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Project Beans is go!

LeaveRequestStage one of Project Beans is complete. I applied for three school terms off (April to December) and after my anxious wait, checking my email multiple times per day every day for a month or so, my leave request was approved. As you may well imagine this had me bouncing off the walls with excitement!!

Since then I have been investigating what countries I want to go to and what I want to see – this is where my plans are still slowly taking form. The only definite plan (though not booked, so really not that definite I suppose) is to finish work on April 2nd and head straight to South America to spend just under two months seeing and experiencing as much as South America as possible (the current idea is to see some of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil). From there it’s a mad dash to The Netherlands to celebrate the wedding of a cousin in June.

After that things are a bit up in the air at this point in time, but I certainly have loads of amazing ideas for places to go, things to do and see!

While I bide my time until this amazing adventure begins, I continue to turn up to work every day. I have some amazing students who each have unique talents and interests, which I love supporting. Even though these students are the highlight of each work day. The long, dark, cold days of winter have been getting to me. So rather than trudging down Struggle Street I took positive action and booked flights to somewhere warmer for the winter term break – Myanmar!

IMG_2937My amazingly supportive best man friend Mark, who coined ‘Project Beans’, will be joining me for a two week adventure. As Myanmar has only opened to tourists fairly recently we have heard that it is quite the challenge to get around, but that the people are lovely. We can’t wait to see this country, unspoiled by tourists, to soak up some cultural experiences and see the beautiful sights.

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Project Beans

I often get comments from people about my lifestyle, the fact that I leave the country at every given opportunity, sometimes they are really positive comments like “Good for you!” and “Fantastic!” and other times, the words that are strung together are nice but you can feel the judgement dripping off them.
Life is about choices, things you choose to do as well as the way you choose to deal with things in life.

Only a few close friends really know what’s been going on with me and why I leave whenever I can. It’s about finding myself and appreciating who I am, as well as regaining my independence and free will. I spent a large portion of my early adulthood in a relationship that was emotionally and psychologically abusive; it started off great but over the years it got worse and worse and when we finally broke up I realised I had no idea who I was. I no longer knew how to make decisions for myself and I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing because I wasn’t being told these things anymore. At around the same time as the breakup, I lost my father to cancer. My dad was always my best friend and my rock. My whole world crashed around me and suddenly I was at a loss, I spent the first three years functioning in survival mode. I ate, slept and worked according to routine. I lost weight. I lost motivation. I lost interest. I walked the dog whenever I could drag myself off the couch, but mostly spent a great deal of time staring at the walls. On top of the things going on in my personal life, I was struggling at work and had some really challenging students, it got to the point where I was fighting tears on the drive to work every day.

IMG_5300By mid-2012 I was miserable and barely functioning any more and realised something had to change. I spent about 12 months on a mental health plan and my psychologist was great in helping me regain some perspective. One of my best friends came up with a concept called ‘Project Beans’ which was about helping me get my ‘beans’ (energy) back, and he has been super supportive along every step of my journey. Also it sounds a bit silly, but the way my dog paid attention to me and loved me no matter what, was a great source of strength. While my life didn’t quite turn out the way I had hoped, I realised there was still plenty of enjoyment to be had and it was time to focus more on appreciating the small things in life and doing more things that made me happy.

So I travel, it makes me happy. I love seeing different places and experiencing different cultures, setting myself different challenges along the way – like hiking to the top of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo or skiing Whistler in Canada or even just going out to dinner by myself (a concept I used to find terrifying, I still find it scary, but not terrifying). When I am at home I work hard on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime, because they have a huge impact on my mental health. I place a lot of importance on appreciating and spending time with my family and friends, and I have no hesitation in telling them all how much I love them. I also try  to appreciate little things, like blue skies, white sand, a smile from someone I walk past as I am out walking my dog, noticing an architectural feature in a building I have walked past a million times but never really looked at.

As I have told a few people lately, my focus for this year, and in the years to come, is me. Finding enjoyment in little things, doing things that make me happy, and getting back to being the true, positive version of myself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I have a grand master plan, which I am calling Project Beans, though I have upped the ante on what the name traditionally referred to. While I am focusing on being a happier, healthier person physically and mentally, I am also going to be working my butt off and saving as much money as I possibly can so that I can take most of 2015 off work and explore the world.

The Project Beans adventure list currently includes: Africa to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, swim in the Devil’s Pool at the top of the Victoria Falls, do a safari and see the ‘big 5′; South America to hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, see the spectacular Iguazu Falls, as well as visit places like Buenos Aires and Rio De Janeiro; then a move to Europe, to spend most of the time living and travelling around Spain and Portugal, learning Spanish along the way and maybe even attempting the El Camino De Santiago; hopefully I’ll also fit in a visit to Legoland in Denmark.

