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A different kind of stress

Writing technical papers is a different kind of stress to others.  Normally, I aim high in the world of my own standards when I write.  I aim to be happy with the resulting work, more than just meeting or exceding the assignment criteria.

However, writing technical papers and the thesis is different.  It is an interactive process.  The landscape changes.  People actively read my drafts.  I receive meaningful feedback.  I help to make sense of the world and also help the world to make sense of me.  What a strange experience!

While the thesis is shaping up, a lot of other written tasks are coming into shape as well.  I am surprised.  I thought everything else would crumble into piles of meaningless syllables.  But no, it is not so bad at all.  In pushing my boundaries, I seem to me to be increasing my ability to understand and be understood by others. 

The scary thing about being understood when one writes for oneself is that there may not be anything beyond the first paragraph.  Nothing is left to discover because the secret to understanding the meaning of the work is revealed to all who can broach the first couple of sentences.

Clearly, this makes no sense for someone who wants to write lots.  Why write in an impenetrable style?  Who wants to read gobbledy gook, anyway? 

So, my big discovery appears to be that plain English is not really boring if it leads to technical English.  Technical writing is more about leaving out the cultural fluff and putting in interesting facts and connections.  Plain English is just about saying nothing for as long as possible until the goal posts move and policies change, so as not to incriminate anyone.

Welcome to a kind of stress that leaves me puzzled enough to need a break every now and then.  This technical writer’s stress is new to me, but not unbearable.  When I do go off on a new project, or take up an old one, things seem to make sense in a different way.  I quite like that.  It makes writing seem to be worthwhile, as it should, in my universe, at least.

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Girls’ Globe chats with Sarah Hendriks from Plan International

The call to action is great for girls at school, too.

Girls' Globe

DSC_0674Girls’ Globe had the pleasure to do a quick interview with Sarah Hendriks, global gender equality adviser for Plan International and the head of programs for Plan’s “Because I am a Girl”-campaign. Sarah talked to Girls’ Globe about her thoughts on the Women Deliver conference and the importance of these types of gatherings, shared with us what the Because I am a Girl-campaign is all about, and gave great tips about how anyone and everyone can do their part to contribute to gender equality and promote girls’ and women’s rights through smaller and bigger actions in our everyday lives! Check out what Sarah had to say, and also take a look at all the great work Plan is doing for girls and women around the world!

Any time you bring like-minded people from across the world together, I think you have the potential for magic to happen in terms…

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Library story time

This morning we went to the library to find books on fences.  Dad wants to put up a new one and he is starting to plan. 

Mum was looking for “Choice” magazines with information on dishwashers.  She likes to research appliances using that magazine as they provide lots of useful information.

I found Stafan Collini’s “What are universities for?” and a Sams Teach Yourself on “PHP, MySQL and Apache in 24 hours”.  While I was waiting I read some “Burda” magazines and “The Courier Mail” and “The Australian” newspapers for today.  I also changed Mum’s library card for the updated sort that can be used with the automated checkout machines.

It was story time for toddlers.  Oh what fun!  We heard “Incy, wincy spider” and “The very hungry caterpillar”, old favourites.  Actually, I have a primary school teaching contract next week, so story time was a good way to listen in on ways of engaging the little ones.  There was much excitement.  A one year old girl with a fascinating book clutched to her chest was running around the bookshelves squealing in delight as her Mother followed quickly in her footsteps.

We should have guessed it was story time, as the car park was fairly full on arriving and totally full as we left.  Story time was good, as long as there are other, more up to date stories to read while waiting. 

Then it was back to the message stream from my colleagues who are going to Helsinki.  I felt excited for them, too.  They will have such a good time!  I will be very busy here at home, thinking of them.  There is a hint of more to come for some of the group, the ones who are not going.  It will be great to hear what the next adventure will be.

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Online Courses – the ultimate shapeshifting challenge

While studying and researching using the internet lately, I have noticed how easy it seems to be to employ people to create new websites related to government services.  However, updating them is a whole different story.  They seem to disappear at a very fast rate.

This is particularly noticeable when looking at online vocational education and training courses.  I am amazed at how many redundant units are listed, often offered for recognition of prior learning.

Thinking about how this is going to look in the school setting is a bit disconcerting.  I can imagine teachers at home, feeding assignments through printers and software programs that provide automatic marking.  Then there will be course writers and content managers producing materials for students.  Someone might be supervising the students in the classrooms, but certainly not at home, as the parents will usually be at work.  Students whose parents do not work will want to know why they can’t study at home.

