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Category Archives: learning

Get in the room with LEGO® Model building these holidays … starting now

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Susan Boucher is an engineer, she’s passionate about robots and how things work and her new small business Young Engineers Brisbane North focuses on sharing those passions with tribes of 3-6 and 6-12 year-olds.

Susan’s STEM Edutainment workshops start next week in the Brisbane suburbs of Stafford, Herston and Wilston.

I’ve been helping Susan design her new business through my work with Greater Brisbane Small Business Advisory Services and she’s ready to roll.

You can get your daughter or son in the room with Susan for less than $20 for an hour and a half of exciting educational building fun with Lego Challenge and Big Builder sessions.

Call 0451 969 754 or email Susan personally at Brisbanenorth@young-engineers.com.au

Sessions start next Tuesday November 8:

Lego Challenge, 6-12yrs, Wilston State School, Grange, from 3.30-5pm for 5 weeks at $16.50 per week (introductory price, normally $18 per week).

Wednesday, November 9:

Big Builders, 3-6yrs, Stafford Community Centre from 9.30-10.30am for five weeks at $13.30 per week or 5 sessions for $50.

Saturday, December 10 and December 17:

Lego Challenge, 6-12yrs, ILP Learning Hub, Herston, from 9.30-11.00am at $19.80 per session.

Lego Challenge, 6-12yrs, ILP Learning Hub, Herston, from 2:00 – 3:30pm at $19.80 per session.

At the Brisbane State High School, South Brisbane, on:

December 12-14, $70 per day sessions from 9.00am-4:30pm.

During the school holidays, Susan will be running sessions at ILP Learning Hub, Herston, on:

December 16, 21 & 23 $66 for an all-day session 9.30am-4:00pm.

More sessions for January will be advertised in the coming weeks at www.BrisbaneNorth.young-engineers.com.au

If you are thinking about starting your own small business, I have sessions available for booking now, all during November and December to January 2017. Simply call 0413 004 138 or email edupreneurservices@gmail.com. Visit http://gbsbas.com.au/ to find out more and what’s available, fully funded by the Federal Government’s AusIndustry.

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Want to be a citizen journalist?

You_TheCitizenPhotographer_cover

Buy eBook or hardback here

Buy Kindle version here

Here’s a sample of Giulio Saggin’s new book we have published today:

Giulio Saggin began his career as a news photographer in 1989, at a time when newspapers had photographic departments with photographers, both staff and freelance.

In the ensuing years the media modernised but photographers always had their place.

The onset of the digital age changed all this and the media world is being transformed at what seems to be an exponential rate.

While there might be several million photographers around the world, there are several billion citizens with digital cameras and smart phones on hand to capture news as it happens.

This has resulted in an explosion in citizen photographers, where anyone can lay claim to being a photographer, and whose photos are largely free, or inexpensive, for media outlets to use.

Included in the several billion are journalists who, at the very least, have a mobile device with a camera. In an ever-expanding media market, the economics of one journalist with a camera has dictated they take on the role of photographer as part of their reporting duties.

The phenomenal rise in citizen journalism (photography) and journalists with cameras has had a detrimental effect on photographic departments and photographers around the world.

Many media outlets have chosen to do away with photographic staff and arm their journalists – many of whom side with the photographers – with cameras or smart phones and given them the task of taking ‘photos’ with minimal training at best.

As a result, the vast majority of images produced have been inferior to those produced by trained photographers (who study their art at college for at least 2-3 years, or the equivalent on-the-job training for older ‘pre-college’ photographers).

In most cases the journalists taking photos don’t have anyone to tell them right from wrong, so they have little or no idea if what they are doing is correct or otherwise. They have no way of learning. Photography is a discipline and a lack of discipline in any facet of life leads to chaos.

Visual stories are as complex as their written counterparts. Giving someone a camera/smart phone doesn’t make them a photographer, just as giving someone a laptop doesn’t make them a journalist.

It’s hard to say what the future will bring but it appears one thing is certain. If media outlets are going to want their journalists both to write and take photos, those with skills in both areas will be the ones getting the jobs.

