Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for May, 2008

Hung out to dry
May 10th, 2008

Can my friends in the United States please confirm the following for me ~ Are backyard clotheslines really banned in some states or cities? Is it simply a local council edict or recommendation? I was amused to read about this in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning.

I wonder if there are similar regulations in some of the newer gated communities and elitist suburbs of Australia? Anyone know? When I lived in an apartment here in Australia residents were not allowed to hang out washing on their balcony as it would make the building look ugly. I was on the top floor so I could get away with it. Only visitors could see that I was breaking the strata rules of the estate [The body corporate of this estate annoyed me. One year I collected as many proxy votes as I possibly could from absent landlords. At the annual general meeting I voted myself in as President and Treasurer of the estate's body corporate organisation and simply voted against a number of the more contentious and costly proposals. The busy-body clique that used to 'run the show' were not amused.]

In the article, Getting pegged for letting it all hang out,  Ian Munro, reporting from Connecticut, writes how it is illegal to have a clothesline in one’s backyard in some parts of the United States. Attempts to have clotheslines legalised have failed as some residents are fearful that property values will drop.

Mr Munro writes that “Electric clothes dryers represent about 6 per cent of domestic power consumption, according to official estimates, and while the world searches for responses to global warming, Mrs Vocke points to her backyard, wind and solar power.” This brought home to me the usefulness and intrinsic value of the old backyard clothesline.

A quick bit of research revealed that clotheslines are clearly not illegal across all of the USA. This colourful site, Mrs Clothesline ~ A Celebration of Clothesline Culture, features a gallery of clotheslines with titles such as Shadow Line, Pretty in Pink and Midnight Love.

Clotheslines are a feature of the backyard here in Australia. Some of you may be familiar with the Hills rotary clothes hoist, invented right here in Australia. We used to hang from these as kids while a friend or sibling spun you around at high speed. It was a great way to demonstrate centrifugal force and also gravity for the smaller children. Are you reading this Dan? [Centrifugal force is not a real force apparently. I learnt something new today.]

Our rotary clothesline, sans clothes, with a kookaburra on the lookout.

Well, the anti-clotheslines brigade in other parts of the world would need to get used to the backyards of Australia if they ever moved here and I wonder how they would cope with the clotheslines of Singapore and Hong Kong? The clothing poles that project from beneath the kitchen windows or laundry areas of the high rise residential buildings cannot be missed.

Laundry drying, Singapore.
Photograph by OtoPhoto. Some rights reserved.

HDB flats with clotheslines, Singapore.
Photograph by ton2fig. Some rights reserved.

HDB block, Singapore. Some rights reserved.

The clotheslines in Singapore helped to break up the lines or form of the buildings and always added colour to the environment. Quite often they were the first indication of a change in the weather as the first hints of a breeze caused the sheets to flutter to and fro. It was always fascinating to watch nearly all of them disappear from view as the rain clouds approached.

I am not too sure what is the point of this blog post. Shao Ping and I hang out and collect the washing together. We also rush out to save it when a storm blows in. Do you have any interesting or colourful clothesline images from around the world?

Catching up in Singapore
May 9th, 2008

Been meaning to write this post for a week or so now. The return to school and a bout of the ‘flu got in the way.

During my last trip to Singapore I made the time towards the end of the trip to catch up with some friends, old and new. Usually I fly, conduct the workshops and fly out. This time I added in a weekend. It was well worth it. It was a nostalgia trip in some respects.

One evening I caught up with Sarah Teo. She is a senior staff member at U21Global, a cross between a senior project manager and senior instructional designer. We both worked at ICUS [recently purchased by Academee] together and collaborated on some eLearning projects for Singapore Airlines. Sarah was my project manager and I was the lead instructional designer during those days. I had a not too infrequent habit of leaving the office at about 5.30PM. I am sure Sarah would have been happier if I left later each day and put in a few more hours at work. I often worked late at home anyway, and the weekends, and public holidays.

Sarah and I at the Japanese restauarant

We had dinner at one of the old stomping grounds of the ICUS staff during lunch hours. We had a Japanese dinner. Sarah has been incorporating blogs, wikis and video conferencing tools, such as Seesmic, within the courses that she designs for U21Global. Sarah’s deployment of the tools has been quite progressive actually. I was quite impressed and wonder whether or not I may make a more permanent return to Singapore to be a part of these developments at some time in the future. If not Singapore, then maybe Taiwan.

After leaving ICUS in April 2003 I had a break and returned to Australia for a couple of weeks to rest, and then returned to Singapore. I had about 6 weeks or so off altogether at the time. I was still teaching casually at the National Institute of Education. A few organisations contacted me regarding positions as an instructional designer. I was offered a job at U21Global to be the chief instructional designer back in June 2003. I spent some time there during the lengthy interviewing process and even developed a flow chart outlining my view of the course development process [doc][pdf] at U21Global. It’s a little imperfect and overly complex looking at it now. U21Global liked the general idea.

Proposed Course Development Process at U21Global

I turned down the offer, a difficult decision actually, and took a chance that I would be offered a position by Nanyang Technological University. The chance paid off and I soon began work at the Centre for Educational Development at NTU. It was great catching up with Sarah. Brought back a lot of memories and news of former colleagues.

