Letter to the Prime Minister

Posted by matthew on Feb 4, 2011 in education, politics

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to urge the government to reconsider its decision to axe the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). While I am a strong supporter of appropriate funding for the reconstruction work in Queensland, Victoria and beyond following the recent natural disasters, I do not believe this decision has been made in the best interests of the nation.

I believe events such as the Victorian bush fires, the Queensland floods, and Cyclone Yasi prove that the Australian government needs to fundamentally alter its thinking on disasters. The government should recognise that we cannot sustain a situation where we must find several billions of taxpayer dollars on an ad hoc basis every time one of these disasters comes along. Of course I will gladly pay the one off levy for the Queensland floods, but I would be even more supportive an ongoing approach that would to pay for a disaster contingency fund for all Australians. With a mining boom, our continued economic growth and projected budget surpluses, this country should be able to compare itself to the Norways instead of the Naurus.

The ALTC is a success story in Australian higher education, and this industry is one of Australia’s largest exports. I have worked in higher education for my entire career since 1990. During this time, I have seen student learning suffer from being vastly undervalued in comparison to research, yet I have seen a great deal of evidence that both are of equal importance. Without excellence in teaching, the top researchers of tomorrow will not be supported to continue in universities. The ALTC was an important way that this imbalance was being addressed in recent years, by rewarding and recognising excellent teachers, and by supporting applied research projects into teaching and learning. Its demise is a giant step backwards for all Australian universities.

I have been lucky enough to be involved in an ALTC funded project on learning spaces. As an early career academic, this is a significant boost to my professional development, but far more importantly it is now having a significant impact on the outcomes for students in my university and beyond, through the establishment of a range of exciting new study environments, including several new collaborative teaching spaces, and the setting up of Faculty learning commons at La Trobe. Our work is being disseminated nationally, and in the coming months my team will publish an edited book internationally. Each of these outcomes — academic development, evidence-based capital investment, student support, and publishing of research — have been made possible only because of the support of the ALTC. This is the sort of thing that will be crushed by the removal of a relatively small amount of government funding necessary to keep the ALTC going.

With changes coming through the Bradley Review and the establishment of TEQSA, as well as important challenges in attracting international students to Australia, it is clearly vital that the government gets the balance right in supporting universities right now. The government will fail in its goal of improving the quality as well as access to higher education in this country if its approach does not include supporting educators through programs such as ALTC. These goals are in tension, and cannot be achieved through regulation alone. Please stand up for the quality of higher education by immediately reviewing the hasty decision to discontinue the good work of the ALTC.

Kind regards,
Matthew Riddle
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Matthew Riddle
Senior Lecturer (Academic Development)
Faculty of Law and Management | La Trobe University | Bundoora, Vic 3086


Australian Hellzapoppin’ Prize 2010

Posted by matthew on Dec 16, 2010 in dance

This year the Australian Hellzapoppin’ Prize was held in its birthplace, Melbourne, in celebration of the 10th Melbourne Lindy Exchange.  The venue was the beautiful Ormond Hall, which last played host to the contest in 2008.  The judges included myself as head judge, Romona Staffeld (who recently relocated to Melbourne from the US), Russell Turner (Canberra), Cheryl Glasgow (Perth) and Kara Martin (Hobart).  Anthony Wheaton did an excellent job as DJ.

Once again we had an extremely hard fought and exciting battle with a lot of highlights.  The semi final was particularly tight, and there was some brilliant dancing from all couples. The band, Jason Downes and the Tempo of Doom, played for the Final round, and it was an absolute killer diller.  So much so that we had to get them to play another song at a slightly slower tempo!  Andy Fodor and Shob Nambiar faced off against Evan Hughes and Noni Clarke, with Evan and Noni edging out their opponents to take the title.  Both Evan and Noni have won AHP before, but never together.

