My learning in London

I used my ipad to navigate the massive unknown city easily. I felt like I was learning on my feet. I was continually adjusting my expectations and flowing with whatever happened.
I had a goal of meeting some London tweachers and one in Essex but unfortunately to circumstance meeting them did not eventuate. Not to worry as I will catch up another way.
However the greatest learning happened with me. I have booked to be in China for 6 days but if I organised my visa too early, it would no longer be valid when I got there.
So via the Internet I managed to schedule a meeting with the London Chinese Visa Office. I needed a letter of invitation from a contact in China and copies of variety of papers. This was all achieved and I needed to return a few days later to collect my visa and my passport.
I took the opportunity of visiting my dad’s family in Essex and it was exciting to visit the area that his father came from. Using technology I put the cousins together using facetime and to watch the pair chat excitedly to each other was priceless. Face to face communication via video chat is becoming easier to use than a phone and a lot cheaper too.
The closest that I got to a local school was staying right behind one in the town of Maldon.
Maldon is world know for Maldon salt. My second cousin whom I had never met put me up for two nights and spoilt me rotten with her time and hospitality. It was such a lovely experience to meet family and its as though I have known her all my life.
To get to Maldon, I took the National Rail to Chelmsford and then caught the bus to Maldon. On the bus I had a lot of help for some locals who directed me when to disembark. I loved hearing the almost cockney accents.
After doing the reverse trip, I was soon back in London and spent the afternoon travelling to Twickenham and discovered it as the centre place for English rugby. I popped there to visit a brother of an old friend.
The following day I took a full days tour to visit Kensington Palace, Stonehenge and then Bath. All were amazing places of history. I particularly loved Stonehenge and could have easily spent more time in Bath for its fascinating history.
During the trip, I was exhausted and as soon as I got on the bus, I was asleep and only woke to get off and visit these amazing places. My biggest learning is pacing myself and not to stress if things do not eventuate. Use every challenge as learning and try and eat properly and drink my water. Plan time to write and to catch up with family and friends back home. I love using instagram and twitter as a way of micro blogging and sharing photos with my friends and family back home. I have also started to use viddy more with short snippets of video to help visualise my journey. I am challenged with using facebook and think I would like to create a slideshare next from Denmark and include audio to share with the children at Newmarket School.

Tips for London

In London, I rode the buses, the trains and the tube to get around
One great idea is to get the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and from there, you can literally get anywhere in London. The journey takes 15 minutes so well worth the extra. To get to my accommodation I booked a prepaid Heathrow Express online, but this is not really necessary as there are kiosks for buying tickets. The journey took 15 minutes and it was in air-conditioned cabins.
Again Viatorwas most useful for tours. Here are the current deals for London. One tour I took was visiting the Eye. I took this one so that I get a Birdseye view of London. One recommendation is not to visit in the late afternoon and the position of the sun made it challenging to get any decent photos. And get the fast track ticket. The normal queue was a 3 hour wait.
I visited family in Essex and took the National Rail line to get to them. The Train line,  and City Planner and National Rail are great apps to download. It is probably a good idea to zoom out on google and identify the area you choose for accommodation. Most have a local rail link that easily connects to the main tube systems.
For dinner, I recommend finding La Fiama a little Italian restaurant that makes the most amazing and reasonable authentic Italian food. I got to meet Fanco Manco the pizza Chef.
My accommodations included the Crown Plaza and the Best Western to be close to the Chinese visa application. Both I got through last minute deals. If you use any website for cheap accommodation do pop onto Trip Advisor and see what the latest feedback is.
The Crown Plaza was most luxurious but they were going through renovations. Fortunately I was waking really early so construction sounds did not bother me from 8.00am. The Best Western, was great and suited me fine and I think that it is time for New Zealand to consider selling single rooms in stead of just doubles. After returning from Essex I stayed at the Hyde Park Boutique. They put me in a basement room. Again I was happy with the accommodation.
To get around I used the fantastic Oyster Card system.  For ENG 2.50 you can hop on a tube and for Eng 1.50 you can get around on the busses. This was a tip that I received from a coupe of friends who had recently been through London.
So in all using the buses are a cheaper way to getting around the centre, but the tube is definitely faster. Without the oyster card, the trips would be double in price. . There were times too that I used the black cab, but that was usually if I was a little lost. The cabs are constructed in a way that there is heaps of space near seating for luggage. They were always clean and again I felt really safe. The drivers were generally helpful and polite. I only had one cabbie offer to help me with my bags.
Both hotels had free wifi, but both sucked and I was lucky to have purchased a simm card at Paddington station with 2 GB of data. I used 1.5 KB of data during my total time so was able to see that I need about 2 KB per week.
In total I spent six days in London. Having access to the WiFi allowed me to move around easily and flexibly. Two of those e days included visiting Essex and Twickenham. It was a pain sorting out my Chinese visa but yet at the same time the challenge all added up to the adventure.
Being conscious of weight, I off loaded a few clothes and put all the extra books in my back bag. At the airport I came in at 22 Kg and they let me through.
London was fascinating. I loved the massive mix of cultures and languages. There were lots of free stuff to do and by riding the transport system you can get around many places easily.
I sometimes tipped for services or if I was helped with my bag. London highlights included the day tour that visited Kensington Palace, Stonehenge, and Bath. I really wished I could have had extra time, as I was also keen on getting to Dover. I loved people watching, riding the transport systems and eating amazing Fish and Chips at the local pub.
I was fortunate to meet a Finnish girt and her mother and we had an interesting discussion about her schooling. She was 12 years old and fluent in 3x languages. I watched them get online and access all the information they needed in Finnish so again, the children we teach must be digitally literate.  She helped her mum navigate the tourist information and the transport system in Finnish.
It was good to have all my food served on normal plates and to eat with a real knife and fork. I felt safe wherever I went. Maybe next time, I would come back for a longer time and get out of London faster. 

