“From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”
Waiting in line to sign the guest book

Waiting in line to sign the guest book

Today I spent my first full day as an Australian, after an amazing day filled with love, laughter, good food and good wine yesterday.  My father in America was a little sad – I think he’s always harboured the wish that I’d move back to Arizona and right down the street. A friend of my parents however was shocked that I could give my loyalty to another country. In an email she asked me “What possessed you?” Ironically enough, I was reminded of a poem that poet Robert Frost read at JFK’s inauguration: “The land was ours before we were the land’s.” For the past 10 and a half years I’ve called Australia home, but still always felt a bit of an outsider because of my accent and the fact I had no voice in how Australia runs. I come from the state of New Hampshire in America, where democracy and politics run strong.  I’d put off becoming a citizen because I thought I’d have to give up my US citizenship and because I thought I had to pledge allegiance to the Queen.   When I found out that had changed in 1994 (just a few years ago), I started looking into things more in depth. And that led to yesterday. The ceremony was heartfelt and utterly without pretension.  In fact, one of the local council members led the audience in the chant of  “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi! Oi! Oi!” as each batch of new citizens were welcomed in (they brought us up in groups of 10 so that rellies could get good photos). That kept any of us from getting too sooky and soppy about the whole thing. I received a small tree, a flag, a folio full of pamphlets on the meaning of various Australian symbols as well as political propaganda from the local MP, a DVD with several versions of “Advance Australia Fair” on it and a little badge celebrating 60 years of Australian citizenship for us all. The mayor explained that before 1949, people living in Australia were subjects of the British crown.  To quote from Frost again “we were England’s, still colonials, possessing what we still were unpossessed by…” My first day as an Australian I started by keeping promises to myself and starting a course that I’ve wanted to take for the past few years. New beginnings are like that – full of promise, hope and optimism. So I’m now the land’s.  My accent, my love of peanut butter, my love of cheesy Christmas movies — that’s my contribution to the rich tapestry of diversity that is Australia. Oi, oi, oi!
Personal notes post – posted as such so that I can grab it from any computer.  Feel free to ignore this. Ideally, the work you do (whether for self or others should included these elements): Autonomy Complexity/meaningful Clear relationship between effort and reward Want to be world class? 10,000 hours (Find a Hamburg) Western society (all societies really)  have yet to tap the potential of our people. Success is bigger than one person – this isn’t a personal success book – it’s a societal success book. Adding three 10s 4 and two 10s 5 is easier than adding 34 and 25. Sorry, this will make no sense unless you’ve read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. If you have, comments greatly appreciated.
Social networking is where the internet and the world is at.  If you’re not on Facebook, blogging, Tweeting, in a Group or a member of a list — you’re just not connected. But are we REALLY there yet? I notice on Twitter – the microblogging/IRC service – that when people ask for recommended resources, links are just as likely to be to a saved Google search as they are to a web site or list of links. Offline, I hear of conversations between people where instead of taking advantage of someone else’s expertise, the other person will ask about software then say something like “I’ll just figure it out myself, it will be good for me.”
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Photo by Rojer, sourced from Flickr, CC (by)

