2011 in Review

Despite barely posting on the blog this year, I am still receiving quite a bit of blog traffic, so I thought I should offer up a bit of an update. This year I’ve had  minor health issues – I have had over 20 doctor visits, 1 retrieval from work via a wheelchair, and 5 hospital visits. which has meant that the blog was one of the first things to receive less attention.

Nevertheless, life is good, I feel happy and am definitely on the way to better health. This year my highlights have been:

  • go to Dublin City University to be on a student’s PhD viva. This was definitely one of the highlights for me as the PhD student was brilliant, the folk at DCU were very welcoming and took time to show me around Dublin, and I also managed to meet up with an old and dear friend from UWCSEA, Natalie, who I hadn’t seen since I was 17.
  • become a reluctant media “go-to” person. Although I LOVE giving lectures and conference presentations, I always feel in control and prepared for those, whereas media is quite unpredictable, I never know what to expect and TV especially can be a bit daunting. However I have been in two newspaper articles, been interviewed on radio twice, and also been on TV twice! Although reluctant, I am genuinely thrilled that my research has received the attention it has, which is why I almost always say yes when asked. My ARC research appearing as a Catalyst story was another highlight of the year.
  • having Professor Len Unsworth work at UTAS with me as a visiting fellow. Len has been a mentor since I first had a conversation with him about my work in 1998, and it is such a pleasure to continue working on research grants and publications together. Having him at UTAS to work with every day for some months really rejuvenated me like a shot in the arm!
  • running a conference on New Literacies. Organising a conference was much harder than I expected, but it was lovely to have colleagues from around the world as well as locally to work intensely with us over 2 days and join in interesting conversations. I have to say that UTAS is very small, so those kind of like minded conversations within a specialised field like new literacies are quite rare.
  • research has been going really well. We’re 2.5 years into our 3 year ARC grant and the days I spent working in schools (interviewing young kids about their animated movies / digital stories) are such a pleasure. I also received two other grants this year – one has almost finished (“teaching teachers for the future”) and another one has just started (“interreality fictions”). Research (and writing) is my favourite part of being an academic (as opposed to sitting in long dull meetings being talked at for hours on end!).
  • art classes – yes I do other things aside from work, and its been lots of fun taking classes and making time to draw and paint.
  • being with family and being in Tasmania. I am not sure whether I will be staying in Tasmania in the long term but I really love living here, and being close to my family, especially my brother Matthew who lives just 5 minutes away from me.

So, thanks if you’re still visiting the blog. Happy festive season :)

HUMlab Talk/Tour Video


Today I gave a tour of Macbeth for the HUMlab in Sweden! Click here if you’d like to view the video stream of the tour. It goes for about an hour. It was a bit of an experiment for us to do the live streaming, but it mostly worked well, except an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in which I lost my hair! Thanks to Jim Barrett for the invitation to speak and for doing all the camera work.

Want to do a Certificate of Digital Literacies?

Heard about virtual worlds but don’t know what they’re about and why they would be good for education?

Always wondered what the fuss about Second Life is all about?

Wondering how others use blogs and wikis in the classroom?

Thinking about improving your own skills in making animations?

Want to see and review some fabulous resources for the teaching of mulitliteracies?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, come along to one of my Teacher Development sessions, or come along to all of them and get a Certificate of Digital Literacies!

Details here.

Happy New Year!

I thought while it was still January I’d best send out my Happy New Year greetings to all! :)

Over the Summer I have been in my favourite world heritage Tasmanian wildnerness spots – even climbing to the peak of a small mountain (well it was a 3 hour uphill hike and a 50 minute slip and slide back down) here at Freycinet, one of the most beautiful spots on the East Coast of Tasmania. Sometimes I dream of returning to live in Tasmania as it is such a relaxing pretty and peaceful lifestyle. Plus my crazy, fun, eccentric family live there and keep me totally entertained every time I visit. 

By contrast, Sydney life is hectic and fast paced and intensely busy – I never seem to get the balance right between work and play, I am always tired, and I never feel like I am ahead. I used to have so much more time to think and write and blog and discuss ideas with people, but as you can see from my blogging, the past couple of years in particular I have found it increasingly difficult to squeeze everything in. 

