A little out of chronological order, but some images from a great stopover in Liverpool, despite the bitterly cold winds and sleet off the Mersey, a definite sense of unaffected welcome.
I arrived at Norwich in the dark, making good use of the onboard GPS as it directed me through the hodge podge of maze like streets that characterise these places that have grown up around market squares, castles or cathedrals.
The Maids Head actually takes its name, not from a Maid as such, but rather a type of fish! The hotel is a jumble of buildings, with the restaurant on the site of a 12th Century monastery.
The bar and restaurant staff; as well as serving fine food and ale, (I had the apricot stuffed pork fillet), were also able to provide some suggestions for live music so, after dinner, I headed off to walk amazed through cobbled streets and find The Wild Man, where a band was playing covers of 60s British covers of Chuck Berry, vintage Rolling Stones, Beatles etc.
A great little pub with plenty of locals having a happy Saturday night.
After attending TeachMeet BETT on Friday 1st Feb, it was time to leave London. I’d hired a car to pick up and drop off at Gatwick and had no real plans beyond finding the villages in Hertfordshire which had been the home to the Pryor family prior to their emigration to NSW in 1838.
The transfer to Gatwick suffered a minor hiccup when I discovered that the District Line tube was closed for trackwork and I needed to take my first trip in a London cab across to Victoria station to catch the Gatwick Express.
Arriving at Gatwick, I was provided with my ride for the week. Rentalcars.com had advertised a special which offered a BMW (or similar) for only about $70 AUD extra for six days than a Ford Focus (or similar). What the heck? I ended up with a Volvo wagon which had me initially thinking: ‘this is not a beamer.’ It proved to be an excellent vehicle however: leather seats, beautiful suspension, inbuilt GPS, great sound system with bluetooth etc etc. Plus, a diesel engine which provided heaps of power and the ability to effortlessly glide along at 70-80mph – the traffic flow speed on the motorways here.
Around the M25 and onward North, with some hastily scribbled directions in Evernote, to find Kelshall and Therfield: neighbouring villages in Hertfordshire.
Here, amongst the green and richness of the countryside, it’s hard to imagine the dire situation back in the 1830s as the huge impact of industrialisation was taking its toll across the rural sector, leading to the passing of “Poor Laws” and the creation of assisted passage schemes and emigration of rural workers to NSW as a means of alleviating pressure on the need to provide for rural people approaching poverty, and also to boost the potential rural productivity of NSW by providing skilled farm workers.
Sheep grazing lift their heads at the sound of a vehicle and rush closer: no doubt driven by the understanding that, when a pick is unavailable due to snow, the roadside cribs would be filled with feed.
This conditioning is reminiscent of similar scenes back home on the farm when the sheep would rush toward the Landrover knowing that it contained feed: ironically, in times of drought.
The Fox and Duck was clearly a happy haven where it was possible to enjoy a quiet pint, a cup of tea, some lovely wines and what looked like excellent food.
It was now on to Norwich, via Cambridge.
The impact of the industrial revolution and its disruptive nature can sometimes be seen starkly.
After trundling along past a huge brick wall for hundreds of metres, I turned down a street and found that it encircled what used to be the Tobacco Dock, just one of many dock areas which made up the former Port of London and one of the later evolutions of dock areas, providing greater security of inbound cargoes to minimise piracy and pilfering by mudlarks.
After following a series of canals which are now lined with housing, the path burst out onto the Thames bank, just East of Tower Bridge. Where formerly there was a babel and bustle of commerce and boats, there is now a view of massive contrasts.
Fascinating juxtaposition of images of the past, present and possible futures.
can only imagine how it must have looked when Monet painted this picture of a similar view.
Many of the old docks were reclaimed as the coming of steam ships meant larger ships, and their inability to come this far up river. Ships having to dock down at Tilbury and trans-ship cargoes by barge made this uneconomical and so change occurred. Just as today’s impact of the Digital Revolution has made some places and careers and skills redundant, here too is direct evidence of shift happening.
The river bank was dotted with pubs and warehouses. One, the Prospect of Whitby, still serves cask ale on the same spot it has occupied for over 400 years. I can just imagine that on a lovely summer day, the upstairs terrace, overlooking the river must be an awesome place to enjoy a pint!
Just to the north east of here is Shadwell Basin, one of the surviving former docks: connected to the Thames by a channel which now plays host to an outdoor adventure business; high ropes course, kayaks and climbing wall.
I used my City Cycle app to find the location of another Boris Bike rack and walked up to hire another bike and head East along the Cycle ‘Superhighway.’
First stop was the dock area at Limehouse, where new housing surrounds the former dock, where old riverboats with cute names like ‘Nifty’ act as houseboats and the DLR rushes across the viaduct in the background to Limehouse Station.
The cycleway continues on, East toward Canary Wharf and a veer left toward East India, on through Canning Town and then past the Emirates cable car and the new ExCel.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked on my app and had wrongly assumed that there would be Boris Bike docks at ExCel. Um, wrong!
