SOTA Tip no. 2 – How to Make the Most of Non-Contact Time

SOTA tips - How to Make the Most of Non-Contact TimeDepending on your school, ‘non-contact time’ may be called ‘off-air time’, ‘set work’, ‘self-motivated study time’, ‘individual study time’, or simply ‘homework’. Basically, it’s any time that’s not contact lesson time or otherwise occupied, when you’re meant to be doing whatever work your teacher set for you to do during the lesson.

So, here are my best tips for getting the most out of your non-contact time.

#1 – Have a routine.

Up to about Year 10, your teacher will probably ask your to send in a timetable of when you’re going to be doing your homework. No, they probably don’t expect you to follow. We all know you won’t.

However, you do need to keep a basic routine, at least. Try to get up at a reasonable time and be at your desk by 9am (9:30 at the latest) – unless, of course, you have an 8:45 lesson. Get to bed at a sensible hour, and try to eat meals at about the same time each day (have breakfast, have lunch, have dinner).

Your school will probably encourage you to work at the same hours as kids at face-to-face school, and it’s definitely best to start work at around the same time. But you don’t have to work from 9-3. You might choose to take a long break after lunch and go back to schoolwork at 3 and work through to 5 or 6. That’s up to you and your supervisor (mother or governess).

#2 – Know what you’re going to do.

When you sit down at your desk, or before you do, work out what bit of homework you’re going to get on with first. It’s a good idea to do the homework from a lesson immediately after that lesson – or at least make a good start on it. This way, it’s all fresh in your mind. Of course, this can get a bit difficult if you have two contact lessons one after the other.

For myself, I’ve found it beneficial to have a (written or mental) ranked list of tasks that need to get done. Organising the tasks by when they’re due is a good idea. If you have a large project due in four weeks, break it down into smaller chunks and spread them out on your list. When you sit down at your desk in the morning, pull out your mental list and get started on the next bit of work on it.

#3 – Take breaks.

Not great big long frequent ones, like road workers, but it’s still good to take breaks. Have a short break after you’ve completed a piece of work, or even a particularly difficult exercise. Take a quick walk outside, if it’s not too hot, and have a piece of fruit. A quick five-minute break will make your mind sharper when you go back to work.

#4 – Keep your fluids up.

Keep a glass of water on your desk. Naturally, don’t keep certain beverages at your desk, such as cordial, fizzy drink, alcohol, and so forth. Water or fruit juice is perfectly sufficient. If it’s hot, put ice cubes in!

#5 – Don’t procrastinate.

I’m sure you’ve been told this a lot, and I know it’s difficult to do, but it’s important.

If you’re freaking out about a certain homework task, don’t start off with that. Choose something easy and manageable to start off with, but at least do something. Of course, don’t put off the big task forever. If you really are having trouble getting started with it, e-mail or phone your teacher.

Remember the golden rule – work before play. Reward yourself when you finish a task, by taking a break, having a piece of fruit, or playing a game you like.

#6 – Remove distractions.

Since you’re working mostly at a computer, it’s important not to have distractions on the computer while you’re working. Before you get started on schoolwork, close all the windows of stuff you do in your leisure time, and just have school-related stuff open.

Don’t work in your bedroom. If your parents put your desk in there, ask them to move it somewhere else. Your bedroom is full of distractions and you’ll never get any work done. Likewise, don’t have a television or a bookcase full of non-school-related books in your schoolroom.

#7 – Ask your teacher.

If you get stuck, if you’re having problems understanding your work, if you don’t know how to start or how to do the next bit, or if your technology isn’t working, don’t put it off until your next contact lesson, by which time you’ll probably have forgotten the question and may well have forgotten that you didn’t actually finish the task. Remember, your teachers are sitting in a call centre doing nothing all day but waiting for their dear students to give them someone to talk to. (Don’t tell your teachers I said that). Anyway, if you have a problem, send them a quick e-mail or phone them.

I think this is everything we covered, but if you’re a SOTA/correspondence/distance student and have any more ideas, let me know.

SOTA Tip no. 1 – How to Make the Most of Contact Lessons

SOTA tips - How to Make the Most of Contact Lessons

Depending on your school, ‘contact lessons’ may be called ‘air time’, ‘lesson time’, ‘telephone lessons’, or simply ‘lessons’. They’re that time of the week or day when you get on the phone or internet (or, in the olden days, when our parents did SOTA and dinosaurs roamed the earth, two-way radio) with your teacher and classmates and find out what you’re learning about.

So, here are our best tips for getting the most out of your contact lesson time.

#1 – Turn up to the lesson.

