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

Archive for December, 2008

Two memorable moments
December 14th, 2008

I have a couple of favourite photographs. Both taken with a 3 megapixel Sony digital camera about eight years ago. Thought I would write a little about each. The first is of an spider that I managed to photograph in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore back in 2000. It was hot and humid. I was there with some colleagues who were photographing some of the flora and fauna for a CD-ROM on mangrove environments.

View Larger Map

Location of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore.

I decided to see how close I could get to this particular spider. I made my way into the undergrowth and crouched down upon the wet damp leaves. I held the camera in both hands and using a simple macro setting eased the lens closer to the spider until it seemed to be in focus. I took the photograph. It is shown below. The spider is a little out of focus. She was busily repairing the web. [I think the spider is female as it lacks tarsal bulbs on its pedipalps]. She seems to have lost one of her legs. View large photograph.

The other was photograph was also taken in a mangrove. This time in Indonesia. My wife and I had taken a holiday in Bintan to get away from Singapore. While we were there we were given an escorted boat ride into a nearby mangrove and I took a number of photographs with the same Sony camera. While we floated along we came across a part of the mangroves where a large number of mangrove snakes were lying on the branches above and alongside the waterway. This species of snake is widespread and is also referred to as a cat snake.

View Larger Map

Location of mangroves in Bintan, Indonesia.

I asked our guide if we could stop so that I could take a photograph. The little boat paused. I grabbed my camera, gently stood up and pointed the camera towards the snake. The boat was swaying to and fro a little. I grabbed a branch with one hand and held the camera with the other. The branch I held is in the left of the photograph. As I grabbed the branch and took that photograph the snake turned to look directly at me. I quickly sat down and the guide backed the little boat out of there. He was worried that I might be bitten or the snake may drop into the boat. View large photograph.

The image is blurred. I did not have the time to focus. Still like the photograph though. I was close. Probably too close. I have been back to those mangroves, with my wife Shao Ping and my nephew Adrian.

Do you have a similar memorable moment captured on camera that you would like to share?

Emerging technologies workshop ~ Part 2
December 10th, 2008

Wednesday morning, Sydney. Arrived last night. Workshop is on today. Innovative Technology in Schools Conference at the University of Technology in Sydney. Printed the resources (grab your own copy here) and updated the links for today’s participants. Added a number of Second Life related links to the Web 2.0 Workshop page. These include links to the ISTE Second Life site, Terra Incognita site and Skoolabarate.

I also updated the Web 2.0 workshop page with some additional resources and links, particularly with respect to that most enigmatic of all technology tools, Twitter. See you there.

Emerging technologies ~ ITSC workshop
December 5th, 2008

This week I received a telephone call from Westley Field. He is the Diretor of Online Learning at Methodist Ladies College in Sydney as well as the force behind Skoolabarate.

Westley asked if I could help him out of a bind. He is scheduled to give a two day workshop on Emerging Technologies at the forthcoming Innovative Technologies in Schools Conference at the University of Technology, Sydney. Westley can not make it to the first day of the workshop due to a pressing commitment so he asked if I could replace him on the first day. I secured approval from my boss and I will be heading up to Sydney for the conference on that day.

This is a description of the workshop as it appears on the ITSC web site…

Technology changes the way we work and live. And the types of technologies that are emerging have tremendous implications for the future of education. Schools will need to adopt new practices and new skills for teachers, if they are to remain competitive. In this presentation we will explore new technical directions as well as learn the strategies that worked in establishing a successful global collaborative initiative in teen second life. From beginning to end. Participants will learn of practical strategies and administrative considerations that make these projects work, viewing video footage of student experiences as well as interacting with students and partners during the presentation. With a focus on international collaboration this session will look at the incredibly successful Skoolaborate project ( and have you teleporting within days.”

Westley and I have been friends for years. We met back in the 1990s when we were undertaking postgraduate study at the University of Wollongong and working on projects with the Interactive Multimedia Learning Laboratory. We have both had the chance to work in Singapore as well this year. I managed to get Westley a gig at the Good To Great Teaching Conference at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore earlier this year. That was a great conference. Tom Reeves presented as well. The three of us had a great time. What a fantastic week that was!

Westley and I worked in Singapore together once more later in the year. I did some work with NTU, the Hwa Chong Institution and Singapore Airlines. Not bad for a school teacher. It has been a good year indeed. I am most fortunate. I am proud of my achievements.

I suspect the ITSC will be just as excellent. Stay posted for related materials and contributions.

Interplanetary emoticon, part two :(
December 2nd, 2008

Moon, Venus and Jupiter. December 1st, 2008.
Photograph by Facundo A. Fernández.
Some rights reserved via a Creative Commons Licence.

Last night an alignment of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus created an interplanetary smiley emoticon. The weather was quite overcast last night and I was unable to take any photographs like the one taken by Facundo A. Fernández above.

However, this evening the sky was a little clearer. Out three astronomical neighbours were visible although the smiley emoticon has been replaced by a scowl.

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon. December 2nd, 2008. View large image.

Interplanetary emoticon :)
December 1st, 2008

This evening in Australia there were many people who were fortunate enough to witness an alignment of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus. For a few hours they resembled a smiley emoticon.

It was cloudy here. The best I could do was to climb into my spacesuit and fire up Google Sky, part of Google Earth. I located the planets and the alignment is visible. One can simulate the motions of the planets and the moon quite easily. I grabbed a screen shot of the visible sky for the 1st December, 2008.

The Moon. Venus and Jupiter. December 1st, 2008. View large image. Source: Google Earth.

Did you get to see it? Did you manage to capture a photograph?