Clean Graffiti? Where’s the crime?

29 06 2010

via EpicWinFTW

The authorities don’t seem to impressed by this eco-graffiti artist, even though he isn’t committing any vandalism.


Should that be “Xenu-phon”

18 11 2009

Scientology Australia have probably just added a new SP to their dossiers after Nick Xenophon’s scathing attack on the organisation early this morning (or late last night) – check out a video report over here.

Senator Xenophon said their correspondence [fro former church memebers] implicated the organisation in a range of crimes, including forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, embezzlement of church funds, physical violence, intimidation and blackmail.

In an effort to charm every divorcee in the country, Scientology released a statement that comments from ex-members are as reliable as that of an ex-spouse about a former partner. You see they mean all the emotional abuse and denial of care with love obviously.

Another charming response on this effort was on Ten’s 7pm Project which brought in theologian Rev Dr David Milligan who was supposed to illuminate the issue, but basically said Scientology can’t be that bad because Christianity (his religion) believes in some crazy stuff you find in a book too.

So close, yet so far… video embedded below, but you’ll have to skip to about 8:35 to get to the Scientology segment (the first story about a guy who goes 600km off course after a wrong turn is a bit amusing though).

Read the rest of this entry »

Yo! Farmville is a scam

16 11 2009

While none of the students I personally taught mentioned Facebook in my presence (except when I asked “What do you read? Books? Magazines?”), I did get accosted by some random kids on the playground who kept insisting that I needed to add them to Facebook and help them farm on Farmville.

Luckily, despite them constantly checking my mandatory name badge for my full name, none of them had the attention span or retention to actually add me, so I do not have to deal with that can of worms. I am still left with sister insisting last week that I join her farm, clan, sorority and/or kitchen.

So I find it this video a bit funny showing the CEO of Zynga (the company behind  Farmville, Mafia, Vampires, YoVille and all that other crap), admitting that he basically took every low channel possible to build up his capital in the early days. This came to light is just after TechCrunch complimented Zynga on its devotion to “clean up facebook”. It’s not quite as noble if you helped create the mess in the first place.

Disclaimer: While I have ditched my vampire/zombie applications, and will not be joining any of Zynga’s other projects, I am pretty hooked on it’s Texas Hold ‘Em app … join and send me chips

I am not your friend

13 11 2009

One of the best farewells that was written on my end-of-prac card was “you r now mi friend”. I had told this student earlier that day when he was not cooperating that today was the last day he had to make me his friend.

But is it okay to be friends with students? Particularly where everyone’s friends are now, Facebook.

During my last week, Education Queensland updated their code of conduct for employees to clearly stipulate that teachers “must not use internet social networks such as Face Book, My Space or YouTube to contact or access present students enrolled in any school or institute” and “If you use internet social networks in your personal time you must ensure that the content is appropriate and private, and that you restrict access to specific people who are not students” (Section 2.2.2 (b) Interactions with Students).

Teachers (along with probably everybody else) have been needing to be increasingly careful about what sort of material they make available online (for example). Thankfully a lot of social media websites have been updating features to make it easier to control how you are viewed online. At the start of previous school year Facebook blogged specifically to teachers about the benefits of making friends lists to control what is viewable by “students” (or non-teachers may like to create a similar group for “Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents”).

The private education sector in Queensland has yet to install a blanket ban on social media interactions with students (and last I heard they were not intending to go that far, but were considering available options). While I understand where EQ is coming from on this, it is a bit disappointing that there appears no room for leeway or principal-appointed exemptions (which are included on clauses regarding camera usage and other points). This means a whole range of Web 2.0 based activities and learning environments (Second Life, class blogging) are excluded from Queensland state school classrooms at all age levels (and I think it may also apply to TAFE classes too).

The Queensland Curriculum embraces technology on most levels, to me it just seems disappointing that it is not being flexible on this one. Perhaps their strategy is to ban it while they work out a more appropriate strategy to monitor student-teacher interactions on the world-wide-web.

No more mercy

5 11 2009

But it’s a good thing.

Sydney’s Mercy Ministries has gone bankrupt.

While being promoted as a counseling and psychiatric care operation for young women, allegations surfaced last year that the ‘treatment’ consisted of isolation, denial of drugs and exorcisms to expel their inner demons. Showing Scientology isn’t the only cult that preys on people in need.

Megachurch Hillsong, which was the driving force behind the ministry in Australia (it is still operating overseas), has ditched the mess and run away screaming.

Out on Prac: Is this really how you want to spend your time?

11 10 2009

I am fresh off my first week as a pre-service practice teacher. Three more to go.

I have been assigned to a rather large state high school (no names please). I am workingwith one of their many (I think there are at least seven!?) year 8 classes (that’s 12-14 years old). I am working with two overseeing teachers on the student’s “core” classes – Maths, Science, English and SOSE (“Studies of Society and the Environment – a humanities amalgam). I have also snuck in a double period of Japanese with the same class into my schedule. This will give me a chance to see how second-language eduaction works in Queensland.

Pracs are important for pre-service teachers. There are some skills you cannot learn without opportunity to test them in the field. Teaching groups of your peers is not quite the same as teaching actual rambunctious twelve year olds (though some may have the same maturity and social skills). Getting things to work just right is as much trial and error, building relationships, and luck, as much as it is having the knowledge.

I had my own trial and error, building relationships, and luck, rollercoaster ride at the end of this week. My overseeing teachers were away for several lessons on Thursday and Friday – so I was working with substitutes. Unsurprisingly the first one was a bit chaotic, but then Friday’s lessons went quite well (not perfectly, but well). I was impressed that most of the students who misbehaved on Thursday recognised their behaviour was inappropriate and took steps to improve themselves.

The main thing that I learned did not work was contributing to classroom noise – funny that.

  • Raising your voice – negative and antagonistic
  • Talking over children – how can children obey instructions if they don’t hear them
  • Using vocal calls for silence – I was trying countdowns from five – too long, too noisy.

Things that do work are usually silent and get children to reflect on their behaviour. This way things are not inappropriate because you say so, but because they know so.

  • Stay calm – don’t let external sources (like an ICT failure) affect your attitude to the students
  • Waiting for silence – instead of talking over them
  • Silent cues for silence – hands on heads is working great for me, even it might seem a little primary school.

And there are some things I’m not sure of yet.

  • Asking inattentive students to repeat instructions – is it embarrassing?
  • Reminding students of school’s core values – potentially nagging?

Another good technique was to write the time we would start a video at on the board, and delay it as children misbehaved; although, in the end, one student messing around with some magnetic props erased it altogether. Not perfect yet.

Image credit: 我要生氣! by sizumaru from flickr (CC by A.ND)

That’s no energy drink

31 08 2009

Please tell me this was made up for the Russian Tabloid.

A 14-year-old Chinese boy in Szechuan Province thought that the best way to be like his idolized transformer heroes was to start drinking petrol every day for five years.

A 14-year-old boy, from the town of Yibin in Sichuan, first saw the animated saga about robots from outer space – able to transform into vehicles, electronic items or weapons – when he was nine years old.

The youngster was so impressed that he began drinking fuel on a daily basis to “obtain energy” and become a mighty warrior like the Transformers.

He started out with lighter fuel, then upgraded to siphoning gas from his parent’s motorcycle. When his parents locked that up, he started stealing from neighbours.

Sadly (but not unsurprising), the young boy did not develop the superpowers he was looking for, and instead appears to have damaged his brain.

Honestly, does this make any sense? I don’t remember transformers actually requiring fuel? I thought they  ran on sunlight, or nuclear, or the energy released during the reduction of children into mindless consumers.