Being in Tasmania always rejuvenates my spirits, but I feel like I need to rejuvenate my intellectual life and push myself a lot more to take intellectual risks with my writing and research. So I guess that is my big new year’s resolution – to reinvigorate my program of writing and research by taking risks and trying to view things from new perspectives.  

One thing I am really looking forward to is a plenary talk I am giving at the UKLA conference in July on virtual worlds and new literacies. I am hoping to reconnect with some of my favourite colleagues there and hopefully make some new contacts as well in similar fields. And… just for me, for pure pleasure, I am taking a week or so extra as vacation leave while in the UK so that I can adopt tourist mode and explore some exotic city in Europe – any suggestions?

Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe


I have been invited to go and speak on the SLCN “Tonight Live” with Paisley Beebe show on Sunday!  Details include:


This week Paisley interviews guests:

Inarra Saarinen – Ballet Pixille

Inarra brings her RL skills of choreography & animation to the fore as Founder & artistic director of Ballet Pixelle. She writes or adapts stories for the Ballets, creates the unique animations, develops the choreography, does set design, costume coordination, overall production design and auditions & works with the dancers. Her dance company also has a RL following and has been seen in magazines & on TV.

Personal website: inarra saarinen on Facebook

Business Website:  balletpixelle.org

Myspace: myspace.com/balletpixelle

Blog: balletpixelle.blogpsot.com

HatHead Rickenbacker – Chief Creative Officer

Known for more than just his music, Hathead also runs a full service company servicing corporate & non-profit organizations: building, managing events, learning conferences, testing capabilities & constraints of SL. He builds, he performs, he films & he thinks!

SLurl of Hathead: http://slurl.com/secondlife/HatHead%20II/242/99/300

Personal website: http://www.hatheadinc.com/wordpress/

Business Website: http://www.hatheadinc.com/

Anya Ixchel – Virtual Worlds Content Designer

A RL senior lecturer in an Australian University, Anya find new & innovative ways to teach curriculum materials to her students by bringing them in world, taking them on tours of her sim Macbeth and discussing new forms of creative & performative pedagogy.

SLurl of Macbeth: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Macbeth/34/57/55

Personal & business website: https://angelaathomas.com

** Key landmarks and websites: **

* Tonight Live studio at SLCN: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Northpoint/205/140/32

* If the sim is full we have a live screen set up at: Sunset Jazz Club http://slurl.com/secondlife/Laurel%20Arts%20Isle/149/53/308

* Tonight Live show replays:


* If you wish to watch replays of our show or any other SLCN show just visit our studio for a free TV set

* Join our group “Tonight Live” to recieve information about upcoming guests and artists

* Tonight Live blog & pictures at:



So I had to go fashion shopping for such a special occasion! I hope to see some friendly faces in the audience – come along early so you can get a seat, spaces are limited!


Anya ready for Tonight Live

Virtual Macbeth Halloween Party!

Hi everybody, we’re having an informal Halloween party on Macbeth in Second Life on Friday evening US time (Saturday 2pm Sydney time). Please come along and join us if you’d like some fun. We have the amazing Cybster DJ entertaining us with whatever DJs do for a few hours, and we’d love some more fine company to enjoy the evening with.


Alan Levine advertised the event with the words: “Join Anya Ixchel and her scary friends” – but I promise you that we are not scary, we are very gentle. Even if I do wear my Vampire outfit. Hope to see you there! :) (Thanks Alan!)

Publicity File for Virtual Macbeth


Above is a pdf file which is a blended press release / publicity flier / information brochure for Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters: Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Second Life. Feel free to download and distribute.

More information and images can be downloaded from the wiki: http://virtualmacbeth.wikispaces.com

The Mom Song

Thanks to my dear friend and commenter Sally-Ann, whose blog Wombats in the Belfry I just now discovered (sorry I have been awol from blogging and blog reading for a while, this year has been busy!) I came across the above youtube clip. I am not a mother myself, but I sure have heard every one of these phrases all through my childhood, so this post is dedicated to my lovely mother, Yvonne!

Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters: Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Second Life

UPDATE: Please see corrected times for the launch of Macbeth!  Also, we will be honoured with the lovely voice of Paisley Beebe entertaining us on the day. Hope to see lots of friends there :)

It is my pleasure to announce the grand launch and opening of our new Second Life sim, Macbeth (SLURL: here).

