8 Years and 42.7K Tweets Later

As I sat on my bed, sipping coffee and scrolling on my phone for news from the 2019 Billboard Music Awards this morning; a curious landmark update dropped into my timeline. It was 8 years, the tweet told me, since I joined Twitter.

twitter-hearts-and-stars.0.0In early 2010 my childhood friend @rnvj encouraged me to join the platform ‘Facebook is where you meet people you went to school with. Twitter is where you meet people you wished you went to school with,’ he told me. So I got online, set up an account and tiptoed around the edges of conversations, unsure if I should join in. I gave the app three months tops, but I stayed much longer until 2011 when I finally found my groove.

In 2011, discovering you could connect with people you didn’t know through an app on your phone was genuinely life changing. For me, then discovering that you could meet them in real life ‘tweetups’ was even more amazing and I feel sad that the number of ‘tweetups’ I have attended over the years has diminished. How incredible it was that once a month you could meet with people that you had been interacting with online. Twitter was a place big enough to have a critical mass of people who cared about the place where they lived, the affairs of countries and celebrities with equal passion, and who wanted to see where this new technology would take us all together and as well as individuals.

I watched it all play out in my timeline, and it captures my attention till this day.

Seeing the real connections that I have made over twitter, started online and nurtured in real life at times, or even continuing on over 140 characters, reminds me why I love the platform so much. I have too many contacts, both professional and personal, people I legitimately care about and whose opinions matter to me, who live all over the world, with whom my primary interaction is/was through Twitter – these are people I never would have met without the network. It is still where a place where I can learn a lot about a lot. So while there are those who lament social media for it’s tendency to make us disconnect with one another, I look to hashtags and handles to show the power that social media, like Twitter, has to legitimately and authentically connect people. I can’t even talk about this without coming off sounding like a cliché, but for those of us who have experienced that, it is real and it is powerful. The last eight years has also cast the positive side of social media with the negative. Not everyone I’ve met online has been a beautiful person. But that is life.

So, thank you, if you’ve connected with me online or in real life. Your 140 characters, ideas and opinions make life interesting and rich. But if you’re reading this and we are still strangers, lets change that – follow me @sydneydxb and we’ll take it from there.

After eight years online, I believe twitter is a way of life – one that is well worth investing time in. So get a good healthy feed of what’s going on in the world and with the people you find interesting and soon you’ll find that it will become the first thing you check each morning.





“Spira, Spera” (Breathe, Hope) Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

We walked upto and past the beautiful Notre Dame a couple of times before we finally decided to beat the lines to get inside the cathedral.

Our plan worked perfectly, except as we found out when we got to the front of the line, we were in the line to climb up to the top of Notre Dame, and not the one, to go inside. But, we had waited too long, and dammit, we were going to see Notre Dame, even if was from the top. I am not a very fit person, but with a steady slow step even I managed it, and I am so glad I did. After a dizzying number of stairs, we were greeted by a spectacular view of Paris and got to hang out with some of the coolest gargoyles. Certainly one of my favorite memories of Paris from that trip. The inside of the cathedral was breathtaking – a symbol for peace and acceptance beyond religion or spirituality.

There are so few things today that hold the world together. Monuments and Cathedrals are living works of art and stand as mute witnesses to the worst and the very best in us, in humanity. Seeing Notre Dame fall tonight is a terrifying reminder that nothing, no matter how strong or beautiful, lasts forever.

As I type this, the French authorities have just released a statement saying that the the fire at Notre Dame cannot be contained and the cathedral will burn on, till it burns out. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to experience the grandeur of Notre Dame in person but I am saddened as we watch history, art and beauty go up in flames tonight.

Today is a reminder to not wait to travel the world. If you can, get out there; meet people, experience other cultures, reflect on history and the beautiful parts of our shared humanity before it is too late.

“Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of the ages” ~ Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of 🇫🇷 #NotreDame

Because 2041 Beckons…

The Global Countdown – http://2041.com/

Visiting the Antarctic is a dream that many nurture but only a privileged few are able to fulfill. If you go as a tourist the cost usually means you have to wait until much later on in life. So imagine how great it would be to go as a student and not just visit Antarctica but to actually be part of a global movement dedicated to preserving this final pristine frontier from the very real dangers that threaten it each day.

