What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (a personal post)

First of all I want to say I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday period, and a fantastic start to 2013.

Second I want to share something with you. I have been horribly absent from this blog, and most obligations of my life for most of the past two months. At the beginning of November I turned 21 (yes apparently I’m a ‘proper’ adult now..!) then I broke up with my boyfriend of 9 months, and three days later my Mum sadly passed away.
It’s been a tough couple of months to say the least, and I’ve been having some time out from uni and blogging and everything else to sort things out back in Bristol and get my head together again. But I am ready to come back now, and I am coming back far stronger and more settled in myself.
They say that you find out how strong you really are when you are faced with tragedy (I’m still not sure who ‘they’ are) and I am a firm believer in this sentiment. It is times of sadness and heartache where people really test their ability to carry on and hold themselves together. Everyone copes with death and grief differently, for me it meant I had complete writers block. I was doing national novel writing month, and was determined to continue, but ever time I tried to write I would freeze up. I knew that I had things I should be doing, I had work for the magazine, my blog, and also the blog which I am now assistant editor of (I shall post more about that later) not to mention an ever growing pile of uni work. Luckily there is such a thing as extenuating circumstances, and I feel back on form now in terms of writing. I hope that I can continue my involvement with the IRG, though I missed the first terms work, and I have a lot of catching up to do with everything. But I know that if I set my mind to it, I can achieve everything I want to this year. I’ve got six months left of my degree, and I am determined to make them count. So from here on out, I am putting everything I’ve got, and then a little bit more, into moving myself forward.

One thing I’ve noticed, regarding digital media, is the tons of blogs and vlogs out there of people sharing their inspirational stories to connect with others and offer advice and support. During this difficult time of my life, I have been following a number of blogs, and also using social media to stay in touch with both friends and family (most of my family live in Australia) who have been so indispensable in supporting me. I don’t know what I would have done had I not been able to talk to people on the other side of the world, or in London when I’ve been in Bristol.

My Mum always used to be confused by technology, her mobile phone didn’t even have a camera on it. But whenever I told her that I had written a blog and showed her on my phone, she would put on her reading glasses and read it, even when her head hurt and her eyesight was very bad. I will always be thankful for all the support she gave me, and how much she encouraged me to follow my dreams. R.I.P Shirley Rosalyn Mullinder



Joining the IRG ( and my thoughts so far)

So about two weeks after completing the application/selection process to become a part of the 2012/13 Interdisciplinary Research Group (or IRG for short!) working on Digital Literacies in Higher Education, I found out that I had been chosen to join the team. IT was in the midst of a very busy summer so I didn’t get around to blogging about it, but now that I am back into my uni routine, it’s time for me to get serious about writing this blog! I have to write a blog post each week as part of my duties with the IRG, so what better place than here? I will tell you about what we’re all up to, how it relates to other students and why it is important, as well as raising any interesting questions which come out of my research.

The area which I am already interested in, and leaning a little towards in terms of my ‘specialism’ for the year so to speak, is that of organisation whilst studying. As I’ve mentioned before, Evernote is perhaps one of the best, and most useful online tools I have ever (no pun intended!)  come across. It lets you keep all of your notes, to-dos, links and ideas in one place, which you can synchronize across your phone, laptop, tablet, PC or just about any other web enabled device. You create a password so your information is protected, and Evernote don’t even charge for this service! (Though you can become a premium member, which I am planning to do when I get birthday money, as I want to support them) I would almost go as far as to say Evernote is the Filofax for the digital generations. And yes, I have a Filofax, which I love very much, but I use it in partnership with Evernote. I think that’s the key to moving forward in the digital age, and developing digital literacies. Implement technology into your life, but it doesn’t necessarily have to replace other forms of doing things, simply add to them. I use Twitter and Facebook, I email and text people. But I still get really excited when I receive something in the mail. This is, for me, the definition of the digitally literate, who realise the place and importance of paper based tools alongside all of the fancy websites, apps and programs. My pledge, and goal, for my year as a member of the IRG is that I will help students and staff alike to develop an appreciation for, and a knowledge of, digital tools and concerns. To get them excited and inspired by using digital resources, and to equip them with skills which are becoming invaluable in todays’ society.

Our first task is going to be a few questionnaires, one of which will be online, the other which we need to give people in person. Hopefully all of my friends will get involved, I shall post more details next week/when I know more!