While I am taking the brave step of planning a year long (realistically probably closer to 10 months) solo adventure, I’d love some travel buddies to share in the fun adventures along the way! If any of the things I plan to do are on your bucket list, feel free to join me! Or if you want to go to Europe, tell me when/where to meet you and we’ll hang out!

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Summer Holidays!!!!!

I started 2012 with ooooodles of enthusiasm – I was going to do a great job at work, I had holidays planned and I was going back to study.

Study didn’t turn out to be what I had hoped for and very quickly left me frustrated and stressed, so I withdrew from my course at the end of the first semester. I tried really hard at work, but I had some really disrespectful troublemakers who took all the energy I had …and on many days I had that horrible feeling of dreading going to work (I had some really great kids too, but unfortunately I didn’t have the energy I would have liked, to make their learning experience as fun as it could have been). The things that kept me going this year were my fantastic holidays, 4 weeks in Europe with the family and a few days in Sydney with a friend; and the birth of my absolutely adorable niece Eleanor (too cute for words!!!!!).

So as 2012 wraps up I have plans to put a crappy year behind me and look towards a new year with new adventures.
This summer holiday has 2 major parts: Christmas with the family at Utopia and a trip to Malaysia for 3.5 weeks with one of my best friends.

Family Christmas

Christmas Dinner

My Tent in the backyard at UtopiaOn December 21st Mum and I packed our cars and headed to Utopia. On arrival we promptly unpacked ALL the Christmas food into the fridge. Mum helped me set up me new home for the Christmas period and we managed to sit down and enjoy a cuppa. The evenings highlight was an amazing fiery sunset. The rest of the family turned up after dark and pretty soon it was time for everyone to have a nap.

 

Fiery Sunset from the Jetty at Meredith's Point

View of Wineglass Bay from the lookout

Knowing that I would be doing a big hike when in Malaysia I decided to start my fitness training. I started my day with a 10km ride, followed by a 4km-ish walk with Eleanor my gorgeous niece who was in need of a nap (Pushing a pram along a corrugated dirt road is bound to rock any baby to sleep!!). By the time Eleanor and I got back to Utopia it was time for a snack before heading off on a hike. My sister-in-law’s Dad and brother, Marten and Joel, and I headed into Freycinet National Park where we hiked up and over the saddle into Wineglass Bay. Apart from a bit of a wind, it was a gorgeous clear day and beautifully sunny. We wandered the full length of the white sandy beach, taking a moment to sit and soak up the sun before heading back.

The far end of Wineglass Beach

 

Mt Amos

Determined to keep up with my training schedule, Joel and I set off early the next morning to tackle the steep hike that is Mt Amos. It was a really hot morning and I was a bit tired and sore, so I was not really keeping the pace I should have, but off we trotted anyway. Crawling up rock faces until we were at the top, with a most stunning view over Wineglass Bay.


The streaky rocks on Mt Amos

We sat down and took in the view (and some M&Ms) before heading back to Utopia for lunch with the family. We mostly spent the afternoon lazing around, reading books, playing games and assembling Lego. Anna’s mum Marilyn gave me a packet of nano-blocks (mini Lego) that would create two ducks. Eleanor was a great help here and we had assembled the ducks in no time!

Eleanor assembling Nano-Ducks

Walking up tired, with tight calves, the day’s biggest effort was a stroll along Muirs beach with Mum, Marten and my dog Pippi. It was an incredibly pleasant stroll, and Pippi ran around, happy as a pig in mud!! The time at Utopia was mostly spent cuddling Eleanor, reading books, eating and napping… being on holidays is exhausting work!

Mum and I at Muirs Beach Pippi enjoying Muirs Beach

Christmas Day we awoke and found the cutest present imaginable under the tree, wrapped in a bright red bow snuggled amongst the other presents was Eleanor. Eleanor celebrated her first Christmas at 8 weeks of age, she wore her Christmas colours and Christmas baubles around her wrists; her parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle showered her with love, attention and of course, a few gifts. With a morning full of family fun, berry and chocolate muffins for breakfast and presents and candy to be enjoyed, this was the day my training efforts came to a grinding halt. We had a fabulous day as a family, enjoying each others company and appreciating a great deal of delicious food!Eleanor's first Christmas

Before I knew it, Boxing Day came around and after a sleep in, I got up only to be treated to an AMAZING pancake breakfast made especially for me by my sister-in-law Anna. With a tummy full once again, it was time for me to pack up and head to Hobart to start packing for the next adventure.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next post…from Malaysia!!!!!

