Posts Tagged ‘English’

Everyone will be familiar with the process of looking up material and, quite likely, the use of inverted commas (“”) around phrases for sourcing specific phrases.

Image request icon.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, there is even more functionality within this iconic search engine, so much so that there are probably tips below that you’ve not encountered before. So, if you want to get far more precise results when you are searching, rather than the “About 889,000,000 results (0.34 seconds)” that came up when I put the word searching by itself into Google, try some of the strategies listed below.

Google Search Tips

1. Exact phrase search

Search multiple words as one phrase using inverted commas “   “

Example: “climate change”

Tip: Only use this if you’re looking for an exact phrase because it will exclude other results which may still be useful eg sites that include the phrase changes in climate

Tip: great for finding song lyrics

2. Search for words near other words

To find results that have words or phrases that are near each other, use the ‘AROUND’ operator

Example: climate AROUND(3) change

will find results which have the words climate and change within three words of each other

Tip: Change the number in the brackets to increase or reduce the number of words that the words or phrases are found within each other

3. Exclude words

If you’re doing a search for mullet but want to exclude results that include the term hair, use the minus (-) sign in front of the term you wish to exclude

Example: mullet -hair

Tip: You can also use the minus (-) operator to exclude results from specific websites

eg: bushfire -site:wikipedia.org

Note: searching wikipedia is still great for springboarding to other sites, or getting background info, so excluding results from wikipedia may or may not be useful depending on context

4. Search for either word

To search for results that have one of several words, use the ‘OR’ operator

Example: world cup location 2014 OR 2018

5. Search for synonyms

To search for similar words use the tilde (~) operator

Example:

“Catch 22” ~critique

Tip: (In other research databases, not Google)

To expand your search to find related words that have a common root word, use the * symbol to find word ending variations eg: ideolog*

will find ideology, ideologies, ideologue etc

6. Site specific search

To search for results within a particular site, use the ‘site: ‘ modifier

Example:

“black and white” site:newington.nsw.edu.au

will find all results that have the phrase “black and white” on Newington websites.

Tip: Also great for searching at the domain level

eg .edu or .org

Tip: An excellent way to find government documents

eg: unemployment site:gov.au

7. File type search

To search for specific file types, use the ‘filetype: ’ modifier

Example:

“digital citizenship” filetype:ppt

8. Search for ranges

To find results within a range of years use two full stops with no spaces (..)

Example:

earthquakes 2000..2013

Tip: Use only one number plus two full stops to indicate an upper or a lower range

AFL grand final winners 2000.. (AFL grand final winners from 2000 on)

Australian prime ministers ..1960  (Australian prime ministers up to 1960)

9. Search for definitions

Use the ‘define: ’ operator

Example:

define:discombobulate

Tip: if the word is unusual enough, just typing the word in the search box is sufficient to bring up the definition as the first result

10. Search by reading level

To find results that are sorted by reading level, click on ‘Search tools’ then under ‘All results’ select ‘Reading level’

11. Search for graphs of maths formulas

Type in the formula in the Google search box

Example:

y=x^2+1

Tip: The caret (^) symbol denotes an exponential ie y=x²+1

12. Currency conversion

Use the [currency 1] in [currency 2] operator

Example:

20AUD in USD

Tip: Do a variety of conversions in Google eg speed, length, temperature.

For a full list of conversions supported: goo.gl/clHilb

13. Search for high resolution images

Use Google Image search, click on ‘Search tools’ and then ‘Size’

Tip: The larger the size/resolution, the better it will look when printed

14. Search for Creative Commons licensed material

Use Google Image search, click on settings (cog), scroll to ‘Usage rights’ field

Tip: Double check the license before use

Alternatively, use the Creative Commons search: http://search.creativecommons.org/

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A post about rejuvenation…

I’m one term shy of my long-service leave and have been taking the moment to reflect forwards… should that be proflect? Without ever intending the flow of events, thanks to a range of circumstances, I managed to move from school to university to a teaching job before I’d graduated from university. At the end of nine years, I changed schools and in doing, missed the first chance for long service leave that I might have earned. At the time, the challenge of starting a new job meant that I probably didn’t need the break.