Flat Classroom Conference 2013


On Tuesday 23rd of July I finally met Julie Lindsay at Kapiolani park. I had come especially to Hawaii to attend the Flat Classroom Conference 2013 held at Punahou School.
The theme for the conference was ‘Thinking globally but acting local = glocalisation. The challenge was to create a pitch, work collaboratively to come up with a video product that is embedded on our team’s wiki page.
We were provided with the opportunity of visiting the Omidyar Kindergarten and First Grade Neighbourhood part of the school for ages 4- 6 years olds. I was blown away by the design of the rooms and by the amount of equipment each class had access to. As can be expected, the children were not in school but teachers were around preparing for the new year. I since found out that Pierre Omidyeawas a past pupil of Puhanou School. Omidyea was the founder of ebay. Other past pupils to note include Barack Obama and Nainoa Thompson. There are many others and many past students have gone on to be leaders in a variety of fields.
The Flat Classroom conference was a lot of fun and was more than what I expected. There were 9 countries represented and 40 schools from around the world. We were given the opportunity of working with educators on a global project. I was part of team 2 and we called ourselves Heat 2 Heart Team.
First of all we needed to develop a pitch for a global project. Then we presented this to the students and they gave us feedback. Students did the same thing and presented back to the teachers for feedback. After that we created a visual presentation of our pitch and embed this onto our wiki.
We began with 8 teacher teams but by the end of the second day it was down to just our team. So we had the opportunity of developing a video. There were 6x members on our team and this included Anitawho was an expert at video editing using imovie, Bill who had some really great ideas, Ryan who kept the memories by taking heaps of photos and movies, Hui-Mei who was an expert with podcasting and quickly whipped up our audios and myself with strengths in wikis. In and out we also had Maria who provided some administrative angles and Kumu Tai, who joined us later and gave us the Hawaiian perspective. We were encouraged not to rely on google because this was still blocked in many countries. So using google docs, google presentations etc had to be adapted. Therefore we used slideshare and wikis. Padlet and etherpad was a little clunky on the ipad.
On the final day, the students’ presentations were stunning. I felt proud of our team that we completed our product but the work of the students really blew me away. They had some great ideas. The theme coming strongly from the students was their awareness about sustainability. Remaining students created a sharing of their cultures and this was a lot of fun to watch.
I took away from the conference the idea that we can create some stunning global projects but working together is the real gift of global projects.
I enjoyed my group immensely and by the end I wished I had booked some extra time to stay in Hawaii. I have created an #fclive group on Google for my team to keep in contact and I hope that we do carry through meeting up together and even doing something together online.
I also was able to meet other teachers such as Vicky Davies,  Teresa Allen and Frank Guttler who came in as part of the Flat Classroom Team. All are stunning global educators too. I also met Emily McCarren who was coordinating the event for Punahou School. Other interesting people I met was Kumu Tai and Kumu Malia. Both celebrate the Hawaiian language and culture at Punahou School.
In Punahou school they collected rain water in bioswales for watering their beautiful gardens. They provide the children with the chance of growing their own food gardens, classrooms used photovoltaic solar panels to collect energy for lighting and the use of skylights was evident. I didn’t see paper used as much as how we use paper and one of the teachers said that most stuff is created digitally. The mountain behind the school is known as U’uonamoa and blocked the rivers. Legends share that when the Hala Tree was pulled up a new spring appeared.
The Flat Classroom conference ran over three days and each day there was a lot of educator learning. The best part was making connections and collaborating with a group of passionate educators and seeing what happens when we all work together.

