What was I up to in August 2011? Part Two

These five years old entries are from Monthly Archives: August 2011.

Wikis and weblogs and trolls, oh my!

Posted on August 30, 2011 by Neil

Such a good title! A student of secondary teaching at Melbourne University has just started an edublog with that name.

No matter how fancy or whizz-bang our teaching presentations or animations of enzymes are, if we can’t get the kids listening and engaged we may as well try can-can dancing up and down the classroom with sparklers in our hair.

I am currently teaching two rather rowdy classes in Year 8 and Year 9, and have been learning the fundamental lesson that no matter what wonderful things you have planned to teach, you can’t actually teach them if you can’t effectively manage classroom dynamics. As my Year 7s and Year 11s last semester were much more manageable, this is my first real test of my behaviour management techniques, and it’s a bit of a learning curve.

Kristy’s first post led me to Teaching the iGeneration by Larry Rosen.

Studying generational similarities and differences can be tricky; no individual completely fits the profile of a particular generation. But research suggests that the majority of people born between a rough set of dates actually do share many characteristics (see Strauss & Howe, 1991).

Those born between about 1925 and 1946 are often called the Traditional or Silent generation. Growing up through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, they are characterized by a belief in common goals and respect for authority. The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, tends to be optimistic, idealistic, and communicative and to value education and consumer goods. The next generation, born between 1965 and 1979, were defined by Douglas Coupland (1991) as Generation X in his book of the same name; the label X signifies that, compared with the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers are not as easily categorized.

With the 1980s and the birth of the World Wide Web, the power of cyberspace came to the masses and a new generation of web surfers, very different from their predecessors, was born. The most common label for this generation is Generation Y, simply meaning the generation after X. Some people stretch this generation past 1999 and refer to its members as Millennials. To me, these names are an insult to our first true cybergeneration. This generation should not be defined by the next letter in the alphabet or by the turn of the century. I believe that Don Tapscott’s (1999) term—the Net Generation—better reflects the impact of the Internet on the lives of its members.

On the basis of our research with thousands of teenagers and their parents, my colleagues and I have identified a separate generation, born in the 1990s and beyond, which we label the iGeneration. The irepresents both the types of digital technologies popular with children and adolescents (iPhone, iPod, Wii, iTunes, and so on) and the highly individualized activities that these technologies make possible. Children and youth in this new generation are defined by their technology and media use, their love of electronic communication, and their need to multitask.

Parenthetically, we are just starting to examine a separate minigeneration of kids like Mikey and Brittani, who not only are facile with individualized mobile technologies, but also have the expectation that if they conceive of something, they should be able to make it happen. If an app doesn’t exist for something they want to do on a smartphone, they just assume that nobody has created it yet and that it should be a piece of cake to do so. All in all, a fascinating minigeneration.

Good stuff, but one can’t help wondering at the odd parochialism in such things. All I have to do to see that is talk to M who was born in Shanghai in 1962!

In yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald was an article about Birrong Girls High.

Students using blogs to express their creativity are coming out of their shells, writes Melissa Lahoud.

Speaking out in class can be daunting for some but high among the benefits of blogging in schools is the platform it provides for shy students to come out of their shells and express their thoughts more freely.

Birrong Girls High School in south-western Sydney is one school taking to blogging in a big way and Victor Davidson, a teacher and librarian, has developed hundreds of online learning spaces for his students.

”Some of our brightest and most articulate students, who often shy away from face-to-face conversations, have developed an active and dynamic presence online,” Davidson says.

Student Kristine King, 13, uses the blog to channel her creativity when writing stories and her confidence has surged since reading the positive responses…

Good work there! I did wonder how it meshes with what Thomas is doing – see Edublogging and I–with an aside on classroom management‘.


Gratuitous view from my window yesterday afternoon

I’m feeling justified in the matter of David Hicks

Posted on August 21, 2011 by Neil

Last year I wrote this in The South Sydney Herald.


Click to read

In that I wrote:

…When David Hicks memorably confronted John Howard on Q&A in October he asked two questions: was I treated humanely? and was the Military Commission process fair? Howard answered neither question, applying the airbrush liberally  to what really happened to Hicks between 2001 and 2008.

After distracting us with a motherhood statement about what a great country we have to allow Hicks to bail him up like this, Howard spun first into irrelevance: “Now, having said that, can I simply say that I defend what my government did in relation to Iraq, in relation to the military commissions….” How did Iraq get into this?

He went on: “We put a lot of pressure on the Americans to accelerate the charges being brought against David Hicks and I remind the people watching this program that David Hicks did plead guilty to a series of offences and they, of course, involved him in full knowledge of what had happened on 11 September, attempting to return to Afghanistan and rejoin the people with whom he had trained. So let’s understand the reality of that David Hicks pleaded guilty to.”