Now, nearly eleven years later from that switch, I’ve decided that a break is probably a good thing. I’m one term shy of 80 terms and aside from the regular school holidays, have moved from term to term in succession. So, I have been taking the time to enjoy the looking forward and the need for time down, which I’ve decided to take over two school terms. And while I don’t want to plan too much, I thought a bit of proflection, in thinking about how I should spend the time, mightn’t be a bad thing.  I’ve got my Masters of Ed on the go, so a couple of units there are factored in and I’ll mostly be around as the kids will still be at school. We might look to go on a holiday, perhaps to Fiji. But I’m enjoying the daydream of what else I might (loosely) occupy my time with. Here is the current list:

  • Might try to build in a bit of exercise – bike riding, swimming, maybe even a bit of running. Something 2-3 times a week would be great.
  • An art class – pen and ink is something that I’d like to have a go at.
  • Or maybe work on trying to crack cryptic crosswords… at last.
  • Some regular piano time
  • Maybe a bit of writing
  • Not re-reading school text books that I’m teaching…

    setting up for a different sort of routine

    setting up for a different sort of routine

The last one leads on to my aim of reading (more or less), one book per week. Being ‘off’ from mid December till mid July means a goodly number of books. Books that I have often overlooked in lieu of school texts or waiting for a time to enjoy them fully. Which is now…

The list, only in its infancy, might include:

  • Catch 22
  • Margaret Atwood (generally)
  • Michael Ondaatje (likewise)
  • Cormac McCarthy – No Country For Old Men
  • A Russian novel… not sure which… not even sure I’d want to do this! Perhaps Crime and Punishment?
  • More of Peter Carey, more of Tim Winton, more of George Orwell
  • Maybe some novels I ought to read again… Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying which I read in 1990, comes to mind
  • Maybe a run of a literary award… like my gaps in Booker Prize winners
  • A poem a day
  • More non-fiction. Probably some history.
  • Possibly a little literary sugar, in the form of the odd “page turner” or two, to balance out the literary “vegetables”

As mentioned, this is just a general musing as I write this post. I haven’t even visited the books that sit patiently in our spare bedroom! Feel free to let me know of anything that you think would be worthy of factoring in for the proflection, whether it be reading or recreational!

How many times, as a child, have we heard this phrase?

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and th...

Illustration by Warwick Goble to Beauty and the Beast: the heroine is the youngest daughter in her family. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I get you to think about what it means in your mind, like a Pavlovian response, you’d have your imagination firing off possibilities. Quite possibly incorporating images of Fairy Tales, Fantasy, stories set in an indeterminate past. Princes and princesses and simple moral codes. Quite possibly it suggests other or further ideas for you. It was only when my daughter was watching Play School on TV recently, when a presenter began a story with this well-worn phrase

Once upon a time

that I gave it closer scrutiny. And I realised that I, for one, had not really given much (any?) thought as to what this actually means. My own coding sees my mind shift straight away into the premise that I am about to be told a story, quite possibly with an authoritative voice and my own position as listener being that of (or similar to) a child. But thinking about this phrase more closely, it struck me as odd. It sounds like a point being placed on a timeline, when the event that you are about to hear takes place – surely this is not a particularly striking idea to put into a child’s mind? At worst it sounds too clinical – like some kind of science experiment, rather than a story involving flights of fancy and fantasy. Perhaps this is the reason that teachers soon steer students away from using this cliched start in their own writing.

A few years ago, I recall hearing an actor discussing his role as Richard in Shakespeare’s play Richard III. The opening lines will be familiar to many:

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York;

What made this interview noteworthy was his observation that he (and I apologise for being unable to remember the actor’s name) had, for some weeks, been rehearsing these lines without actually understanding what they meant. My memory of the interview was that having admitted to this and saying that this was, it appeared, a not uncommon mistake, he did not go on to clarify what the two lines meant. This set me musing on them, and wondering whether it involved the use of double negatives, which often confused people at the best of times (the “I haven’t done nothing” kind of thing). My understanding of the line is that, from Richard’s perspective, he means the following: If it is the winter of your unhappiness, then are the times actually good for you (the opposite being the summer of your happiness, rather than the summer of your unhappiness, if that make’s sense). Thus the “glorious summer” is a real downer for Richard – who revels when the times are bad, making the most of his own political run when chaos reigns.