While journalists are being made to take photos, photographers wanting to work in the media will have to learn to write.

The future may well see the traditional roles of journalists and photographers meld into the one term – photo-journalist.

It’s a term that has been in use for decades by those who already write and take photos, and many photographers because of their visual story-telling skills.

If the current trend is any guide, the term will become the ‘norm’ in the not-too-distant future.

Need a mentor for your small business?

 

Very happy to let you know that our business experience and expertise is now available through the TAFE Queensland Small Business Solutions program, which offers business mentoring for a low one-off fee of $395. If you or a friend have a small business which could use the tried and tested advice and methods described here, please contact TAFE here and mention my name. Available all through Central and South-East Queensland. I have run businesses in publishing, retail, and (of course) small-to-medium sized journalism enterprises.

Cokley Mentor

Today’s job advertisement in the media

Manger

Oh dear, and for The Daily Telegraph, too. Perhaps they fixed it on the site? Nope

Mangers2

It’s been a fascinating long day’s journey into the night of the living job seeker. Here are some examples of would-be employers looking for would-be staff.

conservative

 

Agreed, perhaps it’s one of those internet joke-meme thingys? But it appeared, nevertheless, on the Indeed job site.

Here are some more … (listen by clicking on each screen-shot image or here and here):

Lululemon
SmartjobsFeb18

 

The journey’s the thing …

And so the royal progress back to Queensland begins today with a luxurious session at the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa. Dreamy soak in the mineral salt pool followed by a sauna and hours being buffetted by bubbles. After a dramatic few months, we’re off to launch our new online education business Edupreneur Services International. If you have an interest in international vocational or tertiary education content and policy, you have an interest in us. And we have a regular blog too, which accepts comments so speak up. Our itinerary over the next two weeks includes Sale, Bermagui, Maitland, Armidale, Brisbane, Roma and finally Longreach. See you on the road. John and Pip

ESI art 

Out with the old, in with the new

We have just learned that our friend and valued colleague Donna Meiklejohn has been named one of Queensland’s 125 most outstanding women leaders! So proud to know her:

You can view the list here, at the YWCA Queensland’s 125 Leading Women site

The YWCA has been celebrating 125 years of continuous work with and for the women of Queensland, and reckons that this list “is a fitting tribute to the thousands of women who have shaped both this great organisation and this great state over that century and a quarter”.

They continue: “We feel that each of these 125 women represents a facet of what it means to be a leader. Each has contributed something significant to her community, and at the same time is the embodiment of one particular type, style or field of leadership.”

Donna’s citation reads: “Donna is an award winning journalist who has had a long, high-profile career in news and current affairs journalism as a presenter, writer and producer in the commercial and public media. Donna started work in country radio in the 1970s when the industry was dominated heavily by men and went on to become the first woman appointed by an Australian commercial television network to an overseas posting. She is best known for her roles as presenter of the national ABC viewers’ forum Backchat, and the flagship current affairs program Nationwide. She is currently lecturing at the University of Queensland, nurturing the journalists of the future.”

But here’s some news: we hear that Donna’s services have now been secured by QUT instead for 2014, and more power to them!

Here is just a taste of the company Donna finds herself among:

Christine Anu

Sallyanne Atkinson

Anna Bligh

Quentin Bryce

Sarah-Jane Clarke & Heidi Middleton

Keri Craig

Cathy Freeman

Caroline Jones

Elizabeth Kenny

Deborah Mailman

Kay McGrath

Sarina Russo

Julianne Schultz

Georgie Somerset

Samantha Stosur

Merle Thornton

Kath Walker

Mary Woods

Robina Xavier.

What’s in a post?

In philosophy class in Sydney during the late 1970s I learnt a very strong and useful lesson, that what we do depends on who we are. Technically, this is expressed as essence (or identity) informs action, but more anecdotally my professors taught me that “do follows be”.