This seems pretty obvious, and no more needs to be said, really. Basically, remember when your lessons are scheduled for, and make sure to attend them. Even if you’re coughing up a lung and at death’s door, you can still attend the lesson from your sickbed.

It’s a bad idea to schedule ferry or plane trips during lesson time. However, bear in mind that most airports do have free wi-fi these days. Being in an airport in a different time zone is not a good excuse for not attending a lesson.

#2 – Turn up to the lesson early.

This is a good idea because it gives you time to check that all your technology (Moddle, Centra, WebEx, telephone, etc) is working, and gives you a little leeway should something not be working. You should try to have all the appropriate applications (Centra or WebEx, Moodle, and a word document, usually, as well as a textbook or set work) open before the lesson begins.

However, it is possible to turn up to lessons too early. If your lesson is at 11:55, it’s not necessary to log into Centra at 5am. Even if your class if having a competition to see who can get to lesson earliest.

#3 – Make sure your phone and computer are charged.

You don’t want to drop out of the lesson for something as silly as having a low battery. In fact, it’s best if your computer is plugged in for the lesson.

It’s best to have a wireless telephone (with a loudspeaker function), but even so, make sure any wires (particularly the one connecting the phone to the wall) aren’t somewhere where someone’s going to trip over them and pull them out.

#4 – Don’t be afraid to speak up.

If you have a bad connection, find some way to let the teacher know. Maybe they’re too quiet to hear, maybe they’re fuzzy, maybe everyone’s fuzzy. Sometimes you can’t hear them, but they can hear you. Maybe you can hear another student, but not the teacher. Whatever the problem, let the teacher know about it. If that’s not possible, let another student know so they can tell the teacher.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your teacher can’t see the confusion on your face; you’ve got to tell her when you don’t understand something.

#5 – Remove distractions.

Let your siblings know that you’re in lesson, and tell them not to come up to you to ask questions or have a conversation. Make sure that someone’s not going to be in the kitchen next door, clattering pots and pans around, and don’t be in a room where someone’s going to come in and turn the television on. Not only is background noise bad for your own concentration, but it’s also really annoying to everyone else in the class.

It’s best to be in a room with a closed door. Don’t wander around the house and make yourself a cup of tea whilst in lesson.

#6 – Be comfortable.

But not too comfortable. There are few things more annoying to other students than hearing loud snores coming over the line. Don’t attend your lesson from your bed (unless you’re really, really sick).

#7 – Take notes.

In a notebook, in a word document, wherever is easiest for you. Don’t take notes on loose bits of paper unless you put them in a folder right away; likewise, make sure to save the word document.

You don’t have to transcribe the lesson word-f0r-word, just take notes about relevant information. For example, in English, write down the title of the book you’re going to start studying. Also make sure to write down the homework you’ve been given.

#8 – Be prepared.

Be mostly prepared for the lesson at least three working hours before it starts. If you have a lesson at 8:45 or 9:40, make sure to send in your homework the afternoon before, at the very latest. Your teacher isn’t going to get your homework or message if you sent it just before you log in to Centra. You need to give it time to get through to her inbox, and then for her to find it and see it. Homework isn’t in on time if it’s sent in just before the lesson.

I think this is everything we covered, but if you’re a SOTA/correspondence/distance student and have any more ideas, let me know.

Also, thanks to the ABC and Joey Hunt’s brother for the picture at the top. Sorry, I can’t remember your name, but your older brother was in my year 9 and 10 classes.

A Prologue to “SOTA Tips”

SOTA TipsWell, Australia Day has been and gone, and across the country (and probably in New Zealand, too), children and teenagers have been going back to school. In my case, this included a trip into Marden (in Adelaide) yesterday morning for the Open Access College Senior Years Induction Day (which, I must say, has improved since the first one I attended in 2011. And has definitely improved since the one that wasn’t offered when I started in 2010).

One of the things we had to do during the proceedings was break into groups of about 10 and brainstorm for a topic we’d been given. My group had “How to make the most of lessons”. I felt we did quite well, so now I’d written them down, and since there isn’t much on the internet by way of “How to be a good SOTA student” or information on what it’s like to be one, I figured I’d post them.

These tips, naturally, are aimed at children and teenagers doing SOTA/OAC/NTEOC/Correspondence school/Distance education/Whatever else you want to call it, but I feel they are helpful for adults doing tertiary studies by correspondence, too.

So, without further babbling, I will shut up and start posting the tips.

You Know You’re Australian If…

With thanks to the following lists for inspiration:

… This video has not been made available in your region.

… A hamburger without beetroot? Are you crazy?