Have a nice day



Digital literacies – my story

This blog started out for me as an assignment for my journalism portfolio at Uni. Having received a 1st for said assignment, I know I haven’t exactly kept up to date with it since. However starting this blog has opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. I am now using a program called Evernote, which lets me type notes, take pictures, attach links and files, and share them between my laptop and my phone. This has proved invaluable in terms of juggling my studying, personal writing and other commitments. I can type my lecture notes, add pictures of the board and even links to useful resources. When I’m out and about I take photos of items I want to buy, or things which inspire my writing. I can also organise all the work I do as the assistant editor of the Latitude Lookout.

Another digital tool which I’ve come to use a lot is twitter. As a creative writing and journalism student I need to keep abreast of current affairs, and ‘following’ BBC World News, BBC London and other prominent accounts on twitter means I get a live feed of updates as and when they happen. When the new (or old!) President is elected in the US I will get probably a hundred tweets from different people relaying the news to my phone and laptop.

This has made me think about how digital media could be better integrated into the university experience. One of my classes in first year had a Facebook page, but it was seldom updated and really served little purpose other than to help you remember the name of that guy sitting in the back of the lecture theatre. Clearly there is a difference in the level of digital literacy between not only the staff and students, but among the students too. Whilst some, like me will be tweeting all day and then post a blog about what they did in class, others are still unsure of how to turn on a smart phone. I believe that guiding both staff and students of the university to improve their digital literacy will mean faster, more efficient sharing of information, an easier way to communicate, and also invaluable skills for graduates to take into the job market.

A great way in which digital tools are integral in my life is online banking. It seems a fairly simple concept, but the ability to check my balance, make payments and transfers on the go is invaluable for a busy student. A way in which this could potentially be integrated into university life is through some sort of online course tracking. Giving students a chance to see what assignments are due, read the ones they’ve handed in and see comments from lecturers would help to enhance their learning and move forward in their course. Of course to an extent this is available through Moodle and track, but it is not effective as it currently stands. I upload all of my assignments to Moodle, but the large majority of them do not even receive a mark through turnitin, never mind any comments. If students could have this dialogue with staff it would make it easier for us to see what we need to do to improve, and also keep up to date with how we are doing so far.

In a straw poll of students I found that only 1 in five regularly checks Moodle for course updates. Purely by accident I stumbled across the news forums section of my course pages a few months ago, and was astounded by the amount of messages that hardly any of my classmates had even read. There were work experience opportunities and events which I imagine went unattended simply because nobody knew about them. This is a clear communication issue which in part is due to a lack of digital literacy knowledge. Some of my lecturers don’t ever upload anything to Moodle as they ‘haven’t been taught how to use it’ whereas other have been putting up several message which nobody knew about. The inconsistencies make it very difficult for students to keep track of everything which is going on.

Whilst the Moodle framework is useful, it can be greatly improved and used to far wider effect throughout the university. One thing which I think would help a lot is a better school and course page for each course. As it stands the school pages seem to be made up of course hand books and a list of contact numbers, which obviously doesn’t do much to help students. The discussion forum on Moodle seems seldom used, and the blog space is poor. When I started this blog I was explicitly told to avoid the uni’s blog system and pick an external website simply because it has almost no features.

Birmingham City University has an effective social media presence –  with official Facebook pages for several school and student groups as well as Linked-in profiles, Twitter and Flickr feeds, blogs and a YouTube channel. By maintaining an online presence and and keep students updated with the latest news they connect better with them. 

Greenwich does have some good social media aspects – the Students’ Union Facebook and Twitter update fairly regularly about the goings on around the uni and there’s also a group for Freshers to join which has a lot of activity in the first few weeks of term. We just need to look at where we are doing well, and how we can build on that to increase the digital literacy of the whole university.

My next big challenge is the managing of the Facebook and Twitter feeds for Latitude Lookout, alongside editing the website, which will hopefully reach out to all students across the University and fill them in on the news and events going on around them. This is why I believe I would make a good candidate for the IRG, as I have hands on experience of digital media and literacies and how they can be used to enhance students lives. In the current job market it isn’t so much about having a degree, but also a set of transferable skills which will put you above other candidates. Being literate in the new set of skills, which revolve around digital technology, is key.

Motivation (or the lack thereof)

Why is it that when I have the most to do I find so many things to distract me, and keep putting it off? Tomorrow never comes because it’s always the day after today. The past week, for the first time in a while, I actually feel like I’ve done stuff. I submitted my journalism coursework and went to a job interview, as well as submitting an application I needed to do for the past three weeks. The sense of accomplishment is great, but it’s made me think about why I can’t work like this all the time. What is it that holds me back from doing the things I fully well know I’m capable of?