Being a tourist in Hawaii

In Hawaii, I rode the Waikiki Trolleys around Waikiki and Oahu.
There was the Pink Trolley that covered the central area of Waikiki. Then there was the red trolley that covered the historic sights of Waikiki. Next there was the green trolley that covered tourist highlights around Waikiki and finally there was the blue trolley that covered the sights on the Eastern side of Oahu.
One of the best apps I found was Viator. This came via my hairdresser Tim, who is the font of all knowledge and teaches me heaps about mobile technology. Here are the current deals for Hawaii. One tour recommended was a 6.30am sunrise tour to the top of diamond head. I took this one so that I could complete the climb before the heat of the day. I climbed Diamond Head however it made little difference as it was hot as when we got there and the sun was already up. In the afternoon, I booked and took the Polynesian Centre tour which included a luau, and Al’ii entertainment.
Another evening, I travelled on the Star of Honolulu which took us out to see and came back just before nightfall. We had dinner and Hawaiian entertainment. I think next time I would take the evening cruise on a stylised Hawaiian vaka
My accommodations included Stay Waikiki on Koa avenue. I booked this online through Hotels.com. This was a 3 star hotel and after reading suggestions on Trip Advisor, I took sleeping eye pads and ear plugs. I also had booked in the Atherton YMCA for a week, but the heat got to me and I returned to the hotel.
The hotel was clean and adequate and you get what you pay for so be prepared. If you want the flasher rooms then book in the more expensive rooms. The bonus was it was one block back from the beach, cheap and I felt safe. The staff are really friendly. If you choose to stay here, then ask for a fridge because they do not come with the rooms and ask for a room above the 5th floor. On my last day, I found out that there was also laundry facilities in the basement. I had been washing my clothes by hand and hanging them out on the balcony. They were usually dry by the time I came back in the afternoon. Remember to get a stretchy camping line for washing. Be prepared for the SLOW as lifts.
To get around I used the amazing Honolulu The Bus system.  For US$2.50 you can hop on a bus and get a transfer bus pass that allowed continuation of a second trip. So in all using the buses is a cheap way of getting around the Island. There were times too that I used Eco Cabs and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They were always prompt, cabs are clean and again I felt really safe. The drivers were really helpful and polite. To get to my accommodation I booked a prepaid shuttle through viator and that was such a good idea. When I got off the plane, my pick up was waiting with my name on an A4 Card so no problems.
Stay Wikiki had free WIFI and included Island wide WiFi but the speed was too slow for me so I ended up purchasing a Go to Simmand unlimited plan for the 10 days I was here. This allowed me to see that I would not be needing my cell phone much longer. Just an ipad and a data simm. I wonder how long before the telecommunications would see the importance of just offering data. The costs worked out at about $5.00US per day for unlimited access. I used this to face time family and friends back home and to upload videos and photos to my picassa and youtube channels. Mobile internet access allowed me to be totally independent.
For eating, I often had dinner at Blazing steaks on the corner  of Koa Road and loved their steak and shrimp special with salad. I also bought bananas and sometimes cut up pineapple from the ABC store. In addition I tried out Bubba Shrimps at Ala Moana restaurants.
Breakfast was part of my hotel and it was good to have just toast and coffee each morning. But you do pay extra for this via the amenities charge that you pay when signing out at $10.00 extra a day US.
I took some coffee sachets but in reality I have not missed having coffee.
In total I spent nine days in Hawaii. Having access to the WiFi allowed me to move around easily and flexibly. Some of the apps I used included The Bus, Viator, Trip Advisor, Maps.
Now when I left New Zealand my suitcase came in just on 23 Kilos. When I left Hawaii this had incread to 53 lbs and at the aiport I needed to take off the children’s books and put them in my hand luggage or this was going to cost an extra $200.00 US. So whether the humidity had expanded my clothing, I don’t know. I did not buy anything extra. I can already see that I bought far too many clothes. Within 4x days, I lost a towel, two sunhats and a pair of glasses.
I loved my time in Hawaii. The people were really friendly and generally helpful. There are lots of free stuff to do and you do not have to spend a fortune to have a good time. I was not quite used to tipping but got better at it by the time I left. Some of my tourist highlights included the Ukulele Festival at Kapiolani Park, walking to the top of Diamond Head, visiting Hanauma Bay, just seeing trees laden with mangoes. I also loved watching the Hula on the beach and hearing the Hawaiian language making a comeback.

On reflecting, I was a tourist in this beautiful place and was acutely aware of my own contribution to the demise of the environment. Plastic was used everywhere. Even at the school where our lunches were served on polystyrene plates and we used plastic cutlery. In the hotel I stayed at, it was the same. The huge amount of waste. Eg: there was no recycling bin for scrap foods. One local said ‘But time is important and it costs to get someone to wash dishes.’ Yet waste was heavy on my mind. Buying fresh mangoes or other fruit was not as easy as I thought. Except for apps, oranges and bananas, everything was precut in plastic containers.