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Dirty Thirty!!!!

On Thursday my life changed forever…I turned “Dirty Thirty”!!!

But you know what really happened…my age incremented by 1, taking me from my twenties into my thirties and that’s it. I know a few people who were fully stressed out in the approach to their thirties, but me, nope, I was more concerned about 25, the quarter century. My mum gave me a great little book for my birthday “Keep Calm you’re only 30” and it’s full of quotes; I think Mark Twain hit the nail on the head when he said “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

So you may be asking then”What’s so good about being 30?”
What isn’t good about being 30?? I have more independence now than ever. I have a steady job which I like and it gives me the financial independence to do what I like. I’m not stuck in any restrictive relationships that prevent me from doing what I want and I have the most supportive network of family and friends that anyone could ever hope to have. So I am free to live the life I choose. If that’s what being thirty means, then Bring It On.

So I had two days of celebrations, my actual birthday was a long work day with a few highlights.  To share with my colleagues I had baked 3 dozen cupcakes and a batch of ‘like’ cookies. The kids actually all behaved themselves for a change, and my evening class actually bought me a cake! It is such an amazing feeling when you realise that your students do actually appreciate you!!!

I spent the evening at my mums place with my brother and sister-in-law. We had a pancake dinner followed up an amazing cake!!! My sister-in-law is the most amazing cake maker!!!! She modelled the cake on my dog..by the time it was done, the cake dog’s head was bigger than my real dog’s head!!!

On Friday I had a really chilled out day before teaching a class in the afternoon, where they all shared in the left-over dog cake. At the end of the lesson the girlfriend of one of the boys was in the hall outside the classroom and I invited her in for some cake, where I was met by another compliment “It’s a pity I am not interested in your subject, because you seem like a really nice person”. I now feel appreciated by more than just the students I teach, but by those who I randomly come across in the school. (I’m not saying I’m amazing or anything, but it is nice to know that I’m not viewed as some cranky bitch teacher)

In the evening I headed down to Cargo to enjoy some pizza and a few drinks with my family and friends…and even this old nanna managed to kick on until 3am!!!

I’m proud and happy to be thirty! The additional benefit according to Charles Dickens is that “Cheerfulness and content are great beautifiers, and are famous preservers of youthful looks.”

I was spoiled by family and friends, who in addition to getting me awesome presents, made me feel very loved and appreciated. Thanks to everyone who made my birthday so fantastic!

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Counting down the days

I have submitted my last uni assignment, planned all the lessons for the classes for the last two weeks of term (and caught up with the relief teachers to discuss it) and even packed my bags!

So I am ready to go! I have a very busy last few days and then fly out on Saturday morning (thankfully not on a red-eye)

The next 4 weeks are going to be heaps of fun, but crazy busy. I plan on blogging while I am away, so stay tuned for the adventures to come!

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What was I thinking????

A number of months ago I had enrolled in a Graduate Certificate of Education and was “really looking forward to learning more about how to use ICT more effectively in my classroom, and hopefully a whole lot more!!!” (to quote myself from a blog I posted in January this year)

Seriously ..what was I thinking??

The first dampener on things was when I picked two subjects for the year and enrolled in them, only to find one wasn’t on offer this year, so I would have to change my choices. So I opted to study “Online Learning and Teaching” in Semester 1 and do the core subject “Understanding educational inquiry” in Semester 2.
There are only three subjects listed in the Graduate Certificate of Education, that are in my area of interest, ICT (and obviously my fourth subject would be the core unit). But two of those weren’t on offer this year, and when I asked if they would be on offer next year they said they didn’t know (Why bother listing subjects if you don’t actually offer them??). So I asked what I should do if I couldn’t do my selected subjects, and was told to do an “educational research project” and nominate one of the lecturers interested in ICT as my supervisor . This didn’t really align with my plans, but I thought that I’d just make a start and see what happens…

So I start this course ‘online learning and teaching’ and the lecture notes are all massive blobs of text, which introduce things like wiki’s and podcast’s and blog’s. It talks a bit about  what they are and then maybe asks you to reflect on how you think they could be used in the classroom. So firstly I am put off by this “online learning and teaching” class not actually making use of any good technology.

The the assignments are all talking about technology, not using it, not discussing ways they could be used more effectively. There is absolutely no practical aspect to this course. Even the first assignment in which we have to participate in an online discussion forum…we have to answer a particular questions, so you essentially write a mini essay to answer it, with references and post it on the forum. A discussion forum, to me, is about sharing ideas and discussing things. It’s not inspiring to go to a discussion forum and have to read a wall of text, then be assessed on making original, thought-provoking and insightful comments/replies that demonstrate a breadth of reading and knowledge in the area. How does this encourage free flowing conversation around a topic?

