Posts Tagged ‘writing’

So I’ve launched my new blog site: with help from colleagues at work and students who I teach who are all champing at the bit to “sell” me photos that I can decorate my site with.


Now I’ve made my first discovery in stepping out of the roost… any post, even when I put tags and categories will not appear in the WordPress reader…


A depressed man sitting on a bench

Epic… fail? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, I’ve decided to celebrate this discovery by… starting another website, which aims to capture a-post-a-day for the 7 months I’m on long service leave… I’ll launch that on Saturday (Sydney, Australia time)…


Happy days…


Well, someone in the next day will be – it could be you and this post might well tip the scale over – currently my blog sits on a modest 1994 views (I know, distinctly small fry for many). I would love to be able to let you know if you were my 2000th viewer. Maybe if I’m vigilant, I’ll be able to tell the country that you’re from. If the first six viewers all ‘liked’ this post, I could tell that number six would be the one. Maybe I could even do a feature on the person receiving that milestone…

English: The Grand Prize for the winner of a g...

A good year thus far… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironically, the one year anniversary of my writing – NOT my joining WordPress, which took place seven months before as part of a work ICT activity – is also coming up on June 25th. This was a post on students doing ‘TED Junior’ talks. It took me that time to work out what I was going to write about (and feel confident to press that ‘Publish’ button), one reflecting my work and ideas in Education, which, as you might expect, has also undergone some changes in that year.

Back to my title – how many times have you been the “999,999” visitor (or one millionth)? In thinking about this post, I reckon I’ve won about 50 of these things (and have of course, clicked on none of the cheery, cheesy banners when they’ve popped up). I even typed the phrase into Google and got all sorts of discussion about the possible scams and identity compromising consequences of clicking on these spots.

So anyway, to give you something in the same vein, here are some stats reflecting your relative chances of a number of events occurring – just to give you pause for thought. I’ve made them ‘Australia’ based, to reflect some of the idiosyncrasies of my country:

Chance of winning the big division prize in Lotto – 1 in 45 million

Chance of being killed by a shark –  1 in 292, 525 (chance of drowning at the Australian beach, by comparison, 1 in 3,362)

Chance of being struck by lightning – 1 in 1.6 million

Chance of dying in a car accident – 1 in 12, 500

Chance of winning anything by being the “Xth” person to visit a site – nil?

But, getting away from the darker side, it has been a great year thus far. I’ve learned so much and thank you all for popping by, whether this be a first time, or a return trip. Looking forward to even more in the coming twelve months. I’ll keep you posted on the 200th viewer… if I can 😉

Lighthouse beam at sunset

Lighthouse beam at sunset (Photo credit: McBadger)

I’ve been a little slack of late – despite school holidays, I’ve only written one post and that was at the start of the break. However, I’ve noticed that my blog has managed to keep going on, despite my absence. Not massive numbers (it is still less than a year old) but enough to make me wonder, given enough steam, how long the thing could go on, on its own terms.I’ve written about a Post’s use by date before, as well as which Post generates the most traffic. For me, it is my 2nd Post, exploring two texts (Frankenstein and Blade Runner) we study as part of our senior school syllabus in Australia.
In some ways this is ironic – I originally wrote this as a marker’s feedback document for the final year students. Currently it stands at nearly double the next best Post’s effort (a lesson plan for a drama activity called ROBOT) at 154 to 84 views. Sure it is one of the oldest posts, but it still pops up as the one sought out the most often. Of course, this does not take into account the views to the blog itself (the home page) or the About page, both of which are way higher.