Presenting TeachMeetNZ at Eduignite

TeachMeetNZ from Ulimasao Van Schaijik

Kia Ora, Talofa and greetings everyone.
My name is Sonya Van Schaijik
I am a teacher at Newmarket School in Auckland New Zealand.
My topic tonight is the Joys of Google Hangout.
However it is more about sharing the story around setting up TeachMeetNZ and the people involved.
“TeachMeet was never about technology 100%, it was about the Teach first of all, and the tech was instrumental to achieving what we wanted to achieve pedagogically and never the other way around.” Ewan Macintosh
NZ is aiming for New Zealand Educators to share and the virtual is the online part.
The journey is two years old and began with the Reform Symposium when there was a call for moderators for the unconference.
I agreed to be a moderator and Kimberley Rivett was a presenter.
We used elluminate to present with.
Then in 2012, a call for virtual presenters came via Arjana of TeachMeetInt.
It was a 3.00am session on September 29. The session featured speakers from 16 countries sharing their passion.
After that we had the Google summit at Albany College and I heard Tony Richards speak on Google Hangouts. We were able to see a live hangout in session. I was inspired and the seed started growing.
Next in March of this year, Steve put a call out for moderators for the School Leadership Summit using Blackboard. I offered to be a moderator and looked after three online presentations.
During the second TeachMeet Int, there was a system crash. It was 4.00am. I was 6thin line to present and there had been problems. So I flicked over to slideshare and presented using the audio on Elluminate. The idea was taking shape.
Two weeks later at Ignition in May coordinated by Mark Osborne , I placed a notice up if anyone wanted to trial google hangout and to present a nano presentation. There were 6 people who joined the discussion and I shoulder tapped others.
I spoke with Arjana about using the TeachMeet format and she put me in contact with Ewan McIntosh. He was supportive and directed me to the TeachMeet Wiki and said, help yourself.
We agreed on a date and my team of helpers supported me in ironing  out all the glitches. I am grateful for their help. We live streamed all the training and mistakes. So that they could be rewound and learnt from.
We used twitter to communicate, slideshare and google presentations to share the work, Google Hangout to come together and sort any challenges and wikispace to aggregate and live stream our work.
Any challenges with the tools, we faced together and sorted out together.
The week before the first session, I lost a presenter and the day before I lost another. Both cancellations were for valid reasons.
Ah Huh moments happened. I quickly saw the potential of the tool for learning. I can see the principal recording a message for our parents. I can see school events being live streamed. I can see teachers giving live messages to parents.
The TeachMeetNZ project is the final part of my efellow learning about hyperconnectivity It has allowed me to rethink the ways that teachers can share learning. The project has also allowed me to focus on my own learning and hyperconnecting and developing the face to face connections as is stressed by Mark Pesce.
The format of the sessions involves each presenter with a 3 minute slot. The rest of the participants turn off video and mic to conserve bandwidth.
Questions and comments take place on twitter.
Our second TeachMeet was a lot easier because I knew the tools so much better and the training sessions were focused.  Again I shoulder tapped a few teachers and this time we had observers from Korea and Saudi Arabia.
A good idea is to include the audience almost by acting out a part. For our second session we had a an audience viewing of 89 with some from Brazil and India. This video has already passed 100.
Each participant introduces themselves and sets up and flicks on their presentation. Everyone is encouraged to say where you are from and even what the weather is like. Our second session had presenters fro  Christchurch and Nelson.
I challenge you to have a go.
You get to meet some amazing educators almost face to face.
You end up with a product for your portfolio including a TeachMeetNZ badge.
If you want to know more or would like to be part of the next TeachMeetNZ session using Google Hangouts and if you are not attending Ulearn, then please send me a tweet or an email.
Faafetai lava everyone .
Thanks for your time.

Travel Map

Today I began my 100 day Project. It is thanks to Justine Driver that I first learnt about the project. I am using this opportunity to write a little everyday. For me the real focus of my 100 day project is about making connections. Ideally it should be face to face connections. But it could also be digital connections in preparing for face to face connections. For example meeting Justine face to face after following her on twitter. 
The second part of my 100daysproject is to get into the habit of daily writing for when I take a TEACHNZ sabbatical. I will add one photo or a video clip and write about the event.
So my first entry and photo is about the places that I have booked to visit. My first face to face will be with Julie Lindsay from the Flat Classroom project. We will be meeting in Honolulu at the Flat Classroom conferenceand I am really excited to be meeting her. I have scheduled my travels to take in the conference so that I may meet global educators and leaders.