The other assignments are all very formal, writing a project brief for an effective education resource that makes use of ICT, back up why it should be done, what will it cost, what is the project timeframe, who are the stakeholders etc etc. But you don’t actually have to learn how to engage with the technology you are discussing!

The last assignment is an essay discussing the use of ICT in your work climate. It is an academic essay. So again you simply yap about technology but never have to engage with it.

I find it so frustrating to spend my time on these assignments and weekly readings when I have not learned a single thing so far! Perhaps I just didn’t have a clear understanding of what I would be learning, or perhaps I was too hopeful about what I would potentially learn that I didn’t stop to think about what it would actually be.

Another aspect that really made it difficult to engage in the uni course, was the Udacity course I started around the same time. The Udacity course was designed brilliantly, it had heaps of short lecture videos for each unit, with quizzes for almost each lecture to gauge learning and understanding. The each week was supported by a number of homework tasks. It was so interactive and interesting. It also made it easy to work through in stages, watch a few videos, do a few quizzes and then take a break. The design of the uni course with all its text to read, meant you had to be prepared to sit and read for a large block of time. Also the interface of the learning environment is ugly..it just doesn’t inspire you to engage with it.
So to enrol in one course about learning and teaching that was presented in an non-interesting manner was very hard to deal with when compared to another course with such an interactive and interesting design.

The only plus that I can see from this class is that it has encouraged a little bit more web browsing and reading of technologies available. So it’s prompted me to a do a little more of my own learning, learning I don’t really get the opportunity to apply to my course of study, but things that I can then take and test out with my class.

So to cut a long story short, I think I will finish this unit (even if I don’t enjoy it and aren’t learning anything, I’d prefer to complete the unit than bomb out halfway), after that, I will ditch uni and will keep on doing what I was doing before and playing with the technology, engaging in it’s use, testing it out with my classes and getting immediate feedback, rather than philosophising about it’s potential.

I might even go back to doing some Udacity courses from time to time, in an area that interests me, that is presented in a way that encourages me to learn and engage with the material.

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Study Stress!!!

So I’m really happy with all my amazing plans for the year and so far everything is going well. Only I am definitely having to be very effective with my time management. The workload and stress is slowly starting to build!

Work Plans

The Computer Science students so far seem to be responding well to the new, interactive course design.

I have made a bunch of YouTube tutorials (not finished yet) and have a number of subscribers, some are my students and some are complete strangers. It’s really exciting for me to have complete strangers ask for my help and value my response!

My students are responding really well to lesson blogging and often turn up to class having already completed the lessons activities!! That level of interest and enthusiasm is fantastic! Even if it does make it a little awkward to teach something they have already gone ahead and done for themselves! (Still have to teach it, because there’s also a large percent of students who don’t work ahead..surprise surprise).

OneNote proved a lot more challenging to get setup and syncing properly than anticipated, but almost the whole class has got it going now (I have learned a few lessons and in future years I will know what not to do!) I am yet to form an opinion on whether or not it is successful, as we have only just got the syncing sorted.

My workload in general has bumped up to 0.95 which financially, is awesome! I gained a new bus driving role this year.
With the study on the side, I am freaking out a bit about how much time there is in each day!

Study Plans

The course with Udacity, all online, is brilliantly designed. It’s very interesting content and the short videos supported by quizzes are very engaging. The fact that you immediately have to learn to apply the knowledge you have just gained is very effective in reinforcing your understanding of the concept. I wish I had the time and technology to do this with my own course..I don’t, so I will just make do.

I’m really loving the Udacity stuff, but even so there is such a huge volume of content, that I am very glad its only running for 5 more weeks!!

My course at UTas started a week ago, and while it doesn’t have the huge volume of work that Udacity does, it certainly does require time and brain power. I am hoping that I have finished my Udacity stuff before my big UTas assignments. The topics so far are really interesting, and I am currently working on the module about ‘synchronous and asynchronous discussion and community’. We’re starting to get some pretty interesting comments on the discussion forum.

Travel Plans

In the few breaks I have had from work and study I am finally sorting out all the details of my Europe Trip.

Flights to/from The Netherlands has been sorted for a while now, and I have been looking at how to split up my time over the four weeks.