This is a project I have been working on since March. The project, Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters: Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Second Life is a collaboration designed by  Angela Thomas (virtual worlds content designer), Kerreen Ely-Harper (director) and Kate Richards (producer).

Funding was provided by Literature Board of The Australian Council for the Arts , and investor partner, the New Media Consortium (full credits)

The island is accompanied by a wiki and the page labelled island guide describes the island and some of our design choices. On the wiki we have also started a collection of teaching resources for the use of the sim and also for teaching Macbeth in general.

Please feel free to join the sim, the Macbeth group in world, and the Virtual Macbeth flickr group.  Contact me in Second Life if you want a private tour – Anya Ixchel.

Full press releases coming soon :)

The Hatpin: The. most. extraordinary. Australian. musical. ever!

Life has been hectic lately with grant applications, admin, classes, professional development, meetings, more admin… the usual but I managed to escape work for a while to enjoy the most amazing musical ever: The Hatpin.

It’s a very dark, Gothic, heart wrenching dramatic thriller that was inspired by the true story of a young, homeless, single mother Amber Murray, and is one of the best pieces of storytelling I have ever seen. The fact that the historical events happened just around the corner from where I am living right now sends chills down my spine. It is macabre, grisly, spooky, and terribly terribly sad.

According to the website info, it is:

a tale of great friendship between two women, borne out of tragedy. It … deals with the notions of motherhood, and companionship thriving under extraordinary pressure and self-liberty. Essentially, it is a story about the resilient nature of the human spirit in times of great loss.

The story of Amber Murray and that of John and Sarah Makin in 1892, is considered influential in bringing about awareness in Australian society of the need for welfare for single-mothers and the demand for an Australian Child Protection Act. It marked a pivotal turning point in our history and helped define our society and social structures, the consequences of which are still seen today.

Caroline O’Connor is extraordinary and really gave the show integrity on so many levels – providing some of the most touching and yet comedic moments in the narrative. The music was wonderful – here’s a medley that was made and published on youtube:

There’s also a youtube video of an interview with the writer and composer which provides additional background info:

I also found an excellent review from the Sydney Morning Herald and here’s a snippet from that:

Hardwick’s control of pace and the cast’s commitment to each moment sustain intense engagement. Again and again production choices elevate the material. Costumes are all shades of grey, nuances of characterisation and theme conveyed with bold efficacy – villainy and heroism on a symbolic continuum of human fallibility. Lighting and visual effects are superb, cold streetscapes a gravestone for compassion, choral transitions lit in ghoulish, expressionistic patterns.

Stirring performances abound. Melle Stewart is heartbreakingly real as Amber Murray, the teenage mother who gives her son away. Stewart’s emotional bravery is complemented by Gemma-Ashley Kaplan, who brings just the right amount of peculiar to Clara Makin. Kaplan’s performance of the denouement title song (and Clara’s redemption) is breathtaking.

Caroline O’Connor lends star power to the earthy Harriet Piper, Amber’s friend. With irreverent banter almost improvisational in its freshness, O’Connor lifts this mask of humour to reveal emotional depth with profound effect. Michelle Doake creates extraordinary engagement with Agatha Makin, wresting this villainess back from melodramatic overstatement while pushing to the hilt the psychotic hysteria just beneath the facade of respectability. The male characters are paler by comparison, their snivelling and posturing well executed but less relevant to the drama.

The Hatpin is far from perfect but this fearless production is a must see. Its artistic ambition, committed execution and capacity to engage an audience suggest a landmark moment in Australian musical theatre.

I can’t rave enough about this – if you’re in Sydney, go and see it!!! The storytelling is just spectacular.

And, if you are a Drama / English / History / Theatre / Music teacher of young people over 15, take your classes along!!! There’s a teacher’s resource package here that includes some of the original source material and lesson ideas which are really well developed.

Call for Chapters – Handbook of Research on Multiliteracies and Technology Enhanced Education: Social Practice and the Global Classroom

For the first time *ever* I’ve had to start saying no to invitations to write book chapters – with a new book and several chapters and articles already promised and in the works, my writing schedule for 2008 is pretty much tied up already. But for anybody wanting to publish something about multiliteracies, here’s a CFC from a great team in Tasmania.

Continue reading

My Digital Fiction Presentation for Futures in Literacy Conference


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