I am (not) a social media influencer

My blog has earned me an award. OK, I am not receiving an Order Of Australia medal, I’ve not been paid for my blogging, and a lot of thought and typing has earned me a mere 80 views by 40 people.

In order to be awarded a Toastmasters certificate (my sister compares Toastmasters awards to scouts’ firelighting badges, which makes me laugh), I had to write eight blog posts in one month.

I wrote one post and then had the “good luck” of being off work for a day with a bad back, so I smashed-out six posts and scheduled them to go live on Wednesday and Saturday evenings – the time of week people should be out partying, but are probably glued to social media to see if other people are out partying. I knew that would leave me with one post left to earn me my “badge”.

That next post has been rattling around my head for about a month. Does this mean Toastmasters will say “you took too long – no firelighting badge for you!”? Nah, as long as you keep learning, they are cool with that. After I post the blog entry you are reading now, I will need to give a presentation about it at a Toastmasters meeting for between five and seven minutes. I think this is what I will tell them (what do you think? Use the comments box below – seriously, I need a comment so I know my work has not been in vain):

Catchy blog title – Toastmasters’ online module on blogging had tips such as give your blog a great name, and include words which will match with Google searches. My blog was called Janeoxyz, with a tagline I created when I started blogging – “I did a blog” (I thought it funny at the time, as the word ‘blog’ wasn’t well-known, and I hoped people would think of someone doing a – doing a poo – I have grown up a lot since 2013).

For this project I changed my blog’s name. I asked myself Who am I? What do I do? What do I value? I am an independent, lifelong learner (following the Toastmasters program is one way I do this). I changed the blog’s name to The Independent Learner, and changed the tagline to “Wisdom for learners and educators – For lifelong learning, educators, adult learners, communicators, public speakers and all-round switched-on people”. Better, hey?

Catchy post title – I was tempted to name my posts something like “8 reasons why you should…”, “You’re doing it wrong” or “Ten things to make your love-life better” – something to draw people to my blog. I went for simplicity – my first posts were about my trip to TEDx, so I categorised the posts into The Innovators, The Scientists and Environmentalists and The Writers, Artists and Actors. I was kind of pleased that I had identified the three themes of TEDx, all by myself. My following post titles included Innovative Library and Effective Visual Design – things I know interest the people with whom I mix.

My last post was “I train, therefore I am” – a corruption of a well-known saying. Funny thing about that post – a colleague didn’t know I’d written it, emailed it to me and said something like “It’s good to see others have the same challenges as you”. I thought she was being obtuse, so next time I saw her I asked, and she said “was that YOU?” Yes, it’s good to learn what I am writing is a good reflection of me, so much so that people tell me I should be reading my own blog.

Content – I broke-up my text with pictures. I haven’t yet decided if I will add pictures to this post (I’m on my iPad, so everything takes longer, and I can’t wait to see this post published). I made sure the pictures had alternate text for accessibility. I used photos I took so copyright wasn’t a problem. I ended each post with a small taster of what the next post would contain.

Likes/comments/followers – I could count the number of likes and followers I gained on one hand. I’ve decided it doesn’t matter – blogging is reflective learning. I am growing by blogging. One thing I now do differently is give other people’s posts a Like or Comment – I am listening. I appreciate the effort you are putting in. If your post made me smile, frown or tell my friends, you won’t know unless I let you know.

Cross-post – when I make a blog post, I proclaim it on other platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. I even set-up IFTTT (If This, Then That) so I don’t have to post on the other platforms – it’s automated. While setting-up that, I realised at work we can have an RSS feed or email which shows which training is on in the next two weeks. Result!

Future – Blogging is still in the top six social platforms in Australia. Is blogging for me? I think it is, but I don’t want to have to do two (or even one) post per week. I do know I won’t leave it twelve months between posts like last time. See you in August!

(signed) Janeoxyz, (my family call me Janeo, and XYZ seemed a good idea because everyone jockeys to get 1 after their username), so I want to do the opposite), soon to be Toastmasters Innovative Leader, Level 4 (of 5 levels).

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

I train, therefore I am

I’m a librarian, and I’ve been a Learning Technologist. My current job as a Learning & Teaching Services Librarian means I teach people to find and manage information.