The plans include:

    • An awesome wedding!!!
    • A four day family holiday with mum’s side of the family
    • A one day family event with dad’s side of the family
    • I have booked a 5 day Barcelona Trip (at this stage I’ll be going by myself..but who knows if someone decides to join me at the last minute?!) I will have 2 full days and two half days in which I want to explore Barcelona. I’d love to see a heap of the Gaudi architecture: Park Guell; Sagrada Familia; La Pedrera; and Casa Battlo, perhaps taking a cooking class, go see some flamenco dancing, maybe visit the Picasso museum etc etc. I also have booked a full day trip to visit the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres, and his beach house at Port Lligat.
      Salvador Dali is an artist…you have probably seen pictures of his melting clocks…
    • Mum and I are probably also going to spend a few days in Belgium checking out Brussels and Bruges..since its only a short train trip, I’m sure we can go exploring for a few days.
    • I haven’t told her yet but I would really love to take my sister-in-law to the theme park we used to frequent as kids: The Efteling. It’s not amazing for rides, but it is a bit of a traditional dutch children’s theme park, and I have so many childhood memories of visits there. I’d also like to show her around the area a bit, places we grew up, spent time.
    • I’d also like to spend some time in a few Dutch cities that I haven’t spent a great deal of time in. First on my list is Utrecht, maybe Leiden and Maastricht. That’s as far as I have gotten so far..

So all in all, the year is off to a good start, but I am certainly starting to feel the pressure from the amount of study I have taken on. Please keep your fingers crossed for me, that I can keep up with the workload!!

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A busy year ahead

As far as I’m concerned it’s not really the start of the year yet. I’m still on holidays. However with each new day l’m starting to feel the relaxing summer days slip away, and the busy days are coming at me like a steam train. I’m already past the point where I am relaxed enough to sleep in.

This year is going to be a busy one! I have some great plans for the year…plans for study, work and travel. Since they are all things that I am actually pretty excited about, I’m going to tell you all about it.

Study Plans

Perhaps I’m a little crazy but I have enrolled in uni…again…because it would seem 5.5 years wasn’t enough!!
I have enrolled in a Graduate Certificate of Education, which is essentially the first half of a masters. (A masters is 8 units of study, but if you were to do 4 units and bail, you get nothing. So you can do a Grad Cert which is 4 units, you graduate and then whenever you choose to go onto a masters, you have already completed half of it)
Over my two years of part-time study, I intend to complete a specialisation in online/ICT pedagogies. So I’m really looking forward to learning more about how to use ICT more effectively in my classroom, and hopefully a whole lot more!!!

I have also enrolled in a 7 week course through Udacity in how to build/program a search engine. Its only 7 weeks and has been designed for people with no programming knowledge, so hopefully it won’t be too full on. Udacity is a new educational site designed to offer a variety of courses online, for free. As they are new they only seem to have 2 courses available so far, but I expect that to grow pretty quickly. This is an interesting read on Udacity and how it came to be: Udacity and the future of online universities

Work Plans


Having attended a few Professional Learning sessions last year, as well as messing around with each new technology I come across (usually introduced to me by other nerd friends), I have decided I want to change the way I teach my Computer Science class.
I say that I want to change my Computer Science class – the reason I am being so specific, is not to say my other classes don’t matter, but when you have great ideas that involve radical changes, then you have to start somewhere.
So by now you may be wondering what these changes are.. In essence, the idea is to get the students to be a bit more proactive and take responsibility for their learning through an increase in availability of teacher feedback and learning resources. (I think that kind of summaries every teachers goal).
I might break down the “new” Computer Science into the technologies that will be used:

Lesson Blogging I will blog every lesson, prior to the lesson. This means that students will be aware of what will be happening in the lesson and can bring appropriate resources. I will also upload any required notes or task sheet and embed any relevant YouTube clips. In addition to it being useful in the lesson itself, it’s also great for the student who can’t find his copy of that assignment sheet, or also for those who miss a lesson due to illness. I trialled lesson blogs for a portion of last year and the students, as well as their parents, thought it was fantastic
Student Blogging This is one I am unsure about at this stage. I would like to see the students blogging their experiences and reflecting on their learning. It would also be great to see them getting into the blogging interface and learning a little more about web programming from a different angle – especially since a huge number of software engineers develop applications using web interfaces.
However, when I trialled this last year, the kids didn’t respond brilliantly to it, so I may leave it for a year before attempting it again (especially since I am already introducing many other things)
Microsoft OneNote  Using Microsoft OneNote I have created a student notebook with all the worksheets that are expected to complete throughout the year. Each topic has a main tab with a summary of the topic and a checklist of all the activities for that topics (students can tick the boxes as they complete the tasks to keep track of their own work). Then within each tab there is a page per worksheet for that topic. Also at the front of the notebook there is general course info, and a table where student can record the activities they’ve complete and the grades they got – so if they keep it up to date, they will always have a good idea of their level achievement, and if they’re aiming for a specific result, then knowing their grades will indicate where they can do better or slack off (hopefully no one will slack off though!)Thats not the greatest part about OneNote…the greatest part is that they can set notebook to synchronise with a Windows SkyDrive (online storage) and then ‘share’ it with me. So anytime a student does work, I get the update immediately. It also means that if I am looking at their work, and they are struggling with a concept, I can provide assistance by adding in text, audio, video, links – whatever the student needs in order to grasp the concept. This can happen in real-time!! (ok maybe a minute or two delay..but almost instant feedback if we are looking at the document at the same time). This has amazing potential to personalise the level of assistance I can provide students!!
YouTube Tutorials To assist the students in being able to do things for themselves, thus freeing up my time to help others, I will also be making a series of video tutorials and uploading them to my YouTube channel. In programming there are a number of key concepts/structures that can combined in many different ways to produce weird and wonderful programs. I plan on making on video per concept. Each video will have an explanation, complete with one of my amazing drawings outlining the concept. I will then demonstrate how it would be coded in Eclipse (the software we use to write programs in). To finish each clip I will provide a coded example of where and how that concept might be used in an actual program. (I say “will” because I haven’t made these tutorials yet. I have a grand plan in my head and have already made a start on recording and uploading these tutorials, so they are ready to go at the start of the school year)
Laptops For OneNote to really work, I need the students to have a laptop that they can take home with them, that has OneNote on it. Slowly but surely we are working towards a one-to-one environment where every student has access to a computer, and ideally they all have a laptop to use for the year. Before something like this can happen in a big school, it’s a good idea to trial it first. So this year I am really lucky to getting the opportunity to trial it with my Computer Science class. As mentioned, this means that I can be sure OneNote will work properly, it also means I can be confident every student has the required software for programming installed (it astounds me how many students attempt to go a whole school year without installing the free software on their home computer, and then complain to me about not having access to the software from home). I also plan on getting all students set up with a set of Internet browser bookmarks, so I never have to hear “I didn’t know where to find it” (usually in reference to an assignment sheet or my blog). I admit I pushed a bit to get laptops in my classroom, but I also I admit I’m quite stressed about it. There is so much potential for it to have huge benefits to the students, I just really hope that the students do the right thing!!

(If you want to check out my blog and YouTube channel, feel free to have a sticky-beak: http://catscompsci.wordpress.com/. Obviously there are no current lesson plans up, as the school year has not yet begun)

Travel Plans
In true form, I am also trying to squish an awesome holiday into this busy year. June 8th I will be attending my cousins wedding in The Netherlands..which is really exciting!!
I am not going to fly over just for the wedding though, I’m going to take time out and hang out with the family as well as do some sight-seeing.

So I will take four weeks off (mid-May to mid-June … really I am taking 2 weeks off and also making the most of a 2 week term break), I will fly to The Netherlands together with my mum. There we will meet up with my brother and sister-in-law, who will be nearing the end of their 6 month round-the-world trip, and we will hang out with the Dutch rellies.

Because four weeks is way too long to be in one place, Mum is going to England for a few days and Pat, Anna and I will hopefully go to Barcelona for a week to soak up some spanish culture.

I’m really looking forward to showing Pat and Anna around Holland a little bit, so they can see where I used to live and work, and also show them around some of my favourite places. I’m looking forward to a holiday away with the Boertjes (family). I’m really hoping the Barcelona plans go ahead, as I am really keen to check out the Gaudi architecture, try some spanish food, maybe take a cooking class, check out some dancing and basically enjoy the city. Then to finish the holiday I am really excited about seeing ‘little’ cousin marry the man of her dreams!!!

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An evening at the ballet

Pre-performance…

I’m a bit of a dance nut, as many of my friends know. It’s been quite some time since I have taken a dance class, but nevertheless I LOVE dance: watching as well as doing.

So at the moment in Hobart the Mona Foma festival is on, which means that for roughly a week there are different music and art events being held every day around the city. This year there is a dance performance on as part of this festival. It is called Aviary and is performed by a Melbourne dance company: BalletLab.
(BalletLab performed a trio of dance pieces at MOFO last year – the performances were free, however they didn’t advertise the fact that you had to collect a free ticket in advance to be able to attend the performance. I spent several hours waiting around for the performance only to be denied entry, and was furious!!)

This year I was on the ball, got the info early and booked tickets for Aviary.

As the name implies, the performance is about birds. “Aviary is a fantasia of contemporary movement and exotic birdlife, set against the avian-inspired 20th century idiom of French composer Oliver Messiaen’s Catalogue d’Oiseaux (1958). Between the twitchy agitation of British New Wave, recordings of birdsong and the paradise of the New Guinea jungle, this is a dance performance of uncommon adornment and flamboyance.