The fear of failing. If I have a story to write for uni I am crippled with doubts about my plot or worrying that nobody will like it. But surely if I just write that first draft then I can get feedback to help me improve. If I need to make dinner I worry that I’ll burn it or get the recipe wrong. Of course the more I cook the better I’ll get, ordering take away won’t help my kitchen skills (or my bank account!)

It’s an interesting life lesson really, something which everyone has to go through in order to become a successful member of society. Finding out what motivates you. What makes you get out of bed in the morning, what keeps you going when you’ve only had three hours sleep the night before? For me, one of the things that has always driven me has been writing. I have always dreamed of being an author, or a journalist. When I watched The Devil Wears Prada it just made me more eager, and every magazine I read inspires me. So whenever  I feel disheartened I try to think about where I want to be in five years from now, working in a magazine office in London. I’ll need to do a lot of things then, and I guess one motivation will be money, but ultimately it’s the enjoyment I get from writing and creating that I want.

By the way I found out yesterday that I’ve got the job! =)

The Writer


I’ve missed you, blog

So it’s been a few months since I last posted. In all honesty, I started this blog for my journalism coursework and once that was handed in it kind of became less of a priority. However last week I found out that I had received a 1St for said coursework, and it made me think that perhaps this blog was pretty good after all. So what if I’ve had approximately two readers? So what if I’m the blog equivalent of a speck of dust in the universe of the internet? I wrote about things that inspired, moved or incensed me, and surely that is the most important thing, to let out your passions, frustrations and creativity? Writing is my air, and for some inexplicable reason I decided to give myself a lot less to breathe for the first couple of months of this year. But now I am opening the window and letting my blog back into my life. I may no longer be marked on this, but I am always measuring myself, and I want to write this for me now.

I’m going to start including a lot of different things from now on, links, videos, pictures that I like, but most of all I’m just going to keep going, and make sure to post what I want. For now I’m going to watch something online and get into my pjs, so if anyone out there is reading this, goodnight

The Writer


Stop the hate please

I just watched this video through Tumblr: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdkNn3Ei-Lg&feature=share and I was in tears. A young boy, only fourteen years old, uses cards with words written on them to tell his story. He has been bullied all through school for being gay, he has self-harmed, he has contemplated suicide. But he is still here, and he ends the video by saying that he is stronger than this, and he has a million reasons to be here.

First of all I want to say Jonah you are an inspiration for sharing your story with the world, for standing up and speaking up about the awful realities of bullying in schools. I cannot emphasise how proud I, and so many others are of you. Please know that you have support and love everywhere. I know you don’t know me, but I am thinking of you and hoping things improve for you. I promise that one day you will come out the other side of this, and you will always be the better person.

Bullying is an issue which affects almost all of us in our youth in some way, either because you picked on the fat kid, joined in with laughing at that one girl with braces, or because you were on the receiving end of it all.

I was bullied all through secondary school. I was called names, had things thrown at me and was ostracised by almost everyone in my year. I had no friends, nobody I could hang out with at break time or sit next to in class. Luckily I got involved in something called the UK Youth Parliament, and met an amazing group of people outside of school. For the five years of my secondary school career, they were the lifeline that kept me going. I never cut or attempted suicide, but I thought about it a lot, and I really think if it wasn’t for the youth group and the workers I might not be here right now.

It seems like people get picked on for almost anything. You’r hair is ginger, you’ve got wonky teeth or you wear glasses, and you become an instant target. Bullies fear difference, and the only way they know how to cope with it is to attack. It’s vicious and nasty and can ruin lives, and we need to do something about it. Yes there are loads of anti bullying campaigns, but kids and teenagers are still trying to kill themselves because they can’t see the point in living any more in a world of hate and pain. We need to teach kids, and everyone for that matter, that just because someone is different does NOT make it OK for you to laugh at them, to call them names, to mentally or physically torment them. We are all different in some way, and kids are all deeply insecure about themselves and their bodies as they grow up. Some manage to overcome it by making friends and grabbing life with both hands, sadly some think they can only hide it by picking on others who are weaker than them.

Well I have a message for every kid who’s ever been shoved down the stairs, or called ugly, or spat at. You are not weaker than them. You are the strong ones, you are the ones who will go on to do great things and look back and be so glad that you didn’t let them win, didn’t let them beat you down. You can do anything you put your mind to, and you will succeed as long as you push on and focus on your goals. Please don’t ever let them get to you, I believe in you and so do many, many more people.