I help them:

  • find a book or eBook
  • locate a journal article
  • select the best (often peer-reviewed) information
  • find the best databases for their discipline
  • work out how to get the most out of each database
  • select keywords to search
  • use bibliographic (referencing) software, including EndNote

Rows of seats, and presenter area at the front

At the library we’ve been offering our sessions as webinars concurrently with our face-to-face ones. It’s a bit of a tussle – how do you keep the learners watching your slides and live demonstration engaged, while not losing the interest of the people physically in the room? We’re trying a few things:

  • sound – putting on a headset puts a barrier between the presenter and the people in the room. The monitor we usually use has an ok mic, but sometimes students can’t quite hear. I’ve bought my own professional standing mic
  • webcam – I believe the online learner should be able to get a look at the presenter, and it’s ok for the presenter to turn off the webcam as the focus moves to slides or demonstrations.
  • polling – our webinar software has polls built-in. That disadvantages the learners physically in the room – they don’t watch the webinar – they watch a standard data projection on the big screen. I’m experimenting with Mentimeter, and next week will run it for the first time with physical and online students concurrently

We’ve decided to keep EndNote software training separated into face-to-face and online sessions, for now, because we have to allow longer for the online students to watch each demonstration, then try the activity. Ideally, everyone would have two monitors and know how to have the webinar on one and the software application on the other. EndNote is also one of the harder things we teach, so it helps the trainer if he or she only has to concentrate on one set of clients.

A couple of administrative challenges we’ve faced:

  • learners not downloading the training files (PDFs) (and some not even having the EndNote software installed)
  • Mac learners coming to the PC webinar, and PC users coming to the Mac webinar
  • learners who are used to face-to-face sessions turning up in person for webinars
  • learners coming to the webinars to watch instead of doing the activities
  • some of the trainers being more experienced at running webinars than others

The other day only one person turned-up to our concurrent session. She said the only reason she didn’t stay home and attend via webinar was she didn’t have the URL (another of our challenges – students not registering for sessions). I think the days of face-to-face sessions are numbered.

We continue to look for solutions, such as sending reminder emails and polling students to see if they are set-up and ready for the lesson to begin. I think, however, we should contact each learner directly and ask questions to see if he or she has met the session prerequisites.

Learners, one with headphones

Posted in Education, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Innovative library

While visiting Sydney, I noticed there was a talk scheduled at Green Square Library. I went along, enjoyed wine and cheese with other educators, and listened to a talk by someone who established a school in Africa.

I knew the library was known for its bold architecture and central garden. I loved the Noun Cafe and the self-serve returns (works on RFID and means items can be re-borrowed as soon as returned, cutting-down on shelving). There’s a local government help desk, makerspace kits and Wednesday-evening try-a-musical-instrument.

Posted in Education, libraries | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Effective visual design

When I booked myself a week’s ‘holiday’ in Sydney, I had a look at what’s on, and most of the things I chose to do were educational. One evening I went to Canva University’s After Hours workshop.

I was wowed with Canva as a workplace – it was how I imagine it is to work at Google – there’s even a Tim Tam fridge on each level.

We worked in small groups, with a Canva expert at each table, using the Canva browser-based software. We created pitch presentations (like PowerPoint slides on steroids) for a business startup idea, and then presented them. We were given a structure to follow – Purpose – Problem – Solution – Market size – Product – Team – 6 slides.

Cat, the trainer, advised us to use:

  • No more than ten slides
  • No more than six words per slide
  • No more than six bullet points (four works well with icons/infographics)
  • Four points can be stepped-out by dividing the page in four (copy the page several times and remove one icon per slide in reverse)
  • Show, don’t tell
  • Insert emotion into your presentation – aids memorability
  • Use a clicker (presentation tool)

Some design guidelines:


  • It’s all about readability
  • Big font – 30 pt (stops you adding too much text)
  • For the next size up or down, multiply or divide by 1.67
  • The recommended sizes are XL 160, L 96, M 56, S 32, XS 24
  • Use a font with sans in the name. Sans, French for without, means you’ll be using a font without too much fussiness


  • Keep line height between 1.2 and 1.5
  • Letter spacing is -10 to 40
  • Anchor text box – the top box (title) is anchored from top down


  • Use a dark background because it doesn’t take attention away from you, the presenter. Doesn’t have to be black. White can make for a good transition
  • Use a maximum of four colours
  • Use contrasting colours
  • Have your colour palette sitting on a page, so the colours will appear top-right of Canva
  • Upload an image to find a colour palette
  • No more than four hues – 1 dark, 1 light, 2 vibrant accents

Light, Dark, Accent 1, Accent 2


  • Use the same filter on each photo
  • Rectangles – make full-size, back, take transparency down. Add text
  • Add shape, drag photo onto shape
  • Use consistent icons – look at the code of the artist who has added the icon to Canva, and try to use his or her icons
  • Gify (gifs) is in Canva – look for stickers in Giphy, and then use embed command


A slide, half with a green background, white heading, three images with simple caption

Check out the Canva Design School videos – they’re great!