… Thongs are worn on the feet. Obviously.

… You’ve ever been accused of telling porkies.

… Ah, shudduppa ya face!

… Tom Burlinson is the Man from Snowy River.

… You drink water and beer chilled, but usually neither with ice or at room temperature.

… Aim for two and five.

… Small talk about the weather often includes sharing predictions for Fire Danger Ratings on upcoming days.

… Ugg boots are perfectly sensible streetwear.

… You frequently get hot water out of the cold tap in summer.

… All famous Kiwis are really Australian somehow, until they stuff up, at which point they become Kiwis again.

… Water conservation isn’t something you give much thought to, it’s just a habitual fact of life.

… All public transport timetables are a work of fiction.

… Whatever the tourist books say, you know that no-one says “cobber”, “dinky-di”, “true blue”, or “sheila”.

… In primary school, you were beaten over the head with guilt about the Stolen Generation.

… As a child, you drunk your tea/coffee/ice coffee/Milo through a Tim Tam.

… You can identify which state (or nearby Island, such as New Zealand or Tasmania) someone comes from by their accent.

… They’re all called chips, whether hot or cold.

… When reading about ways to save water, you have to frown in wonder that there are some people out there who don’t turn the tap off when they brush their teeth.

… You learnt about the War twice a year, memorised poems, got up at the crack of dawn, and made red paper flowers on popsticks to plant.

… Backyard Cricket can be played on the beach, at the park, on the street, in a classroom, and in the living room.

… You worry about having to cancel that barbeque on the weekend because it’s a Total Fire Ban day.

… It’s not summer until the steering wheel is too hot to handle.

… You talk about going “into the City”, even if you live less than 5 minutes from the CBD.

… Please, don’t attempt an Australian accent. You’ll fail, sound stupid, and it’s insulting to us.

… You know the Ning Nang Nong.

… It’s 31° and you can see men roaming the streets in long trousers and long-sleeved shirts.

… There’s a member of the senate from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

… Your favourite fizzy drink is either orange juice mixed with lemonade, or Bundaburg’s Ginger Beer.

… When returning from overseas, you naturally expect to be brutally strip-searched by Customs… just in case you’re trying to sneak in fruit.

… You get near-boiling water from the cold tap.

… Being a barista is more impressive than being a barrister.

… You’re not entirely certain how preferential voting works.

… When you turn on the TV, you have just as much chance of finding a British, Kiwi, or Canadian show as an Australian or American one.

… Your school principal and most of your teachers are your friends on FaceBook (and you have several mutual friends, not school-related).

… Doctor Who is on Channel Two.

… Christmas usually falls on a 40+° day, but you still eat roast turkey, send Christmas cards with pictures of snowmen, and sing about a white Christmas and sleigh rides.

… You send your teacher joke or chain e-mails.

… Every important discovery in the world was made by an Australian and sold off to the Yanks for a pittance.

… You’ve heard of Waikikimukau, but can’t get anyone to answer you honestly if it’s a real town.

… Non-mandatory voting seems barbarian and un-democratic.

… You step out into 41° heat and think how cool it is.

… In primary school, you made dot-painting native Australian animals by means of cotton buds.

… You drive on the left-hand side of the road. I don’t care if you drive on the right side, it’s still the wrong side!

… Which window are they going to look through today?

… Your mind boggles at the thought of someone not being able to swim.

… Drop bears are real. Seriously. You know, the other day, I was driving along, and this thing dropped out of the tree onto my car, claws everywhere, and put a dent in the bonnet! Fair dinkum!

… Who cares about Area 51? We have Woomera! And we can drive through it at will (well, parts of it, anyway. It is roughly the size of England, after all).

… You’ve ever waited for the bus at 7:15am and noticed that the thermometer read 42°.

… Easter bunny? Has the bilby retired or something?

… “Woolloomooloo” is a perfectly reasonably name for a town.

… Eating salty black stuff that looks like congealed motor oil and can be used as the base to make beer on your toast is perfectly natural.

… Yeah, no, I can’t think of any more, but.

… Even if you’re monolingual, you’re still able to order takeaway fluently in the appropriate Asian language.

… You know what a howling (snorting) koala sounds like, and you understand that the bloodcurling screams are in fact possums, not small children being tortured.

… Air raid sirens are familiar to you, because they’re still used by the local CFS (or equivalent) to call the volunteers in.

… Every suburb has a Maccas and a Salvos.

… You’ve ever had your entire year level herded onto the school oval and hosed down.

… Only poor people don’t dry their clothes on a washing line.

… You eat a meat pie from a paper bag.