Then, when the certificate is printed off and the student proudly shows their accomplishments to prospective employers, the workplaces will have designed their own version of the courses which have to be studied and passed.  Students will be offered subsidised study, or wage-like benefits to become up to date.  The next intake of school students will be further behind company courses. 

A very Kafka-esque sequence of being up to date with what technology can deliver and industry can produce could ensue.  That is, if it is not happening already.  I hear they are providing SAP training at UTS in Sydney as an add-on course for the general public.

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10 Cabbages

My brother and nephew came to visit on Friday when I was out.  They brought Mum’s birthday present – 10 large cabbages!  She was amazed!  Although she likes vegetables, she is not so keen that she wants them every birthday.

However, she loves making her own sauerkraut, so I suppose she will be happy when all the work is done.  For now, it is just a lot of cutting and salting down and lots of fragrant cabbage odours while they ferment into sauerkraut.

She was flabbergasted at the time, but is now in the kitchen busy processing cabbages.  It is so odd.  We have a washing basket next to the kitchen full of big, round cabbages.  She has a shredding tool in the kitchen and is using it as I write.

I’m guessing this is the last time she will be receiving cabbages for her birthday.  She always says she does not want anything and that she has everything that she needs.  My brother is so good at noticing where there is a space for making her life more complete.

I just wonder what he has in store for my birthday.  I can hardly wait!

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Early Childhood studies

I discovered on Friday that I am doing a group of subjects called a “skill set” in Community Mental Health.  In four weeks, that course should be finished and there are a few assignments to do in between time.  The skills in working in a community mental health setting are relevant for Personal Fitness Training, teaching, career counselling and many other things. 

Our lecturer is the Course Coordinator, who is very experienced and a very effective teacher.  I have learned so much from her and the atmosphere of sharing and role play that we have in the classroom.  Today I completed an online unit in suicide prevention from the Salvation Army website.  There is another short techniques unit that complements it which I can use as well.  I think that can be used for credit in my course.

I love to see all the courses and supports available through the internet in the community health and mental health areas.  It is fantastic for teaching so that children have all the resources readily to hand when they need help, whether at school or at home.

Another area where there is a wealth of resources is the Early Childhood area.  I have a disc and some papers to work through as well as a 100 hours placement for that course.  During the week, I started to upload my documents to the internet so that I can find things when I need them.

My placement is for Year 1, so I need to find a school where I can do some supervised practicum.  There is a lot of community involvement in Early Childhood Education and it is very much in demand as a skill at present in Australia, the UK and other places.

As I am Montessori trained, and a LOTE teacher of Italian, it will also be relevant in those areas.  I love the idea that children have the option to go to a Montessori school and learn in a more exploratory and discovery-oriented way.

Holistic education is a great concept, although there is a limit to what can be covered in a school day.  Perhaps we just do the same things all the time and give them different labels and ways of theorising about our actions?  It must be more fun for teachers, though, because we are able to learn about areas in which we are interested to improve our practice in the classroom setting.

So I am looking forward to this kind of “bridging” program for me, with new things to study and the prospect of finishing up this Semester’s work in the coming couple of weeks.  It is always good to have covered a new area of professional development and gained new insight into how to allow children to aim high in the educational setting.

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Chapter One – tick

Yesterday I opened a new template for my thesis and wrote chapter 1.  The other template was a bit clumsy and this one is the preferred format from the university.

Now I have the first and last chapters in shape, still needing a bit of reworking.  I can move on to chapter 2.

Just being able to write in a technical style and relatively fluently is a huge blessing!  Now I can weed out superfluous words and approaches, irrelevant references and narrow down the waffly sentences.  I have no idea how this came about, but finally it is fitting together.

This morning, I felt so happy to be in control of the thesis.  It looks right.  I am starting to get a grip on the conceptual framework.  Research articles that I look up are easy to classify as part of other debates.  I can see where academics are trying to mark their own territories and start a substantial research domain of their own.  Perhaps I am decoding academia as I try to decode my own expansive style?

Three more chapters to fit into some semblance of order.  At least I have copious wordage with which to work;  many deleted chapters to trawl through should I need reminders.  Although I can see challenges ahead in refining my argument, the sentences themselves seem to provide the answers. 

Editing is making so much more sense to me now.  The comments of the examiners are finally meaningful.  That’s the hardest part.  Learning to read the minds of people in academia is no easy task.  There is so much clutter in there.  Just like there was so much clutter in my thesis – the old one, that is.