Caught up with Siva during the trip. Seeing Siva is a must. Siva is easily one of my closest friends in Singapore. I met Siva while working on a cd-rom project for Knowledge Village. The focus of the cd-rom was mangrove environments and I was seeking subject matter experts. A search on the net turned up Siva. He was a researcher at the National University of Singapore and worked at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. I was quite an intense person at the time, probably due to the pressure being applied by Knowledge Village at the time. Too many projects, too few staff and too few resources. That is another story.

Siva and I share some Macintosh notes

Siva was a breath of fresh air. Siva and I hit it off immediately and then when we discovered we were Mac users we began swapping notes and ideas in earnest. Excellent! I became involved in some volunteer programmes around Singapore, as a result of meeting Siva, including the International Coastal CleanUp and simply fun things like the Pedal Ubin bike rides. Some of my galleries of those events are here: Pulau Ubin | ICCS 2001 | ICCS 2003 |

Siva has made excellent use of blogs in teaching his Biology courses at the National University of Singapore. In addition to his own excellent blog he has set up many others with his students and volunteers at the museum. Siva was blogging by phone using Bluetooth and other tools, out in the field, in the mangroves, to his original blog back in 2003, if not earlier.

Biodiversity Crew at NUS ~ check out the students’ field journal blogs!!!
Biology Refugia
Pasir Panjang Heritage

On this trip Siva and I caught up during a MacMeetup. That was a great night. We talked about macs, blogs, blogging, publishing, censorship, politics, people, gear and so on. We all had to be kicked out of McDonalds at the end of the night.

I also caught up with Susan Sedro during the trip. Susan is a technology co-ordinator at the Singapore American School and she also has a rather elegant blog. We shared a nice breakfast at Causeway Point in Woodlands, not far from the school, early on the Saturday morning. We shared Singapore stories and previous career moves. Susan has also taught in Kuala Lumpur. I am always happy to meet other educators who make the move to destinations overseas.

Susan and I pose for a camera on a ten second timer

I was amazed by Susan’s stories of the International Schools Job Fairs. I never knew that these existed. [Note: Jeff Utecht at the SAS in Shanghai has blogged about similar job fairs]. I conducted a Blackboard LMS workshop or two at the Singapore American School back in late 2003 ~ early 2004. The school, as was other institutions in Singapore, was developing contingencies in the event of another SARS or similar outbreak. The SAS was also involved in the International Coastal Cleanups, mentioned earlier. Speaking with Susan, as well as Siva and Sarah earlier in the week, has reignited my interest in the region ~ in the sense of a more involved professional connection, as opposed to the quarterly trips.

Later on Saturday I caught up with Westley Field. Westley is Director of eLearning at Methodist Ladies College in Sydney. Westley and I were both graduates of the Masters’ Programme of the Faculty of Education at the University of Wollongong. We were both collaborating with the team at the Interactive Multimedia Learning Laboratory at the UOW and being guided and taught by Dr Barry Harper and Dr John Hedberg. They were the days of HyperCard and Macromedia Director.

Westley and I following a rather rich Malay lunch

Westley was staying at the Hwa Chong Institution, where he was conducting a presentation on Skoolabarate, a Second Life collaborative project, the following day. We had dinner and a couple of drinks and the following day we met up with Alan Soong at Kampong Glam for an incredible lunch and also a very interesting round of desserts.

Alan grins as Westley hams it up in Kampong Glam

Alan was one of my students in the Masters’ programme at the National Institute of Education, Singapore. I was teaching casually at the NIE while one of my former lecturer’s from the Masters’ Programme at UOW, Dr Cheung Wing Sum was on leave. It was Alan that introduced me to the staff at the Centre for Educational Development at NTU where he was an instructional designer. It was not long before I had the good fortune to work at the CED. Alan, Westley and I had a great Sunday together.

Later that day I caught the plane home to Australia.

Keep Twitter Free! [of rules]
May 3rd, 2008

This post has a similar theme to my previous post. My thoughts were concerned with the dread of those who seemingly wish to manage or mould the world of education blogging.

Kate Olson has expressed concerns for those who wish to establish a set of rules for Twitter. I am an infrequent user of the tool yet Kate’s post echoes similar views ‘out there’.

Kate writes:  “I also don’t limit my blog reading to education blogs or twitter interactions to educators, so I’ve been rather frustrated when I see educators (and social media users, for that matter) try to make rules for twitter based on their particular use for the tool.”

I agree with Kate. We do not need rules.

As with my previous post I repeat my comment on Kate’s blog below. It sets out how I feel.

“Good post there Kate. You made a good point in your earlier post regarding ‘blogging rules’ back in February and as I indicated back then I feel that there is an edublogging hierarchy out there that is trying to establish a set of rules for all of us to follow. The ten commandments of the blogosphere. Thou shalt blog in my own style and image, sort of thing. Conservative, as opposed to progressive or even laissez-faire, thinkers. I hope I am not hauled up before the blogging inquisition for these statements.

