Mahara Hui preparations in full swing

Over the last few months, a team at Catalyst has been organizing the first conference on Mahara in New Zealand. There are a number of Mahara events around the world (Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the UK for example), but we’ve never had a conference on Mahara in New Zealand. Thus, it was high time. ;-)

We named our conference Mahara Hui. ‘Hui’ means ‘assembly’, ‘gathering’ in Māori and fits nicely with what we want to achieve with the conference: The conference shall be the opportunity for people to come together and talk about Mahara, exchange ideas, knowledge, share examples and brainstorm for the future of Mahara.

The conference is open to anyone using Mahara already or wanting to know more about Mahara and what it can be used for. We have an excellent line-up of presenters, and I wish I could clone myself to attend all sessions. It is fantastic to see that presentations come from many different areas in which Mahara is used: schools, universities, professional development, accreditation bodies. We will have presentations on both the ePortfolio use as well as community features.

If you are in the vicinity of Wellington 19-21 March 2014 or see it as a good opportunity to book a trip to the end of summer, then we’d love to have you at Mahara Hui and share insight into the software with you.

You can also follow the conference on Twitter via @maharahui and #maharahui14.

Lego town

People collect all sorts of things and have done so for many years. You have your typical stamp, stone and coin collections all the way to magazines, newspapers, jewellery, cars and so on. So it comes to no surprise that some people also collect Lego sets. But I had no idea how big a hobby that is for some people until I saw an entire city built out of Lego blocks.

Lego, Lego, Lego. Used with permission.

Lego, Lego, Lego. Used with permission.

You should definitely browse through all the photos in that gallery to appreciate the planning that went into designing this city, the setting up, the detail-orientedness and the execution. It is mind-boggling that you can actually create an entire city with Lego blocks. There is a Lego set for everything. This city does not even use all the town Lego sets, but see how much you can already build.

A few facts about this Lego town by mawich:

  • The design phase was 18 months (not fulltime).
  • It took 1 week (not fulltime) to assemble and photograph. After that it was dismantled.
  • The surface area of the town is 180 x 90 inches (4.6 x 2.3 m).
  • Approximately 133 different Lego town sets were involved.

Unfortunately, the total number of Lego pieces used for the city is unknown.

This is an incredible effort, and I can only command the creator on the idea, the imagination and the execution.

What are you collecting in small or big ways?

Blogging meme times 2

It’s a new year and I have to catch up on a few things. But first things first. Anne and Libby tagged me for the blogging meme, and though I’m not a particular fan of making people answer a set of questions or share random tidbits, I thought I’d give out 11 random facts, answer 11 questions (randomly picked from Anne’s and Libby’s lists), and ask 11 questions of my own, but instead of tagging other bloggers, leave it up to everyone to decide whether to answer the questions or not. Feel free to ponder them in your quiet little corner, shout your answers from the rooftop or blog about them. It’s entirely up to you.

In case you do want to continue the blogging meme, here are “the rules”.

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated.  Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts

  1. This is blog post 201, but I wished it was already a much higher number.
  2. I’ve been living in New Zealand for 1,323 days (minus the ones that I’ve been travelling overseas).
  3. I love taking photos of benches and uploaded 1,143 so far. That is 7.6% of all my currently uploaded photos. The benches can be very ordinary or artistic, but they cannot have a living human on them. I usually curb my taking-bench-photos enthusiasm when walking with others, and I also do not ask people to briefly vacate a bench so I can take a photo (or glare at them menacingly).
  4. Living in a far-away corner of the world, I realized that time zone differences do make it difficult staying in touch with friends beyond tweets and Facebook updates.
  5. I took a photo that represents a saying to the T and am happy that I stopped at that designated photo spot for something else.
  6. I used to have a computer screen garden that I couldn’t take to New Zealand. The screen was even called “Tulip”. I received it as a gift from historians for facilitating Moodle sessions.
  7. I wish I could improvise on the piano.
  8. (Marching) Band was an awesome experience with a band director who was an avid Star Trek fan and a cool assistant director who both challenged us to try new things and enjoy the music.
  9. I’m not good at translating from English to German since I don’t use software in German and thus don’t know the conventional terminology.
  10. I enjoy browsing music on Jamendo because if I like it, I can use it in videos / photo slideshows.
  11. I’m grateful that I have a job that I love and that I can go to work smiling.
  12. Bonus fact: I hate it when people I don’t know want to connect on LinkedIn (or other networks), but don’t give a reason.