After having watched a video clip or two about the performance, I am very intrigued as to what it will be like. I don’t expect it to be a traditional ballet in any way, and am pretty sure its going to be very ‘out there’. I’m looking forward to it…

Aviary from Phillip Adams BalletLab on Vimeo.

Post-performance…

First of all quoting from the program:
“Aviary is a romantic, exotic and visual art-based contemporary dance performance that pays homage to the spectacle fo the bird. It is a suite of experimental articulations based on French composer Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux, written in the 1950’s. These musical scores for the bird are interpreted through classical, modern and contemporary idioms, staged in a flamboyant rethink of paradise.
The suite arrangement implies a non-linking narrative structure. The scores are translated into different social, cultural and chronological locations: a contemporary experimental dance improvisation, a 1980s erotic disco floor, and a jungle in New Guinea.”

The first piece, Les oiseaux en cage, was set using black and white. The stage was lit with a very bright white, onto a white stage, with a white backdrop with a crisp black image on it. The dancers wore dress type outfits of black feathers and their movement utilised classical ballet to portray birdlike gestures. It was choreographed to look chaotic yet structured. The musical score was simple and supported by the dancers squawking like birds.
I quite enjoyed the first piece.

The second piece, Le coq dandy, set in “a 1980s erotic disco” used some phone booth type props and was lit with a grid of ever changing colours and pictures on the floor. The main dancers were dressed in soldier uniforms with birdlike headpieces on. There was a central character in the piece, who wore a suit with a jacket of white feathers to represent a broad white wingspan. The central character came across as a sleaze in a nightclub, trying to seduce and pickup people. The music was way too loud and pounded the ears and the movement style was modern, upright and quite angular at times.
This piece seemed very disjointed from the first and it was hard to grasp what it was about. I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

The third piece, Paradis, was much easier to understand. Its setting in a “jungle in New Guinea” was quite clear through the branches and leaves on the floor of the stage. The dancers came onto the stage by each doing a short solo, to the sound of the piano being played. The sounds produced by the piano linked into to the characteristics being displayed by each of the birds, typically higher pitched short sharp sounds were used for females, and longer, deeper, louder sounds for males. This one-by-one introduction to each of the birds was done well, with each bird giving a little ‘display’ as they may to another bird in the wild. The dancers were dressed in varying tones of brown, with headdress’ of long brown feathers. The movement type of this piece would be considered more contemporary and did not seem to have any of the structure of classical movement. Throughout the piece the birds formed different parings and went about different aspects of their mating rituals, I assume. They would scratch around and rifle through the sticks and leaves, gather what they wanted and carry them off to another spot to ‘nest’, and also take moments to ‘present’ themselves to another bird, or have a roll in the leaves with their mate. While this piece started off really interesting, it was quite long and as the music and movement built up and up, it then plateau’d and stayed where it was for quite some time before the piece simply ended.

All in all, I quite enjoyed the performance, though I did find it rather disconnected and confusing, however I think that was part of the choreographic intent.

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New Years Escapades

I’m not a big fan of New Years, so rather than having people tell me to go out and drink and be merry, my friend Mark and I took off for a few days.

December 30 2011
We packed up the car with a tent and a bunch of food and headed off. We headed up the midlands highway, turned off at Melton Mowbray and drove over the central highlands, past the Great Lake and eventually got to Deloraine where we stopped at Red Cafe for a delicious lunch: Salt and Pepper Calamari Salad and Pumpkin & Prosciutto Pizza, and of course accompanied with a lovely glass of wine. Yummo!!

With our bellies full, we hit the road again and headed off to Mole Creek. We stopped here to do a tour of the Marakoopa Cave. I tried to do this tour with my cousin and her partner in January 2011, but it was flooded at the time. Marakoopa had some lovely rock formations, an underground river and much to my delight…glow worms!!!! The most stunning thing in the cave (glow worms aside) was ‘The Cathedral’.

After our tour we hopped back in the car and drove the last few hours to Cradle Mountain,. We checked in, found our allocated camping spot and set up the super amazing tent! After packing up we got out all our cooking gear and whipped up a delicious dinner of gnocchi with homemade rocket pesto.


December 31 2011
We had an early start to the day, meeting up with our Canyoning guides Leon and Nick at 0830. We thought it would be a great idea to end the year with a Canyoning expedition. We did the day trip to Dove Canyon with Cradle Mountain Canyons. The trip was roughly 8 hours.

We walked in to the Dove Canyon area and got kitted out in super thick warm wetsuits, wetsuit booties, wetsuit gloves etc in preparation for the chilly Tasmanian water. We started with a short abseil ending in a splash into the river below. From there we walked, swam and crab-walked our way down the canyon. We did some waterfall jumps (the biggest of which was 6 metres), slid off logs and waterfalls, and zoofed down some natural water slides.

