heritage and hysterics

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

This gorgeous photo of The Queen in Melbourne on the Royal Tram made me smile this morning.

I've long been a proponent of an Australian Republic - but the populist hysteria of politicians, this photo, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands is actually making me rethink that position.

At least for today.  Long may she reign over us.

"Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she rides on the royal tram down St Kilda Road"
Photo from Getty Images published on


Sticks and Stones and Speech

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

THE law does treat race differently: it is not unlawful to publish an article that insults, offends, humiliates or intimidates old people, for instance, or women, or disabled people. Professor Joseph, director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, said in principle ''humiliate and intimidate'' could be extended to other anti-discrimination laws. But historically, racial and religious discrimination is treated more seriously because of the perceived potential for greater public order problems and violence.

Peter Munro The Age  2 Oct 2011

Ahaaa. Now I get it! We've been doing it wrong. 

Racial villification is against the law because it might be more likely to lead to violence than villifying women, the elderly or the disabled.

Interesting debates and articles about free speech and discrimination are bobbing up and down in the flotsam and jetsam of the Bolt decision. Much of it seems to hinge on some kind of legal see-saw around notions of a bad law about bad words.

I've always been a proponent of the sticks and stones philosophy.  For those not familiar, it's the principle behind a children's nursery rhyme.

Sticks and Stones may break my bones
But  words will never hurt me

But I'm increasingly disturbed by the hateful culture of online comment.  I am a very strong proponent of the human right to free expression, and abhor censorship, but I'm seriously sick of "My right to free speech" being used as the ultimate excuse for people using words to denigrate, humiliate, intimidate, belittle and attack others, particularly women.

We should defend a right to free speech, but condemn hate speech when ever and where ever we see it.  Maybe we actually need to get violent to make this stop? Surely not.


Qantas Pilots

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

The Qantas Pilot Safety culture is something worth fighting to protect. I read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers whilst on board a Qantas flight recently. While Qantas itself isn't mentioned in the book, a footnote listed Australia as having the 2nd lowest Pilot Power-Distance Index (PDI) in the world. New Zealand had the lowest. The entire chapter "The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes" is the strongest argument I've seen which explains the Qantas safety record. The experience of pilots and relationships amongst the entire air crew is a crucial differentiating factor. Other airlines work hard to develop this culture, often needing to work against their own cultural patterns to achieve it. At Qantas, and likely at other Australian airlines too, this culture is the norm.

I want Australian Qantas Pilots flying Qantas planes. I'd like an Australian in charge too.

If you too support Qantas Pilots - go to their website, sign the petition.

Do your own reading.

G.R. Braithwaite, R.E. Caves, J.P.E. Faulkner, Australian aviation safety — observations from the ‘lucky’ countryJournal of Air Transport Management, Volume 4, Issue 1, January 1998: 55-62.

Anthony Dennis, What it takes to become a Qantas pilot, 8 September 2011.

Ashleigh Merritt, Culture in the Cockpit: Do Hofstede’s Dimensions Replicate?  Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, May 2000 31: 283-30.



Registering for LCA2012

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there. ballarat 2012

I am right now, at this very minute, registering for in Ballarat in January. Creating my planet feed. Yep. Uhuh.

I reckon the "book a bus" feature of rego is pretty damn cool.  I won't be using it, because I'll be driving up from Melbourne. Serious kudos to the Ballarat team. Also nice to see they'll add busses from Avalon airport as well as from Tullamarine airport if there's demand.

Too cool.


Printing History

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

Melbourne Museum of Printing - LOGOI recently kicked in a few dollars to the linotype film project. A bunch of guys are making a documentary about the famous linotype machine. Preserving this history is important, so I gladly chipped in a few dollars.

But it reminded me of an even more important project close to home.  The Melbourne Museum of Printing. I've still never got around to visiting, but I do hope to change that soon.  The website says they have a fantastic new location in Footscray, but are desperate for volunteers to help get it set up and operating.

Over the years they've run courses for students, graphic designers, academics and the curious of all shapes and persuasions to learn the precious arts of printing on paper with type. Whether handset or machine set, there is something about the very process of composing printed pages this way that gives you an understanding you just can't glean from digital methods.

I must make time, and spare some cash to support this incredible treasure in our midst.



Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

During the Open Space on Drupal and Education I scribbled some rough notes as folks introduced themselves and outlined their interest in the broad topic.

DrupalEdu - Learning - Teaching - UsingDistilling that interest into its purest essence, I'dsay that Drupal in Education is about Learning Drupal, Teaching Drupal and Using Drupal to support Teaching and Learning.

Mixel coordinated arranging the time, place and facilitated the action. He's been thinking and writing about issues around Drupal and Education for sometime now at He's also on twitter @mixelKiemen

Luke from Ecobee indicated an interest in Drupal Training, as did Fin. Who was also interested in Drupal for schools, and using Drupal for learning about web development. Which prompted me to make a note about looking at Drupal as a means for kids to do e-portfolios. I heard Lenva Shearing speak about eportfolios at the CEGSA conference last year. She referenced New Zealand work on Portfolios in educational practice that predates the "do it online" approach - which I've yet to track down. While Lenva herself wasn't a huge fan of Mahara, I think it's still worth looking at as a way web based technologies support teaching and learning - check out

Peter Jones introduced himself by saying he'd been a nurse for 40 years, and was now engaged in teaching clinical skills. He's started using Drupal to support his work on the Hodges Health Care Domains Model. This prompted me to think of TPACK - Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge  - and the intersection of different areas of knowledge - and those folk who develop expertise in the intersections really have a lot to offer and learn from each other. 

Peter also raised the importance of tracking student understanding - again, something portfolios are successfully addressing. 

Next up was Justin, also from Ecobee - who wanted to explore learning Drupal - how to learn, where to start? He said in the past when he needed to pick up a new language he picked up the thickest book he could find and read it from cover to cover, and whilst not a perfect method it did give him enough knowledge to know how to continue his self-learning journey.  There's nothing like this for Drupal, and Drupal is too vast for this approach. Nevertheless roadmaps are required to guide self-learners.  There are a lot of resources on line, but this is fragmented. Videos, books, projects such as the Kata and Dojo, training being provided by Drupal shops such as NodeOne, Previous Next, Chapter Three, Lullabot, Four Kitchens and by Acquia itself.

Consensus emerged there really is a need to have a clear starting point. What are the foundation skills required for learning how to use Drupal, and what should you learn first?  Later in the conference, Diana Dupuis from Four Kitchens presented beautifully her ideas on the key madskillz needed by a Drupalista. Heather James and Dominik Lukes also delivered a session during the conference outlining their background research on this very problem, and the start of a solution. Check out the recording of "How do you know that gal knows Drupal?"

But back to the Open Space session - Ian Lynch of INGOTs fame spoke about their experience in getting the INGOTs certification process accepted in the UK and EU, and the importance of a recognised certification or qualification in formal education.

Steven James and Jason Pamental from Schoolyard are working directly on delivering Drupal sites to K-12 schools in the US.  Jason also told us about Schoology - a great web app for teachers, built with Drupal. "Learn Together" is their slogan.

Carl Hinton from Tanzania works with Public Zone, sadly my notes are sketchy here, I've just written down charities and Moodle.

Phillip from a University Student Union highlighted the reality of using Drupal at the coalface - the real issues around using Drupal, learning how to use it, and the real benefits it offers the student cohort.

Chris was a freelance graphic designer, and has been working on Transition hubs.

Then we heard from Mieke and Ifung spoke briefly about the Learning Drupal meetups in London.

Victoria from the European Bioinformatics Institute is doing great things with Drupal and shared insights from the considerable research process her team went through to choose Drupal for their mission. Her experience as a classroom teacher, and web developer really showed.  I'm looking forward to learning more about what they're doing, and how they got there.  They evaluated Moodle and Atutor - and even though Drupal isn't a learning management system, it rose to the top to solve their issues.

Will Hall is a freelancer, interested in education issues, learning Drupal, and working on an LMS type solution.

Nick Abbot from i-Kos is a Drupal trainer with years of classroom experience and was keen to explore strategic marketing of Drupal to managers and decision makers in the education sector.

Eric Ludwig, director of learning services at Acquia also popped in to see what was going on.

Florian / Florence - something? I can't read my own handwriting said he'd just finished working with an apprentice and was soon to start mentoring two more.  This is an important, tried and tested way to gain skills, should we be looking at this further? I think so.

And a couple of people joined us later - I'm kicking myself I didn't write down their names. Before pausing for lunch  we broke up into smaller discussions.  I heard more from Ian Lynch on the progress of INGOTs and success in the European framework, and then sat at the "LMS" table. From that discussion, two action items emerged. One - to identify the current state of play - what available distributions are already targetting education, what are the common components, and really identify the problem we are trying to solve.  Which led me to suggest we need a catalogue of online pedagogies.  But, more on that another time, when I've had a chance to do some basic research.


Speaking at OSCON (and some secret discount codes)

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

After hearing such good things about it from my fossfolk friends over the years I'm delighted to be going to OSCON for the first time this year. Not only attending, but delivering a 3.5 hr tutorial on Inkscape.  It's scheduled for 9am Monday 25 July.

Inkscape: Basic Tools and Techniques

You can read the abstract on the OSCON site. They've opened session abstracts for comments. This is a great way to generate dialogue between speaker and attendees before the event. I'm not sure how successful it will be, but I'm all up for giving it a red hot go.  Drop me a line there if you're planning to attend my session. Let me know where you're at with Inkscape, and what you'd like to learn, and I may be able to customise my material for you in advance. Here's a quick screencast that show 4 different ways to draw a square.

Edit: Direct link to the screencast itself:

Edit: I've uploaded the SVG file used in the screencast. FourSquares.svg

Save 20% on OSCON Registration

Speaking of attending - O'Reilly have offered speakers a unique discount registration code - mine's not a hard secret to guess, it's Benjamin. If 5 people sign up for any package with my code, I'll get one free all access gold pass to the entire event to give to one lucky someone.

Save $25 and get Free access to the expo

But there's also a free pass for anyone who just wants to attend the expo, parties and famous "hallway track" - use code EXPOPASS to save $25



ICT - a general capability?

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

The government has been engaged in the development of a new nation wide curriculum for some time now.  The curriculum authority ACARA is currently calling for feedback and survey responses on the General Capabilities.

You need to register to view the General Capabilities and to respond to the consultation online.

To help engage more people in this important consultation I've copied the conceptual statement, and continuum for the ICT general capability, as well as the survey and turned these into PDFs for download.  The website is licensed CC NC SA - so I republish this content here under that license.

The survey needs to be returned by 7 August 2011 to with the subject heading General capabilities survey.

The Australian Curriculum consultation website provides this overview as introduction to the General Capabilities:

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008) states that school education is to support all young people in Australia becoming successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

The Melbourne Declaration identifies skills essential for twenty-first century learners – literacy, numeracy, ICT, thinking, creativity, teamwork and communication. It describes individuals who can manage their own wellbeing, relate well to others and make informed decisions about their lives; and citizens who behave with moral and ethical integrity, relate to and communicate across cultures, work for the common good and act with responsibility at local, regional and global levels.

In the Australian Curriculum general capabilities play a key role in realising these goals. General capabilities encompass a set of knowledge, skills and dispositions that will assist students to live and work successfully in the twenty-first century. They have been developed to align with the national goals. They also build on significant state and territory initiatives introduced over the past decade and are informed by recent international best practice.

The Australian Curriculum includes seven general capabilities:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) competence
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Personal and social competence
  • Ethical behaviour
  • Intercultural understanding

Throughout their schooling, students develop and use these capabilities in their learning across the curriculum, in co-curricular programs and in their lives outside school.


Seed 100 - Ada Initiative Campaign

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

Spread the word about the Ada Initiative Seed 100 campaignThe first Ada Initiative fundraising campaign is underway. For the month of June, Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora are focusing their efforts on seeding their operational fund by inviting 100 people to sign up as foundational donors - the seed 100. 

By contributing $512, the donor will be listed as a difference engineer, or by donating $1024 the donor will be listed as an analytical engineer. The FAQ explains:

Q. Why “Difference Engineer” and “Analytical Engineer?”

A. The pioneering inventor Charles Babbage designed two calculating machines beginning in the 1820’s, the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine.

The Difference Engine was essentially a very large mechanical calculator – capable of generating tables of numbers but not programmable and not a general-purpose computer.

The Analytical Engine was the world’s first design for a general-purpose, Turing-complete computer. Countess Ada Lovelace, the Ada Initiative’s namesake, wrote the world’s first computer program for the (as yet unbuilt) Analytical Engine in 1843.

“Difference Engineer” and “Analytical Engineer” are imaginary titles for the people who would have programmed and run Babbage’s engines if they had been built in his time.

Women are under represented, and under acknowledged in Open Source.  The Ada Initiative is working to take practical action to change this.

Please help spread the word and if you can, please donate.


Inkscape - full day workshop

Originally published at KatteKrab. Please leave any comments there.

I'm running a full day Inkscape workshop for ICT in Education Victoria on Wed 14 September 2011 at the Statewide Resources Centre in Carlton (150 Palmerston Street)

It's aimed at absolute beginners - new to Inkscape and new to vector drawing in general.

It's sub-titled Drawing across the Curriculum because most of the attendees will be school teachers, from primary and secondary schools. We'll be exploring where graphics fit in the curriculum and how a tool like Inkscape might be helpful to teachers themselves, and whether their students might also find it useful.

We'll be exploring the vast resource of wikimedia commons SVG files and openclipart - searching for graphics relevant to classroom practice, and modifying them for specific use.

The day will start with a tour of Inkscape's tools, and an introduction to vector drawing techniques, understanding objects, editing nodes, a look at the magic of the trace bitmap tool.

We'll then shift gears to delve into graphics in the classroom - brainstorm how drawing can be just as useful in maths as it is in art, how an image might illustrate a story, or a diagram might help get the message across in an essay.

We'll finish up by diving deep into wikimedia commons and open clipart - and hopefully we'll be sharing some of our work back to those websites too.

If you're interested in coming along -  register on ICTEV's website 

Member Cost: $159.00
Non-member Cost: $189.00
Includes: Morning tea, lunch and tutorial files