So in terms of my theme, I’m thinking of the automated lighthouse, shining out into the night long after the need for humans to reside there has ended. The light still shines out, warning ships of the danger… or perhaps it is an inverse idea – the light shines out, showing the ship at sea where the site resides.

unmanned scientific probes Voyager

We’ve had the idea of space junk for just over half a century… items floating about in space that have served their purpose long ago, or like the Voyager Spacecraft, have wildly surpassed their original design parameters. The internet has already seen sites where their owners have already passed away, yet the site goes on, like Voyager, into the inky future. The internet detritus can only increase dramatically in the years to come. It is kind of inspiring in one sense; that your work will go on existing, long after you’ve stopped writing… or existing. Is this our 21st Century version of immortality, where a site could go on for hundreds of years, so long as the server and hosts continue to exist. But at the same time, I am reminded of one of my favourite writers from my childhood – Ray Bradbury – and his story from the Martian Chronicles There Will Come Soft RainsA house that continues on long after its occupants have gone. And that immortality is kind of sad in a way.

DPChallenge: Map it Out

In checking out the Reader section on WordPress, I came across the Writing Challenge section and, always looking to pick up my skills in Blogging, I decided to give it a go. Here then, is my first effort at using an embedded map and under taking a writing challenge – I hope you enjoy it.

Above is a map of Koroit, which, for my overseas readers, is at the end of the Great Ocean Rd in South West Victoria, at the “bottom” of mainland Australia. It lies just west of the larger main ‘city’ of Warrnambool, which you can see to the right of the map (population 30 000). Koroit, by comparison, has about 2000 residents and is remarkable for having, in its heyday, the largest Irish population per capita in Australia.

Koroit Cemetery – dating back to the mid 1800s

We have been staying here, with relatives, for the past week. It is a beautiful location and, in contrast to other parts of Victoria, is relatively protected from the hot summer weather by sea breezes that hark back to Antarctica. Thus even the hot days (40 degrees celsius the day after we arrived) obtain relief in the late afternoon from a southerly wind change. This while a number of bush and grass fires burn out of control in the States of NSW, Victoria and, across Bass Strait, in Tasmania.

This trip has been memorable for a number of reasons. My son and daughter are now of an age to appreciate both family and location. Thus we had my son, now aged 8, express an interest in visiting the local cemetery. Having not been to such a place before, I asked him the reason as to his desire to go. His answer, to see “the chess pieces” that were the crosses and angels atop the various markers and tombstones, visible from the highway. They had piqued his interest as we went back and forth at 100km an hour to town.

The Koroit to Port Fairy Rail Trail - looking towards Port Fairy

The Koroit to Port Fairy Rail Trail – looking towards Port Fairy

Having got there yesterday, my daughter’s reaction was more of concern for the rabbits that had burrows all over the place, in case they “got out onto the highway and got run over”. Perhaps not surprising from a five year old. For me, as always, it was looking at the contrasts in the big pieces of stone. The families who had multiple children pass away before the age of five; the son who “failed” to reach his father’s 104 years by only managing to make 102.

For me, the big boon of the holiday has been the discovery of the rail trail – a bike track converted from a former, disused rail line. From Koroit, this heads 20km both South East and  South West – the former to the township of Port Fairy,  the latter, to Warrnambool.

The track gently undulates and, so long as you keep above 10km an hour, you can outpace the flies that proliferate the area, courtesy of the rich dairy farmland surrounding the track. It is wonderfully peaceful, with your only company being the odd fellow cyclist, dairy cow, sheep and the finches that dart about. The wind blows continuously from the south, with the occasional waft of liquorice like fragrances from the surrounding flora. A quick takeaway coffee at the other end, to recharge, prepares you for the return journey that passes the slow moving rivers of the Moyne and Merri.


Lining up for the start at the Speedway

Then there have been other summer offerings – the trip to the Speedway last weekend, again a (very loud) first for my family. The relative ignorance we faced at the protocols involved with the sport slowly dissipated, in amongst the noise of the angry hornet like behaviour of the wingless cars and their  F500 “winged” counterparts.

As well as this, the trip last night to the seaside carnival, where my son “drove” his first dodgem car and both children “won” mini hand pull helicopters on the clowns… $10 for three games and the cheap plastic flying rotors continue to whiz about the grandparent’s garden 24 hours later; the life-expectancy of the cheap toys surpassing all predictions.