935873_153856004815049_1158433249_n9 lucky students from GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai are planning a trip to the Antarctic making that distant dream a very present reality. They will be accompanied by Sir Robert Swan; environmental leader and the first person ever to have walked to the North and South poles.

Needless to say, this will be a life-altering experience for them. It will expose these 9 students to all kinds of environmental and social issues and give them a much broader perspective of the planet on which they live. In my mind, going to Antarctica is kind of like going to another planet and once you’ve done that you can’t help but be affected by it – for life, can you?

I’m so proud of the students of my school, every single one of them. While 9 students get to actually experience the wonders of this white wilderness, I’m amazed by the dedication of all the other pupils who are so keen to make this the most historical undertaking Modern has ever had.

In today’s day and age, raising environmentally passionate future generations has got to be at the center of every educational institution’s philosophy. As teachers, there are only a limited number of things we can do or say to press home important facts about preserving and protecting our planet. But unless children are exposed to the harsh realities of the real world, progress and action will continue to be scant.

As Modern’s 9 buccaneers prepare to set out on their once in a lifetime expedition and be part of the Leadership on the Edge conference in Argentina, we hope that you will support them by spreading the word about their endeavors. You can follow the progress of Modern’s Buccaneers on their facebook page ‘Modern on Antarctica’ or follow @beckyblitz97 and @sydneydxb on twitter for more updates.

Watch this space for more information.

Gulf News – Guest of The Month – Post 1

After some years of blogging I am extremely excited to be the ‘Guest of the Month’ for Gulf News’ education supplement. Over the next four weeks my columns will share my personal experiences and advice on educational technology and educational blogging in the hopes that it will inspire some greenhorn bloggers out there to give it a shot too.

In case you’re not in the UAE or don’t have access to the newspapers, here is the link to the first post that was published today.




Autism is not a tragedy, ignorance is…

Last afternoon, over 3000 plus people from Dubai and the neighboring Emirates stepped out in an overwhelming show of support for people with autism and different needs. Zabeel Park, the venue for the walk and the fun fair that followed later in the evening, was overflowing with people enthusiastically waiting to show their support. Over the last few years, ‘Walk Now For Autism’ and other such campaigns have met with a thunderous response from the residents of the Emirates.

I guess as the awareness grows, the interest and intrinsic motivation to support people and embrace their different needs has seen tremendous growth too. I must confess that prior to the walk I didn’t know too much about autism but as I sat down and did some reading this afternoon my eyes were opened to some startling as well as some heartwarming facts. This is what I found… (In a nutshell of course)

  • Autism is an incurable disorder.
  • Children with autism have a wide range of enhanced academic skills; therefore, academic support must be individualized to meet their needs.
  • Autistic children are oversensitive to noise and pain.
  • The number of cases of Autism reported over the years has seen a significant rise. 1 out of 115 children are affected by this disorder.
  • Early intervention can lead to academic success and personal and social growth.
  • Very often, children with autism engage in repetitive activities and body movements, such as rocking, pacing, or repetitive hand movements.
  • With the right guidance and support it is possible for parents, teachers and relatives to cope better with children and their needs. Most importantly autistic people should not be stigmatized for their condition. People with autism who have been treated correctly (medically and socially of course) have been seen to make significant contributions to society over periods of time.

Walk Now For Autism Is a powerful tool to raise awareness and build a community that is supportive of each other and the needs that exist within our society. It’s a chance for people with autism, families dealing with the trials of raising an autistic child and friends and relatives as well, to go out in their community with no judgment and no fear of being stigmatized. They can bond and make friends, and just proudly display their show of strength and support for the ones around them.

One of the most overwhelming moments for me last evening was when a group of my students serenaded Mustafa a local boy for his Birthday. They sang for him, cheered him on loudly and even gave him ‘birthday bumps’ like they would to any of their other friends. All the while Mustafa’s face radiated with a glow that was so endearing. I’m sure his spirit soared in those brief and fleeting moments.