It is a little weird at times. Sometimes I feel myself getting caught up in it as well and when I feel the tug of that conformist whirlpool dragging me in I don my flippers and swim away.

I agree, there are some twitter users and even bloggers who give the impression that they wish to set the agenda and hammer all of us into a square hole when we are all shaped in a variety of different ways. I am shaped like a rhombus.

Perhaps the ‘rule makers’ are frustrated educators who have a secret desire to be school principals or heads of department. They have an inner craving to be the principal of “Edublogger College” or “Twitter High”. [Not that I have anything against principals. I read a number of excellent blogs composed by principals, enlightened principals. Peter, if you are reading this, I like you too. Tee hee.]

Last night I was thinking wouldn’t it be wonderful if one could change their twitter avatar with a single click to reflect one’s mood or motive, like emoticons. You could have a bank of your own Twitter avatars at your disposal. If you are tweeting on a serious note then your avatar may be wearing a tie. If you are relaxing then there might be a can of beer or a cup of coffee in the avatar’s frame.

I giggled to myself as I thought about that multiple avatar idea further. What I was planning to do was to copy the twitter avatars of a number of the people that I follow and, using photoshop, replace just their face with my own. Then I was going to use the amended avatar and tweet in the style of that person, still with my original ID of course. Sometimes I feel people take Twitter and edublogging far too seriously. It would have been mischievous conduct but what the heck. They cannot put me in prison, can they?

Nadine, Harold, Christine, Sheryl, Taylor, Diane and Mindelei all have the right idea in my opinion. Yes, there is no need for rules. As I commented on Darren Draper’s (Drape’s Takes ~ a great blog by the way) recent blog posts (here and here) concerning Blogging Etiquette I do not need a set of rules or norms to guide me. I have a set of principles in my own conscience that I follow. That is enough.

Heather, I do not feel that with twitter and also with blogging that there should be some ‘social norms’ to follow. If a twitter user is inappropriate in any way simply block them. Let the masses decide. The same with bloggers. If they are a nuisance or inappropriate then all you need do is unsubscribe. Let the dynamics of the net decide their fate, not a set of rules or social norms. Who decides the ‘social norms ‘anyway?

Blog on Kate and tweet as if the sun had just risen!

There is no need for rules. We are all grown up enough to be sensible. Blogging and the occasional tweet appeal to me because there are no ‘rules’. Theoretically I can blog and tweet when I want, how I want, and on whatever I want. Of course I endeavour to be sensible. No ten blogging commandments for me.

If users of Twitter want to set up ‘rules’ then they can establish their own little social network api and call it Bitter, Flitter, Nitter or whatever.

Natural blogging selection ~ no need for etiquette
May 2nd, 2008

I just commented on a post by Darren Draper regarding a set of rules or standards for education bloggers. I felt a sense of unease as I read terms like normative view, rules, standards and proper mentioned in the same stream of consciousness as healthy discussion. I do not sense that the discussion is healthy. The discussion throughout the edublogosphere in some orbits feels mandated. It seems as if a creed or set of commandments is being established by an edublogging hierarchy. I have commented elsewhere regarding my concerns that the ‘edublogosphere’ is being steered by the few and the rest must follow in its wake. I sense that now in particular.

Anyway, I reproduce my comment on Darren’s blog below for your reading pleasure.

Hi Darren,

How are you? An etiquette for the manner in which we publish and write online certainly has some merit. We can be sensible and fair.

Yet, I hope that adopting a normative view does not result in an education blogging environment that is antiseptic and possesses a “white picket fence” look and feel.

When it comes to my own writing I endeavour to do the right thing according to principles I have developed myself over time.

I do believe in etiquette. I even occasionally send emails to the staff at school regarding email etiquette.

Yet, I feel the blogging environment is different. Do we all need to adhere to a ‘set of rules’ or ‘standards’ and set a ‘proper’ example? What does the word ‘proper’ actually mean? Will the edublogosphere determine whether or not one’s blog is proper? Who will measure the suitability or rightness or appropriateness of one’s blog? Is that not up to the blogger?

There are times when I wish I had a completely anonymous blog where I could truly vent my spleen and express my frustrations with the environment that I occasionally find myself transecting. As it is, my blog is public and I am constrained by that fact. Yet, my humble blog still affords me an outlet and even a hint of ‘anarchy’ given the constraints of the workplace. I feel ‘free’ when I blog. There are no rules other than the principles that reside in my conscience.

One hopes that to be accepted as an edublogger one does not need to adopt a normative approach together with a set of rules or standards determined by others and thus be considered ‘proper’.

Some online writers may even consider the development of a standard ‘edublogger etiquette’ not an as an advancement but as a retrograde development.

Sure, do the right thing. Be fair, be reasonable, acknowledge others, and do not rip off the works of others. Surely we can figure that out for ourselves and simply allow the dynamics of the net and natural attrition to filter out the bloggers who do not do the right thing, whatever one considers ‘right’ to be.

If a blogger is not setting a ‘proper’ example according to one’s own principles then why subscribe to their blog? Simply unsubscribe. Natural blogging selection.

Best wishes, John.

My dear readers, please feel free to comment. Tee hee!