TONY JONES: Mr Howard, on this question of him pleading guilty, Mr Hicks says in his own book that his military lawyer, David (sic) Mori, was told by your staff that Hicks wouldn’t be released from Guantanamo Bay unless he pleaded guilty. Was that your position?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I’m not aware of any such exchange but, look, I mean, there been a lot of criticism of that book by sources quite unrelated to me and I’ve read some very, very severe criticisms of that book…

Howard’s late-blooming desire to see Hicks returned to Australia had everything to do with VP Cheney’s visit to Australia in February 2007, when the deal that led to Hicks’s “conviction” was stitched up, and behind that was the 2007 Election. Howard knew the issue was losing him votes.

Colonel Morris Davis, the prosecutor in the case, recalls that in January 2007 he received a call from his superior Jim Haynes asking him how quickly he could charge David Hicks. (Now an attorney for Chevron, Haynes had in 2005 told Davis: “Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. We’ve been holding these guys for years. How are we going to explain that? We’ve got to have convictions.”) David Hicks was eventually charged on 2 February 2007, even though the details about how the commissions should be conducted weren’t published until late April. (Interview Amy Goodman and Col. Morris Davis 16 July 2008.)

Davis resigned from the Military Commission after prosecuting David Hicks, stating that “what’s taking place now, I would call neither military or justice.”

Howard assured us that the US had a long tradition of Military Commissions. He failed to mention that this particular Commission had been struck down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Hamden v Rumsfeld in June 2006 so that what David Hicks was dealing with was a reinvented version, but as much a kangaroo court, to quote a senior British judge, as the previous edition.

More  airbrushing. And there’s more.

David Hicks’s guilty plea was an odd beast, an Alford Plea, something peculiar to US law. It is the plea of guilt you make when you don’t believe you are guilty but do believe the court is likely to find in favour of the prosecution. I may also add that David Hicks was never at any stage charged with or found guilty of terrorism. Some of the charges in Gitmo seem to have been invented specifically to justify the imprisonment of people there. Mr Howard passes over such technicalities….

Today in the Sun-Herald we read US did Howard a ‘favour’.

AS HE sought re-election in 2007, John Howard called in a political ”favour” from the US government to get any charge possible laid against David Hicks, a former Guantanamo Bay chief military prosecutor has claimed.

Colonel Morris Davis’s accusation against the former prime minister, in an interview with The Sun-Herald, adds weight to an American journalist’s report which quotes leaked US government documents.

Jason Leopold, from the internet publication Truthout, says he has obtained material, including documents from the office of the former vice-president, Dick Cheney, stating that Mr Howard met Mr Cheney in Sydney on February 24, 2007, and told him the Hicks case had become a ”political threat” to his re-election campaign….

See also Truthout Exclusive: David Hicks Speaks Out on Torture, Medical Experimentation at Guantanamo and Former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor: David Hicks’ War Crimes Charge Was a “Favor” for Australia.

  • Read the letter from David Hicks pdf
  • Submission to UN Human Rights Commission pdfRead more: The letter that never arrived.

    Time Mr Howard revised that chapter in his autobiography and time that self-satisfied goon Downer ate some crow.

    Rhipidura leucophrys

    Posted on August 12, 2011 by Neil

    Better known as Willie Wagtail. This one was in Figtree Park yesterday.




    Alternative names: “Black-and-white Fantail”, “Shepherd’s Companion”, “Wagtail”, “Frogbird”, “Morning-bird”,”Gossipbird”, “Messengerbird” \

    Aboriginal names: “jitta jitta” [bibbulbum], “jenning-gherrie”, “mugana” “tityarokan”, “deereeree”, “dhirriirrii” [yuwaalaraay], “dhirridhirri” [gamilaraay]

    Watch this, folks! James Delingpole is hilarious!

    Posted on August 8, 2011 by Neil

    Back in June I posted Not seen — yet? — in Australia: ABC please note. SBS has taken it on, I am happy to say.

    Climate science has become a battleground since leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit reverberated across the world. Activists vandalise genetically modified food crops. Parents refuse to vaccinate their children from potentially fatal diseases because of one discredited piece of research.

    Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate cell biologist and the President of the Royal Society, wants to find out why science is suddenly under attack and how scientists have responded.

    As part of this quest he meets some of the key protagonists; from the Professor at the heart of Climategate, to an HIV sufferer who denies that HIV causes AIDS and refuses to take any medication.

    He spends a day as a science journalist on a national newspaper – and he visits the most secure and highly protected potato field in the UK.

    He examines the science of climate change to ask why it is that public support for the concept of human induced climate change is falling. As he travels across the US and the UK he learns that the core problem is uncertainty – new discoveries often seem to complicate rather than simplify the science. And where there is uncertainty, in the public’s mind, there is room for doubt.