Bullies only hold power over their victims because of two reasons. One is that the victims let them, but that doesn’t really help people on the receiving end of this kind of behaviour, we try our best not to let it show but we can’t turn off our feelings. The second reason is that other people know what is going on and don’t do anything. This is almost as bad as joining in, because by not speaking up for someone being bullied, you are saying that it is OK. Now I’m not expecting kids to go out and shout at six foot guys to stop picking on the little kid, because you might get turned on too. But speaking to a teacher or school counsellor or someone else who you think might be able to help the victim can improve their life a lot. And if you do have the courage to directly tell the bullies to stop it, then please do. If more people are showing them that it’s not alright to behave the way they are, then hopefully they will stop. Most bullies want acceptance, and think that picking on others will get them that. Really it won’t, but they will only realise that if others stand up and make them see what they’re doing is wrong.

The Writer


Disabled people shouldn’t be blamed.

I just read an article in the Guardian about a disabled man who has been subject to awful discrimination and abuse by his own neighbour. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/04/ian-birrell-prejudice-against-disabled) Now this is awful in any circumstance, but the really scary thing is that he was being targeted because his neighbour thought that he was faking having MS to claim benefits. This isn’t an isolated incident either, recently people with genuine disabilities have been called ‘scroungers’ and ‘fakers’, simply because of how the media and government are twisting facts and figures.

It’s true that there has been a large increase in the number of fraudulent benefit claims, but as the article states disability benefits have only a 0.5% fraudulent claim rate, which is far lower than other benefits. As the coalition are introducing more and more cuts, people are feeling the pinch, and it’s all too easy for the media to create a scape-goat. Now anyone with a disability who claims usually much needed benefits are subjected to suspicion and resentment by their neighbours or even strangers. This is wrong, and needs to end now.

There are approximately 10 million disabled people in the UK, which is about a sixth of the population. With this many people suffering from either a physical or mental condition, isn’t it about time we accepted them as just normal? Just because someone isn’t capable of doing certain things, or their brain works differently to yours, doesn’t make them any less of a person. We need to speak out for these people, because often they can’t speak for themselves.

My Mum was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease a few years ago now, so I have first hand experience of disability. The thing that struck me the most was how difficult it is to get any help. There are numerous forms to fill in, which a lot of disabled people may not be able to do, and countless appointments and meetings to go through before you can qualify for government help or DLA. The recent spate of cuts implemented by the coalition have fallen not just onto our quality of education, health care and so on, but also onto the quality of simply living for many disabled people. David Cameron has pledged to radically reform the benefit system (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/17/david-cameron-welfare-reform-bill), and while he was quick to assure that those unable to work will continue to receive help, there have been mixed responses from disability charities and people who receive DLA as to where that will leave them. The tests and hoops one must jump through to be classed as unable to work now are ridiculous. Of course I understand they have to make sure claimants are genuine, but at the same time those most likely to be unable to work also have a lot of difficulty with things like filling in very long forms or spending hours on the telephone. As for me, I’ll be watching closely to make sure my Mum continues to get all the help she not only needs but deserves as well. If she could work Mr Cameron, she would, so please don’t penalise her for the fact she’s got a serious degenerative disease.

The Writer


The Occupation is growing…

I have a friend who lives in Cardiff, and the other day she was filming to make a documentary about the set up of Occupy Cardiff, the latest branch of the movement started by Occupy Wall Street. This only goes to show that they won’t be quieted any time soon. In fact, at the time of posting, there are 348 protests happening world-wide, with more starting every day (figures found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/oct/17/occupy-protests-world-list-map#data) and people from all walks of life are getting involved. Just the other day I read an article about war veterans getting involved in Occupy London outside St Pauls (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/nov/12/st-pauls-canon-occupy-protest). This is a sign that something greater than we realise is unfolding around the world. Whilst right now many may dismiss the protesters as ineffective and lazy, saying that they aren’t actually doing anything, it’s only a matter of time before it kicks off. Just what will happen is yet to be discovered, it could range from the forming of a new political party ‘of the people’ to another riot.


The protesters have now been served notice by the City of London Corporation. Camps have been cleared out in New York and other cities around America, but this is not stopping the movement. They are just growing stronger with these barriers. Today thousands of protesters stopped workers from entering Wall street and delayed the Stock Exchange bell, and back in the UK the Occupy London movement have vowed to resist legal action, holding a meeting outside St Pauls as we speak. The world is rising up against the 1%. I was tweeted earlier today by @filemot in regards to the protesters needing to work with the church. I agree that they should try to exist in harmony, but also that this is an issue outside of religion. No disrespect to her, or anyone who is religious, but a lot of people aren’t, and we should be looking at this issue from a world, point of view. I fully support peoples’ beliefs, but feel that they shouldn’t be pushed too much into this debate, as it’s an issue that affects EVERYONE, not just those who believe in a god. I am completely in support of the protesters, and believe that what they are doing is an inspiration we should all use. They’re not afraid to stand up to the governments and big corporations who are trying to oppress us, and we should all follow their example and speak out. Long live the occupation,

The Writer


I’m no longer a teenager!