… Everyone you ask in Australia says they’ve never been overseas, but no matter what country you go to, you find an Australian.

… You find yourself ignorant of almost all of the facts deemed essential in the government’s new test for migrants.

… “Excuse me” can sound rude, while “scuze me” is always polite.

… You get choked up with emotion by the first verse of the national anthem, and then have trouble remembering the second.

… You get through summer with Zooper Doopers and lemonade icypoles.

… Footy is played with an oval ball, soccer is played with a round ball, Gridiron is that weird one with armour (that they play in America), and rugby is what real men play. Anything else is just not cricket. Speaking of which…

… Five-nil, England. Five-nil.

… You grew up on Don Spencer, Peter Coombe, and Colin Buchanan.

… Having a public holiday for the Queen’s Birthday on a day that isn’t actually her birthday is perfectly sensible.

… You have 53 expired petrol discount vouchers stuffed in your wallet or purse.

… In summer, the seat belt buckle becomes a pretty good branding iron.

… You’ve ever stood in a National Park and pointed at a random tree just to see how many foreigners stop to try to spot the (imaginary) koala.

… Ginger Beer is the best fizzy drink in existence, but only Bundaburgs. The rest is rubbish.

… You have milk with your milo, not milo with your milk.

… It makes perfect sense for a nation to decorate its highways with large fibreglass bananas, prawns, and sheep.

… You know how to make Vegemite worms with Vita Wheats.

… It’s a bum bag, not a fanny pack. Do you even know what “fanny” means?

… You firmly believe that Australia has beaten England and every single sport they’ve ever played them at.

… It’s not all that crazy to fry an egg on the slippery-dip. You’ve actually done it.

… You know a local place where you can buy a steak (or chicken schnitzel) twice the size of your head for $5.

… It’s not summer until the steering wheel is too hot to handle.

… The most appropriate way to observe Australia Day is to have a barbeque and go swimming, possibly at the beach. (Military parades? What?)

… You know the difference between “ass” and “arse”.

… It’s perfectly sensible to cry over spilt milk when it’s a Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee.

… You know the difference between lamingtons and jelly cakes.

… It’s very important to have a fire plan, but you’re not entirely certain what yours is.

… You know the meaning of the word “girt”.

… Men cook the barbeque. Women make the salad people actually eat.

… You know what it’s like to swallow a fly, on occasion via the nose.

… It irks you that the Wii displays falling snow when it’s a 45° day. Rub it in my face, why don’t you?

… “Not happy, Jan!”

… Part of your getting-ready-for-bed ritual in summer includes spraying/rolling copious amounts of Aeroguard onto every inch of your body.

… You know when your local fire ban season is, and you’re conscious about checking if it’s a Total Fire Ban Day in the morning, particularly if you’re planning on hosting a barbeque.

… Paying $20 for a banana is an expected fact of life which pops up every few years.

… You live in Bullamakanka, Ooni-Woop-Woop, the Back of Bourke (or Beyond), or simply the Middle of Nowhere.

… Please don’t call me a koala bear, ‘coz I’m not a bear at all!

… You only ever go to Bunnings for the sausage sizzle.

… When you order a steak or schnitzel, you automatically assume it comes with seasonal vegetables and/or salad.

… In summer, you go to the supermarket or the pictures just to spend some time in the airconditioning.

… You order a chicken salad sandwich and expect to see actual salad (including lettuce, cheese, carrot, cucumber, tomato, and beetroot) between your bread, not just a ridiculous amount of mayo-doused meat.

… Reduce, re-use, recycle.

… Slip, slop, slap.

… You played Continuous Cricket and Rounders at school.

… Seriously, has anyone ever barbequed shrimp? Does anyone actually eat shrimp?

… You refer to other nations by nicknames, but it’s usually not intended to be offensive unless you stick “bloody” or “whingeing” in front of it.

… Skippy… Skippy… Skippy the bush kangaroo… Skippy… Skippy… Skippy, a friend ever true.

… You refuse to watch “the Wiggles” or “Hi-5” with anyone but the original cast.

… “Smart casual” refers to a pair of black tracky-dacks, suitably laundered.

… You rock up to meetings.

… Slip, slop, slap. (Forget slide, seek shade. Who added that, anyway?).

… You see people going barefoot on the footpath and don’t turn your nose up at them, because you’re doing it, too.

… Snow is a memorable and freakish occurrence. Sometimes it’s even fake, but it’s always guaranteed to get the news crews out.

… You shake your head in horror when companies try to market “ANZAC cookies”.

… “The following programme is rated PG for parent guidance. It contains strong language.”

