Good Enough

I am sure blogger’s guilt is not something unique to me. Truth be told, the past 3 months have been so all-encompassing that the thought of sitting for more time in front of my computer to type out a blog post is more than I could bear. Hence the hiatus. The short version is that due to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent campus closures, my family and I have been engaging in distance teaching and learning based in NZ, where we are lucky to be able to stay with my parents.

Back in the ‘Jing

Aside from a 1-week ‘Spring break’, occurring – miraculously – before NZ went into lockdown and domestic travel was still possible, we – like so many families – have been learning while in limbo. Emotionally, it has been exhausting. Before my pity-party gets into full swing, I should say it has come with many, many benefits, not least of which has been the chance to catch up with friends and family while we’re here. That is no small thing and I am truly grateful.

But back to the blog! Many of my contemporaries have successfully described the above, detailing the challenges of parenting, teaching and being away from home. Others have continued to wrestle with the complexities of creating engaging online learning experiences, nudging us ever-forward with thought-provoking ideas and suggestions. My friends, I salute you! You amaze and inspire me and for that, I thank you.

Today, I offer you none of those things. Instead, I will share the things I have found to help me get through these tumultuous weeks. This is by no means a recipe for success, but rather a loose approach to my survival.

#Procrastibaking

I live to eat. It is, quite literally, one of my favourite things to do. I have found much joy in trawling the NY Times cooking section for recipes to try, looking through my favourite online sites, and experimenting with fermenting beverages thanks to a thoughtful suggestion from the effervescent @JoelBirch. So if you want to check out my version of Peanut Butter Blossoms, discuss what to do with those millions of zucchini that just keep growing, or wax lyrical about the variations of Tepache (please see video below), look no further!

Talking

Social media is sustaining for a borderline extrovert like me. As I coach, I know the genuine value of being able to talk through challenging situations can help improve one’s outlook and help you reach solutions you hadn’t considered when mulling things over by yourself. The process of conversation aids thinking. It was a stroke of luck that lead me to connect with Philippa Kruger from Education Perfect, as she invited me to talk through my (then) 7 weeks of online learning on her podcast. You can listen to my conversation with Philippa here. Through it, I managed to identify what was working well for us, what challenges we faced and how to best support students. I also became aware that I had a bit of a gin habit… Regardless, our chat helped me see the many positives of this unexpected situation, for which I am truly grateful.

Gin o’clock

Exercise… Well, sort of

Those who know me are often frustrated that despite doing very little exercise, I remain fairly slim. It’s one of life’s many mysteries. As a New Year’s Resolution in 2019, I committed to doing push-ups every day. I am not fussy about the number – I started with 10 – but I am regularly doing 100 push-ups a day now. I don’t love it, but I do it, no excuses. I have augmented that with occasional workouts on Sworkit (a great app for adults and students, with workouts of all types), walks with my Mum, and that one time I went biking… Seriously, how do people bike anywhere? Those seats are ridiculous! I know I feel better for having done a workout, so I will keep trying to make it a part of my everyday.

A walk with my Mum

Helping others

One of the best parts of my job is being able to help others. If I can help someone else – even if my life is bonkers, I’m not sleeping well and I’ve been wearing activewear for 3 days straight – then I feel better about myself. So thank you to the people who have reached out for ideas, tech-help, unloading and/or advice for keeping me not so focused on my own problems! It’s a very successful diversionary tactic. One example is my former colleague Estelle, who invited me to present at the Africa Learning International conference to assist teachers in getting started with online learning. Given the conference was at 3am NZ time, they kindly let me pre-record, so I can share the video with you below.

Letting go of Perfect.

I like to do things well. Actually, that’s a lie. I like to do things really well. It matters to me to feel I am doing a good job at whatever it is I am doing (I know, I know, it’s a character flaw). Through this process of online learning, I feel I am better able to let ‘perfect’ go. I can’t be the perfect parent AND coach AND friend AND partner AND daughter AND colleague while living out of a suitcase for the 11th week in a row. Most days, I barely hit one of those! I guess my point is that I am growing in my ability to accept ‘good enough, given the circumstances.’ It’s definitely a work in progress, as I actually cried when my hot cross buns failed. I mean, for goodness’ sake, get some perspective!

Ahh well, there’s always tomorrow.

Top Apps for Global Travelers

The following Apps are my pics for Best Travel Apps Ever, and ones I will be putting to good use this summer when I travel to Europe.

 

TripIt – One of the easiest & most useful travel apps is TripIt. You simply forward your flight confirmations and/or hotel bookings, and TripIt will put together a wonderful itinerary for you, complete with essential booking references, confirmation numbers and maps of surrounding areas. Best of all, it’s FREE! This is my number 1 travel app of all time.

Packing Pro – If you’re anything like me, you have a tendency to overpack for trips, meaning I often lug around unnecessary items. I also manage to forget at least one key item every time I travel. Well, no more! This app can give you pre-prepared lists for various types of trips, or you can customize your own lists, meaning you will be well-organised for your next trip.

Travel App Box – This provides several useful travel apps in one, including offline maps, currency converter, tip calculator, basic phrases, pictionary, emergency call numbers, travel games and more. The offline maps in particular, I think will be extremely useful for those between-wifi moments.

Google Translate – When traveling, instant translation can be your best friend. Google translate can even ‘say’ the words in the language you desire.

Dropbox – Putting key documentation in Dropbox when traveling can be extremely useful. I have photocopies of my passport and green card in my Dropbox, just in case.

Pocket First Aid & CPR – This app not only has great first aid information, but is a place you can store important medical information about your family, e.g. Medical insurance numbers, blood type etc. Very easy to use and handy to have in your back pocket.

Kayak – Flights, hotels, rental cars, travel planner – this free app is a great place to start planning your next vacation. This won the people’s choice award at the 2011 Webby Awards.

XE Currency – A straightforward currency exchange app from the popular site with the same name.

Foursquare – Checking in to new places can give you excellent tips from other Foursquare users. I have used Foursquare to get recommendations about what to order at restaurants, and find out recommended activities in the area.

Lonely Planet (e.g. Paris) – Lonely Planet is a wonderful source of information for tourists, and they have guides for all of the major cities.

Local MRT (e.g. Paris Metro) – When traveling to a new place, I always download apps for public transport, as you never know when they might come in handy. Most are free, however some, like Paris Metro, have added value and therefore charge a fee.

Weather+ Free – Anticipating the weather in the countries you visit is always essential.

World Clock – Time Zones – Knowing what time to call home is important when traveling – no one wants to be woken at 3am, even if you are calling from Germany. This app shows the current time in a range of destinations, so there are no more excuses!

Camera360– This amazing FREE app has a range of different features that will help you take great photos wherever you are. Each effect has a range of sub-effects, meaning the possible combinations are endless. (**if you are using the Singaporean App store, the app description will turn up in Chinese. Don’t panic, the app will be in English once it’s downloaded**)

TripAdvisor– The popular website is now available in app form. Search for hotels and more, and read user reviews about your upcoming travel destinations.I hope you find these apps useful. Leave a comment with your favorite recommendations – we’re always on the lookout for new apps.

5 Top Tools for Tech & Travel

I am currently in Shepparton, Victoria, eagerly awaiting the start of the Slide2Learn conference tomorrow morning.

During my trip, I have been thinking about how much I rely on technology for my travel plans, and how much of a challenge it would be for me to go somewhere without it.

Here is a list of the technology I used to get from my door to the hotel in Shepparton.

1. My trusty iPhone – this is fast becoming my most crucial piece of technology. I seldom go anywhere without it. It is so much more than just a phone, with apps like these:

tripit
I used the fabulous (and free) Tripit to input all my travel arrangements – from flights, to rental cars and hotel confirmations. I didn’t print the majority of these documents.¬†Generally speaking, I just held up the phone to show the relevant information. Easy as pie.

dropbox

Dropbox stored my passport details, entrance tickets to the conference, and other information that is essential to have close at hand, no matter where you are.

pocket first aid
Pocket First Aid & CPR
has my medical insurance details, should any tragic circumstances ensue (I have my fingers crossed they won’t!), as well as first aid information that might help in an emergency.

Angry Birds & Sudoku – my current diversions, are entertainment in my pocket.

IMG_0443

hipstaHipstamatic helps me create moody, artistic photographs that I can share with friends and family (reaching a level of sophistication well beyond the realms of my normal creativity!) – the photo to the right was taken using Hipstamatic, and is the view from the Olivehouse Restaurant, where I had a delicious lunch today.

Just Light Flashlight – my torch in the night

xe
XE Currency
– calculating exchange rates at the touch of a button is always a useful tool when overseas.

Facebook & Tweetdeck for keeping in touch with friends and family, near and far.

2. GPS – Without which, I would have quite literally, been lost. Traveling in an unfamiliar location is tricky at the best of times, and using the sat-nav to get to my destination took all of the worry out of my drive from Melbourne to Shepparton.

3. My iPod Touch – by no means a superfluous piece of technology when one already has an iPhone! I consider myself pretty handy with technology these days, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to make the radio in my rental car go. I needed to make sure I didn’t run out of battery on my phone, and a 2 hour trip goes by ever-so-slowly without a little music to sing to… cue the iPod Touch! It sat happily on the dash, belting out my Glee favourites as we moseyed along the Victorian countryside.

4. My (aging) Macbook Pro – Although I realise this is beginning to sound like an advertisement for all things Apple, it was not my intention! The fact of the matter is they make good products! What the Macbook Pro lacks in portability, it makes up for in ease of use – particularly for blogging on the go. It is always quick and easy to connect to wireless networks too.

skype5. Skype – It would be remiss of me not to mention Skype as a travel tool, as I use it so frequently. I said goodnight to my kids tonight, saw the artwork my daughter had made, chatted to my husband, and made my son laugh. All for free (internet connection notwithstanding).

Technology I made use of at Changi Airport included a DIY immigration, where your thumb is scanned and matched against records in your Green Card. At the Melbourne end, NZ and Australian passport holders could use a fast track service in which you scan your passport (provided it has a microchip in it) and beat the queues at immigration. Thumbs up to these 2 leading airports!

Of course Bump is going to be useful tomorrow – especially at a conference about mobile learning!

I am sure I have forgotten some crucial tools here. What are your tech travel must-haves? I am keen to expand my repertoire…!