This maxim had quite a pedigree: Dr Wilf Radford channelling Dr Austin Woodbury channelling St Thomas Aquinas channelling a collection of ancient luminaries such as Aristotle and Plato. Across the years I have become aware of many (many!) competing perspectives, principally the doctrine that “form follows function” which I understand as the reverse of “do follows be” or something like “we are what we do” (compared with my preferred framework, “we do what we are”).

Happily the years have also helped me understand something I didn’t grasp when I was a young philosophy student, something which my professors probably understood all too well but were not anxious to see in my typed or laboriously handwritten college assignments: a well-adjusted understanding of life includes a well-stirred mixture of “do follows be” and “form follows function”.

Fast-forward 35 years to my current quest to understand shopping, retail, and many other things cultural as one way to understand journalism better. When I buy items or services and try them out, I experience their design and their usefulness but if I’m careful and check in my peripheral-vision mirror, I can also see my own actions expressing some of my personal identity. What I buy and how I use it today says something about who I am now, but these factors can also influence who I become tomorrow.

I was interested to see how this works in practice. Earlier this year I decided to invest $659 in a do-it-yourself raised garden bed system from Birdies Gardens on the Gold Coast. The buying decision came from our joint household desire to acquire such a garden bed for our little mansion in Ballan, because one of us is already a gardener and one of us wants to become a gardener (or is willing to give it a shot). Essence and identity was actively informing action.

But I also wanted to buy and try the raised garden bed for review on Eat Drink Sleep Shop Australia because that’s what we do here, and it was an opportunity for the function of blogger to inform happened next.

The act itself of buying was not particularly riveting even though, in engineering terms, it was a fairly complex process of deploying web browsing software, online searching using Google algorithms, hypertext mark-up language, shopping cart software, electronic funds transfers and email protocols.

But the trying … the acts of receiving, assembly and use? Now, they were character building in the true sense of “form follows function”. Step 1, delivery. This took a lot longer than the five days promised when we ordered. I fired off a polite email in the direction of the Gold Coast and received a prompt and repentant reply, saying that there had been a problem in the factory and a delay in putting together our order. However, everything was on its way now and would we please accept two gifts as compensation: a Birdies gardener’s planting bench and two Birdies worm towers?

“Well, yes, thanks very much, why not?” we replied, and within a few days two large and heavy boxes landed on the front slab next to our little garden shed. Formidably heavy boxes. Formidable enough to stop me moving them anywhere so I simply cut them open right there on the first available Saturday morning and started the “easy process of assembly”.

Remember our DIY-assembly compost tumbler and the handy shelving? I reckoned I could safely double the advertised assembly time (the tumbler box said “assemble in minutes” and took more than an hour) but what is a multiple of “easy assembly”?

Here’s what you find in the boxes: 20 pieces of 820mm-high coated corrugated metal like the Zincalume you use on your garden patio or shed, and four steel L-shaped corner supports; each of the metal pieces is drilled with two lines of 11 holes and once these are overlapped and aligned, this makes 24 joins around the cross-shaped garden bed.

According to the instructions, each hole gets a bolt, two washers and a wing-nut, so … lemmee see (reaching for pencil behind ear) that’s a jigsaw puzzle with 1080 individual pieces. No, wait: there is also a long piece of rubber lining to go inside the corner supports and another to go around the rim as a safety protector … 1082. This was starting to look daunting even though the instruction sheet was barely a page long, including a detailed diagram. A Saturday morning cinch was turning into a major exercise.

There was another element to the puzzle. Each of the 20 corrugated sheets came with a sheet of cling-film attached to protect the light-tan “paperbark” paintwork but this feature was not mentioned in the instructions. Carefully removing the plastic film took more time and effort but was not included in the “easy assembly” time.

And so I began. At first I started timing myself for this blog report but after the first few hours I gave that away as a bad joke. It would be not only ridiculous to try to count this job in minutes and hours but also time-consuming and annoying in itself. Clearly I had underestimated the job. Let’s just get on with it.