… You’re secretly proud of the killer wildlife, even though you don’t care that it exists and don’t much think about it except when you’re trying to scare foreigners.

… Stubbies can be either drunk or worn.

… The Kiwis did not invent Pavlova, and don’t let them tell you otherwise.

… You sleep under a doona.

… Swinging on the washing line is more fun than the swings.

… You spent your childhood eating fairy bread at parties and fairy floss at the Show.

… 10¢ refund when sold in SA.

… You still don’t get why there’s not “U” in the “Labor” of “Australian Labor Party”.

… The “L” in the word “Australia” is optional.

… You think in metric, because Imperial is rubbish… But you’ll still say something’s “miles away”.

… The appropriate response to someone coughing is “Robitussin!”

… You understand that “Wagga Wagga” can be abbreviated to “Wagga”, but “Woy Woy” can’t be called “Woy”.

… The global financial crisis and recession lasted about a week. It involved economic growth.

… You wet your shirt before you put it on, and it’s dry in five minutes.

… The Kiwis did not invent Pavlova.

… Your best friend is “a total bastard”, but someone you really, truly despise is just “a bit of a bastard”.

… When it gets hot, you close the doors, draw the curtains, and turn the light off.

… You wince, snigger, or choke, when you hear about an American “rooting for his team”.

… The live thing’s a chook, the thing you eat is chicken.

… You’re familiar with both British and American spelling conventions, but depending on your age and primary school teacher, you may strongly prefer the British.

… The more you shorten someone’s name, the more you like them.

… You’ve watched and are familiar with “My Place”, “Dance Academy”, “Blue Water High”, “Mortified”, and “Nowhere Boys”.

… The plural of “you” is “youse” (or “yez”, if you live in Bullamakanka).

… You’ve ever argued with your teacher over which footy team you support.

… “The Snow” is a holiday destination and a proper noun. It’s located in “The Snowy Mountains”.

… You’ve ever chucked a youie.

… The staple diet is meat and three veg. Meat and potatoes? Forget it. Potatoes aren’t vegetables…

… You’ve ever spilt water on the ground just to watch it evaporate.

… The Wagon Wheel becomes smaller each year.

… You’ve ever wagged school because you were crook.

… There’s a bear in there… and a chair as well… there are people with games… and stories to tell… open wide… come inside… it’s PLAYSCHOOL!

… You’ve had school cancelled because of strikes and teacher training days, but if it’s 47° in the shade with no viable air conditioning within the school, you’ve just got to suck it up and get over it.

… There’s nothing strange or illogical about having a $1 coin that’s twice as big as the $2 coin.

… You’ve found yourself saying the words, “Just chuck my swag and my drizabone in the ute.

… “Looka moy! Looka maaaooy!”

… You try for two and five a day.

… You have a preferred brand of insect repellent.

… Yep, we are DEFINATELY part of Europe. That’s why we’re in Eurovision.

… You send an e-mail to your teacher which begins, “To Mr. Gazza, as I’ve been a tad crook the last few days…”

… You get why I’m posting this today.

Burra Photos part 6 – St Mary’s

Can you read this?

Can you read this?

Spot my grandfather.

Spot my grandfather.

St Mary’s, Burra, is also known as “That Church with the Windows”. See if you can guess why.









That’s about half the windows. I also have some photos of the Redruth Jail/Girl’s Reformatory, but I’m having trouble uploading the pictures, so that’s it.

Burra Photos part 4 – The Bon Accord Mine

The turnstile entrance.

The turnstile entrance.







A model of the area before it became an open-cut mine.

A model of the area before it became an open-cut mine.

The blacksmith shop.

The blacksmith shop.

And bellows.

And bellows.

A ringer. I'm not sure why this was in the blacksmith shop...

A ringer. I’m not sure why this was in the blacksmith shop…

The roof of the blacksmith shop - the original.

The roof of the blacksmith shop – the original.


Burnt wood in the blacksmith shop. Remember this figure, he'll appear later...

Burnt wood in the blacksmith shop. Remember this figure, he’ll appear later…


My uncle taking a photo...

My uncle taking a photo…

... of my aunt.

… of my aunt.

Cornish wagons are different to the German wagons we have nearby, in Hahndorf. For example, the front and back wheels are different sizes, and lower than the platform.

Cornish wagons are different to the German wagons we have nearby, in Hahndorf. For example, the front and back wheels are different sizes, and lower than the platform.

The mine shaft.

The mine shaft.








Sidesaddle. I've never seen one of these before.

Sidesaddle. I’ve never seen one of these before.