Answers to 11 questions from Anne and Libby

  1. Red wine or white wine? Or beer?
    None of the above.
  2. What or where is your favorite place? Why?
    One of my favorite spots is in the Marin headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and just sitting there watching the weather change, the bridge change moods and see the city in the distance.
  3. Pure unadulterated coffee or with white fluffy stuff in it?
    More white than black to take away the bitterness when I have to drink coffee.
  4. What is your favourite song / piece of music? Why?
    Similarly to the favorite place question, this is a tough one, as I like a bunch of very different songs for different reasons. The one that has been high in my top 10 over the last 12 months is Beck’s Reimagining of Bowie’s Sound and Vision. I love the arrangement and the performance. It’s been recorded with special equipment so that you get the feeling of being present at the performance, and you can control the view of the performers thus also changing your listening angle. If you check it out, definitely watch the “Making of” videos as well. They’ll allow you to appreciate the 360° performance even more.
  5. What is your favourite sport or physical pastime?
    Recreational easy-going volleyball
  6. Who do you look up to within education?
    George Siemens because of his ideas around changing education and the way we learn, acquire knowledge, and connect.
  7. WordPress or Blogger? Or something else?
    Of course WordPress as you can see. :-)
  8. What would be your most favourite holiday?
    Summer, sun, not too hot, beach, hills / mountains, great weather for taking photos, as few tourists as possible, freedom not to make too many plans.
  9. How much time do you think you are ‘connected’ every week?
    Not enough because I hardly ever have Twitter open during work hours unless I’m tweeting work-related things as it’s too distracting following up all the awesome links. And then in the evenings, most of my network is fast asleep.
  10. What would you be doing if not teaching?
    As I don’t teach in the school sense, I’m already doing something else, but Myers Briggs once told me that I’d be a librarian, and I could imagine that esp. with the teaching elements, facilitating learning, knowledge acquisition…
  11. What is the best moment you have had as an educator?
    There is not a single defining moment, but any moment when course participants have a lightbulb go off in their head and make connections between things we cover in the course and aspects of their life / work / studies.

11 questions of my own

Disclaimer: These questions are pretty much random, they do not have a hidden agenda or try to establish a sound psychological profile. I hope some make you think and ponder your answer. Others might make you shake your head and wonder why I’m asking the question.

  1. What is Dunbar’s number? And be honest if you had to look it up. ;-)
  2. What’s your favorite place in the city / town / village you live in at the moment?
  3. Do you prefer instrumental music or vocals and why?
  4. Name 3 movies that have left a mark on you over the years.
  5. Monologue or dialogue?
  6. Why did you start using Twitter (or your favorite microblogging service)?
  7. How do you cope with change?
  8. What do you collect?
  9. What is the most challenging aspect of presenting for you?
  10. What is the most enjoyable aspect of presenting for you?
  11. When you choose to share something, why do you do it?

And now it’s over to you.

A window into your world

A window into your world

Summer in the windy city

Don’t believe the weather forecast a bit in Wellington. While we had quite the rain on Christmas Eve, and it didn’t look too good for Christmas Day, today we were surprised by a fantastic summer day. And that included warm to hot temperatures, blue sky all around, and lots of sun.

What better way to spend this great day outside and taking in Wellington? My favorite spot for that is Mt Vic where you aren’t blown away on a day like today. It did get a bit windier on the harborside walking to the old lookout, but all in all it was beautiful.

Make sure to walk or drive up Mt Vic if you are in Wellington on a nice summer day. It doesn’t get more perfect than that.

Wellington as seen from Mt Vic

Wellington as seen from Mt Vic

Come together for Mahara Hui 2014

Over the years, Mahara users in New Zealand and also Australia have been asking us why there was no Mahara conference like the folks in the UK have with Mahara UK. I tried to mumble in my non-existent beard, but could not come up with a good explanation esp. since I was also in favor of having a conference in our corner of the world.

This year we put our money where our mouth is, or as I would say in German: Wir machten Nägel mit Köpfen, and decided to organize the first Mahara conference in New Zealand. We found a name by ‘companysourcing’ suggestions and then voting on them at Catalyst and came up with holding the conference in summer as that would be our best chance for good weather in Wellington.

Of course that doesn’t leave us with much time to organize the event, but we got some of the most important things sorted: Our venue will be Te Papa, the awesome National Museum of New Zealand. And today, we announced the call for proposals that will end on 24 January 2014. If you are thinking of attending Mahara Hui, we recommend you get your presentation proposal in before you head off to your summer vacation (or winter vacation) so that you don’t forget. ;-)

We welcome presentation proposals from people using Mahara talking about their portfolio practice, researching academic questions, showcasing their portfolios and their portfolio journey etc. While we provide some broad themes as ideas, proposals are not limited to these themes.

If you are interested in coming to the coolest little capital in the world (or to the Middle of Middle-Earth if you prefer), then submit your presentation proposal today and save the date: 19-20 March 2014 and the optional Hackfest on 21 March 2014 if you want to work more closely with the core development team at Catalyst and other Mahara enthusiasts for a day.

See you in March!