Then there are those simple things that take you back to your own childhood. Like my daughter’s discovery of the simple things, like the euphoria as you learn to climb a tree for the first time. With advice such as “look for the branches that are as thick as your arms or bigger” from her mother, she dispensed with fear and revelled in the thrill of going “higher than you Dad!”

from a tree in Poppa's back yard, the world beckons

from a tree in Poppa’s back yard, the world beckons

The journey is coming to an end, but, for a five and eight year old and their (somewhat) older parents, many memories will endure.

Bloggers blockIt’s been a good summer for me thus far. I’ve managed to blog a little more often and the ideas over these holidays have kept coming through. I’ve had the chance to have a look over the work of other bloggers and am enjoying the wider offerings these blogs present.
One topic that I’ve noted is blogger’s block. This 21st Century take on “writer’s block” appears to be the oft touted reason for why people have been away from posting (or, more practicably, that they have been busy and/or lazy during this time!), thus falling short of their usual frequency. In my desire to up the number of posts that I am publishing over our summer period, I’ve noted the dreaded “Blogger’s Block” while reading other posts. Here’s a quick post on what I’ve done to head this off, in my own way.
My main ‘technique’ is to make use of the Draft Post setting in WordPress. In many ways, this might appear counter-intuitive to what WordPress offers – on my iPad, it aims to Publish a new post when you start one, unless you change the settings to ‘Draft’, so that it no longer aims to publish straight off. There is also the QuickPress (or Quick Photo) facility – obviously designed around the “share your thoughts now” approach.
Anyway, the process is simple enough – as soon as an idea for a post occurs to me, I start a New Post and pop in any thoughts that sit with the initial concept. Thus, like a painter, I might have several works “on the go”. The advantage to this is that many ideas, in their infancy, are very rough and need to sit on the “mental back burner” in order to mature. The only issue that I have noted with this is that I need to be conscious of the “Publish Date”, as the post uses the time you open the document as the start point. There is probably no issue with this, although I found one time that a post, started many months ago and finally completed, published “behind” other posts on the site, which might be a consideration for a viewer who comes to the site address itself, rather than via the post itself, if that makes sense.

Here is a blogroll of some recent surfing on the topic, whether it be an expression of exasperation or of possible salvation for those suffering, in the form of topic starters…

from Singing Stream – on Blogger’s Block
from Heart, Mind, Soul – on Fear
from SmallTownMedia – 25 Blog Ideas (aimed at small business, but certainly pertinent)
from SameBoatDifferentCaptain – Blogging Mojo and Bloggers Block
from Lilach Bullock’s Sociable site – 14 Ideas To Find Great And Inspiring Blog Topics

So, how many do I have in the tank? Well, as I type, the answer is five, with the oldest (or earliest) dating back to mid July 2012. I’ll start with the next one shortly…

Over the Australian summer holidays, I’ll change tack a little and look to write more often and more broadly. Normal blogging transmissions will resume late January/early Feb next year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these posts.

How good is StumbleUpon?!

Dice five

I’ve got WordPress to thank for this. Doing my usual look around the workings (read “Dashboard operating system”) I came across some of the extra ways of having readers ‘respond’ to one’s writing. I’d noticed the StumbleUpon button but had no idea what this actually entailed. So, having come to the end of a school term, I decided to do some investigating.

Why is it good? Well, simply, I keep coming across items that I like (hence StumbleUpon). This comes from selecting a number of Interests at the outset and then, as the site says “We take in a lot of different signals to ensure we are showing you the best stuff on the Internet. You can make sure you are getting the best recommendations by Liking and Disliking web pages we show you, following other members whose Likes you find interesting, and following to a variety of Interests. This all helps us personalize your Stumbles so we can show you the best of the Web.”. I’m not sure how this works, or, in the scheme of things, how accurate this even is. All I know is that I have “liked” quite a few things and “not liked” only a couple, hopefully allowing some hidden algorithm to feed me more of the content that I find most stimulating, striking and useful. What I do know is that I have unwittingly posted to Facebook a couple of times – mind you, broadcasting some of the top info about the best Sci-Fi books of all time is probably a half-decent thing.