I also know situations where people spend countless hours learning a technical skill that they will use maybe rarely rather than ask for or pay for help.  I’ve been one of them. Hmmm. It’s really a mindset issue as much as a software or access issue.  In Australia and the US, we’re nations of individuals.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness. Self-made millionaire sounds a lot better than “born into a life of privilidge”. DIY shows are insanely popular (except with people who know what they’re doing).  And game shows make competitions of endeavours such as weight loss that really should be an effort supported by a network and relationships that should really be about personal connections and mutual respect. There has been a growing trend for  people to display and discuss statistics and “friend counts” and “followers” or “what MY blog is worth” or “how hot my Twitter temperature is”.  It doesn’t feel like they’re talking about a network — it feels more like the sleazy dudes who put notches in their bedposts.  As such, it makes me feel less like part of a valued network and more like I’m being used when I see people I thought were part of my network (and I a part of theirs) talking stats and hotness counts. As a rule (and I do make exceptions for good content but don’t consider it a network), I don’t “follow” or “friend” people who have friends or followers in the thousands.  That’s not a collegial network – how could it be? How can there be give and take with those sorts of numbers?  To me, that’s a numbers game with one of two aims:  stoke an ego or provide an ocean of eyeballs for marketing messages. But getting back to social networks — are we there yet? I think there are tools that make it easier to network and people are using them. I know social networks where sharing occurs fairly freely and others that I see a bunch of individuals talking to the ether. So my answer: not yet. But rather than beat myself or others up about it — I’m going to keep moving forward, enjoy the journey and catch myself when I go to a search engine first instead of a space with peer-reviewed resources like Diigo or Delicious first, my network second and search engines only as a last resort.
14. January 2009 · Comments Off on Celebrating the female writer of the first computer program – Ada Lovelace Day · Categories: Events, Issues · Tags: ,
Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, is apparently credited with being the writer of the first computer program back in the mid 1800s.  Unfortunately, the trend has not been for women to take up maths and computer science in droves.  adalovelace2 I’d never heard of her until recently – funny how history books can be. In Second Life, one sim was giving away Ada Lovelace candles — but I was too lazy to enquire as to why or who she was.  Then on Facebook last week, someone sent me a Group invitation for Ada Lovelace day.  As it falls on my birthday – March 24th – I took an interest.  (See how “all about me” I can be sometimes?) In addition to being a maths geek and the worlds first computer program writer, she was a darned snappy dresser if the photo here is any indication. But then again, she didn’t have hardware and software going out of date every six months.  But I digress. The reason for this post is to encourage you to encourage women to take up maths and tech by participating in Ada Lovelace day on 24 March All you have to do is write a blog post about a woman in technology whom you admire and shine a light on her achievements. You can visit the semi-official site and pledge to do so or add it to  your Google calendar: or join the Facebook Group or follow the Twitter Account http://twitter.com/FindingAda or join the mailing list via Yahoo! Groups – http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/findingada/ If you do blog about it — use the tag AdaLovelaceDay09. If you’re a mad Twitterbug, use the tag #ALD09
I really enjoy using technology to create, explore and communicate.  I can and have spent hours at a time playing with new scripts, experimenting with audio and video and following a research thread down various offshoots. But there are a lot of people that approach new tools and technology like a right-handed person feels about trying to write with their left hand.  You’d get better with practice — but why would you bother? As I finish a convalescence and energise myself physically and mentally for a new year, I want to ensure that when I conduct workshops, write articles and papers or introduce colleagues and learners to a new tool or service — it’s because there is a compelling case for them to give it a go.
Bullseye by respres CC (by)

Bullseye by respres CC (by)

So if you’re an innovator at your institution and feel like you’re pushing uphill, perhaps pause for a moment and ask yourself some hard questions: 1) What problem does this new technology solve or how does it take a current practice and improve it? Surely education is a sector where continuous improvement should be built into the goals of every organisation/institution. What are your organisation’s Vision statements (what it ideally wants to be/achieve) and Mission statements (how it’s going to achieve the mission) How does it know it’s on track? What is expected of you as an individual within the organisation and how do you personally measure success? 2) What is the learning curve and what is the return on investment or ROI? Not just monetarily, although you may have to justify this in terms of time spent for learning and training. Will it result in more effective learning outcomes for learners and where’s your proof? Will your suggested innovation expand options, save money on more expensive software/hardware, save time? A new software program might take time to master, but if the end result is better learning outcomes, time savings and/or monetary savings — map that learning time against the benefits.  To strengthen your case, make sure the benefits tie back into your organisations/institutions goals. 3) Is the new tool the best one for the job at hand? Consider these examples: A 55-year old is just starting out with computers and gets confused sending email attachments. She wants to learn more about using computers and the internet but is afraid she’ll break things. She thinks she has a broadband connection. What would you do to maximise her learning outcomes? Your professional development budget has been slashed, but you need to provide learning opportunities to your staff. You have to justify the expense and demonstrate results. Your staff is a mix of early adopters and technophobes. What is the most efficient and effective action you could take? Some foreign language students in your class seem to be struggling to keep up. There are a few other students in the class who are also having comprehension issues, unrelated to language issues. This has always been a tough subject but it’s not something you can water down. What could you do to most efficiently improve things for the majority of your learners? This thinking – setting goals, keeping outcomes front of mind and benchmarking success – is coming out of my research into my own personal business plan. These concepts aren’t earth-shattering, businesses have used them for decades and call them by any number of acronyms and jargonised terms.  Educators know they have to determine the learning outcomes for a course or presentation before it begins. Take this thinking and apply it to any case you want to make about a tool or technology that excites you. Then, if you have a case whereby the time/effort/money invested to learn something new will yield measure-able benefits that map to your goals — you know you’re on a winner. Correct my thinking please — I know this is messy – but I still wanted to publish it.  I was going to publish it on my work blog, but it was too messy and personal for that.