But internally I began to grumble. Grrrr. Remove the cling film, line up the corrugated sheets, get a bolt, two washers and a nut and whack them through the top few holes in each vertical line so that I could achieve a relatively rigid structure in the windy Ballan springtime conditions before returning to fill in the remaining holes.

I realised I was gradually fencing myself in because it was easier to work on the inside of the garden so that the bolt heads not the wing-nuts appeared on the outside of the metal (to match the advertising images). So I found a stool as a step on the inside and a bale of pea straw as a step on the outside and plugged on.

Our young Swedish friend Miranda arrived from Melbourne and found herself press-ganged as a bolt-washer-wing-nut assistant for the holes close to the ground. I had discovered that despite all my good intentions it was physically impossible for me to stand on either side of the corrugated structure and reach down to fit a bolt and washer from one side and (while holding them steady) attach a washer and wing-nut on the other side. We didn’t realise it but it was our choice of the 820mm-high raised bed which had caused this; I would need orang-utan arms to do the job on my own. Thanks Miranda!

The sun was firmly nestling in the western sky by the time Miranda and I had worked our way around the structure and reached the stage where most of the 24 joins had some nuts and bolts in place and the garden bed was finally standing: about half complete. But, ah yes, the old problem of “instruction sheet not matching what’s in the box” finally raised its head. Two things became very obvious: many of the holes which were supposed to line up didn’t; and we were going to be short of washers by a long way.

Grrrr! More grrrr! Check the instructions again; check the diagram. Well, for a start the diagram clearly shows a rubber washer on the inside of each wing-nut and there were none of them. But it also shows a separate steel washer on the inside and the outside. But what’s this? A closer examination suggests that the head of the bolt is roughly the same size as the washers … perhaps the bolt people had supplied bolts with washers incorporated but had not told the instructions people to change their text and diagram?

The local hardware is just across the street so next morning I strolled over and for a handful of change I bought 100 more washers which would hopefully complete the job. It turned out I needed more than 100 but as the job progressed I became less and less obsessed with perfection at each join (bolt, washer, washer, nut) and keener simply to finish the #@$#! job. By mid-afternoon all the holes that lined up were fastened. I did a tour de force with our mighty little Ozito cordless drill to tighten up all the fastenings and as I went, one or two more of the recalcitrant holes came into alignment … fix those one at a time.

Stand back! Now it’s easy to see why all those holes had not lined up perfectly. I was working on a piece of ground which had previously been levelled as a car-parking area: nearly flat but not perfect. Lay a spirit level along the top edge of the raised garden bed (better still, just squat down and look with a beady eye) and the problem is obvious. It looks as though the holes have been machine-measured and engineered for installation on a flat surface and would be perfect on a similarly machine-measured and engineered surface. But there you go … my garden is flat but not perfect, like most gardens, and so a percentage of those holes will forever remain unfulfilled.

Tell you the truth I can’t really bring myself to care right now: the structure seems fine, the dedicated gardener in our family is very happy, and if any of those damned holes leak I’ve got a solution: Selley’s pipe and gutter gunk (sealant) ought to do the trick just fine!

NEXT … fill the above-ground swimming-pool sized void. We visited Crossroads garden supplies at the edge of town and consulted the guru … he reckoned we’d need four bales of pea straw to line the base and provide nutrients, topped with 5 cubic metres of half-and-half soil-compost mix: $270 later, including delivery, and the ingredients were piled in the yard, waiting.

Naively, I had imagined us plonking the straw bales into the bottom of the void then the garden truck backing up and tipping the soil inside, job done. Ho ho: not so fast. “The little truck that could” couldn’t reach over those 820mm sides so we scored a big shovelling job. Divvied-up it was a morning’s hard labour. Our Central Victorian Highlands’ version of the Antarctic blizzard made this a nerve-wracking and challenging task but doesn’t beer taste better when the gardening’s done?!

Back to my philosophical ramblings … my conclusion is that the imperfections in my garden, which revealed the consequential imperfections in the engineered design, have helped me stop obsessing about perfection and get closer to a more peaceful state of mind (“near enough is good enough”).