The other way that StumbleUpon grabs me is via the ability to list items. Below is a screen shot from my iPad of how my lists look.

My Stumble Lists

My Stumble Lists

For me, the boon here is the ability to press a button and have it “saved for later”. So, for items of interest, ideas and even examples to use in teaching, I have a kind of repository to draw upon. I think that the ability to Follow like-minded Stumblers would also prove rewarding – something I have yet to master.
I also have a Pinterest account, but have not done a lot of searching with this tool. I think the difference for me is how the “stumbles” come to the viewer one-at-a-time. This means you have a moment to assess whether you wish to view the item (especially with its preview ability) before selecting or discarding it. There are still a lot of stumbles which are just that, stumbles – items which have little merit for me. However, I think this is also a good thing. As an imperfect process, you are more likely to find that gem and decide that it is something worth treasuring.
I can highly recommend StumbleUpon to anyone who has yet to have a look – assuming I am not the last person to catch on, that is!
Any stumble fine-tuning suggestions or other ideas about its features would be happily accepted!

Over the Australian summer holidays, I’ll change tack a little and look to write more often and more broadly. Normal blogging transmissions will resume late January/early Feb next year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these posts.

A Year in Reverse

A year ago, I was in the process of moving out of the school Boarding House, having lived in for more than six years – four of which I oversaw the running of the place. I left for a variety of reasons, but was quizzed by a few students as to “why it had to be now?” In answering, I said that first term was just too hectic a time. There were all the new boarders and, for this next year, I would also have my youngest child starting school. It felt like I was juggling a few too many things. At the time, I also said

If the year could start as it is ending, then I could do another year. But with the big start it’ll be just too much. I want to dedicate my time to a whole number of areas, but feel like I’m spreading it so thinly none might be covered fully.

Fast forward to now and, while recently chatting to a colleague, I reflected upon the these sentiments. Currently, teachers start the year with a full battery, full of ideas, only to be met with a full load, the need to be fully prepared and (perhaps) not with sufficient time for reflection. By the time one gets to the end of the year when there is possibly more time on your hands (say with the exit of a Year 12 class), you are often mentally, if not physically tired. It’s that time of the year when someone could show you the best app of all time, the greatest teaching strategy, the best book you could read and your reaction is lukewarm to indifferent. What, we mused, if the year could start the year as it ends – with Term 4, moving towards Term 1. Here were the perceived benefits of our grand manifesto:

  • Rather than starting at full tilt, in a Reverse Year (RY), you might start a little more slowly. The year 12s don’t even arrive for a whole term (this would be their “stu vac” time!!)
  • As a result, you’ve got at least one lesson per day to put towards your own R&D – what about that online open uni course you’ve thought about that always starts in the first part of the year?
  • Or do some app trialling, rather than having only a basic understanding of how “Explain Everything” or “iMovie” works. Now you can get some real functionality.
  • Continue reading and perhaps even writing, rather than “dropping everything” as might be the case in the normal year, when the pressures of lesson preparation are at their most pressing.

Of course, the middle of the year would be kind-of-the-same, but the downside would now be the end of the year. You would end the year at full throttle and fall over the line into the holidays (quite likely factoring in the first week to get over the looming illness that you’ve managed to stave off for the last couple of weeks… but then again, how often does this happen now at other points of the year?!)

But perhaps this has, to some degree, been offset by the sense of gain already achieved over the course of the year. As teachers, we need to remember the need to be learners for life and, while not perfect by any means, a RY could offer a starting point for further consideration.