How much does an evening at Canva University cost? $5, which goes to charity. Look for upcoming events on What’s On In Sydney or Canva. Did I mention they give you free pizza and booze?

Posted in Education, Technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

TEDx Sydney – the writers, artists and actors

One of my favourite things in the exhibition hall, was the campfire – an artificial fire, with scattered logs, so one could sit and confer with other attendees.

Artificial fire surrounded by logs

The music wasn’t always to my taste, however I could appreciate it was of a very high standard, and I believe we saw the “next big thing”.

Genesis and band on stage

I loved the video which opened each session. The combination of images and music stirred emotions. I can’t wait until it is released online like last year’s.

Image of famous paintings and sculpture in a futuristic gallery

In this final installment from TEDx, we look at the writers, artists and actors:

  • ‘Handsome’, singer – “standing on shoulders” – a great legacy tie-in
  • Sara Morawetz, artist – wanted to feel how 18th Century scientists defined a metre (1/10,000,000th of the planetary arc), so walked from Dunkirk to Barcelona. She implored us to ask “Do I measure-up?”
  • Maxine Beneba Clarke, writer – “I was a kid who read in libraries…a kid desperate to read.” Maxine read the likes of Austen and Huxley, but it wasn’t until she read Looking for Alibrandi and My Place she found characters like her. Although disqualified, Maxine’s entry in a poetry prize was “one for the kid in the library.”

David on stage

  • David Wenham, actor – David’s opening shocked – he has been many things, including gaoled. Just one of the roles he’s played. He sees acting as “behaving truthfully in an imaginary situation”. Acting is storytelling, so is universal and allows for commonality. His ‘best’ roles were real people, stories of healing and inspiration. In the movie Molokai, David played Father Damian, a man who created a place for lepers to live, not die. With real patients as actors, this was a story of behaving truthfully. “Stories make us human”.

Yve, in glitter-dress, with quizzical look

  • Yve Blake, musical comedian – Fan-girls – this, delivered by a comedian, naturally, was one of the most entertaining presentations. Yve told how screaming over a football player = good, but screaming over a boy band = bad : double-standard. She got us to examine the words we use to describe girls. Girls aren’t crazy, aren’t psycho – they are equal to their brothers. They have superpowers – just look at the shrine fan-girls put together in two hours, of singer Harry Style’s vomit on the roadside.

Peter on stage. Flocks of sheep are shown on the large screens

  • Peter Stuchbury, architect – Peter says we subdivided the land in a way which was disrespectful. He looks at European ways – why do we say there are four seasons – Sydney has six, and these relate to the flora and fauna as much as to the weather. Peter has worked in Papua New Guinea, and he tells the story of a woman who was able to build a canoe because her grandfather planted a tree for her to be able to do that one day. Peter spoke of how cars all look the same – we need less technology and more creativity. We need to think about the architectural mark we are making on the landscape, or the mark you don’t.
  • Deep Sea Astronauts performed. I missed it, due to wanting to be first in the coffee queue, however, we have this hypnotic number:


Ibis by Deep Sea Astronauts.

I had been at TEDx for eleven hours, however I was feeling energised. This was useful as I had to travel out to Parramatta and that very night attend the start of the Toastmasters conference. As I left the conference venue, I admired the lights of Vivid.

The lights of Darling Harbour

Don’t forget to follow my blog, as next time we’re looking at tips for effective visual design.

Posted in Education, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

TEDx – the scientists and environmentalists

One event at TEDx consisted of six people from the audience competing in a 30-second pitch contest. Pitches included:

  • rethink public holidays – why not one for art instead of sport?
  • look at the power of Pokemon go, and use it for collaboration
  • career data
  • using reusable bottles
  • get off your phone
  • sausages bring people together

The group of pitchers, with 20 seconds left on the clock

We have been looking at the Refugees and detainee speakers, the Technologists and the Entrepreneurs, and now we examine the Scientists and Environmentalists

  • Tara Djokic, earth scientist – In the Pilbara, Tara’s team are looking for the missing piece to a 3.5 billion year old puzzle. She had us think about how if the history of the earth were the length of a toilet roll, humans would be a little corner on the end. Tara reminded us that in that speck of time we have burned through much of the earth’s resources, and she entreated us to consider what legacy we want to leave behind.

