Thursday 11 December 2014

Time for my Blog to feel some love...

Wow. No blog post from me since April. Possibly no-one noticed (or cared?). I changed jobs in June and have been busier in my new job than ever, right up to the end of term.
On a positive note, next year I have a few lessons a week to devote to R & D on e-learning, and that is exciting. I even get a (small) budget - not enough for a set of Glass... :( However, might get a go at Cardboard, and there are a heap of tools I want to try out, such as Splashtop (already trialed this and found it great) and Air Parrot 2. I am specifically looking for ways to mirror Chrome and Android devices to my PC and thus the projector. I am looking for a bit of freedom from the front of class, and no, I won't just buy an iPad...

What a year this has been for Google and related stuff for education:

The Education Directory  lists all the GCTs, Education Trainers and Certified Trainers around the world, a great starting point if someone needs a little help.

Google Education Groups (GEGs) were launched and GEG NZ is off to a fine start, with several Hangouts On Air and one face to face meeting carried out. Again, good idea sharing, and more connections and networking.

Google Classroom has proven itself to be useful already, with one update fairly quickly implemented. I'm looking forward to seeing a way to organise the shared items better as another new feature soon.

The launch of more Nexus devices (yes please... I'll have a 6 and a 9 if possible) and Lollipop (although I love this, still needs some bugs fixing).

Just this week, Google announced merging cells in tables within Docs. It might seem like something small, but this could really nail those "I can't do without Microsoft Word" kind of arguments we hear from some people. Waiting patiently for our domain to get this update.

And of course, who could forget the Google Santa Tracker which lets you know where the big fella is. Very cool.

There are so many cool things I want to check out, and now I might have the time to do this (and get paid for doing it as well). 

I will be looking for advice and recommendations of other stuff I should check out - leave a comment if you like. So, suggestions please. What should I be trying as part of this role?

Oh, and a New Year's Resolution (starting from when we go back to school, end of January)- as I try things, I aim to update this blog at least once a fortnight (gulp, based on my track record...), Tweet and post to Google+ five times a week, and make this a part of my reflection on what I find out. Talk about unattainable targets!

Sunday 27 April 2014

Bio trip to Rotoroa.

For those of you not blessed enough to live in the gorgeous city of Auckland, it is situated on a huge harbour with loads of interesting islands and beaches to explore.
Rotoroa is one such island, tucked off the side of Waiheke in the Hauraki Gulf. It used to belong to the Salvation Army and was a secure environment used for helping addicts recover from alcohol and drugs. So why did we go there?
Well, the island has been handed over to be repopulated with native and endangered NZ species which might include tuatara, kiwi, takahe amongst others. Auckland Zoo are running this programme, and have been taking groups of students over to learn about the regeneration of the island.
As the students were older, we arranged to meet them at the local train station. This is always a moment of stress for me as we get to the stage where students leave it to the very last minute to turn up, or buy their tickets!
Somehow we managed to get onto the ferry on time, once biosecurity checks were completed (checking for mice in bags etc!). Rotoroa has been cleared of pest animals (bait drop of  brodifacoum in November) such as rats and mice. New Zealand has a real issue with introduced pest species and fat, flightless (and presumably tasty) native birds, most of which are critically endangered. We are overrun with pests that make life difficult for these birds, such as rats, mice, stoats and possums. The idea of the island is to make a sanctuary where native species can translocated to in safety.

The students were shown around by Tali and Rich from the zoo. Part of the day involved checking tracking

tunnels (real and set up for us to see). The purpose of these tunnels is to record in ink the footprints of species wandering in to have some of the banana or peanut butter used as baits. We encountered no 'live' prints, so it was probably good we had some set up ones to give the students an idea what animals could be present.

We also were given the chance to use telemetry equipment, admittedly we were tracking native animal toys as there is little other than weka (a type of rail) on the island already.
The final checks we did were on tree wraps and pitfalls looking for native or invasive fauna. Rich was demonstrating one wrap when a large weta that was hidden inside dived down his shirt (in case you have never seen one, have a look at this!) He managed to keep a straight face and not look bothered in front of the students! Well played, that man!

Rotoroa is going to be beautiful once the native plants have grown up and native animals are released. It is a privilege to see this kind of offshore island at this early stage of its restoration, and is somewhere I will return, as hopefully will the students, to watch it grow and develop. It will be another place where human activity is being rolled back to allow for a return to what New Zealand would have looked like before humans brought rats, stoats and possums (amongst others). Looking forward to more island sanctuaries and invites to come and see releases onto Rotoroa in time!

Thursday 27 February 2014

Totally doolally?

I was watching a quite old but mildly amusing film (The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain if you want to know specifics...) when one of the characters described someone as 'doolally tap' and this drew puzzled looks from my better half until I explained. It got me to thinking about the use of Indian/ Hindi/ Sanskrit/ Urdu words that are used in the English language. Okay, I know I am a science teacher, but the British period in India is one of my subjects of interest; my family were part of the Raj and we have a lot of connections with India, and five generations were born, worked and died there.

So, I know the Brits in India was not always a harmonious relationship, but there have been some good things to come both ways through the few hundred years since "Johnny Company" schmoozed their way in. Language has just been a small part of this, with the language of Indian government being English as it unified all of the regions who speak many languages and thousands of dialects. However, this was not a one-way process; there are lots of  words appearing in English from the sub-continent.

Lets start with doolally, or doolally tap to give it the proper name. Deolali in India was a transport camp, and the word tap comes from Sanskrit tapa  meaning fever. It meant madness through being in the heat of Deolali waiting to be sent to station somewhere else, so someone goes a bit doolally, they are a bit 'fevered'.
Other words, some you might know, some you might not are in daily use.

One might inclined to slip on pyjamas, which the lightweight trousers worn by men (one still buys a pajama suit, in fact I have a couple..). These are worn by men and women all over the region. Then you could leave your bungalow (originally from Bengal, a style of house there), and sit on the verandah. While there you could watch Avatar (avtar is Hindi for a form of God).

Even a catamaran comes from Tamil (originally kattumaram meaning tied wood), and of course settling down for a curry (kari / karhai) with a mango chutney (mangaai, chatni, meaning crushed) is a nod to Tamil.
Star Trek has also used Hindi / Urdu words, I suppose they sound sufficiently unusual: Ferenghi actually means foreigner, and Jemadar was a rank in the Indian army.

These are obviously very limited examples, there are actually hundreds of words, some obvious, others not so obvious (see, and of course many other languages have contributed to the language. Apparently the letter J did not even exist in English until the French invaded.

I have been delving into the world of the British-Indian relationship as I am researching some of the history from a genealogical perspective, but I find the deeper I dig, the more interested I get in all things about this. Sadly my granddad died when I was 10, and I missed the chance to ask him about his experiences, and my grandma was gradually afflicted with dementia before I became interested in this part of their lives. I am putting bits and pieces together, and my ultimate goal is another trip to India, particularly to Bellary, where my great-grandparents are both interred, probably in a 'plague pit' as they died from cholera. I hope some people will find my posts about this sort of thing as interesting as I do! More to come.