The nearest dock was at East India DLR station so..a return cycle into the howling westerly which had forced the suspension of the cable car service and around 2k back to dock the bike at East India before getting the DLR back to ExCel!
Feasting on the bones of a rich heritage of comings and goings. East India DLR
Wednesday 30th January 2013 was the reason for travelling all this way. My presentation at BETT was scheduled in the very first speaking spot, at 10.15am on a packed three day program.
Using Photo Booth on the laptop for a quick ‘selfie’ ready to don an outer layer and grab a ‘Boris Bike‘ to ride, with laptop etc in backpack, down to Shadwell station to catch the DLR, (Docklands Light Rail) down to ExCel.
ExCel was one of the venues purpose built for the 2012 London Olympics and hosted a range of sports including judo and weightlifting. It then played host to the London Summit, with speakers like US President Obama.
Despite the DLR being absolutely crammed full with people off to BETT and Cisco live, it was still a very effective way to get there, and the registration process was smooth.
The speaking hall was integrated within the enormous Show area, with lots of background noise. I’d been made aware of this in briefing info and had made sure that slides were simple, yet highly visual. By the time my session kicked off it was pleasing to see a decent audience. The session was chaired, and I was introduced by Jim Wynn, Head of Group Education Strategy at Promethean.
This, from Rob Brocklebank, a teacher from Northern England,
and this, from Tom Doust.
It was then off to the ‘BETT Staffroom’ to use a set of Apple ear buds and mike with the iPad mini to FaceTime with Lynette back in Newcastle. It worked really well and is certainly an excellent way to keep in touch.
The atmosphere inside the huge Show area was amazing. A vast array of suppliers but a great focus on how the stuff can actually be used to engage and to promote active learning. It was possible to see real teachers demonstrating what they do using products on display and to see groups of students also outlining how they use various forms of ICT and hands on learning in what they do.
And, in some shameless celebrity crawling, he was good enough to have a pic taken with me.
Hours of wandering and listening followed until a pre-arranged meeting at the Feedback Booth where I’d be asked to provide a Video Interview to be used as part of the promo showreel for BETT 2014.
The show’s on for another few days and I’ll be taking part in a Transformational Learning Summit this afternoon, and then being part of TeachMeet BETT on Friday evening and looking forward to the chance to hopefully do a quick ‘micro presentation’ for the 250 or so UK teachers present.
In the meantime, here’s a slideshow of images from the day. It ended with a trip on the DLR back to Shadwell, with some rare sunshine lighting up the high rise buildings around Canary Wharf, and a few cold cans of Abbot Ale juggling around in the backpack on my bike ride back to the apartment.
Last year, I was contacted by Mango Media who are handling all of the publicity for BETT 2013 and asked the question that many seem to ask when the conversation follows the lines of: “So, you’re speaking at a conference: whaddaya gonna be talking about?”
Here is the piece I provided for their pre-conference material. I’m looking forward to doing an interview with their team following my session on Wednesday.
I hope, as the school year is set to begin in Australia, and term has just resumed in the UK, and as states and districts in the US continue their juggling acts around ideology, public policy and budgets, that the message comes through loud and clear of the crucial role of teachers as ‘human disruptives,’ capable of working with communities to plan schools as places which optimise student engagement and learning which for them, is real.
Whaddaya gonna be talking about?
It’s a lovely spring day here in Australia in late October 2012. The school year is into its final term, and tens of thousands of students are being ushered into large halls to take part in their final examinations: the Higher School Certificate. These students all commenced their school experience as Kindergarten students way back in the year 2000, and have spent the last thirteen years in this place we call school.
Why? Why do we have school anyway?
Since the year 2000 dawned, and the threat of the impact of Y2K on worldwide digital systems proved to be not all that it was cracked up to be, we have seen huge movements in the ways that we engage with the world around us. Facebook has only been around since 2007 and yet, for the students regurgitating their learning in laboured longhand, it is a part of their life which isn’t going anywhere. The web has moved from web 1.0 to 2.0 and onward to the semantic web.
Yet, we still, as a community, accept that we will compel our children, at one of the most critical developmental phases of their lives, to attend an institution which bases its operation and expectations around a role which may most appropriately be described as both a ‘rite of passage’ and a ritual of ‘socialisation.’ As we steer our schooling vehicle toward an uncertain horizon of possibility we seem to have a disproportionate interest in what we can see in the rearview mirror.
There is no suggestion that we do away with the notion of school. What do we give as answers, though, to the question: “Why do we have school?” Does what we continue to do actually achieve the intended outcomes, or are there, in fact, other ways that we could do this?
Access to online delivery and the sophistication of binary suggestion provides a seemingly obvious solution to learning and content transmission. As teachers, however, we need to remain critically aware of our unique human ability to disrupt the logic of the binary world and introduce additional perspectives of objects and subjects which tap that deep well of humanity which is evidenced in awe, wonder and curiosity about the world around us.
Our biggest challenge is to engage communities in being part of the reimagination process. In particular, as we move toward the middle of the second decade of the 21st century, we need to engage with the adults who are the parents of the children we are about to meet.