So I turned 20 last week, and while it was nice to have my birthday and be made a fuss of (my boyfriend took me to Cardiff!) it finally dawned on me that I’m not in my teens any more. However, I don’t particularly feel like an adult either…

21 is supposed to be the age when you get the ‘big key’ to adulthood, so where does that leave me? I feel marooned somewhere between illicit under-age house parties and sipping a single glass of wine with my selection of cheeses at dinner. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. In society, we are constantly told conflicting messages; on the one hand we’re being pushed to grow up and become responsible, to do something with our lives, go out into the world and fend for ourselves. But on the other hand we’re warned against growing up too fast, after all our youth is ‘the best time of our lives’ supposedly. This leaves me in a sort of head spin between reaching for my teddy, or reaching for a skirt-suit and briefcase.

The media is filled with images of young actresses who are put into the spotlight and suddenly develop a taste for designer dresses and launch parties, when I’m sure really they just want to paint their friends nails and tell ghost stories. There’s also the unsettling rise of heels for pre-teens, and tiny little dresses that wouldn’t look out of place in a strip club, but are being sold to 10 and 11 year olds. This pressure to grow up quicker than our years comes from other sources too. Primary school kids now get full on homework, and at the age of 13 or 14 you’re expected to pick your GCSEs, which may well determine what you do for College, University, and maybe even the rest of your life. That’s some pretty big decision making for kids who still play make-believe games and can’t buy lottery tickets yet!

A great example of this occurred last week. I was doing my online supermarket shopping (hip and tech-savvy as I am!) and I came across some ‘Bear yo-yo fruit rolls’. They claimed to provide one of my 5-a-day per roll, and on special offer at 5 for £1, how could I refuse? However on closer inspection I realised they were actually designed for children. Did this stop me from buying them? Well, no. I reasoned that it’s the sensible, grown up choice to buy some fruit based product, on special offer as well, rather than some sweets or chocolate. But those few moments of indecision made me realise that it really is time for me to grown up. I live in a house away from my family, pay my own rent, pick my own bed time, and buy my own groceries. Turns out I am an adult after all! So while I get my zimmer-frame out and pour myself a sherry (is that what old people drink?) remember that you should be proud of your age, whether you’re 15 or 50, but never loose the child inside who wants to keep that teddy bear.

The writer


Are we still in the grips of skinny-syndrome?

I attended Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model Live on Sunday (http://www.bntmlive.com/) and had a wonderful time. However amidst all the fashion, fake tan and freebies, I found at least 2 stands selling ‘slimming aid’ drinks. Now whilst this is all well and good, I couldn’t help but think of the young girls attending who see all of the models and celebrities, then look at themselves and feel inadequate. Personally I know I’m a decent size. I have a big bum, but am quite thin everywhere else. However I’m not a size 4 or 6, and if I were younger and perhaps a bit more impressionable, this might leave me feeling like I was too fat. Whilst there has been an rise in the campaign for real bodies for real women, there is still a pressure hidden just below the surface for us to all be 6 ft, size 6, big-breasted glamazons.

I remember when I was 15, 16 years old I felt very insecure of myself and my body, wishing I were prettier and had bigger boobs. Luckily I didn’t even think of doing anything drastic, but for a lot of girls the pressure gets too much. Self harm, eating disorders and depression can all arise from low self-esteem and distortion of body image. Figures from beat, the national eating disorder charity (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/) say that an estimated 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders of some sort, and this is just the ones which have been reported. These figures show that as a nation, and indeed on a global scale, we are telling people that they aren’t good enough if they aren’t skinny. This is wrong, and we need to move towards a society where women (and men!) of all shapes and sizes are celebrated and given equal respect and encouragement to succeed.

I myself felt slightly intimidated by all the models and gorgeous people milling about ExCel London, but I’ve got to a stage where I’m fairly confident of myself and I can realise I’m good enough to do whatever I want, as long as I put my mind to it. I wasn’t told this by anyone though, I’ve suffered years of bullying throughout secondary school, and mild social anxiety which still affects me sometimes. This is why we need to improve the personal social education received by young people in schools. Public speaking workshops, lessons to explore your strengths and how you can develop them, and motivational speakers would all help teenagers to gain confidence and also begin to work out what they want to do in life. Until then, spread the love, don’t hate

The writer