This is a reassuring result for me and one which can be useful in my work as a reviewer of products and services. Might even be something in this for other reviewers.

Many reviewers, especially in the food and travel field, but also in the literature and new products fields, draw attention to imperfections. I know; I have done it myself and have read and edited thousands of similar literary, movie, food, wine and accommodation reviews since 1981. Drawing attention to imperfections does what sociologist Daniel Miller says some academics do to other academics: make yourself look big by making others look small.

You see it a lot: Reviewer X goes to Restaurant Y and criticises the service, the ambiance, the ingredients, the style of cooking, and then the amount of the bill at the end. Many reviews go so far as to allocate a score for these features, effectively ranking the restaurant on a long list from “perfect” to “rotten”. I think this encourages the next guest to look for imperfections instead of enjoying the overall experience, and it encourages customers to anticipate being ripped off, sometimes even before they sit down.

Wouldn’t it be better for us journalist-reviewers to focus on the excellent aspects of a meal, or a performance, or a holiday/travel experience? There’s no need to sugar-coat everything or to ignore frustrating moments, but in my experience frustrating moments can be exploited in the telling of a story without trashing a product or a service.

Take the bolts, washers and our raised and filled garden. In the end the important things were that the price was affordable, the service pleasant and accommodating, and the construction and filling worked fine in the end, with a few minor adjustments and allowances. Now, a month later, the veges and flowers are shooting up and soon we’ll be harvesting.

Maybe I’m becoming a gardener after all?

Major new look at universities launched by Australian publisher

Uni COVER Feb 25

MELBOURNE, Australia: How have universities changed over the past 60 years? Are they any better now than they once were? And what will happen next? These are just some of the important issues that John Biggs encounters in reviewing his long academic career, a journey via Australia, the UK, Canada and Hong Kong. Tonight in one of our innovative social-media book events, Strictly Literary is proud to announce the worldwide launch of Changing Universities, John Biggs’ insightful and highly relevant memoir. It’s offered for sale as a print-on-demand paperback with a high-quality gloss cover in full colour and excellent professional binding (now printed in Australia to minimise time and delivery charges) and as an eBook in a range of formats for different reader platforms, including the popular Amazon Kindle.

J-Biggs-bcoverAs a student and as an academic, John Biggs (left) has participated in 60 years of change in universities, changes in time and in place. He graduated in psychology from the University of Tasmania in 1957 and obtained his PhD from Birkbeck College, University of London. He has held academic positions in the University of New England, Monash University, the University of Alberta, Newcastle University NSW, and the University of Hong Kong, holding full professorships in the last three. He has published extensively on learning and teaching in institutional settings. His concept of constructive alignment, described in Teaching for Quality Learning at University, has been implemented in several countries. Since retiring, he and his wife Catherine Tang have consulted on learning and teaching in higher education in several countries. Also since retirement he has published four novels (including Disguises, also now available from Strictly Literary), a collection of short stories, and a social-political history of his home state, Tasmania.

Biggs’ experiences were bizarre, traumatic, hilarious but in the end rewarding. His experiences tell us what universities were once like, how they came to be what they are today, with a hopeful stab at what they might be like in future.

Eminent academics have reviewed Changing Universities and here’s what they have had to say:

Prof John Kirby, of Queen’s University, Canada says: “Biggs is a true scholar, happiest when left to his research and teaching.”

John Hattie, Professor and Director, Melbourne Education Research Institute, University of Melbourne, writes: “There have been many books about the major changes to universities – usually decrying the managerialism, pursuit of funding, and lack of collegiality. John Biggs tells the story of change via a remarkable career – across four continents, many universities, and different cultures. The intrigue, the power users and abusers, the games, and the spineless nature of too many within these universities seem not to have changed over the last 50 years. More fun to read than the current attacks on universities, it still raises serious questions about how universities are run, for what reason, and for what benefits. This is a perfect read not only for current academics, especially those thinking of moving to Head positions, but also for outsiders who wonder what happens in the ivory towers.”

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