Evan Hughes and Noni Clarke

Next year’s AHP will be held in June as part of Devil City Swing, Hobart, Tasmania. The full honour roll appears below:
2010 Noni Clarke & Evan Hughes (VIC)
2009 Francine Jeffrey & Evan Hughes (VIC)
2008 Noni Clarke & Cam Mitchell (VIC)
2007 Cathie Gough & Kieran Yee (VIC)
2006 Annie Ryan & Shane McCarthy (WA)
2004 Noni Clarke & Josh McKiterick (VIC)
2003 Sarah Farrelly & Anthony Wheaton (VIC)
2002 Nicole Smith & John Tenaglia (VIC)


Couch to 5K Songs

Posted by matthew on Feb 20, 2010 in health, music, technology

On Australia Day I started the Couch to 5K running program, and I’m now up to week 4. For a while I was using a purpose built C25K app on my iPhone, but I’ve now switched to Runkeeper Pro, which is really excellent. It creates a GPS map of your run and automagically posts it online for you, but the feature I like most is that you can quickly and easily set up your run in intervals. It’s simple to set it up to coach you through an interval program, while playing your own track list in the background. It’s magic. So I have been trying to find the perfect song list to motivate me while I’m out there. Here’s the best set I’ve come up with so far:
1 A-team Intro / The A-Team / The A-Team
2 Nicotine & Gravy / Beck / Midnite Vultures
3 Gloria / Them / The Best of Van Morrison [Mercury]
4 Buddy Holly / Weezer / Weezer
5 Tainted Love / Soft Cell / The Very Best of Soft Cell
6 Lust for Life / Iggy Pop / Nude & Rude: The Best of Iggy Pop
7 Wild America / Iggy Pop / Nude & Rude: The Best of Iggy Pop
8 One After 909 / The Beatles / Let It Be
9 Back In The U.S.S.R. / The Beatles / Love
10 I’m Waiting For The Man / The Velvet Underground / The Velvet Underground & Nico


Liquor laws are crushing live music

Posted by matthew on Jan 18, 2010 in music

I rarely mention the fact that I’m a teetotaller, because it’s never been a popular move. However, considering the topic at hand, it seems relevant to declare this at the outset. While I don’t drink, I do make a habit of frequenting a lot of venues in Melbourne that sell alcohol and provide live entertainment. Being a non drinker, I always make a point of paying for food and drinks at these venues when I can, because I believe in supporting the live music scene I’ve come to love. Unfortunately, however, the way that the current licensing laws are being interpreted is causing a lot of good venues to close their doors. Why? The liquor licenses are going up, sometimes by very large amounts, on venues that are deemed to be “high risk”. Sadly, this includes one of Melbourne’s favourite jazz venues, Manchester Lane (closed temporarily, hopefully) and now legendary Melbourne music venue The Tote has finally called last drinks.

Being a non-drinker, I’ve never been a fan of drinking or violence, but this really has got to stop. The Victorian government is in the process of throwing away a couple of generations of social capital in the form of our precious live music scene. In my experience, the good live music venues are not usually the ones with the worst track record for angry altercations, and I’d really like to see the research that conclusively shows that venues like Manchester Lane need to justify their existence compared to many of the other night clubs around. Ever seen thugs at a jazz venue? Didn’t think so.

If you think it’s gone too far as well, write a letter, call a talk show, or sign a petition. Or maybe even write a blog article about it, like me. But do something, before it’s too late.


Enrolling for the DJ Masterclass

Posted by matthew on Oct 21, 2009 in dance, education

We kicked off with Part 1 of the DJ Masterclass on Monday night, and dare I say it, I think it was a raging success! The recording came out really well I think — I actually had two different methods on the go and both worked. One became a slide-show podcast and the other is just an audio podcast (with a mic in the centre of the table to capture discussions). I think I’m going to continue doing that for the whole series.

I’m now getting more and more inquiries about the class, and we’re running a little online poll about the cost of the course. Basically almost everyone’s telling me it should be exactly the same price as the face to face class ($20 for 3 classes), so I’ve now set up automatic enrolment via PayPal. So if you want to enrol, it’s definitely not too late, just go here:


DJ Masterclass video

Posted by matthew on Oct 14, 2009 in dance, education
Get the Flash Player to see this video.

