Beach trip, and Outschool training

Today at lunch I took Scully on a drive to the beach. I went to my favourite pie shop to get pies and we sat on the grass just above the beach to eat them. After the hot weather of the past few days, today was chilly, with a strong wind blowing cold off the ocean. While it was chilly, it was a welcome change from the record hot weather.

Fishermans Beach

Walking around the peninsula a bit, we stopped here to get a photo of some of the birds that always hang out here. Here’s an Australian pelican, a little black cormorant, and a bunch of silver gulls.

Big birds and little birds

I also stopped at the cricket field to let Scully off leash and have a bit of a run around.

Scully at Collaroy

I get her to “sit” and “stay”, while I walk away about 20 metres, then I call her to “come”, and she comes running.

Scully at Collaroy

She expects a treat for this!

This afternoon I did some educational training, which is being organised by Outschool. They’ve aded a teacher accreditation program and you can choose to get a badge on your teacher profile for completing a series of webinar training videos. I figured this would be a good thing to attract more parents, so I’ve started the course. Today I watched a 1-hour video about enabling inquiry-based learning for science subjects, and then did a quiz. I’ll get credit for it and then need to do a few more similar things. It was actually pretty interesting!

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A new game design course running again

This morning I finished off the week of ethics lessons on the “Brain Uploading” topic. There’s been a very wide range of reactions to the idea of scanning someone’s brain and running a copy/simulation on a computer. Some kids think it’s cool and want one, some think it’s weird, but they could learn to get along with chatting with one, and some think it’s an abomination and want nothing to do with it. One went so far as to say that if a friend got a brainscan copy running on a computer, they’d stop being friends with them.

In the middle of the day I had a nice break, taking Scully for a long walk over to the Italian bakery and back. I had a bit of lunch there and brought home some Italian biscuits for dessert tonight.

My wife came home from work just after lunch, to work from home for the afternoon. This gave me the opportunity to go for a 2.5k run before having a shower and heading out with her and Scully for an evening walk after work, as the sun was setting. It was chilly, but nice in the sunset light. I made Thai green curry vegetables and rice for dinner.

And then later this evening I had the first lesson in a new iteration of my 6-week Creative Thinking and Game Design course. With three students, this should be more fun than last time I ran it, with just one student. The first lesson is a bit cram-packed with information, and I think the kids were a bit overloaded by the end of it. But thankfully the next few have a bit less content and it will ease off as we progress through the weeks.

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My first university lecture!

This evening I had my first official university lecture! The professor for the Image Processing course I’m currently tutoring for was away this week, and he asked me to fill in and deliver the lecture. I did a guest lecture for this course last year, during the project phase, but that wasn’t assessable and I didn’t get paid for it. But this lecture tonight is an integral part of the coursework, and I get paid for it!

The lecture was about feature detection, including going through Moravec corner and Harris corner detection, the structure tensor, the scale-invariant feature transform (SIFT) algorithm, and Bag of Words model. This sets up the groundwork for the beginning of looking at machine learning for image recognition, classification, and object identification, in next week’s lecture.

I think it went really well! During the tutorial exercise section, where the students work on problems and we walk around answering questions, one group said to me that this lecture finally made the whole course come together for them – giving context to what the preliminary fundamentals in the previous three lectures were leading up to, in a way that now made sense for real world image processing applications. So that was good! They even gave me a cookie – the group had been sharing a big box of them during the lecture.

Before heading into the city for the lecture, I spent time making a Darths & Droids comic, and dealing with a bunch of OUtschool administration. I’m constantly getting emails and requests from parents for different class times and for moving their kids into different classes. I’ve also set up a new iteration of the Creative Thinking and Problem Solving (Board Game Design) class, starting on 11 September, for a parent who wanted it. That starts the week after the current course in progress ends. The good news is that this parent has enrolled two kids into the class! That’s great because running it with just one student is not so much fun.

