Gym Life

Finding your “people” in training

What many people don’t understand is who you train with can (and will) make or break your session.

I want to share with you something that I only just realised for myself this year. If you want to succeed at training, and if you want to give yourself a reason to turn up to the gym when you really don’t want to, I recommend “finding your people”. Some refer to this as “finding your tribe” but for me, that’s synonymous with the beautiful teenage girls I teach and so I use the term “my people” instead.

Having your people around when you’re training can be a game changer. I have had a bad session turned around just by checking in with one of mine. I’ve seen others experience something similar, over and over and over again. It’s a powerful thing. Why is this the case?

When we go to the gym, it’s easy to bring our work or personal baggage with us. It’s easy for our terrible days to drag us down. When you have your people expecting you at the gym it can be a motivator. When you rock up to the gym feeling like you’d rather be anywhere else, these people can remind you of your goals and push you to get your training done. And the best part? Your people don’t even have to be training for the same reason that you are.

When you find someone that understands your goals, that gets what you’re working towards and offers to share your journey, it forms a connection that is strong. I know that I personally have only been training consistently since the beginning of the year because I know that my people will be at the gym, ready to train with me and to get me through sessions when I’d rather not be there.

So for everybody out there who is lacking inspiration at the gym – go and find your people. It will be the best thing you ever do for your training.

Gym Life

Strength Sports: In it for the “long haul”

As I was going through my rehab for a torn ligament in my ankle the other day, I got to thinking about how long I had been powerlifting for and what my future in this sport might look like. I’ve been lifting for almost 6 years now, but it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. I have hypermobility, which means that my joints easily move beyond the normal range. While I don’t have it as bad as some people I know, it does still cause me issues.

Over the past 6 years I’ve had minor surgery on my right hip and my left wrist. I may yet need surgery on my left ankle. These issues came about because I didn’t fully understand my condition, and I stupidly focused on getting certain numbers, not on having pretty lifts. I trained through pain and often told myself to “toughen up.” Since then I have become wiser and am now working towards pretty lifts. Although I am not there yet (I tend to end up doing silly things and hurting myself when I’m on a roll, like falling down stairs) I know that with my newfound dedication to technique my quality of life has improved drastically because my hypermobility is more manageable. Better technique = gains, which means more muscle, which leads to sturdier joints and less pain.

So why am I sharing some of my lifting story with you? Well, I had a conversation with one of our Valkyries last week about being in it for the “long haul.” This Valkyrie is relatively new to strength sports and she intends to stick around for a while. Because of her dedication to her training and her natural strength, we are expecting big things in her future. She had been suffering from some ongoing issues that were not necessarily preventing her from training, but they were making it difficult. We had a chat while she was training and after talking about her problem she came to her own conclusion that she intends to be “in it (strength sports) for the long haul” and that she’d seek help now before doing more damage. I was so proud of her for coming to this conclusion on her own – this was a lesson that I took years to learn!

And so, the point of my story is twofold. One: strength sports are great at helping you live your best life. It’s no secret that the health benefits of lifting weights for men and women, but especially women, are numerous. I know that my own hypermobility is far more manageable when I am training (despite encounters with stairs) and therefore my quality of life is significantly better. And two: when you’re hurting, and it’s not a good hurt, it’s a good idea to talk through what you’re feeling with someone that has been doing this for a while, because we understand what you’re going through and can be that little voice of reason that says “stop now, get it looked at, work towards pretty lifts”. I can guarantee that you’ll still get stronger, even if it takes a little bit more time.Valkyrie (Transparent Background

Education

The power of language

It’s no secret that words have power. My good friend Lynette Noni has based a whole series on not only the power of words, but the power of our intention behind the words. (First in the series is called Whisper and it is set to be released on May 1st 2018, get excited!) However, as much as I would love to discuss the power of words when we use them to talk to or about people or places, today I am more interested in a slightly more education based discussion. I want to talk about the power of the language we use when teaching, and how we can either promote or demote certain subjects just by saying an off-hand comment!

I am a geography teacher. I love what I do and I love what I teach. I try to make my lessons as authentic, engaging, and filled with opportunities as much as possible. I know I still have a fair way to go but I am getting better every single lesson.

When I started teaching at Mount Alvernia College I was thrown into the world of girl’s education. I never had any aspirations to teach in a girls school and when I stood in front of my first class, I really struggled – despite being a young woman myself! I quickly discovered that I needed to change my language.

Girls are predisposed to thinking “I can’t do that.” There’s no point arguing about it, it’s ingrained in us from the very beginning of our existence. In my first couple of weeks I would often hear myself saying to the girls “I could never do maths, I just didn’t get it.” I’d say the same sort of things about science too, and I quickly realised that not only was I undermining the girls’ confidence, but also the subjects that my colleagues had been working so hard to encourage girls to engage with. It hit me then, I NEEDED to change my language. Not only to make sure I wasn’t undermining my colleagues or my girls, but also to change my own ideas about what I thought I was capable of achieving. In short, since I changed the way I talked to myself about the possibility of me learning some scientific facts, or relearning some maths skills, I have become more open to these subjects AND I have found that I have a much better capacity to understand them – JUST FROM CHANGING THE LANGUAGE I USED!

My next realisation came when I was teaching a year 9 geography class just yesterday. We were looking at a choropleth map of Australia that showed the average rainfall in January across the country. We ended up having a discussion about North Queensland and why it would have more rainfall than South Australia. One of the girls ended up asking if it had something to do with the humidity and I was a little shocked to realised that they were struggling to make the connections between humidity and precipitation – the water cycle that they spent so much time learning in year 7 and then touched on again in year 8 – and it got me thinking. Do they truly not remember this important piece of information OR is it because we weren’t in a science classroom that they weren’t able to make the connection?

Again, I realised that I would need to change my language. I started to wonder if I needed to use terminology from their science classes in my geography classes so that they could connect the dots themselves? I got really excited by the possibilities this would open up – I have never been more excited about broadening my scientific knowledge than I have in the past 24 hours! I’ve spoken to the Learning Area Advisor for Science and a couple of the science teachers to see if there was potential for cross curriculum collaboration (I know, it’s an old concept but for the first time I’ve actually thought it to be possible) and I was even more excited to learn that they were VERY interested in working with me on getting this up and running! I’ve even had an invitation to attend a year 9 science excursion on Monday next week and I’m going to do all I can to be involved.

I’ve gone from someone that thought “science wasn’t my thing” to “science is something that I want to learn so much more about!” I know that I have a long way to go and that I will be limited by time when it comes to just how much I’ll be able to achieve. However, if I can get this excited over the possibility of learning more about science and implementing it in my geography classes, I hope that my passion will inspire the girls too. I hope that they will be able to make the connections between what we’re doing and what they’ve learned in other classes themselves. The ultimate goal in teaching (in my humble opinion) is to create authentic learning experiences, and the research shows that clear connections between subjects helps with that, so that’s what I’m hoping to work towards. Who knows, perhaps I’ll be able to turn maths into something that is “definitely my thing” and feel more confident in including that terminology in my classes too!

One final little mention about the Science Department at my school. THEY ARE AWESOME. In a girls school it’s really important to have strong female role models, and our science department is majority female; we even have a female physics teacher! (I’ve been told that this is an amazing thing as there aren’t many.) Not only are they awesome teachers with a great range of knowledge, but they are passionate about what they teach and are willing to include me in their teaching and learning, me who is someone that quite possibly would have been their idea of a nightmare student – you know the type, lots of potential but just lazy because “science wasn’t their thing.” Not only have they been welcoming, but they have also been enthusiastic and full of great ideas. I can’t wait to see where this goes!

Books

Looking back at 2017’s reads

This year I have managed to read 61 books, surpassing my goal of 52. It was no where near as many as I read in 2016, I think I managed over 120, but I have certainly not spent anywhere near as much time reading this year. 2017, among other things, has been the year of Netflix for me! However, I am proud of the 61 books I have read and thought I would do a quick recap of my top 5 from 2017.

Before I get into it, I want to give some quick insight into my 2017 reads feelings overall. I didn’t actually love many books this year. Sure, I had a couple that I had been eagerly anticipating the release of, but there was only one book that really took my breath away. Everything else was just sort of “ok.” For example, I loved Gemina by Kauffman and Kristoff, but it had lost its shock value because it was the second in the series. Same with A Court of Wings and Ruin by Maas. In my humble opinion it was going to need to be something truly amazing to live up to its predecessor, A Court of Mist and Fury, which has to be one of my all time favourite books. Unearthed by Kauffman and Spooner was another highly anticipated release for 2017 and whilst I enjoyed it, I think these authors have been spoiled for me forever, simply because These Broken Stars of the Starbound Trilogy is simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. You can see that even though I enjoyed a lot of the books I read this year, it has been tricky to find the kinds of books that make me say wow. So, I went through my 61 reads for 2017 and picked out my top 5. I tried to avoid those that were continuations of series that I have been reading, and pick only standalone books or firsts in series.

