Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Synthesizing Synthesis

So here I am, trying to synthesize synthesis! It’s a lot harder than it first seemed, I must say. But here goes.
First of all, I have to inform my distant readers (if there are any left) that this Blog has turned from mildly amusing afterthoughts on my return to life in Canada after a year in Australia, to a more focused examination of things I am learning through my online course and my preparations for changing jobs. And so I am reading Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future.
Reading Gardner, one jumps back and forth between abstract ideas and practical ones. And then one has to make sense of it all. And one way is to look at one’s own teaching practices and see if it is mirrored in Gardner’s ideas. Perhaps then some sense can be made of it?
Looking at a classroom strategy that may have some elements of synthesis, I chose a project used in Mathematics and Science. The topic of Structures, particularly bridges, is introduced in Science through various digital media: Discovery Streaming video and bridge design software (West Point Bridge Design). As an integrated task, students work in groups to design and construct small toothpick bridges, while keeping track of “building supplies” (toothpicks, glue, paper etc) in Excel spreadsheets, when they “purchase” daily supplies to complete their bridges, journaling their day by day successes (and failures) thereby integrating Science, Language and Mathematics.
The outcomes are truly cross-disciplinary, with group work skills, scientific knowledge and practical mathematics being learned. The idea follows Gardner’s Components of Synthesis: A goal, a starting point (previous models), and a method.
Unfortunately, I will not be in a position to assign this project this year, and therefore will not be able look at it from the new perspectives that I am developing from my reading and engagement in this course.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Job Too!

A lot has happened this week. Take for instance the fact that I am now a student at Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Not only am I studying Instructional Media on-line, I have a new job to go with it. I shall become, as of January 1st, a Resource Teacher- Instructional Technology, otherwise known as a Tech Coach in these parts. I shall be travelling about the Peel District School Board ( a vast area covering 776 square kilometres west and north of Toronto) visiting schools and assisting teachers with the integration of technology.
It is exciting that these two things have happened at the same time. I shall be looking forward to many new and exciting challenges and experiences.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to School

It's about time!
Yes, I am a student again. Let me tell you...
Our school subscribes to Discovery Streaming, a service that provides video and other media to the school over the Internet. I get their newsletter and saw an announcement about doing a Masters degree in Instructional Technology online at a University in the USA (Pennsylvania to be exact).
So I have registered and started my first course and so far (after a day and a half!) it looks very engaging. One problem is the sudden nosedive of the Canadian dollar (from over US$ 1 to under US$0.80 on Friday...
Oh well! I will be much richer when I get my degree! Only slightly in fact.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

It's (Canadian) Thanksgiving! The photo of the 16 Mile Creek Valley in full colour tells the story.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Boston, Massachussetts

John Butler signing Kevin's Federation Square (Melbourne) Concert DVD (taken on my phone camera in low light)

Here we are in Boston, soaking up the sights. We arrived Wednesday and stayed in a little apartment in the famous Italian neighbourhood of the North End. We walked to Faneuil Hall AKA Quincy Market to shop and dine on seafood.
Thursday we explored the Freedom Trail, making stops at Paul Revere's house, the famous North Church (where Revere's accomplice hung the lanterns) and the Charlestown Shipyards, home of the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides).
Thursday night we took the T to the Bank of America Pavillion for the John Butler Trio concert. It was great! Kevin and I got to meet JB himself and the band!
Friday we drove to Salem to visit the Witches Museum and north to Kittery, Maine for some outlet shopping. Driving back in the pouring rain, we arrived at the Buckingham Apartments in the Back Bay, just off Newbury Street and coincidentally, 2 blocks from the Bolyston Street Apple Store. As always, do I know how to pick accommodation, or what?! It was closing at 11 pm and reopening at midnight for the State's tax free weekend. It was tempting to go back just for fun! Colleen and I grabbed a seafood pizza at a little corner restaurant while we walked around town in the rain. The Blue Jays and Red Sox were rained out, it appeared.
Saturday, we walked and browsed the cafés, shops, and galleries along famous Newbury Street, and Boylston Street. Kevin and I got as far as Boston Common, This was, of course, between visits to the Apple Store. Colleen never made it past Crate and Barrel and the legendary Filene's Bargain Basement (which, if truth be told, is actually closed at its original location and has only its partner store open on Boylston at the moment).
We feasted on Thai food on Newbury Street, after which we strolled the avenue and met up with some happy Blue Jays fans as Boston had been beaten 4-1.
Sunday, we were on the road by 7:30 am, winding through Brookline looking for an open gas station. We passed JFK's House by accident, then hopped on I-90 going west, ready for the Lavazza Espresso Bar in the service area just west of the city. Making shopping stops in Albany (L.L. Bean) and Waterloo (NY) Factory Outlet Mall, we gathered some last minute autumn clothing "bargoons." Colleen drove the final leg from Waterloo, including finding her way through Buffalo to avoid the Queenston Bridge, which was reporting 1 hour or more delays. Arriving home by 8:30 pm, we took our lost son Mat out for dinner at The Keg.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Olympic Love

The Olympics are just days away, and this story, of Olympic love, features the niece and fiancé of a friend of ours, both competing for Canada.
Jessica Zelinka is a Heptathlete and we watched Nathaniel Miller compete at the World Aquatic Championships in Melbourne last year.
Good luck to them both!

