much money we have. Identity came from material possessions. I’d like to add to that by saying that identity also came from what we did for a living. Our occupation was who we were. It was the name of the occupation that was important, not the internal workings and processes of these occupations.

Here is the most exciting part of Brown’s talk for me : JUST MAYBE, he says, just maybe we are entering into a world now where our own identity gets defined by what we’ve created and what others have added to it.

This is a sense of identity constructed for myself. I passed something onto others, and they have been able to do wondrous things with this as well.

I can relate to this so well. When my children were younger and I was unable to teach full-time for several reasons, I was a ‘housewife’. I was not a teacher, I was not a thinker, I was not someone with creative talents, I was defined by my title. Now that I’m a teacher once again, I’m pushing beyond this title too. In my writing (which is really a remashing of my reading of others’ thinking with my own thinking) in my blogs and personal learning networks, I’m stretching my identity to include much more of my potential, and I’m doing this shoulder to shoulder with many others around the world. Technology is allowing me to recreate myself along with others – unlimited by my geographic location, unlimited by time zones. I’m creating my own identity within a new learning community. I’m a teacher, but what’s most satisfying and comfortable for me, I’m a learner.

As John Seely Brown says THIS IS A DIFFERENT WORLD.