If you’re interested in being involved in the DJ Masterclass, drop me a line and I’ll enrol you!


DJ Masterclass next week

Posted by matthew on Oct 11, 2009 in dance, education

The DJ Masterclass is due to start on Monday week.  Since my original email, I’ve been contacted by about 6 or 8 DJs from places outside of Melbourne — people who would like to be here but who can’t.  Some are within Australia, and some aren’t.

I’m considering trying to put some of the materials, capture some of the conversations, and even perhaps putting together some new materials so that someone could actually take part in the DJ Masterclass at a distance.  For example I’ve begun talking to some international DJs about recording interviews over Skype, and we could even potentially have an online conference using Skype with some of the DJs who aren’t able to be there (the venue has broadband).

I’d like your feedback on whether you think this idea is worth the effort.  If the Monday night time slot is not suitable for you, you know of people who would like to be involved but can’t, or you just think it would be cool to review this stuff at a later date, could you let me know?

A reminder that the DJ Masterclass is a 3 week course, starting on Monday October the 19th at 7pm.  Since I am putting some resources online in Moodle, you’ll need to enrol beforehand by sending me an email at matthew@matthewriddle.com.

DJ Masterclass Flyer [PDF, 102K]


Australian Hellzapoppin’ Prize

Posted by matthew on Oct 6, 2009 in dance

The Australian Hellzapoppin’ Prize was held in Sydney for the first time on Saturday night. From my perspective it was a really fantastic occasion, and generated a lot of excitement and interest in a scene that hasn’t seen AHP close up before.

Evan Hughes and Francine Jeffrey, Australian Hellzapoppin Prize winners 2009

Evan Hughes and Francine Jeffrey, Australian Hellzapoppin’ Prize winners 2009

The winners this year were Evan and Francine from Melbourne, who were only narrowly defeated by Cam and Noni in the final of last year’s event. The list of winners remains dominated by Victorians, however, so there is a strong argument for keeping it moving around the country. If you or someone you know runs a Lindy Hop event that you think would be a good match for AHP and you would like to host it in 2010 or 2011, drop me a line!

2009 Francine Jeffrey & Evan Hughes (VIC)
2008 Noni Clarke & Cam Mitchell (VIC)
2007 Cathie Gough & Kieran Yee (VIC)
2006 Annie Ryan & Shane McCarthy (WA)
2004 Noni Clarke & Josh McKiterick (VIC)
2003 Sarah Farrelly & Anthony Wheaton (VIC)
2002 Nicole Smith & John Tenaglia (VIC)


Dunning-Kruger explains wingnuts

Posted by matthew on Sep 30, 2009 in education

Wondering how it’s possible that there are actually people who could think an educated, moderate, democratically elected African American President promoting healthcare reform is comparable to Hitler in the 1930s? Does it seem a little weird to you too? I mean, these people must be able to function in society — they hold conferences, they organise email hate campaigns, and apparently they operate deadly machinery. Yet people such as this seem unable to mount a coherent deductive argument, as well as incapable of recognising a better one.

For example, see this:

Well, there’s actually a fairly decent explanation in the form of the Dunning-Kruger effect. This video explains their reasoning — that those who are incompetent are also unaware of their own limitations — and how they conducted an experiment to prove it.


DJ Masterclass

Posted by matthew on Sep 25, 2009 in dance

Lotte decided I needed to run a DJ workshop, so over the past few weeks I’ve been chatting to DJs around Melbourne about the idea.  The response was pretty positive, so I decided to put some time into designing one.  I realised it would need to be more than a one-off workshop, so it’s going to be a 3 week course, starting on Monday October the 19th at 7pm.  So if you’re interested in becoming a swing DJ, or you’re already getting gigs and just want to become an outstanding DJ, download the flyer below.  Since I will be putting some resources online, you’ll need to enrol beforehand by sending me an email at matthew@matthewriddle.com.

DJ Masterclass Flyer [PDF, 102K]