What other phrases do we take at face value, rather than giving them the necessary scrutiny?

Starting out as a new teacher, you might well be asked to take on a Year 12 (or senior) class. On the basis that you have the necessary class skills in hand and know your curriculum, what might be the first fly in the ointment for your new teaching career?

English: A special education teacher assists o...

Teacher skills often extend beyond the class room (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

The chances are, you might well have a parent/teacher evening, or a set of reports to complete before the end of Term 1. Yet, as far as I can tell, most university training does not focus on either of these skills.
In my case, it was comparatively unremarkable. I was not quite 23 and the oldest student was already 18. Admittedly, it was nearly 20 years ago and the night went smoothly enough. Apart from the drunk parent and the couple going through an acrimonious divorce that played out before me. Nothing directed at me personally, but this isn’t really the issue. It was more the sense that I felt like I was winging it, on some sense of what was expected.
Talking to colleagues recently, it seems little has changed. I acknowledge that my survey is hardly extensive. However, it does take in experience from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, over the course of the last decade in particular. Even now, I have a prac student about to start an internship – no experience of parent/teacher nights or reports has been provided by the university. Perhaps fortuitously, she will be able to sit in on our scheduled night, and so will gain some experience before going live as a newly employed teacher, on her own.

With reports, it might be a little easier. The chance to look at a set of earlier reports from a colleague, or to have them looked over beforehand certainly exists. But why not take it back a step and look at what reporting ought to entail? A clear understanding of the student, certainly, but what beyond this? Results? Pedagogy? Curriculum goals? What is best avoided?

As for the parent/teacher interview, why not have a practice run, in addition to any school practicum that a trainee teacher might undertake. Having a number of scenario interviews, with unknown adults, provides scope for direction and reflection. Medical students undergo a variation of this in order to both direct their diagnostic skills and ‘bedside’ manner. Surely this is as pertinent in a

I recognise the need for universities to adapt to new teaching methodologies in light of the changing world of ICT. However, these basic skills seem to have been overlooked in the past and continue to do so in the present. Despite other developments, such as the changing realm of ICT, surely teachers will need to be able to write reports and meet with parents for the foreseeable future.

If you have seen programs where these skills are incorporated, I would love to hear about it.

Was there an unlikely skill or area at school that ended up serving you so well later on in life?

There was some media exploration of the declining numbers of girls studying mathematics as senior students this week (in Australia). I’ve provided a link to one of the articles, in the Sydney Morning Herald here. This post isn’t looking to explore this topic per se, but the topic did get me thinking more broadly about the subjects you study at school, and their relevance to your future. We have all wondered about that subject just making up the numbers so that we are eligible for the final qualification. Tales in the days of old of a bonfire of notes post exam for that much maligned subject that you somehow ended up taking, have been around for years. But what about things that aren’t even subjects, that end up helping you beyond expectation?

Students often ask me if I always wanted to become a teacher and are surprised when I say “no”. I was always good at English but it was rarely my strongest subject in terms of results. My mother was a teacher, as was, for some time, my paternal grandfather. When asked what I was going to study at uni and I responded “Arts”, it usually elicited an “Oh… so you want to me a teacher!”, which I seemed to rail against. But, I got to the end of my Arts degree, then an Honours year and hit a wall. What now?

Lectern

Lectern (Photo credit: Timmargh)

Mum suggested I look at a Dip Ed. At the time I was hoping to become the next big Australian playwright and having the chance to do a bit of part time teaching seemed like a good way to support the ‘craft’. The same year I was doing the NIDA Playwrights’ Course. With three months of the Dip Ed to go, I’d decided it might be good to get the C.V. in order, apply for a few jobs for experience and without quite knowing how, wound up with a one-year position for someone on maternity leave. That one-year ended up lasting me for nine, before I switched schools.