    In the 21st century there is no automatic acceptance of a scientist’s word. They have to earn that trust. Paul wants to find out what scientists need to do to earn, and keep, the public’s trust.

    It’s on tomorrow night at 8.30…

    The loquacious Anthony Watts, radio weatherman in the USA and serial cherry picker, cites Christopher Booker’s review of the program.

    Horizon’s “Science Under Attack” turned out to be yet another laborious bid by the BBC to defend the global warming orthodoxy…… Hours of film of climate-change “deniers” are cherrypicked for soundbites that can be shown, out of context, to make them look ridiculous…… Although Sir Paul presented himself as the champion of objective science, he frequently showed that, for all his expertise in cell biology, he knows little about climate…

    The deniers looked ridiculous because they really were ridiculous. James Delingpole is a tosser! You don’t believe me? Watch the program.


    James Delingpole – can be amusing…. But…

    “James Delingpole is a libertarian conservative who writes brilliant books and brilliant articles, and is really great on TV, radio and the internet too.”

    He says so himself.

    Christopher Booker knows rather less about climate than Sir Paul Nurse, and not much more than I or the average guy in the pub…

    To highlight the level of inaccuracy and falsehood in skeptical journalism the Guardian launched a prize in 2009 to be “presented to whoever crams as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change”. This was called the “Christopher Booker prize.”The first nomination was inevitably Christopher Booker for an article about arctic sea ice with six errors in 900 words.

    Not that the True Believers care a toss about that. Witness the continuing devotion by the likes of Alan Jones for the egregious and error-prone non-scientist Lord Monckton. (My June post also deals with him.)

    So do watch. Be informed for a change. Too much of what you see and hear in the media is disinformation. This is not.

    See The Independent’s review.

  • 2016: Of course now we have the Revenant and her friends in the Senate we will be hearing more on this topic, particularly from Senator Malcolm Belfry. Indeed he has already started. Do read Why Malcolm Roberts’ demand for ’empirical evidence’ on climate change is misleading (Scientist and Nobel prize-winner Peter Doherty says new One Nation senator ‘has no understanding of how science works’.),  Australia’s New Climate Science Denialist Senator Malcolm Roberts Has A History of Harassing Academics and The Galileo gambit and other stories: the three main tactics of climate denial.

    An old soldier remembers The Somme…

    Posted on August 5, 2011 by Neil

    Well not quite, but my reflective mood prompted by all that Cronulla High material is making me not dissimilar.

    Back when Sydney looked like this I had been around Cronulla High for two years already. The school was only four years old when I arrived as a student teacher in 1965, being appointed the year after and staying until 1969.


    Go back from 1965 the same span as I have covered since then and you will arrive at 1919! Near enough to World War I… And how old did that generation seem to me in 1965, when I turned 22?

    Today the NSW English Teachers are having their annual conference.

    Making Connections Count, the annual conference for the English Teachers Association, will be held at Australian Technology Park on Friday, 5 August and Saturday, 6 August in Bay 4.

    The conference will showcase and explore the myriad ways in which English educators and those with a professional concern with English in NSW are making the sorts of connections that truly count for students and which will effectively support teachers in the transition to the Australian Curriculum and other national initiatives.

    Making the connections that count for students is integral to their educational success and personal growth. It is therefore an essential goal as an English teacher work as English teachers to seek to fire students’ imaginations and enhance their critical capacities, help them to express their ideas and feelings in interesting and contextually appropriate ways, and assist each individual to achieve their very best.

    Cost: Members two days $430; one day $290; Non members $495 (two), $350 (one).

    For more information please visit here

    Just check the program:


    Little-200x0Yes, Thomas and Mr R! But I still see names I know – Wayne Sawyer, Paul Grover, and (not on the extract above) Ernie Tucker, who is actually even older than I am but still as committed a progressive as ever. Then I see there is a Ken Watson Lecture, and of course Ken was my boss and colleague at Sydney Uni in 1977-8 and a friend as well.  And I can’t think of the English Teachers Association without thinking of Graham Little (left), who died last year. In the late 70s and very early 80s I was on the ETA State Council and a reasonably well-known figure in those circles.

    But that was still in the future when I was at Cronulla.

    Looking at this list, what do I recall?


    Jack Morrison was a good old guy to have had as my first head of department. Phyllis Wheeler was totally amazing as a person and as a teacher. Soon after she moved on to the famous Frensham School in Mittagong.

    One more image from Cronulla 1966-69:


    That’s actually quite remarkable, when you think about when and where we are talking about. I know personally that it was at Cronulla I began the shift towards the pluralism and multiculturalism I now value.


    Today this seems quite unremarkable!

    But 1965 seems a very long time ago. Not anywhere as bad as The Somme of course. Though there were moments…