#5  Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

 31145186

This graphic novel is very much along the same lines as Smile, and is all about learning to find friends that click with you, not you being forced to fit in with them. I really felt for main character, Shannon. I could recognised some of my own friendship experiences in hers, and some I have since witnessed. This is a great story about learning who you really are and how kindness above all else will help you thrive.

Recommended for all from ages 8 and up!

#4 Geekerella by Ashley Poston

34790383As a Cinderella story, the storyline of this is completely predictable, however… I loved it. The twist on each of the original Cinderella characters is very clever. I adored how in this version our main characters are geeks; fans that cosplay or write fan-fic, and are hopelessly in love with the fictional worlds that we in the real world also adore.

We also get more of a backstory for Prince Charming, or Darien Freeman in this case, that has never really been explored before. In my opinion, Cinderella stories are all about the girl. The fact that this novel is written in alternating chapters between Darien and Elle’s (Cinderella’s) point of view means that both sides of this story are told. I love how Darien’s geeky-ness is hidden behind his superstar facade, which makes him all the more loveable. Elle has the right amount of fiery courage as someone that has been treated as a doormat for her adolescent life for her break for freedom to be believable. In short, Geekerella is a great modern twist on a classic story.

There is just one little thing that bothers me about this book: Editing! There are so many little words missing that it is noticeable and a little annoying. Other than that, a very easy read. Recommended for readers 10 and older!

#3 Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

30233110It look a little while for me to really get into this one; the beginning was a little slow and there are so many words that I struggled to pronounce. It got to the point where my brain would acknowledge the cluster of letters and move on. Once I got into the swing of the story, both characters started to grow on me.

Cyra and Akos live on the same planet, but are from two different worlds. Their lives are divided by a wide expanse of no-man’s-land, and their cultures differ greatly. Cyra’s is a world of brutality and war. Akos’ is a world of peace and farming. Their world’s collide when Cyra’s tyrannical father kidnaps Akos’ brother, and Akos in the process. Cyra and Akos must work together to escape from Cyra’s family.

I really loved the character development of this story, particularly Cyra’s. I also loved how the chapters were split in alternating perspectives, and that when Akos’ story was being told it was written in 3rd person, and when Cyra was telling her story it was in 1st person. I have no idea as to the reasoning behind this decision, and although it was  a little jarring at first, I really enjoyed the change.

Recommended for 13 years and older.

#2 Firstlife by Gena Showalter

28412750I really enjoyed this one, the idea that you needed to choose which life you would live after your first death really intrigued me. There are two sides to choose from and they are quite different, but both are appealing. Both sides want main character Tenley, or Ten, Lockwood but she can’t decide. Soon she’s on the run from both sides, simply trying to make her decision without their influence. She knows she needs to make a decision though because if she doesn’t and she dies, she will end up nowhere, doomed for eternity.

Ten is such a strong, female lead character. She makes decisions based on her own thoughts and desires, and doesn’t let anyone decide anything for her. She uncovers some hidden truths about the two worlds and puts herself in danger in order to show both sides what she’s discovered. I really enjoyed the action packed nature of this story, but also the world building.

Recommended for 13 and up!

#1 Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

28103790I have not been able to stop raving about this book since I read it back in April. I love World War II history, and this book taught me about a naval tragedy that I knew nothing about. In fact, it’s about the worst naval tragedy in history, more lives lost than the Titanic, and I had never heard of it! That in itself was pretty special, but what I really loved were the characters.

These characters were not your typical WWII story characters, they were German citizens, fleeing before the call for evacuation had been made. Because of this, they feared for their lives as it was considered treason to be fleeing against direct orders from the Fuhrer. Each character had a different reason for running, each had a secret, each were scared for their lives. I loved the hints, I loved the intrigue, I loved the storytelling, and I loved characters. As you can probably tell, this book has definitely found a place among my favourite books and I think everyone should read it.

Recommended for readers 13 and up!

Thoughts

Holiday reflections

It’s no secret that 2017 was a massive year, but what I didn’t realise was how much stress this year has brought into my life. It wasn’t until I had left the country for my honeymoon that I realised just how much stress I had been carrying around with me all year. A very good friend of mine and I were having a chat a couple of weeks before my wedding and we were discussing that elusive “work life balance” thing everyone goes on about, and how neither of us has been very good at it this year. My friend was ordered to go on a holiday from her doctor, and I had truly adopted the mantra of “one day at a time.” At what point did my friend and I need to learn that telling everyone that “I’m fine” will not actually make it so? Well, apparently it was running away to New Zealand for both of us (on separate holidays, maybe next time we’ll explore this beautiful country together) that made it sink in: in 2018, things need to change.

And so, I thought, what better way to start fresh than to share what I have learned about stress and its impact on our lives. Read on only if you are into personal development…

About a week before my wedding day, I decided to visit my hairdresser and have a dramatic change from middle of the back-length hair to shoulder-length (most brides would never dream of making such a change, but it definitely felt like the right thing to do and I do not regret it!) While I was there, my hairdresser told me that I NEEDED to find a way to reduce stress in my life, otherwise I would end up losing all my hair. This was the beginning of operation reduce stress, but first, wedding.

My wedding went so smoothly; I was not stressed at all and the day was absolutely beautiful and everything I could have hoped for. Even the last-minute change in plans because of a storm was not enough to ruin the day. It wasn’t until the following day though, that I learned just how much headspace a wedding takes up.

Side note: It’s amazing how much headspace certain things take up. Perhaps I should explain what I call headspace before I go on though. For me, headspace refers to how many things you are keeping in your head, all those projects, thoughts, worries, and jobs that you are constantly thinking about. Tertiary study is a really good example. After 3 degrees, 7 years of study (with one year off in there for working full time), I finally finished at the end of 2015. 2016 rolled around and I started my current job. I promised myself that 2016 would be the year of doing things for me, like getting my full teaching registration and reading anything I wanted. Although I loved having freedom and not having to worry about what I should be doing rather than what I wanted to be doing, I did find myself starting to think about studying again, to fill that empty space I had in my head. I very nearly signed up to start a second Masters in 2017, and in hindsight, I’m so glad I didn’t, because it turns out that opening a gym and planning a wedding are more than enough to fill that empty space!

And so, after the wedding was all finished with and we returned to our normal lives before heading off on our honeymoon, I had a moment of panic where I couldn’t help but think: what now?

I’m glad to say that I made it through that interim week without doing anything stupid, like signing up for another Masters (although the urge was strong), and I got on the plane with my husband with way too much luggage and that feeling of holiday excitement.

When we arrived in Wellington all I wanted to do was see everything. We were there for 4 whole days and I wanted to see it all. It took a spa visit on my third day in Wellington for me to realise that I was on my honeymoon, I didn’t need to be going flat out to see everything – I mean, we were in New Zealand, basically a part of Australia and not so far away that I wouldn’t be back any time soon – and that I needed to relax. It took some time and effort to stop my brain from going a million miles an hour, but from that point on, I found my holiday to be MUCH more enjoyable.

So, I’m writing this blog post on my 2nd last day here in New Zealand. We have been here for a total of 12 days and we have travelled from Wellington to Auckland, with a one night stop in Rotorua. Here’s what I have learned about myself:

  • I need more sleep than I have been getting. 5-6 hours of sleep a night is not cutting it for me, I’m much more pleasant when I get 8-10 hours.
  • Food is really important! I know it sounds silly but existing on caffeine, sugar, pizza, and the occasional bowl of cereal is not good enough.
  • My job as a teacher is always in the back of my mind, and that’s ok, but I have found that writing my thoughts/ideas down on paper and then walking away from them is enough to give myself a proper break from that particular headspace.
  • Friends that are ok with not hearing from you for weeks/months on end and then are willing to catch up when you’re free are the holy grail, and I am so lucky to have a few of these wonderful people in my life but, I need to try and make a bit more of an effort to reach out to those people more frequently because I always feel better after catching up/checking in.
  • I need to actually schedule in time for myself, so that it becomes a priority and not an afterthought.

Basically, I need to take all those pieces of advice that we give to our students and apply them in my own life.

I also have really taken to heart something that another friend of mine once told me: “There’s no such thing as balance. Stop trying to find it, because it’ll drive you mad.” She was essentially saying that there is no balance between work life and home life, that there are times where a certain part of your life needs more focus than the other and that can make those of us whom are chasing that perfect balance feel like we are failing. We need to be ok with things being slated towards specific priorities from time to time, but we also need to know when to let things go and get ourselves back on track.

Stress is an inevitable part of our lives, everything we do can cause stress. The trick is knowing when your body has taken on too much and knowing how to help reduce it. This year has pushed my body and my brain to accept more stress than it should, and it’s taken time away from my crazy lifestyle for me to realise this. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband, a supportive family, and some wonderful friends that have helped me to see the error of my ways in 2017, and are willing to help me focus on living my best life in 2018 and beyond.

Ps. When stressed, I often find the beach relaxing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being close to the water for so much of this holiday. Below are some panoramic photos of the places we have been. These places have really helped me to relax and enjoy the now, I hope you find them as beautiful as I do.

20171217_163050
Wellington Waterfront
20171218_111501
Views from Mount Victoria, Wellington
20171218_121129
Random jetty discovered whilst exploring the coastline of Wellington
20171219_131234
Random lake discovered on our drive to Martinborough
20171221_135542
Lake Taupo from the South
20171221_144658
Lake Taupo, Taupo
20171221_173324
Lake Rotoiti
20171222_203720
Henderson Creek, Te Atatu Peninsula
20171223_165007
Muriwai Beach, Gannet Colony
20171224_195953
Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island
20171225_181046
Waiheke Island
20171226_204429
Onetangi Beach, Waiheke
20171227_123915
View from Mount Eden, Auckland
Thoughts

2017: What a year!

As we come to the end of 2017, I thought I’d look back on all that I’ve done. The following would not have been possible without the support of my amazing husband, family, colleagues, and gym family. I’m listing my achievements so that I have a record of my busiest year yet.

In 2017, I have:

  • Gotten married
  • Moved house
  • Opened a gym with my husband
  • Read 61 books – only 9 more than my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 52 books
  • Traveled to:
    • Mackay, North Queensland
    • Melbourne, Victoria
    • North Island New Zealand
  • Been nominated for a Queensland College of Teachers Award
  • Started Geek Girls
  • Hosted a 24 hour Geek-A-Thon event at school
  • Been part of the Read Like A Girl team:
    • Organised the Launch of Draekora, Lynette Noni’s 3rd Book in The Medoran Chronicles
    • Assisted with the International Women’s Day Breakfast in the iCentre with Rebecca Sparrow as guest
  • Been on 3 school camps:
    • Year 8
    • Year 9
    • FCIP Music Camp
  • Attended a variety of school functions, including:
    • Year 11 Semiformal
    • Year 12 Hospitality Buffet Dinner
    • Year 8 Dance with Padua
    • Awards Night
  • Been involved in reading programs:
    • Joint Mount Alvernia College and Padua College Junior (9/10) and Senior (11/12) Book Clubs
    • Mount Alvernia Crazy Book Club (MTACBC)
    • Readers Cup
  • Critique read for Lynette Noni (and somehow managed to hold my tongue!)
  • Run 14 Powerlifting and Strongman Competitions at our gym
  • Assisted in 10 Powerlifting and Strongman Competitions run by our associated gyms
  • Returned to Competitive Powerlifting after 2 years off and smashed all my PBs
  • Dressed up 5 times throughout the school year for various events, including:
    • Literacy Week: Theme = Amazing Women (two days, two different costumes!)
    • Cultural Festival: Theme = Back to the Past
    • Geek Girls Launch: Theme = Geek!
    • Halloween

It’s been an insanely busy year, and when I list everything that I have achieved I’m more than a little surprised. Somehow I have survived working two jobs and managed to do amazing things at school. I have not lost my passion for education, and I have put some big plans in place for 2018. I’m proud of my achievements for 2017, and I look forward to many more in 2018.

Education

Feedback: How “wearing hats” can teach us to be more helpful in our feedback.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my Learning and Teaching Goals for 2017, but I found this really interesting article and thought I’d share!

On Monday this week I received a weekly newsletter email from MindShift, and one of the articles was called “Developing Students’ Ability to Give and Take Effective Feedback.” At first, I was sceptical because how often have we received articles from subscription services and discovered that they are fairly useless, but this one turned out to be pretty helpful. I was intrigued by how the teacher featured in this article, Emerie Lukas, has developed a culture of student to student feedback in her class based on the “Six Thinking Hats” by Edward De Bono.

The basis of De Bono’s approach to feedback, is that participants are required to give feedback while wearing different hats, and then giving feedback that is appropriate to that type of hat. Lukas has recently begun training her colleagues in using the hat system, and suggests using the first three regularly, and the remaining three only when applicable. The hats are broken it down to:

  1. Yellow hat = positive feedback
  2. Black hat = specific feedback that points out not reaching a goal
  3. Green hat = suggestions for improvement
  4. Red hat = “a breath of fresh air” or a new perspective
  5. Blue hat = ability to identify the skill that is being developed
  6. White hat = taking a look at the bigger picture, something that’s been noticed but is neither positive or negative, only interesting.

I found the idea of getting students to try and give specific feedback an interesting concept, and I think the idea of “putting on a hat” will help them step into that role. I’m not sure when I will get the chance to trial this strategy this year, but I am definitely putting it in bank for next year!

Books

Leigh Bardugo – Author Spotlight

Without even realising it, I have recently been on a bit of a Leigh Bardugo binge, so I thought I’d better blog about it!

Towards the end of least year I started reading her Grisha Trilogy: #1 Shadow and Bone, #2 Siege and Storm, #3 Ruin and Rising. I didn’t love these books, it took me over 6 months to read the series, but I did enjoy them. Her world building and complexity of story was expertly done, but in this series I sometimes felt that there was too much going on and I got a little lost or disinterested.

I was then told by a year 11 student that I “ABSOLUTELY HAD TO GET SIX OF CROWS AND CROOKED KINGDOM BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BEST BOOKS EVER!” (Yes, she really did yell enthusiastically at me; I love book worms.) It’s taken me a while to start this duology, but I am so glad I did. Six of Crows is the first and it tells the story of a band of young thieves pulling off the biggest heist of their careers. It helps to have read the Grisha Trilogy beforehand as there is a fair amount of name dropping and reference to the Civil War explained in those books, but it is not strictly necessary. The twists and turns, the character development, and the cleverness of their fearless leader make you want to keep turning the page. Once again, the complexity of the story, including flash backs, multiple points of view, and twists and turns that rival the best mysteries, are masterfully handled and not once did I get lost. Bardugo has done an excellent job balancing all these features while telling a fantastic story. I am really enjoying continuing the story of the young thieves in Crooked Kingdom, and hope that it lives up to its predecessor.

I realised that I had recently finished yet another of Bardugo’s books, Wonder Woman: Warbringer. I was so excited to get my hands on this one that I didn’t even pay attention to the author until I was half way through and thoroughly enjoying it. (I mean, it’s a Wonder Woman origin story in the form of a novel, how could I not be excited?!) The beautiful thing about the way that Bardugo has told Diana’s (Wonder Woman’s) story is that it is really refreshing. In this telling, Diana does not end up in the classic Wonder Woman outfit, and is not necessarily announced to the world, but is on a mission that isn’t sanctioned by her mother and Amazon sisters, and she must work in secret to right the wrong she has brought upon the island. I highly recommend this for fans of superheroes, and I’m super excited to see what Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker, Sarah J Maas’ Catwoman: Soulstealer, and Matt De La Pena’s Superman bring to the table in the DC Icon Series!

What I’ve realised about Bardugo’s writing over the past year is that, in my opinion, the more she writes, the better she gets, and the more I like it! I am looking forward to whatever’s next from Leigh Bardugo.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Education

Geek-A-Thon Wrap-up!

Some Context:

I have wanted to do a sleep over in the iCentre since February 2016, and on the 8th of September this year I finally got to do it! I have been working on celebrating all things Geek with our students this year through the Geek Girl program, the goal being:

To encourage girls to embrace their talents and creativity in a safe environment, as well as exposing them to industry professionals, broadening their views on what they’re capable of, and assisting them to reach their full potential.

geek girl logo

It’s been a fantastic year so far with fashionistas, illustrators, and animators coming in to share their experiences, as well as the process they go through each time they create something new.

For those girls that regularly attending these Geek Girl sessions, we wanted to give them the opportunity to really “Geek Out” so I combined my dream of sleeping over in the iCentre with a 24 hour Geek Out event and Geek-A-Thon was born.

Rationale:

Geek-A-Thon will be the culminating event of the Geek Girls program run by Krystal Gagen, Linda Clark, and Emma Maya, and hosted by the iCentre. The event will be invitational and focus on celebrating the success and experiences of the students that have participated in Geek Girl events throughout the year. The event will be a 24 hour event that will include guest speakers, opportunities for girls to share their “geekiness,” and for them to learn new skills and expand their thinking.

Geek-A-Thon Program:

  • Introduction at 3:30pm Friday – explanation of rules and plan for the 24 hours
  • Geek Out!
    • Computer circuit boards used to create sounds/lights that can change using the buttons or shaking them depending on the programming
    • Piper Raspberry Pi Computer Kit computer built by students during lunch breaks following blue prints – once built, had to finish it off by playing the game and learning how to wire the remaining buttons
  • Escape Room Challenge – Rebel Revolt (ongoing throughout the 24 hours)
  • Drones
    • Played with motion sensor drones + remote controlled drones
    • Design your own drone challenge
  • Dinner and free dancing
  • Sharing of drone designs
  • Geek Out*!
    • Makeup tutorial
    • Drawing tutorial
    • Swing dance tutorial – learning the Shim Sham from Ms Maya
  • Sphero races
  • Movie and hot chocolates
  • Bed time by 2am!
  • Breakfast and free dancing
  • Geek Out!
    • Public speaking tutorial
    • Music showcase
      • Guitar sing-a-long
      • Cello recital
  • 3D Printing with Steph Piper of PIPER3DP
  • Lunch and movie
  • Pickup by 3:30pm Saturday!

*Geek Out sessions designed for students to share the geeky thing that they are particularly passionate about.

Thoughts:

This event was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was so nice to see students from different year levels working together to explore the possibilities of technology, have in depth discussions about the process of creating or using something new, and have lots of fun along the way. Every student that attended Geek-A-Thon walked away with new ideas, thoughts, and questions, and all said they had lots of fun and were begging to do it again next year. The most beautiful thing about the event, in my opinion, was watching the relationships between our Geek Girls grow stronger and the sense of community  that was established was really special.

A big thank you to my colleagues Linda Clark and Emma Maya for you support throughout Geek Girls, and to Helen Stower for enabling me to try these sorts of events.

Photo Gallery on iCentre Website

 

Thoughts

World of Drones Congress 2017 Reflection

On Thursday 30th August and Friday 1st September I had the pleasure of attending the World of Drones Congress and I found it extremely valuable. Despite it being targeted mostly at those wanting to break into the drone industry, as an educator I found it highly relevant to what we are trying to navigate our way around in schools. I learned so much; it was an eyeopening experience and I am so thankful to my school for supporting my application to attend.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.10.25 am

So, for those that couldn’t be there I thought I’d write down just some of my learnings and thoughts, particularly now that I’ve had a chance to process them!

My thoughts on Drones in general:

I walked out of the Congress absolutely blown away by the possibilities of drones. Basically, DRONES ARE COOL! The number of applications that the various speakers and presenters spoke about during the congress that they are already using drones for blew my mind. Here’s just a few:

  • Film and TV – there are film companies that solely work in filming with the use of drones and movie companies are slowly embracing the technology. Stephen Oh of XM2 Drones in Cinematography spoke about the boundaries between films using drones and how if the technology can be proved to work for TV, then they are more likely to take that technology on board in films. He told us about his work with the film crew on the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie and how it took a while for them to trust the technology. By the end of the shoot they were using the drones in ways they had originally never imagined because of the trust they had formed with the team of flyers.
  • Facebook – that’s right, Facebook is getting into the world of drones! They want to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” but this isn’t possible if people cannot get connected through the internet. Therefore, their plan to fly a drone called Aquila above the height of commercial aeroplanes and have it beam mobile phone networks down to countries that currently do not have access to them is thought to be able to solve this conundrum. Issues that spokesperson Kathryn Cook spoke about included the fact that there are no global laws for drones, that each country has their own laws and regulations and if Facebook is to fly a drone around the world, they will need countries to work together to create laws that are able to be upheld and enforced on a global scale.
  • Flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) – James Dean from SenSat spoke about how his company is investigating the uses of drones in terms of digitally mapping locations. He spoke about the complications when it comes to needing to keep drones in sight and how this is often time consuming. He used the example of mapping London digitally – because they need to keep the drone in sight at all times, the process took a significantly long time. However, if they were able to fly BVLOS, then the project would have take half the time, if not even less. The advantage of having digital models of cities, construction sites, and other locations is slowly being realised and will allow different industries to use the data collected for a variety of applications.
  • Biosecurity – Felipe Gonzales of QUT spoke about how they are investigating the use of drones to monitor crop growth and health. He highlighted the importance of the industry working with potential buyers to ensure that the drone is easily useable and meets the needs of the buyer.

There was a lot of talk about Autonomous Vehicles and how they will change the way we think about car ownership. There was discussion around the complications involved in delivery drones, particularly with regards to how will the drone recognise the person/location and how will it drop off its delivery? It was clear to see that all of the applications they want to use drones for certainly came with limitations and big questions that would need answering first.

My thoughts on Laws and Regulations for Drones:

It was clear that the currents laws and regulations surrounding the use of drones are not up to the task of ensuring that people are using them safely. For example, I had no idea that there was an app called “Can I fly there?” designed by CASA to help people work out if they are legally allowed to fly a drone in a particular area. I downloaded the app and did a search on my house. I discovered that as long as I flew in one direction I would be fine, but if I flew in the opposite direction I would be breaking all sorts of laws and regulations because I am too close to an approach for an airport.

There were too many other issues discussed for me to list here, but I will share my takeaways in terms of what certain speakers presented as possible solutions to the issue:

  • Need to be proactive, not reactive – Dr Lisa Frye from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning suggested that we, as attendees of the World of Drone Congress 2017, have the potential to influence the laws and regulations that are created around drones. The industry needs to work WITH the government and education bodies to create the necessary laws and regulations that will govern the use of drones, and then be able to work with educators to teach these laws and regulations in schools (more on this further down).
  • Drones and planes – Gary Pohlner of Virgin Australia scared us all with some terrifying facts about drone encounters and the Virgin Australia fleet. These encounters clearly happen because the general population is not aware of where they are allowed to fly drones and how high they can fly them. Gary also spoke about how the colour of a drone can be a real problem. He used the example of a blue drone on a day with day with clear blue skies, the flight crew did not see the drone until it passed directly across the windscreen of the plane on approach to the airport. Gary suggested that if it were possible to tag drones with some sort of tracker then they could be displayed on aircraft instruments that would allow them to make adjustments to their flight paths in stead of forcing flight crews to react quickly to keep their passengers safe.
  • Public acceptance of rules and responsibilities – Paddy Goodall from Airservices spoke about the importance of working with the regular consumer to create laws and regulations that are easily understood and enforced, otherwise there is no point to them. He highlighted the fact that there are current laws and regulations in place, but because law enforcement agencies currently do not have the capabilities of enforcing these laws, people are getting away with things because they either don’t know they are breaking the rules, or know but don’t care because no one is currently doing anything about it.

An interesting point was made by an audience member about how best to educate the general public on the use of commercial and recreational drones. He suggested that when someone purchases a drone for personal use, that it becomes the retailers job to give a quick overview of the laws and regulations surrounding that particular drone and how to access the information on where they will be able to fly it. The purchaser would then sign a contract stating that they had received this information. The audience member said that he’s modelled this off what happens when a customer purchases a mobile phone.

My thoughts on Drones and Education:

The whole reason I went to the World of Drones Congress 2017 was to investigate what drones will mean for education and I was not disappointed. Here’s my top 5 learnings in terms of the implication of drones on education:

  1. I am pleased to report that every speaker reinforced the fact that educators are not the only ones responsible for teaching the next generation of drone users. The best recipe for success in terms of educating the next generation will happen if Government + Industry + Education work together to inform best practice.
  2. The drone is just the tool, we still need to teach the skills that allows them to do something with the data the drone has collected.
  3. Drones are a problem based solution, not a solution looking for a problem
  4. Drones and STEAM go hand in hand. Once you’ve found a problem, ask the students to create a solution using their imagination (the Art of STEAM), and then use the other components of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to then refine and make the design.
  5. The younger we challenge our students with problem based learning, the more likely they will be able to take on bigger and bigger challenges as they get older, thus preparing them for a future that we are not 100% sure on what they will need to do, what skills they will need to have, and what problems they will need to solve.

Since attending the World of Drones Congress 2017, I have already issued a quick “design your own drone” challenge and was blown away by the designs that my students created. The students of now and of the future will be the ones that embrace this technology and do amazing things with it.

Final thoughts:

The opening key note for the World of Drones Congress 2017 was presented by Thomas Frey, a man that is well known for the quote:

“2 billion jobs to disappear by 2030.”

When he spoke about this quote he highlighted the fact that it wasn’t supposed to be a doom and gloom statement, but rather a wake up call. If there are 2 billion jobs in the next 13 years that are able to be replaced by robots or drones or some other piece of technology, then we must look at this as there being 2 billion jobs worth of people with free time. Frey said:

“We’re not automating jobs out of existence, only tasks… One way to look at it is that we’re eliminating jobs but freeing up human capital… Just because there are no jobs doesn’t mean there isn’t any work to be done.”

He spoke so passionately about the possibilities of drones and technology and ended his presentation with a quote that had a massive impact on me and how I now look at the way that I teach and challenge my students:

“We are limited only by our imagination.”

 

A selection of photos from the exhibition room at the World of Drones Congress 2017