So back to the question at the top – and my answer to the students – the unlikely skill set that best helped me with where I am now? It would come down to two things. The first was Debating. I took it up in Year 9 and can recall the first topic “That there is too much violence on the news”. I was first speaker and can still recall the sheer terror of talking ‘unscripted’, with my mouth drying up to make this uncomfortable smacking sound as I tried to pronounce words and make them into something approaching a coherent sentence for an eternity of minutes. But over the next three years, unwittingly, it taught me how to breathe, how to think, how to pace myself and, perhaps most important of all, how to speak in front of large numbers of people without gabbling-like-I-used-to-do-when-slightly-nervous-and-excited-in-equal-measure!

The second stemmed out of English, out of my love of writing. It was joining the Drama Society at University and along with watching and being involved with plays, discovering that I wasn’t bad at writing them. Out of that came my ability to enter a Diploma of Education in English and Drama, without my having formally studied Drama. Out of that came the chance to study for a year at NIDA. Out of that came the chance for me to get an interview for my first job as a teacher… one that I got. And, perhaps most happily, out of that came the chance, with my first play touring to a University Theatre Festival interstate, to meet the girl who would end up becoming my wife 9 years later.

So this post probably has more in common with Ken Robinson on Creativity than a call for more students (of either gender) to study mathematics. But it’s nice to think that I can tell my children that, thanks to the Arts, I was able to meet your mother and ultimately, to be able to have you.

I’d love to hear about those unlikely or serendipitous moments from your education that perhaps had a greater sway on your life than you could possibly envisage.

On Monday I will start my first degree since the early 90s. I’m undertaking a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning. The differences in the two approaches couldn’t be more pronounced. On the one hand, my first English lecture had 800 odd sitting listening to a lecture from a professor with decades of tenure, discuss (I think) the novel, Joseph Andrews. At the time (1989), I was in awe of the University itself – the oldest in Australia – with the size of its place, all of the buildings and the 1000s of students. So this wonderment transferred quite happily to sitting and (trying) to take notes in an A4 Lecture pad while the one-way delivery of performance was given. There were  “tutes” of about ten people, where we would break down the lecture in a more informal and social fashion. Then there was the social side – of clubs and societies, the cafes and bars and growing friendships. There were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and, as I recall from a Psychology I lecture, “my presentations are copyright, so you are not permitted to make audio recordings of these lectures”.

Sydney University Quadrangle 2

Sydney University Quadrangle 2 (Photo credit: iansand)

How much things have changed. Now my University is 700km away and I am studying “by distance”. Ironically, “distance” can actually be measured in metres; the distance to my nearest computing device. Thus I was checking my (required) university email account as I lay in bed last night via my iPad. I can access all the online readings, the library database, the course notes… even the course participants who I will be discussing ideas and working with, without requiring any form of travel outside of my home. There are Facebook pages specific to the course and a Twitter hashtag to follow. I’ve already started using Notability to turn my required readings from PDFs into annotatable documents that automatically sync to Dropbox. I’ve started to use “e-highlighters” in a range of colours without unzipping a pencil case!

I’m excited with what’s about to follow. Most of my work will occur via a Moodlewhere I’ll be able to take part in discussion bulletin boards, use the class Forum and receive and submit my work. I am conscious of the self paced learning which recommends 12-15 hours per subject per week. It is self paced to a degree as I still need to complete those readings and submit those pieces of work. So while I might not need to sit down for a lecture at 9am on a Monday any more, I am conscious that I need to sit down some time and do that work. My education has, until now, been predicated on a timetable and while it still exists, the goalposts are being excavated ready for the subsequent shift. The irony is that I still play field hockey for my alma mater and fondly recollect that learning that I did in those days.

