five boxes is all you need

It’s election time again in Victoria. Early polling has already started, and the main event is on Saturday, the 29th of November. As well as voting for Lower House candidates, Victorians will also be asked to vote for what can be called “the House of Review” or Upper House.

Most Victorians will vote above the line on the Legislative Council ballot, but many people don’t know that voting below the line is easier at State level because you only need to fill in five boxes to have your vote count.

Ballot papers for the Upper House (both at state and federal level) have famously been difficult to navigate in recent years; the ballot paper at the last federal election was a metre long and difficult to handle, with nearly 80 candidates listed, and although this was perhaps the longest ballot paper ever, it wasn’t a new problem. To make the voting process easier, a above/below the line system had been introduced. This means that the voter is able to put a 1 in the box of their preferred party, indicating that the party’s wishes for the ordering of the candidates would be their wishes too.

This has lead to ‘back-room deals’ where different political parties agree to direct preferences to each other in a confusing web of deals. Subsequently, candidates from fringe parties have found themselves in parliament, perhaps even having a deciding vote on key issues, without the public knowing that they have in fact voted for them by voting above the line.

Why do people let the party decide their preferences? Why do people vote above the line? Well, with 80 boxes to fill in, and any mistakes rendering the ballot invalid, plus the fact that voting is compulsory in Australia and thus needs to be fairly quick and simple so that everyone can vote, it’s clear that voting above the line looks more appealing.

The good news is that in the Victorian State Elections, only FIVE boxes need to be numbered below the line for the vote to count. ( So spread the news, and vote below the line.

November 22, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Writing professionally

I’ve just done it- I’ve started a professional blog. Since I don’t want to link that (linked to my real world identity) blog to this (personal) one, I won’t mention what it’s called or link between them. I’m a bit excited about it- I feel inspired to start writing properly again. Maybe it’s just holiday relaxation.

I spent a bit of time thinking about what audience I should be writing for and what I should include. I’m a teacher, but the nitty-gritty of my work will stay here, and the professional learning will have a focus over there. I’m also considering sharing the blog with my students, so that brings in new considerations!

July 9, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

like smartypants, but with pins.

Do you like trivia? Do you like geography? Then you’ll like smartypins a google maps game that asks you to identify various places on the map. You start out with 1000km, and kilometres are deducted based on how far off your answer is. I like it.

July 7, 2014 | Comments Off  |


inanimatealice is a multi-modal text used to teach digital literacy and narrative to Year 7 students. We use it at my school as the first text we teach. It’s a flash-based website. The reader becomes involved in the story, which is told with images, sound, text and interactivity. Alice is a young girl who has an interest in video games. She lives with her parents in a variety of locations around the world, including China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. There are four episodes, beginning when Alice is 8, in China, and ending when she is 14, in her home town.

It’s a great choice for first text of the year because it’s possible to walk through it as a class together. Students aren’t required to buy or borrow a novel. It’s a good text to talk about together as a class, building an open, collaborative classroom culture. It’s easy to explain and see how a narrative works, and to emulate that in your own text. It’s possible to extend and support students as needed. There are lots of topics and issues raised by inanimatealice that make for great classroom discussion. The text is easy to read, using short, punchy sentences. It is also complex and rich, welcoming interpretation. It’s a good text to teach.

However, there have been issues. Not everyone likes inanimatealice. There are technical issues, especially load issues as it’s an online text. We’ve started an iPad program at our school, iPads don’t run flash without tweaks (inanimatealice is flash based). This means that the teacher has to show each episode off a laptop and smart board. We had issues this year with creating our own texts that include sound, without losing that interactivity. Some staff have suggested that narrative can be taught using alternative, good old paper stories.
Read more

April 17, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Reflective Blogging

Whenever learning happens, it’s important to consolidate that knowledge so that we are able to use it in the future. I remember reading Piaget and Vygotsky during my Dip. Ed; including their theories about ‘private self talk’. This self talk helps a child to construct their understanding of reality. The imagery is of building blocks put together and rearranged. It’s a sign of maturity when that babbling talk moves inside the head. Sometimes, though, it is important to take that talk out of the realm of thought and back into the real world. To reflect on what we have learned by writing it down.

All throughout my teaching training, the word that was always repeated was reflect. “Make sure you reflect on your practicum experience.” “Reflect on how your lesson went.” Reflect. It was stressed that these reflections are not simply a written record of what happened (though that can be useful in itself). Rather, a considered examination of why it happened. Can we change various inputs and expect different outputs? How was I feeling? What did I learn? This process of reflection enables us to be more aware of the process of teaching and to apply what we have learnt to our teaching style. I like reflecting, even though it is sometimes difficult, emotionally, to process all that is going on. I know that in my first year teaching, I was definitely in ‘survival’ mode and did not reflect on my practice as often as I should have. When you are drowning in a sea of paperwork, writing more just isn’t appealing.

Here I am, though, in the second year of teaching. I’m still new to the profession. But this year I feel drawn to reflect more. I hope this blog will be useful to me.

What about blogging? To prepare your thoughts for an audience requires you to test your ideas and clarify your thinking. Communication is the goal. A blog is a fantastic place to muse, to post your thoughts, to publish, to dare to think out loud. I’ve seen first hand the power of educational blogging through my FIT2001 series. Whilst the incentive was 3% of my final mark, I really enjoyed the process of writing and summarising the content. Other students seemed to find this beneficial as well, as my website statistics showed a spike of page visits before the exam!

Now I am an English teacher, I wonder how I can bring reflective blogging to my classroom. I am not so keen on encouraging my Year 7 students to start their own public blogs for the world to read. There are so many potential issues with cyber bullying and cyber safety. I wonder if there is some kind of walled garden blogging tool that we can use? This would enable the students to express themselves to their peers.

I teach Year 10 literature, and this semester I am asking them to create a writing portfolio of six pieces. I think that next semester I will ask them to create a blog so that they can reflect on what they are learning.

I have also kicked around the idea of a class blog, where the students put together content explaining what we have learned. This would be a good place for parents to see what their students are doing in class. I might launch this in Term 2 with my Year 7 students.

Lots of ideas to mull over. But I think that the process of writing them down has kick started my thinking process and will allow me to look back at these ideas as I go.

(As an aside, this text has been edited using the Hemmingway app.)

March 8, 2014 | Leave a Comment  |

Hello World!

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. I plan on being a bit more publicly reflective this year as I continue to work as a teacher in a school in rural Victoria.

I have wrestled with the idea of a public, anonymous internet persona existing alongside my public persona of teacher. Minor celebrity status is a perk/failing of being a teacher in a small any town. I don’t add my students to my (real name) facebook profile, I don’t want them reading this and knowing it is me. Hence no surnames, no specific location details. I also just simply stopped blogging last year as I came to grips with being a brand new teacher.

I’ll also be playing with the themes a bit, as the aesthetic of the internet has changed a bit since I was here last.

So, 2014, the year I begin blogging again. Hopefully. It feels good to be writing again.

January 20, 2014 | Comments Off  |

I’m a teacher!

So I’ve turned in my last assignment (hurrah!) for my Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) and results come out on the 3rd of December.

I have got a job as an English teacher in a rural town, which is really exciting! I’m thinking I need to fire up the blogging again to help with my processing and professional learning, and also to document the adventure of moving out of home and having a real grown up job for the first time.

I’m excited. This is going to be good.

November 10, 2012 | Leave a Comment  |

caramel slice

Here’s a republish of my gluten free, low fructose (and delicious!) caramel slice.

Fructose is a kind of sugar that is found in many foods, and can be tricky to avoid if you’re fructose intolerant. Most people know it as the sugar found in fruit, but it is also found in many other foods. A person who is fructose intolerant needs to avoid wheat, as do many coeliacs and gluten intolerant people. However many recipes that are gluten free are not always fructose friendly.

This is my recipe for gluten and (almost) fructose free caramel slice. It is suitable for all people who need gluten free recipes, and for fructose-intolerant people who have known about their condition for a while and are managing their diet well. This caramel slice should be avoided by people trying to get their body free of fructose.


For the base:

For the middle:

For the top:



First of all, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, and then take the saucepan and melt your butter in it. Once the butter is melted take it off the heat. Mix in your brown sugar till you get a nice slurry, then add your flour, a bit at a time, stirring the flour into the slurry as you go. You should end up with a nice ball of dough that you should be able to run around the edges of the pan to get all the little bits of dough, and the pan should be surprisingly clean at the end.

Take your greased and lined pan and press the dough into the bottom of it, so it covers the pan. I usually go with (about) between 1/2 a centimetre to a centimetre depth. Bake the base for 10-12 minutes until it is golden brown. Aim for undercooking because we’re going to bake it again.

The next step is the ooey-gooey caramel, arguably the best part of the slice.
2012 revision: Pour on the condensed milk onto the base and bake it for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

(Put the tin of condensed milk into a saucepan and mix through the tablespoon of regular sugar (optional). Let it heat over a slow heat, always stirring it, because the caramel is just waiting for you to turn your back so it can boil over, stick to the bottom, or burn. Take it off the heat when it becomes a golden brown colour. Cooking it before we spread it on the slice gives a firmer caramel, but you can skip this step and spread the condensed milk directly on the base if you prefer.)

As soon as your caramel is done, spread it evenly all over the base and put it back in the oven to bake some more. The caramel will bubble up a little. Cook for 15-20 minutes until it has caramelised a bit more. Keep checking it, don’t let it burn! Take your almost finished caramel slice out of the oven, and after it has cooled a bit, put it in the fridge to cool the caramel, for about half an hour.

While your caramel is cooking and then setting is a good time to clean up the caramel sauce pan and wooden spoon- hot water and a little elbow grease should clean it up.

Now you need to prepare the chocolate topping. The best way to melt chocolate is in a double boiler: that is, over hot water. Take a metal bowl that fits over the top of one of your saucepans. Put boiling water in the saucepan and put the chocolate, broken into bits, into the metal bowl. Carefully rest the bowl over the top of the hot water. The chocolate can be left alone until the end, when you can give it a bit of a stir to get rid of any lumps. Spread this all over the cooled caramel base, and then put it back in the fridge to set.

After the slice has set for an hour (or until firm) take it out of the fridge and, using the lining paper, lift it out of the tray and on to the chopping board. It’s much easier to make straight cuts if you can cut right down the edges of the slice. Start by scoring a grid on the chocolate and into the caramel. This is fairly rich so monster slices don’t work well for finger food. Using the long knife, slice all the way through the slice so you’ve got lots of rows. I find it helpful to cut the slice in half, and work on one half at a time. I also find it useful to set aside all the rows and work on one at a time to get neat blocks.

Now you can store them in a container in the fridge. (Layer baking paper between levels so they don’t stick together.) If the day is a warm summer one, be aware of the potential for melting chocolate when you serve them.


April 30, 2012 | Leave a Comment  |

geography memory challenge

I have had a bit of fun the last couple of days with the Jet Punk world quiz, where you have 12 minutes to name all 196 nations of the world (officially there are 195, but they count Taiwan as a sovereign nation. That’s an interesting political issue that I won’t be going into.) Any places/nations that are territories of a sovereign nation (for example, French Guiana, Greenland) don’t count, and it’s the UK, not Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland.

I found that my weak spots were Africa and Eastern Europe, but after lots of drills, I am able to get all 196, which includes the small city states of the world (like Vatican City.)

There is also the 50 United States challenge- keep in mind, if you read the comments, that most Americans memorise these at primary school.

The next challenge, once you’ve memorised the country names, is to match them to their shapes.
Europe East Asia. Africa, South America, Oceania. I can’t seem to find a North America/Caribbean quiz.

And for the crazies: World capitals Quiz.

February 11, 2012 | 1 Comment  |

defining “flood”

When the floods struck Queensland and Victoria at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011; many people, though devastated by the floods, thought that their insurance would help them to set things right again.
However, many people discovered, to their horror, that sometimes they were paying for insurance with no flood cover, or even that when they had double checked that ‘flood’ was included in their policies, the insurance company didn’t cover them for the type of flood that impacted so many homes across Australia.

According to lawyers and consumer advocates, water flowing from rivers, creeks, dams, lakes or reservoirs may not be covered in some insurers’ definition of a flood, leaving some insurance policy holders unknowingly unprotected to flood damage.
(from Brisbane Times)

In January 2011, I suggested on a 774 Melbourne Facebook comment that the government should legislate a standard definition of flood.
[ The proof ]

How about having a legally mandated definition of “Flood” for the insurance companies to use, so no-one can weasel out of paying out when people have faithfully been paying premiums?
Friday, 21 January 2011 at 09:13

So I was quite impressed to see ABC news say in November:

The Federal Government has announced plans for a major shake-up of disaster insurance, including the introduction of a standard definition of flood.

It’s nice to see your ideas picked up and used. ;)

Of course, this is no excuse for not reading your insurance policy, but they can be quite thick texts to wade through, and the insurance companies shouldn’t be using confusing language to avoid paying out on claims.

November 15, 2011 | Leave a Comment  |

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