All the different jumps started off a little scary, but as we got more into it we started getting more adventures with our jumps. Rather than stock standard straight-ish legs drops into the water we started doing some bombs and crazy things..it was so much fun! (at one stage I did a 3-4 metres bomb off a waterfall..it was great!!

Our guides were fantastic, both informative and fun! The group of people who were on the tour were also a fantastic crowd, all offering encouragement for those with a fear of heights. Canyoning was a rush!! Absolutely awesome and well worth it!!!

By the time we got back to the bus, I was completely knackered. So we enjoyed an ice cream to cool off in the hot weather (the river was freezing cold, but by the time we were out of the water and had dried off, it was a scorcher of a day) before heading to the tent for a wee little nap.

Our new years was exactly how I like it: good company, good dinner (vegie stir fry), a cuppa and an early night!!

January 1 2012
We started the day with a little sleep in, before getting up packing our daypacks and heading out to Dove Lake. Today was a day for a challenging bushwalk.

We started at Dove Lake, headed around Lake Lilla and Wombat Pool, up to Marions Lookout, across the plateau to Kitchen Hut, scrambled our way up to the very peak of Cradle Mountain, then headed along the Face Track before cutting down towards Lake Wilks and then finishing off a stretch of the Dove Lake Circuit. On a beautifully sunny (in other words, way too hot to be walking) day, with only a few short 10 minute breaks this walk took us 7.5hours and by the end of it I was EXHAUSTED!!!!

So in a bit more detail… it was quite a nice wander from our starting point to Wombat Pool, a lovely morning, clear blue skies and a nice light breeze. Along the path we came across a teeny tiny brown frog, but apart from the birds, not much wildlife. Wombat Pool had no wombats, and didn’t look like it was the shape of a wombat either…but still it was lovely and in the distance you could just see the tip of Cradle Mountain. Shortly after Wombat Pool the incline to Marions Lookout started..and I tell you what, it’s a hard slog!! It’s quite steep and on a hot day, very hard work. The view from the top was pretty speccy though! Our reward for getting this far, was to sit down for a few minutes and eat an apple.

From Marions Lookout to just past Kitchen Hut the walk was fairly flat. We had a great view of Cradle Mountain the whole way. Just past Kitchen Hut was where the hard work started. The rock scramble/climb to the peak. Basically we had to climb up and over huge piles of boulders. At the peak there was a teeny little valley to descend into before climbing again to the higher peak. At the higher peak I had a huge dummy spit and went back down to the lower peak almost immediately…my conquering of the mountain was destroyed by a plague of bugs that kept buzzing around me and landing on me..it was what nightmares are made of!!!!!

The reward we had saved ourselves for the higher peak, was put off to a bug free point, after descending to the lower peak we gave ourselves time to sit down, soak up the view and eat some lunch.

The decent was almost as hard as the climb up, and by the base of the summit we had certainly earned ourselves a melted freddo frog!! Not spending too much time on our butts, we headed down along the face track, it was crazy how overgrown this track was!! Part way along the Face Track we took another track that cut down to Lake Wilks, and then further down to the Dove Lake Circuit. The last section of the Dove Lake Circuit that we walked was all nice and even timber pathways…a great break from all the hard work my legs had been doing.

At the conclusion of our walk we sat on some rocks and put out feet in the ice cold lake. My feet were hot and sore, so it was a great moment of relief!

I’m very proud of myself for having completed such a massive walk, the biggest and hardest walk I have ever done. It was hard work but well worth it. Now that I have conquered Cradle Mountain, I have no intention to do it again! My muscles are still aching!!!!

By the time we got back to our campsite it was time for food and drink, so accompanied by a nice glass of wine, we cooked up a big pot of pasta!!!


January 2 2012


We started our morning with coffee, some breakfast and made a start to packing up our super awesome tent. By 0930 we were on the road home. We made one stop along the way, to go and check out Liffey Falls. Luckily it was a short 40 minute round trip walk (my poor legs could not have done much more than that!!). There were people EVERYWHERE, which was a bit of a downer, but on the whole the falls were lovely. It was definitely worth stopping and even though it hurt a little, I’m sure that it helped my sore muscles to get a little bit of a stretch.

The remainder of the drive home was fairly uneventful, I drove and sang along (badly) to last years “JJJ Hottest 100” and Mark got the chance to catch up on some sleep (Probably a good thing he was dozing and not listening to my singing!!).

The changing of the year was heaps of fun and full of challenges!! Happy New Year!!!

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