Amongst these adults will be tweeps and mummy bloggers: intuitive users of social media available right now and not likely to go away anytime soon. People with huge opportunities for canvassing opinion and gaining input to a range of ideas about school and schooling: and their own child. From contentment with ‘getting what they got,’ to ‘expecting change, and wanting to see added value.’
Let’s see if we can engage them in going about the business of planning school; as opposed to school planning. Planning school is about being able to connect people and ideas; as well as using all available sources of data and information to collaborate across a range of forums and media, and then to design and create something which is different and which presents a futures aligned, and obvious, answer to the question “Why do we have school anyway?”
And, as a sobering postscript, a reminder in a link provided by Yong Zhao, of some of the sad possibilites when we seek to provide inappropriate answers to that most basic of questions.
Let’s hope 2013 is a great one for our young people.
Did you ever see something which brings a distant memory bursting to the forefront of your consciousness? Yesterday, I rounded a corner in Southwark and came upon the Golden Hind: Sir Francis Drake’s flagship.
Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe – Henry Newbolt
Just along the bank from here, at Hays Galleria, was a magnificently crafted dock; where the tall ships would be jostled into position to unload their cargoes from far away places.
While we may look back at the growth of the British Empire with a view of some of the less pleasant aspects, and clashes with cultures and entire populations, there is still a huge amount of admiration to be held for those who sought to expand their view of the world. While motives may often have been about commerce and strategic power, there was still much which was driven by human curiosity and endeavour.
The Clink, the Globe, and the view of St Paul’s across the river. Never seen before, yet part of my dreaming.
While perceived enemies of the realm and threats to the primacy of the monarch were being held across the river in the Tower, there were those who ventured forth, to lands unheard of, bringing back new ideas, knowledge and an increasingly wider world view.
As we head further into a new and rapidly evolving century, we may reflect on the the words of Helen Keller, and the need for us; for the sake of our children, to be optimistic.
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” -Helen Keller
I had set off from Aldgate East on one of London’s great hire bikes and ridden across the Tower Bridge and along the south bank. The lyrics of the song seem to say it all.
Ever since I can remember, as a young boy growing up on a farm in Wongo Creek, in country NSW, I’ve always wanted to visit London.
Now, after enduring a record breaking 45 degree day in Sydney a week ago, I’ve just been out for a walk around some of the places which have been so familiar and yet, until now, so distant.
The flight via Dubai consisted of around 21 hours flying time to arrive at London Gatwick airport where the entry process was hassle free and soon saw me aboard the Gatwick Express and, 30 minutes later, alighting at London Victoria Station. I’d booked a room at the Grosvenor, right next door to the station and, after a shower to wash away the grit of a long flight, set off to the nearby Shakespeare Hotel to sample some of the draught cask ale, still hand drawn by pump.
An uneventful night’s sleep and an orientation walk was on the cards.
heads warm in busbies, marching at their stations to keep warm.
It was a good opportunity to test out my cold weather clothes and, after a few hours out in the London Winter, I figure it’s manageable.
I might even have a go at one of the great share bikes which are everywhere throughout the streets.
Along past Big Ben, and the massive Houses of Parliament, and the reminders of the development of parliamentary democracy, I am taken by the lonely statue, just past the Sovereign’s entrance, of Emily Pankhurst; whose actions and drive were so important.
As I wandered through the streets back to the hotel for a midday checkout, I found an 02 shop and managed to get connected with a 2gb prepaid nano sim for the iPad mini.
Now, off to check out the tube to Aldgate and check in at my Air BnB apartment for the week.
So far, it has been a fascinating revelation; around every corner, of places and things previously only ever part of my imagination. As educators, or as humans, we need to remind ourselves of the value of creating dreams and aspirations, and the resolve to achieve them, wherever possible.
The Muloobinbah floating dock has been a looming presence in Newcastle Harbour since 1978, the year I began teaching after leaving Newcastle at the end of 1977. The Newcastle Herald reported its arrival in Newcastle.
Named for the harbour in which it spent its working life, today, the dock departed: heading for a new job in South Africa.
Like so many things, getting used to the fact that something familiar isn’t going to be around any more is a disruptive process.
For me, having the time and opportunity to bid farewell, at the end of the year in which my career finished, was a poignant time.
Here’s my record of the event, with a bit of homemade Otis Redding thrown in for effect.
I’ve been speaking in a range of presentations lately about the critical role that teachers will continue to play in a binary world. As the semantic web, with its increasingly complex algorithms, steers us toward the similarities of purchases or downloads, humans have the capacity to ‘disrupt:’ to create environmental changes or to make suggestions and introduce new ideas which facilitate other possibilities. The value of this relies heavily on the motivation for doing so.
One of the emails sent to me this week, when I announced that medical retirement had brought a career of almost 35 years to a close, quoted Martin Luther King, speaking in 1968 about the motivations we have for doing things. It is hoped that this blog will reflect these ideas.
“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question,
‘Is it safe?’
Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’
And Vanity comes along and asks the question,
‘Is it popular?’
But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”