University of New England (Australia)

University of New England (Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if you ever pop by in the future, feel free to give me an e-kick… up the back side, to keep me on course and get me back to my studies!

iBlog – uBlog – we… Blog  luring

This post might seem to preach a little to the converted, and for that I apologise from the outset. If you are already writing a blog, what I am about to say may well be obvious. For those who are considering starting one, or want to know more about the aspects that you might not even be aware of, this will have pertinence to you.
Firstly, I should mention that I have been running a mini-unit in my Year 9 & 10 English classes in the wind down towards the end of the year. It has been the first time I have run something like this and many of the students, with the “post exam afterglow” were initially resistant to doing something “on blogging”. For those in Year 10, who started this first, the word blogging equated to some journal writing; something they had no interest in. Step one in amending-as-you-go-teaching saw me do away with the word blog and look to use site more generally. This (Year 10) is not a highly graded class, but there are a lot of students with specific interests and abilities. Some of them hope to play higher level/professional sport. Suddenly, the nomenclature changed, a few souls could see the worth of such an enterprise. The Year 9s, following a week later in the process, were far more amenable from the outset. For many of them, the ‘hook’ took quickly.
So what is the lure?
For them (and me), the hook to addiction comes in several parts. The first comes in determining your site name. The bit that will come after the old “www” part. Because it is what I have worked with, I have used WordPress as our key format. I am sure that other blogging sites use similar systems, but for now, bear with me.
Seeing students assume that (and at this point, I didn’t know how many sites there are hosted by WordPress – now I am aware that, as I type, there are over 58 million worldwide) they can walk in to “basketball.wordpress.com” because basketball is their thing and (because WordPress is in the title, so it’s not like “basketball.com”) no one else will have thought of it as a title, is amusing. What they thought would take 1 minute to do, ends up taking half a lesson or more, as they want to get the website title just right… not settling for something that’s too obscure. And why not? Wouldn’t you rather stumble upon something memorable and feel like you’ve staked your claim to that title? They certainly did.
The next two things came in quick succession. Before I could get round the room in the case of the Year 10s, most had already put up their first post. It was only after this that I was able to steer them back to considering why their “About” page might be worth a little bit of thought. This, along with working out what the site title would be (and the summary subheading that sits underneath this) made sense, when they had got past the excitement of setting the whole thing up. Helping me to ‘sell’ this idea, was the concept that this might well be the start of their ‘digital’ identity – one that they would like to develop and promote. Suddenly, students weren’t that keen to link their site to Facebook. It wasn’t about their friends seeing their efforts, it was more about creating something that went beyond the quick here-and-now that FB offers. As one student in Year 9 also offered, Even if we did connect our first post to FB, we all have so many ‘friends’ that the feed goes by so fast and no one would necessarily see it. 

Suddenly, substance took priority over immediacy.
While this was going on, the real hook was about to catch. I had been showing the class my own site (this one) in the form of its Dashboard. This has some compelling pieces of information embedded into it. Amongst them are the “site stats”. I’ve copied the scene that you would see, were you to have access to my Stats page.

The snapshot for the last week

The snapshot for the last week

Jokes aside regarding the (relatively) small breadth of my readership from the boys, they soon made some striking realisations. The most telling of these is that, for whatever reason, someone in Venezuela, came across my site. This came to prominence when, after several days, a few students realised that they only had ‘stats’ from Australia and, to be frank, these probably came from friends in the class who were ‘clicking’ on their site. A few boys had managed to get some views, mostly from the United States and these were held in high regard. However, even these were ‘trumped’ in days to come, as a couple of students managed to establish their first “followers” – mostly linked to the blogs that were sport based and had a broad appeal. But the seed had been planted in many minds. How and why would someone in Venezuela be in a position to be clicking (by the way, hello there in Venezuela!) “on Sir’s site!!”. I was reminded of an excellent blog by Daniel Edwards on The 10 Stages of Twitter – as the students  “Sit waiting for a response – feel unloved.” – highlighted in Stage 3!!

And so, the hook ‘takes’. For those not new to blogging, I wonder how accurate the following is: how often do you log on to see if you have ‘more hits’ and, perhaps even more compelling, whether you have new countries in your Stats? Isn’t it both satisfying and addictive, in equal part, to discover that there IS an audience out there for your efforts? For those contemplating starting a blog, this (and so much more, such as how people type phrases and questions into search engines and, by doing so, end up ‘clicking’ on your site) is a fascinating side to the form that you might not be aware of.

It certainly makes the process and the thought behind what I do, all the more considered. Even if I know that many coming to my site might be there by accident, and so, not hang around for long. Who doesn’t appreciate an audience?

Anyone else got any blogging lures?