Monkoi Lek on stage

  • Monkoi Lek – genetic researcher – Facing great physical challenges, Monkoi was told “Leave it to the experts”, however he disregarded the advice and started looking for a treatment. His genetic work has reduced the diagnosis time for fellow sufferers, and his work has been accessed five million times. Are we ever tempted to just leave it to the experts?
  • Kim Graham-Nye, environmental champion – When we use one disposable nappy (diaper), we are using one cup of fossil-fuel, and assign the nappy to 500 years of lying in landfill. Kim told us that no plastic biodegrades, so the answer is to say no to plastic (say no to the 100 million disposable nappies used every day). We can do this, Kim said – In Vanuatu, disposable nappies will be banned next year. In three months, plastic bag use in NSW has reduced by 80%. Don’t leave a legacy of a trashed planet.
  • Albert Wiggan, educator – gave a beautiful opening in his Aboriginal language. For thousands of years, indigenous people (we were all indigenous three thousand years ago) noticed climate change and adapted. To ensure we leave a positive legacy, we need to integrate traditional knowledge and indigenous science into our knowledge-base.

Next time, it’s fun with the Writers, artists and actors.

Posted in Education, Technology | Leave a comment

TEDx – the innovators

I liked the small touches at TEDx Sydney 2019. Things like as you waited for a free double-decaf mocha choco-latte, you were given a card with a statement to think about.  Or the campfire which was conducive to discussion. Or the disco.

Two things which I don’t think worked were we were to find our “tribe” – there were different parts of the exhibition space devoted to different personalities (I identified with the creative-types). Another thing was, though I was impressed at how our name badges were printed in seconds as we arrived at registration, we’d been urged to add an “Ask me about…” on our badge. I had “Twitter or Toastmasters” added to my badge, however no-one wanted to know – it’s not that they thought me boring – I just don’t think anyone was really getting to know the other attendees. I noticed a lot of attendees had come in work groups, and when not looking at their phones, they chatted with their colleagues/participated in seat-saving. I spoke to one lady as we stood, waiting for a couple of thousand audience members vacate the room (I said “Looks like we’re going to be here awhile – tell me about yourself”). I met another lady in the coffee queue. She said “OMG – I think I just pushed in” – she gave me her card and told me she’s into building tiny houses for the homeless.

Last time I looked at the refugees and detainees who presented at TEDx. This time I recall the Technologists and Entrepreneurs.

Craig Costello on stage, with monitors behind him

  • Craig Costello, cryptographer – Mary Queen of Scots encrypted her letters, but the code was broken and she paid with her life. Now we are entering an era of Quantum computing, and no code, whether your email password or the bank’s deepest data, will be safe.
  • Bridget Loudon, employment expert – work is binary – we expect our workers to be all in or all out. “We’ll look back and think it’s crazy we worry about documents left on a desk, but let our most valuable intellectual property walk out the door.” One company has project spaces for past workers, and has created a new consultant category.

Ros Harvey on stage

  • Ros Harvey, tech-optimist – Ros spoke on a topic which made this librarian’s ears prick-up: data is worthless, but information is priceless. She gave an example of how information sharing can help solve hunger, and urged us to share and combine information.
  • Sharonne Zaks, dentist – Sharonne won the crowd’s hearts with her obvious nerves at public speaking – “Dentists and public speaking are two of our biggest fears”, she confessed. Sharonne specialises in looking at the legacy left to patients who have been abused, and she asked what could be more confronting than lying in the examination chair, with someone hovering over you. She emphasises the emotional connection health professionals need, and her educational videos are going viral.
  • Tom Nash, DJ and disabilities advocate – When children look at his hooks for hands and ask him if he is a pirate, he answers “Yes!”. He also says when faced with a problem, inspect the problem from a different angle. Try problem-solving, stay pragmatic, show patience. When Tom lost his limbs and learned ways to cope, he realised he always had the ability to overcome adversity, and he said we shouldn’t wait to reach deep.

Next time we look at the Scientists and Environmentalists.

Posted in Education | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Open-mouthed and stunned – TEDx 2019

What does one do with a week’s leave from work? Chase the sun? Do some maintenance around the house? I put together six days’ of learning experiences for myself. Let’s start by looking at my Friday experience.