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Busy week, Tuesday

I needed to get a Darths & Droids strip written and assembled today – that was my first deadline. After knocking that off I had to work on my lesson plan for tomorrow night’s new ethics class topic, on “Psychic Powers”. Then I had to go through the lecture notes for next week’s image processing lecture which I’ll be giving at the university, because this afternoon before the class I met with the professor to go over them and make sure I cover the material fully.

Leaving early to do this meant I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything else. I dropped Scully at my wife’s work on the way into the university. Then after the meeting I had a break to go grab some dinner before the evening lecture. I went across the road and grabbed some Thai fried rice.

And that was the day!

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Busy week, Monday

I have a busy week this week. Tomorrow I need to go into the university early to meet with the lecturer of the Image Processing course that I’m tutoring for. He will be away next week and I’m going to be delivering the lecture that week, so I need to go through the lecture material with him to make sure I cover everything properly. We also need to work out a way for me to present the slides, since last year when I did my guest lecture on the Science and Engineering of Photography I couldn’t get the university presentation system to connect to my (wife’s) Macbook.

Wednesday we have a guy coming to install our new induction cooktop and remove the old gas cooktop. (I wrote about us exploring this last year.) This is going to be a slightly complex job, because after the inspection he did a few weeks ago (which I apparently didn’t write about), the conclusion was that we need to have our entire circuitbreaker board replaced, and some new cabling run through the wall cavities. So this means the power will be off for probably a few hours, and I won’t be able to work on things like writing my ethics class lesson plans. So I need to get them done… tomorrow.

This morning I had the last three classes of the “Colonising Space” topic. The new topic for this week’s younger kids is “Psychic Powers”. Remember this is also a critical thinking class, so we’ll be exercising those skills a lot this week!

This evening I had lesson 4 in the current Creative Thinking/Game Design class. The student has converged on several game mechanic ideas for a haunted house themed game. And this is the week where I need to actually put it into a workable game design and send him a copy of the game to play by the weekend! So I need to squeeze this in somewhere this week as well.

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Tuesday teaching and Wednesday football

I missed my update yesterday because I was busy at the University of Technology Sydney at my first class for the semester on this year’s course on Image Processing. I missed the first class last week due to thinking it was on Thursday, but after moving my ethics classes from Tuesday to Thursday I made sure to make it this week. The class is packed, with about 200 students in the lecture room, definitely more than last year. Which I’ll take as a god sign that it’s a popular class.

Today I worked on my lesson plans for this week’s new ethics topics: Colonising Space for the 10-12 year olds, and Government for the 13-15 year olds. I competed those, and also went out for a nice lunch with my wife at a local Greek restaurant. Then tonight it was the first three space colony classes.

A question I asked during the class: Can colonising space benefit all of humanity and not just the wealthy who get to travel to new worlds, leaving poor people behind on an Earth troubled by wars or environmental disasters? I was surprised by a few students saying that it’d actually be good for the poor people to get rid of the wealthy elite! Anyway, it seems to be a good topic and we had a lot of fun discussing it.

And now straight after those classes we’re into the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final, Australia v England. I’m typing this at half time, with England up 1-0. It’s going to be a very tense second half, needing to come equalise and then try to find a lead somehow.

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Game design theme: haunted house

This morning I taught the last three lessons of the “Ethical Consumerism” topic with the younger kids.

Then for lunch I took Scully for a walk to the fish & chip shop and we sat on the hill lookout spot watching the dark grey clouds looming over the city.

Grey day over Sydney

This evening I had the third class in the current course on Creative Thinking and Game Design. After brainstorming ideas last week we’ve converged on “exploring a haunted house” as the theme of the game. We brainstormed some possible goals, including escaping the house, or trying to find a specific item, or even being scientists and trying to photograph ghosts. And we also worked on some potential mechanics, including one using sliding board tiles to represent shifting rooms in the house.

Next week we’ll out the pieces together and try to make a workable game out of these ideas.

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More possible D&D, and an epic level miscommunication

Let’s start low key. This morning I finished off the lesson plan for this week’s older kids’ ethics class, on the topic of Probability. I did half of it yesterday so it wasn’t a lot of work.