All around us, there were magical moments like that unfolding. People embracing, singing, hooting, cheering, walking hand in hand and creating little memories that will last a lifetime.

I hope that over time, people learn to see autism with new eyes and that they don’t jump to label these kids’ with complex medical terminology. Each child with Autism has such a unique personality, their own dreams, goals and personal aspirations. That’s why the awareness is so important and is such an important responsibility for the rest of us. Only when people are aware can they help make those special dreams come true.

The Curious Case Of The Disappearing Bloggers

 Another of my favourite bloggers has just suddenly vanished. That’s the second missing blogger in a just one week! The previous one wrote one last blog before she disappeared, about a friend in a complicated situation. It seems the friend found out and was furious.

I’m still quite new to blogging as I have been doing it for only three months. I don’t know if it is typical for people get fed up after a couple of years and with a click of a mouse erase any evidence that their thoughts had been put out on a public forum. Or maybe these shutdowns are related to other fears… or maybe they simply got bored along the way.

I have read a few bits and pieces where bloggers have described the various phases they go through while blogging. You start off keen, then you settle down a bit, and then maybe you get bored and your posts become infrequent. Then when something exciting happens in your life (probably because your spending less time in front of a computer screen) you blog about it some more.

I think people should take life a little less seriously. While there are people who use their blogs for very important work, others like me should take to blogging for the joy of the experience. It does not matter what people think or how they respond. It’s about you choosing to express yourself in a way that makes you happy. Write for fun.

For me, this is one way of recharging my batteries. Instead of watching TV or lounging around with nothing to do, I can experiment with a short story or write about the kind of day I’ve had or write a review for a book I’ve read. Whether people read it or not hardly matters. They may even choose to differ with my points of view- but that’s OK!!

Turning my thoughts in a different direction can flick a mental switch and get the creative juices flowing again. Besides, it can be so much! Anyhow, time to update my blog page, Gtg…

Under Pressure

Pressure is defined as urgency in one’s personal or professional dealings. Working under pressure is a concrete reality of our lives. Some people have to deal with high pressure situations every minute of their lives while others have to deal with it as and when project deadlines approach. At the cost of sounding quite ridiculous, I have found that I tend to work well under pressure. And though it is a little hard to admit, working in this fashion does seem to bring out the best in me. Have any of you ever felt that way? In fact, I know quite a few people who are able to perform sufficiently well in the event of work pressure.

I think my ability to function in stressful situations can be attributed to what I consider, three major personal strengths.

No matter how stressful the situation gets, I know for a fact that I will NOT lose my emotional balance. I find that I am mentally resilient and can remain motivated under high pressure and can keep at the tasks I have been assigned, without giving up. This quality prevents me from burning out and helps keep my mental flexibility in check. I find that my ability to adapt to situations and to different kinds of people makes me the calmest person around in a frantic situation and even in the face of a professional storm!

Next, I was taught long ago, by someone I consider my professional guru, that it is absolutely impossible to do everything under the sun – singlehandedly— instead I have learnt to delegate work. I do this not to find an easy way out of my own responsibilities but because I have realized that it is a worthwhile exercise and can help meet professional deadlines far more effectively. Besides, I have come to recognize that when you put your faith in people, they generally DON’T let you down. It even makes for a stronger and more cohesive team. Working to meet the “bit” deadline is far easier than struggling with the ‘whole’. Wouldn’t you agree?

Lastly, my ability to remain calm and collected is helpful in so many ways. While people around me are fuming and ranting and having nervous breakdowns, it helps me stay focused, think rationally and take correct decisions. It so much easier to take control of situations and respond to it appropriately when your own mind is at peace.

Over the last three years I have come to realize that the more you have to work under pressure, the better you get at it. This builds confidence and you will soon find that you can deal with anything that arises if your mind and heart are aligned and you are thinking clearly and calmly. Working under pressure can be such a rush! Nothing can compare to the satisfaction you can derive from a job well done or from targets met and goals achieved. So the next time you feel you’re beginning to crumble, do what I do.

Stop. Take a deep breath … and then whisper softly ‘I’m ready…bring it on!’