I stumbled into TEDx by accident. A couple of days before travelling to Sydney I searched What’s On in Sydney. When I saw TEDx, I immediately knew I had to go. It’s just one day – opens 7am and the after-party starts at 6pm. TEDx could be described as a franchise of TED Talks – one of the leaders in educating and entertaining online viewers.


The free food and coffee was plentiful and tasty, the conference bag was packed with shiny things, and the vendors were creating experiences – Virtual Reality situations, makerspaces, silent discos, journalling walls, wellness zones, a bookstore.


The theme of Legacy suited the tenth Sydney TEDx very well. There was time for reflection – “Hands up if you have been to all ten!”, a souvenir booklet and a video showing highlights. We were told to consider: maybe you don’t need to sacrifice intimacy for scale. The speeches, performances and short films also reflected the legacy theme.

"Legacy" in lights

I would group the speakers into the following categories: Technologists and entrepreneurs, Scientists and environmentalists, Writers, artists and actors, and:

Refugees, detainees

Behrouz on the big screen

  • Behrouz Boochani – most awarded writer in Australia at the moment, and still incarcerated on Manus island – only presenter at TEDx in the ten years who couldn’t be there in person. Behrouz’s presentation was pre-taped due to the unreliability of the facilities on Manus. He told of how he wrote his book one SMS at a time. He wanted the audience to know “we exist“. The curator of Behrouz’s speech (every speaker receives a curator to ensure the best possible presentation) said in the week since the Australian Federal election, hope had been lost on the island, and there had been six attempted suicides, and she invited us to find out about giving to the inmates, so they have access to basic necessities, such as phone calls.

Eddie at the lectern

  • Eddie Jaku, happiest man on Earth – Eddie is 99 years old, and stood strongly at the lectern. He says hate is a disease that will destroy you. On the birth of his son, Eddie decided not to hate despite having been locked-up in a Nazi concentration camp – a camp from which his mother and sister never emerged. Eddie asked us to be happy, smile, be polite and helpful.


  • Hedayat Osyan, social entrepreneur – Hedayat, held on Christmas Island detention centre, finally got to Australia, and as he was only 17, was offered an education. He worked in the building industry, noticed exploitation, unfair treatment and a high unemployment rate amongst refugees, so he started a building company as one solution. Hedaya asks, if a refugee can do this, why can’t you?


Follow me, so you don’t miss out on hearing about the other amazing speakers. Then you can decide if you, too, will go to TEDx in 2020.


* Images are my own, unless otherwise indicated

Posted in Education | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Virtual learning

You’ve heard of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). There’s even AR blended VR.

I like using AR in my presentations. Scan this picture with the Blippar app and see if you can get it to work. [Adendum – Blipper has ceased to be a free service, so it looks like these aren’t working – 16 Jun 2019]

Photo of Jane

And here’s one I made to commemorate my dad. Though it doesn’t always work on a computer screen, if you visit his grave and point the Blippar app at it, it works beautifully and displays photos of his life.

Shows headstone

I was excited recently when I heard about the VR work being done on campus by the Psychology department. They are trying different things, one of which is immersing people into the world of refugees. Another thing they are proposing at my institution is instead of posting a heavy box of rocks to distance geology students, the rocks be 3D-printed.

Educational institutions are excited about the possibilities of virtual labs. Dissection classes no longer mean frogs have to die. Eyebrows aren’t in danger of being singed in chemical explosions. Large-scale projects such as bridge-building can take place on a shoestring budget. Surgeons can experiment with new techniques without the chance of ending-up in court.

Some of the Australian institutions which are building virtual labs include

Whether school, college, university or government or private enterprise, the world is virtually ours.

Shows teacher looking at the virtual cafe, and Virtual Jane in her office, the virtual hospital, and virtual welcome to country.

Learning about the real world via the virtual world we built at TAFE


Posted in Education, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The young and the desperate

Someone at work brought this to my attention. What a great idea to tie-in learning habits with life habits. The students who answered this survey said they were twice as likely to study in their room as go to the library – I think that’s still a good proportion for we librarians.

I was disappointed Smartpens don’t rate in the top of the hardware (I love my Livescribe).

With 59% using their phone to study, I wonder how much of the time is spent flicking between study and non-study apps.

With about 30% using Google Drive and 30% using Dropbox for study, there is a case for educators to keep exploring those spaces.

The food habits are interesting. We have been talking about offering relaxing activities during exam times – maybe it’s pizza we should be offering. And beds 🙂

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Posted in Education, Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment