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An Aussie’s adventure in USA Part I: ISTE, Washington DC, Travel Tips and Understanding all things USA

Those that follow me on Twitter are aware that I’m currently traveling around USA introducing my 13 year old son to the wonders of America after attending ISTE.

We’ve been learning a lot, and it’s really hard to explain everything in 140 characters,  so I’ve decided to share everything in more detail here.

Apologies for the long post but I’ve tried to include a bit for everyone from travel tips for Aussies. ISTE to what we’ve been doing.   Feel free to jump to the sections that interest you!

And educators feel free to get me to Skype into your class to discuss differences between Australia and USA.

ISTE and San Diego

ISTE is an annual conference held in USA where 20, 000 people from around the World come to share and learn more about educational technology.  It’s impossible to explain how much is gained from attending ISTE.

Networking online is great but you gain even more when you make those face-to-face connections.  Check out more from what some of my friends gained here:

  1. Alice Mercer
  2. Kathleen Morris
  3. Ann Mirtschin
  4. Sue Wyatt
  5. Tracey Watanabe
  6. Linda Yollis

Please let me know if you’ve written some posts about ISTE so I can add them to my list!

Sue Wyatt, Tracey Watanabe, Ronnie Burt and me

Too many highlights to cover but an important one was meeting Ronnie Burt, my work colleague, face-to-face for the first time.

We’ve worked together now for over two years and talk almost daily so it did surprise many that that this is the first time we’ve meet.

Final comment is that ISTE was held in San Diego this year.

I was surprised to see that San Diego is very similar looking to my home city Perth.  Lots of the same vegetation including Kangaroo paws.

You can check out my complete set of San Diego and ISTE photos here!

San Diego

I really need to learn to check the climate when traveling.  I’d assumed that San Diego would be hot whereas the temperature was very similar to the current daytime winter temperatures in Perth.

Current Perth winter vs San Diego summer

Understanding all things USA

I’m always caught out traveling in USA; I find it harder than any other country I travel in.  I think it”s because I assume it should be very similar to Australia when there are so many subtle differences that you don’t appreciate watching American TV shows or networking online with Americans.

The Food

Food has been my most exciting adventure this time.   Most American food is very different from what we eat in Australia, and how you order meals is different.

This trip I’ve encouraged my American friends to surprise me by ordering food.

1. Memphis styled Pulled chicken burger with corn fritters and cinnamon butter. 2. Refried beans, Spanish rice and beef enchiladas 3. Indian Taco 4. NYC Pizza

Here’s some food facts:

  1. Pulled meat is any meat that has been slow cooked for 6-8 hours and then pulled apart using a fork.  It’s quite common for chicken, pork and beef.
  2. Sandwiches are anything between pieces of bread.  Burgers, rolls and buns are all called sandwiches in USA.  For example, on a McDonald’s menu you will see burgers listed as a meal or sandwich price.  Australians use the term sandwich to mean any  food between two slices of bread.
  3. In Washington DC, Jeff Meade took me to the Native Food Cafe in the Museum of American Indians.  Mr13 and I enjoyed trying out the different Native Indian food.  Our favorite was the Indian Tacos.
  4. There are containers of garlic. Parmesan cheese, oregano. chili etc which you sprinkle onto your NYC pizza after it has been cooked and before you eat it.
  5. Aussie meals tend to be as per the menu while in USA you’ll have lots of options so you need to be prepared to say what sides (e.g. fries, rice, salads, potatoes), what type of cheese, what type of dressing, how you want the meat cooked when ordering your meal.  Good luck working out what some of the sides are!
  6. The trick to ordering a McDonald meal is to say the meal size and number of the meal e.g Medium No. 1 means a medium Big Mac Meal.  In Australia we would say it as a medium Big Mac Meal.  If you say that here you might get a Big Mac with a drink minus the fries.  Also here there is no such thing as a small meal at McDonald’s.  The smallest size is the medium and the largest meal is considerably larger than McDonald’s meals I’ve eaten any where else in the World.
  7. Most cafe and restaurant include free top up of soft drinks so you only pay once for a soft drink (soda).
  8. A USA biscuit is similar to what we call a scone while a biscuit to an Australian is a cookie to an American.  But to make it confusing they also do occasionally have scones :)
  9. What they call a pickle is what we call a gerkin.
  10. Donuts here are apparently a breakfast food while in Australia we eat them any time of the day but not for breakfast.
  11. Our method of cooking bacon is known as Canadian bacon while bacon cooked here is very crisp and commonly eaten with fingers.
  12. If a salad comes with the meal it’ll often be served before the main meal in USA where in Australia the salad is always served at the same time as the main meal.

Our Aussie language

Besides differences in food you also need to appreciate that Americans can struggle to understand Aussies when we speak.  When they get that look in their glazed look in their eyes you know they haven’t fully understood everything you’ve said.   Our use of different words and phrases with our accent makes it confusing for them.

Tipping

The other aspect Aussie’s struggle with is tipping.  Tipping in Australia is considered un-Australian and tipping makes an Australian feel uncomfortable.    Tipping is part of life in American.    Take the time to learn how to tip and get used to tipping.

Please feel free to leave some tipping tips as I still struggle with working out when to tip and how much :)

Flying

Finally flying!  Make sure you’re domestic flights are linked to your International flight or you will have to pay additional costs for each bag and as an International traveler you generally can’t use the self check in — bypass self check in and find some one on the counter who can organise your boarding pass.

It’s common for flights to be delayed and overbooked — don’t stress if you miss a flight due to delays!  They will always get you onto another flight.

PS always hold onto your luggage claim receipt.  Flights can be tight in USA and your luggage can arrive later or earlier than you.

Washington DC

Lots of people have asked for more information about what sight seeing we’ve done in each location, what we’ve enjoyed the most and any tips.  Here is the information for Washington DC.  I’ll cover New York in my next post.

You can check out all my photos from Washington DC here.

Day 1:

  1. Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
  2. Smithsonian Museum of American History – lunch at Mitistam Cafe (Native food cafe)
  3. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  4. Smithsonian Museum of American History
  5. Walk down National Mall to Washington Monument
  6. Walk past Reflecting pool to Lincoln Memorial

Here’s some facts:

  • All Smithsonian Museums are free and most are within easy walking distance from each other on either side of the National Mall.  Best option is to start at a Smithsonian at one end and work your way along the National Mall to check out the Museums you want to visit.
  • Each Smithsonian Museum is packed full of things to do and you really can spend as much or as little time visiting each.  We comfortably visited four Museums in one day but could have easily spent a day in each.
  • Like all important USA sights you have to go through a security check before entering.  Remember no food allowed and if you are allowed to bring in drinks you can only carry water.

Favorite moments were:

  •  The Star Spangled Banner exhibit and Lighting a Revolution at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  There are lots of really interesting exhibits in the American History Museum that I hadn’t expected and well worth the visit.
  • Mr13 enjoyed all the different Museums.  His favorite was probably the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  I loved The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age and Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight
  • Lunch at the Native Food Cafe in the Museum of American Indians.  There was so many different types of foods to try that you wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to try.
  • Walking the National Mall to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.  The National Mall is currently undergoing major restoration and the Washington Monument is closed due to Earthquake damage but still a great walk.

1. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. 2. Smithsonian Museum of National History. 3. Washington Monument 3. Lincoln Memorial

Day 2:

We did the Gray Line’s DC in a Day Tour.

It was a good way to learn more about DC and included stops at the following sights:

  • Tour of Capitol Building
  • White House Visitors Center – you need to walk across the road to see White House
  • Smithsonian Museums
  • World War II memorial
  • Martin Luther King Memorial
  • Roosevelt Memorial

We had sufficient time at each stop to check out each location well.

Our personal highlight was visiting The Capitol.  It is such a beautiful building and we learnt a lot about its history on the guided tour of The Capitol.

1. The Capitol 2. Interior view of the Capitol Dome 3. Martin Luther King’s Memorial 4. Roosevelt Memorial 5. World War II Memorial

Day 3:

Personally I wasn’t a fan of the International Spy Museum but Mr13 really enjoyed it.  We paid to go on a Spy mission which he really loved.

My favorite was the National Archive.  Best place to start the visit is watching their Introductory movie on the National Archives.  The exhibits at the National Archives were informative and interactive.

Loved the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom

  • Declaration of Independence
  • Constitution
  • Bill of Rights

1. White House 2. National Archives 3. White House

Day 4:

We did the Gray Line’s Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery tour.

We thoroughly enjoyed this tour as it gave us an opportunity to see sights outside of Washington DC while learning about George Washington.  Mount Vernon is the home of George Washington.  It is where he died and is buried.  A visit to Mount Vernon should definitely be included on your list if you have time when visiting Washington DC.

This tour included stops at the following sights:

  • Mount Vernon and guided tour of The Mansion
  • Christchurch in Alexandria
  • US Marine Corps memorial
  • Tour of Arlington cemetery including visits to the Kennedy’s graves, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Changing of the Guard  Ceremony
  • Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War memorial

1. The Mansion at Mount Vernon 2. George Washington’s Tomb 3. Kennedy’s grave at Arlington Cemetery 4. George Washington’s pew in Christchurch 5. Arlington Cemetery 6. US Marine Corps Memorial

Staying connected

And finally for those wondering how I’m staying connected Internet access is always my first priority as I’m working as I travel.

There is a range of options for International travelers in USA.  This time I went with an AT & T 3 GB Prepaid Sim card from mrsimcard.com (I’ve hired USB Internet Access Card for my computer on previous trips).

Here’s what you need to know if you use this option:

  1. Make sure you select the correct SIM card.  I selected the wrong one which they correctly fixed before sending the card.
  2. Delivery to Australia is really fast.  You can also have it sent to your hotel.
  3. Telstra unlocks iPhones for free but you need to organise this several days in advance of travelling as it takes a couple of days to unlock and you need to connect to iTunes to complete the process.   I had to do a factory restore to make mine unlock (remember to back up your iPhone before doing a restore).
  4. mrsimscard.com sends an email with an app you need to install on your iPhone before you can use the card.
  5. I had planned to hotspot my iPhone, like I do with Telstra in Australia, but you can’t using this plan with AT & T in USA.  If I had been aware of this I might have brought my 3G iPad.

Having a pre-paid SIM card really is worth it; makes life easier and enhances the experience!  I’ve also installed IM Pro+ on my iPhone so I can quickly IM with my work colleagues if needed.

Final thoughts

Hope you’ve enjoyed the highlights of our travel so far.  Our next destination was New York which I’ll cover in my next post.

Only other things I would add is:

  1. Connecting with other educators on Twitter really enhances the experience.  My twitter network have helped recommend places to check out and it has been invaluable for connecting face-to-face with other educators in the different cities we’ve visited.
  2. Instagram is a great way to share your travels with your network and is a great instant way of sharing your experience.  You’ll find my Instagram photos here.

Here’s where you’ll find my guides on:

  1. Twitter
  2. Instagram

 

Visiting Melbourne…Want to catch up?

I’m going to be in Melbourne from May 11 to May 18.

My mum’s attending a conference from May12-13 and asked me to join her as she doesn’t get much opportunity to holiday.

Perhaps explains where I get it from my craziness from.

But at 72 she leads an incredibly busy life.  Still works 3 days per week plus does volunteer work.  Between that and family commitments — it’s no surprise there’s not much time to holiday.

Getting to the point 8-)

I’ll be in Melbourne and happy to meet up with any one between our holiday commitments.

I’ll be attending the 2011 DEECD Innovation Showcase on May 12.  I’m using it as an opportunity to catch up with people I’ve been networking with online while she is busy at her conference.  Please watch out for the lost person at the conference — that’ll be me!

Feel free to also suggest must see places to take her in Melbourne.   I don’t think she has visited Melbourne and has made the incredibly BAD mistake of leaving me in charge of all travel plans.   We could be in serious trouble since she isn’t aware of my dirty secret that I can get lost in the simplest locations.

PS needs some extra special suggestions for Saturday May 14 as it is her birthday!

And wish my mum luck — there is a chance I might lose misplace her in Melbourne during one of my famous ‘I’m lost’ incidents

My chances of winning all the chocolate ARE?

Life’s been a bit tougher the past 12+ months which is why there’s been less of Sue around than previously.

And off course, during the same period I’ve also been a bit accident prone so some of my friends, who have been there when I’ve needed them, have decided it’s time for a smile and laugh.

So as a bit of harmless fun they’ve created the Sue Waters’s Injury Sweepstake.

I’ve been lead to believe if I make it to 30 Sept, 2011 without an injury I win the prize of REAL chocolate 8-)

As Phil say’s it all started from his gentle teasing of me being prone to accidents and perhaps we should run a sweepstake on it.

Considering I’ve injured myself three times in the past 12 months — there might be some truth in being accident prone.

History of accidents are:

  1. April 2010 – Grade 2 tear of calf muscle in right leg trying to change the tyre (tire) on my car while on holidays
  2. July 201 0- drove car into a concrete pole in a car park breaking fourth metacarpal of my left hand
  3. Feb 2011 – fell over when car stuck behind boon gate in public car park damaging ligaments in left foot

Injuries

But am I really accident prone?

My accidents were annoying, and let’s be honest, quite funny.

But evidence suggests that others are like me :)

In the same time period my sisters both injured themselves (walking):

  1. Aug 2010 - middle sister badly fractured left ankle
  2. Dec 2011 – oldest sister broke her left arm/wrist and shattered right shoulder ball joint

Placing your bets

So for a bit of a chuckle, and fun, check out the current suggestions of how I might next injury myself, when and the cause of the accident.  There are some really funny suggestions.

And off course, while there add your own suggestions to the Sue Waters’s Injury Sweepstake.

Wish Phil had made it so my children couldn’t enter :(  They’ve been plotting how they could rig it :)

What would YOU like me to do a Presentation on?

Feel like helping out?

Some background

Reform Symposium 2010I”m presenting at The Reform Symposium, a 48 hour free e-conference that begins Friday, July 30th at 2pm PDT (LA Time) and ends Sunday, August 1st at 2:30pm PDT (LA Time).

You’ll find details for my presentation and how to join here!

But I’ve decided to be different.  Rather than me choose the topic of my presentation.  We’ve invited people to suggest topics (and titles).

I’ve now condensed topic suggestions — all we now need to do is finalise the choice.

Submit your vote

So here’s your chance!  What would you like me to present on?

Can you please vote by choosing your preferred topic from the poll?  And tell all your friends to vote quickly too.

For those wondering:

  • ‘Blogging for teachers” is tips and advice for teachers on blogging for personal and professional reflection
  • “Managing workflow” is how to effectively use tools like gmail, Google Docs, gtalk, Google Reader, Google Calendar etc to colloborate with others and manage your work

Voting has closed and the results are:

Student blogging

Final thoughts

Thanks for helping me out!

And off course — with limited time to organise.

Would love it if you should share your thoughts (for any of the topics) on:

  1. What you would like to know?
  2. What you think I need to cover?

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

The Story Behind That Twitteraholic Post

There’s always a story behind what inspires bloggers to write specific posts.

Unfortunately we aren’t always able to include that aspect in our posts :(

Maybe it is me?  But often the story behind the post is just as intriguing and fascinating as the post.

So I thought you might be interested in the story behind A Twitteraholic’s Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter?

The Inspiration

Being at a large conference like ISTE, where you have over 13,000 people attending,  reminded me of how much my life has changed as a result of using twitter.

Life before Twitter at a conference was like the first day at a new school — really lonely, isolating experience and take days to connect with others.

While life with Twitter at a conference is like walking into a big party where you know everyone and are meeting up with old friends.   And it’s probably even harder to understand for those that don’t use twitter (or only use it a bit) but often we haven’t even connected with each other online before the conference.

But Twitter brings us together — regardless of whether we’ve already built a relationship online.  And the time we spend together face-to-face enhances our online relationships so the next time we meet up its even better!

Connecting with others was as simple as sending tweets like ‘Who wants to go out for dinner #iste10′, ‘Who wants to go out for breakfast — I’m hungry #iste10′, ‘Where is everyone? #iste10′ or monitoring the hashtag #iste10 to find out what was happening.

What other technology really allows you to connect with some many people so quickly?

And That line…

Off course there is often stories behind specific lines within a post.

My two favorite line in A Twitteraholic’s Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter? are:

  1. “Twitter is for people with too much time on their hands”
  2. “using it like a big teachers lunch room that’s open 24/7″

The “Twitter is for people with too much time on their hands” has the best story 8-)

Here’s how it goes…..

The day I flew out to USA I crashed my car — managing to break the suspension underneath my car and damage my left hand.

Unfortunately due to travel commitments I couldn’t get my hand x-rayed until I returned home 3 1/2 weeks later.  So while it was being x-rayed I tried to explain why there had been a delay in getting it done due to traveling as part of my work.

Explaining what it meant to support a blogging company wasn’t working — so I tried the opposite approach by saying blogging is sort of like Twitter since most people have heard of twitter.

That’s when he replied “Twitter is for people with too much time on their hands” — we’ve all had others say exactly that to us.  For me it was we have to that line in the post because too often that is exactly what people think and say to us!

And since I had managed to break my hand in the car crash I can confirm true crazy Twitteraholics don’t let things like a broken hand get in our way of tweeting or writing blog posts.

Here’s the x-ray and my story remains that the concrete pillar was driving on the wrong side of the road!

X-ray

And back to “using it like a big teachers lunch room that’s open 24/7″ — someone on tweeted that on Twitter during the time I was writing the post.  Thanks whoever tweeted it!

Final Thoughts

Hope my story has added more meaning to my A Twitteraholic’s Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter? post and makes it as memorable for you as it was for me — especially considering it was written over at least week and from two countries at opposite sides of the World.

And would love to hear the stories behind what inspired you to write your different posts!

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Free to good home!

Image by a href=Any takers?

I’ve had enough of the work involved with dealing with spammers on Ning sites.

So decided to reduce the workload by getting rid of eTools and Tips for Educators.

It’s a cool name and URL – http://etools.ning.com/

If Ning is like blog sites once a URL has been deleted no-one including the original user can create the site again with that URL.

Let me know if you would like to take it over (and use how you want) otherwise I’m deleting in 48 hours.

PS  Unlike my husband who I’ve tried to give away (occasionally) it doesn’t come with an inbuilt snore 8-)

Image by Mubblegum licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike

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Always Push Those Boundaries

It’s amazing how a blast from the past can be such a powerful reminder!

I created Animoto video below over 2 years ago!

It was unusual because as I said in the description:

Had to push the boundaries of using Animoto by adding words and voice. Not because it was a good idea, it probably wasn’t, but the challenge was there so had to try!

Today David N. left me the timely reminder in a comment:

Animoto comment

Happy to say I continue to push those boundaries and are learning new things every day.

My motto–

  • The only bad ideas are never trying or giving up too quickly

Since Animoto allows you to upload your own music I quickly recorded some audio (using Audacity) and uploaded it to put with my video.

And here’s the video for a chuckle

Oops and apologies in advance as I may have said bad words like ‘this might be crap’ when talking.

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

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Relaxing Is?

I’m currently enjoying a leisurely few days family holiday visiting my friend.

Obviously I forgot to tell her dog I’m definitely NOT a dog person!  And balancing a MacBook and dog on lap while working on an iPhone isn’t easy :(

Send back the cat!

Hope you’re all having a great holiday break and here’s looking forward to an exciting 2010!

Edublog Awards – Thanks For Nominating My Sites

This is a tough one, which Larry hinted at here

But I think it is important to take the time to thank those who nominated me and my different websites (Sue Waters Blog, The Edublogger and PLN Yourself) in several categories of the 2009 Edublogs Awards.

Thanks Sue Wyatt, Jan Smith, Lesley Edwards, Burcu Akyol, Mike Sansone, David Truss, Gail Desler, RliberniDarcy Moore, and Shelly Terrell.

I’m honored to have been nominated by you all (and apologies if I’ve missed anyone from the list — please let me know if I did as it defnitely isn’t deliberate!)

As Larry Ferlazzo says:

‘the really important thing about these awards is that they provide an opportunity for everybody to learn about great blogs and other resources out there that can be helpful to our teaching’.

So take the time to check out the 2009 Edublogs Awards — because it’s a great way to discover cool ways of using social media in an educational context!

PS Please tell me about some of the cool ideas (and/or sites) you find when checking through the Edublogs Awards nominations!

Using Public Google Waves For Personal Learning

There’s always a shiny new toy– and with it the stampede to use.

Yes that was also me once too :(  Nowadays I’ve learnt very slow, steady saves time and my sanity.

So I’m incredibly proud of the fact that I’ve never watched ANY Google Wave videos, read ANY tutorials and avoided every invite until I stumbled across a reason for investigating.

My motivation was I discovered you can set up public waves that any one can join.

I decided this was a good way for me and other educators to learn how to use Wave, by working together with each other, while also seeing how Wave might be used for personal learning (and with student).

Joining a Public Wave

We’ve called our public wave eduwave.

Joining  it is as easy as:

  1. Search for Eduwave by typing with:public Eduwave into search and then hit Enter.Searching for a public wave
  2. Now all you need to do is click Follow once you’ve found Eduwave to start following it. Following a wave
  3. Feel free to add your own replies to the wave, test different features and send me a tweet (@suewaters) if you want me to log in and join you.

Off course I’m proud of the fact that my friends taught me quickly how to use Wave.

Creating a Public Wave

Big thanks to Rob Wall for quickly locating the information I needed to create the public wave.

All you need to do is:

  1. Add public@a.gwave.com to your contacts lists by clicking on Add new Contact, enter the email address public@a.gwave.com and then click Enter Adding public@a.gwave.com
  2. It should add Public to your Contact list
  3. Now hover your mouse over Public’s avatar and select new wave Creating a public wave

Now anyone in Google Wave can search and add themselves to your public wave.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Please share your thoughts on Google Wave.

Your like(s), Dislike(s), What’s cool? Your tips… and links to any tutorials that I should have read 8-)

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