For lunch I went on a walk with my wife and Scully, the longest regular walk we do, to the Italian bakery. On the way we went through the local shopping area and walked past the local science toy shop. As we passed, I noticed a poster in the window advertising free Dungeons & Dragons events in the store, for beginner players. I commented to my wife that I should see if they want another Dungeon Master to help run games, and she said I should go in right now and ask them. So I did!

I spoke to a woman and mentioned I’ve been running D&D since the 1980s and would be interested in running some games if they needed more people. She said yes, they definitely could use someone! She took my details and said the guy who organises the D&D events would be in touch to discuss it. They run it every Saturday evening from 6pm, and she said it’s mostly children, but sometimes they have adults join in to play as well. I wouldn’t want to do it every week, but maybe every 3 or 4 weeks would be cool. And given how much experience I have with teaching children, I think I could run a pretty cool game for a group of kids.

This afternoon just before my ethics classes began (three in a row), I decided to check my university email account to make sure everything was fine for tomorrow’s first lecture in this semester’s image processing course. I’ve been all set for the past week to go into the university for the first time tomorrow.

I opened my email and there was a message from the lecturer, asking me if everything was okay, because I missed the first lecture on Tuesday night! Yes, it turns out the course is being run on Tuesdays this year, not Thursdays like I thought! I replied and apologised for the miscommunication, saying I’d thought it was Thursdays. We went back through our email chains and discovered that he had told me it was on Tuesdays, but only in one email from December last year. I can’t remember if it registered at the time, but for months now I’ve been thinking it was on Thursdays.

So next week I need to go in on Tuesday, not Thursday. Another issue is that I have three Outschool ethics classes on Tuesday evening, which clash. So I’ve had to move them to Thursday and inform all the students that this is an unavoidable move. I know some of them probably won’t be able to attend Thursdays and will have to drop the class, so it’s a bit of a pain, but hopefully most of them can adjust to the new day.

So, it’s been a very mixed day. Some good news with the D&D stuff, but quite the mess with the evening classes.

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Just writing more lessons

Today I mostly spent writing up new lessons for the coming week of ethics classes. One on “Stealing” for the younger kids, and on “Literature” for the older ones.

In between I took Scully for a long walk over to the Italian bakery a few suburbs away, to have a slice of pizza for lunch. Today they had a special maple/pecan danish, which I had to try as I think this is a great combination of flavours.

The weather was nice and sunny, and we’re in for a warm few days coming up, with temperatures hovering around 23°C. If that sounds warm for midwinter, yes, it’s unseasonally warm and it really has been most of winter. We’re not complaining yet, but who knows what this summer is going to bring?

Last night I started watching Bird Box: Barcelona on Netflix. I liked the first Bird Box, and was curious to see this sequel. There’s something a bit different going on and it’s not clear yet. I watched half the film and will finish it off tonight. I do this a lot with movies nowadays – I just don’t have enough time in the evenings after my classes to watch a full movie, so I always stretch them out over two nights.

All my friends are talking about Barbie and Oppenheimer at the cinemas. I think Oppenheimer would be interesting, especially given my background in physics, though I don’t know if I’ll manage to get to a cinema to see it.

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Time to get creative again!

I’m again running my Outschool class on “Creative Thinking & Problem Solving” with a practical project on designing a board game, for students aged 11-14 years. It’s a 6-week course starting Monday 31 July, with a 1-hour class at 6pm (Sydney time) each week. If you have or know a kid who likes games or would enjoy a class in creativity, check it out.

And speaking of creativity, I spent most of this afternoon photographing a new batch of Irregular Webcomic! strips, ready to start new updates again tonight. That, combined with 3 ethics classes in the morning, pretty much used up my whole day. Phew!

I’ve also started thinking about travel to Finland in November, for the next ISO Photography standards meeting, which is in Tampere. There are a few things to organise, such as a dog-sitter for Scully, before we can lock down dates and then start organising flights and hotels. Because Europe is so far away, we’re thinking of combining it again with a week or so somewhere else in Europe. Preferably somewhere not so cold! Perhaps Italy in November will be nice.

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