Click the title to read the story in the Toronto Star.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rain Postscript

Environment Canada reports that if it rains today (it already has), then a new all time record for rain in Toronto for the month of July will be set.
As I write this, another thunderstorm is approaching and the Severe Weather Warnings are up. Here's hoping August will be drier.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rain rain go away!

It was something we already knew as Torontonians. This has been the lousiest summer in a long time, weatherwise. Now it's confirmed. It's been the wettest June-July on record. Yesterday we broke a 28 year old record, and between now and the end of the month, we'll add to it. Falling on the heels of the snowiest winter in years, one wonders what exactly is going on in the atmosphere.
Today's three local world class sporting events have been affected. The Canadian Open Golf Tournament (which is located just blocks away in Glen Abbey, here in Oakville) is on a rain delay and has been severely affected by the torrential rains of the past week. The Rogers Cup Tennis Tournament has had play interrupted, and tonight's Major League Soccer (MLS) All-Star game between the League and the EPL's West Ham United will be a soggy affair.
The question remains- who planned these 3 events all at the same time?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where the Hell is Matt ? (not Matheson!)

According to The Age, this all started in a Brisbane video game company office...
Have a look if you want.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Carbon Footprint Redux

I am following up on my recent post about carbon footprints. A detailed calculator and action planner are available at this website, and one can compare the results with average people in other countries and cities. There is also a Facebook Group that uses the calculator.
Start measuring. Start thinking. Start acting greener.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Launch of the iPhone G3

It's here. At least in Australia it is for the next few hours. For the moment anyway. Since Australia is one of the first countries to see dawn on July 11th, it will also see the launch of the new Apple iPhone G3.
How will the iPhone G3 change the way people communicate, exchange information, stay connected 24/7?
Time will tell.
It may be a little longer to see the results in Canada, as Rogers, the exclusive iPhone carrier in Canada, has distictly non-competitive rates. Time will tell if it takes off in Canada too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sheep Grazier's Warning

I am hosting an Australian this week and have been watching the weather there, as a matter of hospitality, since talking about Canadian weather, especially things like wind chill and humidex, can be a little, well, dry.
I want the following warning to be widely distributed, just in case you have sheep. There is a "Sheep Grazier's Warning" issued for Southwestern districts of Western Australia. And you thought that a humidex warning was a pushing the weather envelope!
This reminds me of the time there was a "Koala Emergency" on the Monash Freeway in Melbourne last November.

See: The Weatherzone.com.au
Just in case the URL for this expires, the warning reads:

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Western Australia

Issued at 4:55 pm WST on Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Sheep farmers in the Southwest, adjacent Great Southern and South Coastal
districts are warned that with cold, wet and windy conditions are expected to
develop during Thursday and there is a serious risk of sheep or lamb losses.

On a serious weather note, heavy snows, up to 30 cm, have fallen in the Alpine areas of Australia, and skiers are happy once again. Victorian school holidays are currently on and the snow has fallen just in time, as they are over at the end of next week.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The iPhone in Canada

The buzz is that the iPhone launch in Canada by Rogers may backfire, since the data plans that Rogers offers are overpriced and smack in the face of competition. Don't like it? There is something you can do!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Blog about Blogs...Did you know that Blogging Makes you Happier?

The Age (Melbourne) newspaper reports that new research points to the fact that blogging can make you a happier person. I am feeling happier as I type this. I bet the one or two people who read this are probably happier too.
If you want to read on, check this article out on the Age website.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day! Canada is 141 years old!

We spent Canada Day with some of the great friends we met while in Australia. Exchange families gathered at the home of Joe Milling and Leslie Parking in Ingersol, Ontario (about 2 hours south west of Toronto). We enjoyed the pool, the reminiscing, the warm sunshine, and for the Victorian Aussies reading this, it was +30 and sunny!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Victoria's hot and dry June

Click here for the The Live Bourke Street Webcam, Mount Buller

I have, for some curious reason, left, the webcam widget that shows the main slope at Mount Buller, Mansfield, Victoria, Australia, on my computer. I started watching it in the summer of 2006 (winter in Victoria) when we began to prepare for our year in Australia. It was one of the shortest ski seasons in Australia. No sooner had the snow arrived, it began to melt and was gone by September. Of course, I watched it frequently while we were living downunder and 2007 was a longer than normal ski season. We were able to ski in early September.
This year, the austral winter of 2008 is notably late, and The Age (Melbourne) reports that this is the warmest June since 1957 and that the drought has continued. Last year, it came early and stayed until late September, after we visited for 2 days of spring skiing.
I watched the first snow fall on the webcam in May, but it has never stayed on the ground. Ski season "started" on the first weekend in June, but without snow, it was in name only.
Reasonable snows have fallen over the last few days, but will it stay?

Read on...

The Age article is linked here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stuff White People Like

If you haven't heard, or you don't read the Toronto Star on Saturday (I sometimes do 'cause they deliver it free to me on Saturdays), a new book based on the Toronto born writer's Blog of the same name will be published July 1st. Christian Lander's Stuff White People Like is a hilarious insight into, well, stuff white people like, like me, and my stuff.
Organic Fair Trade coffee, Apple Computers, dinner parties, scarves in the off season, recycling, kitchen gadgets, public radio...does this sound like me? Of course it does. In fact, it sounds even more like the town I live in- Oakville, Ontario, Canada (which is one of the whitest places I know of).

Have a look.

Stuff White People Like

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Carbon Footprint Reflection

I was reading Steve Hawkins' musings on his travelling Blog "The Grumpy Traveller- Complaining my way around the World." Steve is on his way to North America, ultimately for his brother's wedding. He will stop over here in Toronto. He mentioned his travels here will include 19 flights on this trip alone, each with a significant impact on the world's carbon emissions. Hmm.
I started to add up the flights we packed into one year:

1- Toronto- Chicago
2- Chicago- Honolulu
3- Honolulu- Kona
4- Kona- Honolulu
5- Honolulu- Sydney
6- Melbourne- Brisbane
7- Brisbane- Cairns
8- Cairns- Sydney
9- Sydney- Melbourne
10- Darwin- Brisbane
11- Brisbane- Melbourne
12- Melbourne- Sydney
13- Sydney- Melbourne
14- Melbourne- Christchurch
15- Christchurch- Auckland
16- Auckland- LA
17- LA- Toronto

I am curious to research just how much of an impact our year away had, and to explore the paradox that visiting other countries and cultures in a low impact way has, when we use airplanes to get to them.

I trued out a few online Carbon calculators. We added at least 25,000 kg of Carbon Dioxide with our flights alone. Next up, some research on how to offset our impact...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Melbourne outranks Sydney

In a new poll of the top 20 most liveable cities in the world, Melbourne now tops Sydney and has broken into the top ten, also leapfrogging Paris. It now ranks 9th just behind Vancouver. Transportation concerns and some alcohol related violence kept it from moving higher, the article says. Copenhagen is #1. Montreal was 16th. Toronto, uhemmm...did not make the list. Read for yourself:


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Exchange friends meet old friends

While in Melbourne last year, we became good friends with fellow exchange family Cam Kilgour and Kathy Boote and their son Josh. Over dinner one night last year, I discovered that Cam had graduated from Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto in 1975 and was best friends back then with my old friend Tom Lewis, whom I have known since 1972, when we were at Pioneer Camp together.
It was time for them to reacquaint. We hosted a BBQ and the 3 families shared stories, drink, food, and cappuccinos. It was great for Cam and Tom to catch up after all these years (30+). It was fun for us to share friends.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Oz Party

Some Oakville friends (Jim and Sue Clark) invited us to a special party in honour of their daughter's imminent departure for Australia. I dressed the part- Yellow and green World Cup 2006 shirt, Aussie flag, big brimmed hat...
The only Aussie beer available was Foster's, so the hosts served that, along with a leg a lamb (it was good Aussie lamb, too!) and plenty of fine Australian wines.
We look forward to hearing about the Clark's daughter's adventures down under.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Australia Day Party

It was, in fact, Australia Day and some of the exchangees we spent the year with in Australia attended a party in Mississauga at the home of June Potts. Exchanglings from Woodstock, Tilsonburg, Toronto, and Oakville (that's us) met to drink a toast to Australia and exchanges, eat, and reminisce.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Amazing Race 12 Finale...The Amazing Race 13?

Being addicted to the Amazing Race, and having travelled to the other side of the world, over 60,000 km last year, I must point out that the Amazing Race 13 will probably be shot this spring (April?) or earlier (due to the writer's strike in the US).

Join in the fun of watching "the not exactly reality TV show" as people travel around the world doing not so realistic things...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth

I saw the film on opening night in Toronto back in the spring of 2006. I was impressed by both the brilliance of the documentary as a film, but also the powerful message that Al Gore was trying to communicate in it. There are lots of points to argue, and the polarised politicians and pundits are still arguing while the planet takes a tailspin down the drain.
I had to watch the film 4 times this week as all the Grade 8 Science classes watched it as an introduction to "Water Systems." It is as strong a message now as it was in '06. People who have not seen it should be embarrassed to say so. I recommend that you do. Judge for yourself.