Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday thoughts


On Wednesday I listened to the Martin Amis interview in which he held forth on political extremism and terrorism. Eloquent as ever, I thought his picture of what he calls ‘Islamism’ was a distortion - the sort of stereotyped view that can easily polarize opinion. Although I’ve yet to read House of Meetings, Amis’s analysis in the interview seemed crude in comparison to James Meek’s account in ‘The People’s Act of Love’ which I’ve just finished reading (for comparison there’s an interview with James Meek in threemonkeysonline).

And today, I was in the company of a fellow blogger, which caused me to reflect how commonplace blogs have become, yet how it still seems quite a novelty to actually meet one - a blogger I mean, not a blog. Anyway here’s The Rookery (I just love that sense of humour!).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bad luck


Last night I was working on the laptop when a mirror fell off the wall and smashed. I immediately thought of bad luck, but when rationality kicked in (after about 30 seconds) I noticed the solder on the clip had worn thin. And then today we bought a new car. About an hour later some idiot ran into the side of it! Co-incidences I know, but now I’m getting superstitious waiting for the third mishap…

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Put it in a bin with chips

Ruth 1
We’ve been hearing a lot about so-called intelligent objects for quite some time now, but what about the intelligent bin? This report made me laugh – just to think that someone could be logging my waste! It’s in a good cause though, it’s green, it’s re-cycling and I’m all for it. Maybe this is the best sort of use of technology – when it’s pervasive and ethical (is that pervasively ethical or ethically pervasive?)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Virtually the same

Sevilla Alcazar2
Today was the big push with the Barnsley Virtual Worlds group (wish I could do a link here, but it’s protected material) - the place is nearly ready for the pilot schools. I became clearer about differences of emphasis in the planning group today. I’m primarily interested in what the children will do in the world…others around the table seem more interested in what children will get out of the world. We have different understandings of literacy (and in particular of digital literacy). The differences aren’t problematic, but because they exist I’m looking forward to finding out how the teachers make connections between the 3D world and their existing practices. And on a separate, but related note, this looks good – I remember chairing a presentation with Suzanne and Jennifer a couple of years back.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Literary heritage moment

I just can’t help loving the shine on conkers – it’s a really important part of the English Autumn for me. I hated playing conkers at school (it was a deeply competitive ritual and all I can remember is the pain of the conkers that missed their target and hit my frozen fingers instead), but the shine of Autumn conkers and apples is wonderful! I always found the Keats poem To Autumn a bit much, but the second verse really got me – who was this weirdo, and what was he doing…

“sitting careless on a granary floor,
… hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flower..”

And that was a rare occasion: a literary heritage moment!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Running on steam

Judson Laipply’s evolution of dance has to be an internet phenomenon with a staggering 33 million views at YouTube. It’s good … and he’s become a true icon of new times. But just to point up how the old world runs alongside the new, my photograph shows a steam traction engine rolling past the new mosque on Wolsey Road, Sheffield!.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Urban spaces

It just takes a skateboard, an old wooden pallet and an upturned fridge (and a fair amount of skill) to make good use of the urban space between industrial units. Thinking I'd stumbled onto something I was surprised to see the prostrate form of Stewart Watson trying to get a good angle for his own collection! You can see some of Stewart's photographs on his website here, and more on his Flickr photostream. The skill of skateboarding is one thing, photographing skateboarding is something else altogether.

Friday, September 22, 2006


There's some interesting stuff about the use of ICT in early years settings in this week's Guardian. Jerome Monahan reports on the use of karaoke, walkie-talkies and videos with young children. The article asks us to watch this space for details. Either it’s impossible to navigate, or it’s not there yet.

(...many thanks to Balajit for the excellent image)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Born to blog?

I thought I was born to blog, but just now the pressure of work is putting a squeeze on this. So, nothing much of interest from me over the last few days…but I was thinking – thinking about whether we spend more time looking at each other on photo-sharing sites than anything else. So other humans/ bodies do seem to command a lot of attention. 11 out of the 20 most viewed pictures on my photostream are of people (that’s including tattooed arms, legs and necks). I wonder how typical this is? After all, if this is social networking, perhaps you’d expect that? Anyway, being born to blog, I thought I'd blog about blogging about blogging about blogging (here), which I guess is what DrJ and I did when we wrote about Blogtrax on our personal blogs!

Monday, September 18, 2006

New trends

blaze ball
Looking at the current trends in new technology, four themes seem to emerge. These are convergence, portability, pervasiveness and transparency. They group quite conveniently into two pairs. Convergence refers to the capacity to integrate technological functions in a single device. So our phone doubles up as camera, MP3 player and so on - or our home media system deals with music, TV, telephonics and email. The general direction of convergence is to allow for access to multiple media from one source. This pairs up with portability, because as devices become more compact and wireless becomes more affordable and more ubiquitous the possibilities of being able to use all media, more or less at any time or place increase. There is a natural link here with pervasiveness. Pervasiveness suggests that digital technologies will feature in more and more areas of everyday life, becoming closely interwoven with the way we get things done. As this pervasiveness increases it is likely that technological innovation will focus on making devices and their interfaces more transparent in ways that touch screens, and desktop icons begin to suggest.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Church door in Alhama
So, mi little buccaneers, it’s Pirate Day on Tuesday, oo–aar!! Read about it here and there’s more here! I’ve been wondering about the provenance of pirate-talk. My guess is that it’s actually derived from the written form. There are the early suggestions in Robinson Crusoe (1719), but you’ll find pirate talk par excellence in Moby Dick (despite the fact it’s mostly spoken by Captain Ahab) – and that’s 1851. Then it really takes hold as the way pirates are supposed to speak in Treasure Island (1883)…and the rest is history. Just like Thorne’s study of Office English, I’m sure there must be some key linguistic work around. AVAST I be forgettin, it be fun and games talkin pirate!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Social networking/ photo sharing

As we’ve learnt, the take-up of social networking technology seems to be locally differentiated. Use of txting on mobile phones is a well-documented example. It’s interesting how different countries/societies take on social software, and how this plays out against the world of business interest that lurks behind the scenes. Despite a slow start, Myspace users seem to be growing rapidly in the UK….but now Bebo, seems to be overtaking Myspace …Ringo’s ‘sympathetic’ policy seems to be working too. Just from what I see, young people using Myspace are very likely to use Ringo for their images. But put Ringo alongside Flickr and it looks to me like a cheap imitation. I wonder whether it’s just that Flickr is tailored to the sort of niche I occupy? Anyway, here’s some stuff on comparing photosharing sites.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New deal?

Skateboard king
Hyson Green, in my home town of Nottingham, has had its fair share of problems – poor housing, under-funded schools, a high crime-rate and so on. I worked as a teacher there in the late seventies just before the ’81 riots, and my friend Mark (in the picture) works with young people there now. Hyson Green is now part of a New Deals initiative - I really hope it makes a difference – but I’ve yet to see evidence that these massive regeneration schemes work. Questions have been raised, so it’s good to see that Sheffield Hallam University is leading on an evaluation of NDCs.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Sevilla bell
Oh good, it seems like the book project (UKLA/NATE materials to support lecturers in teaching English) that accompanies this resource is on the move again! It’ll have a Burnett, Merchant and Myers chapter in it. I think it will be very useful!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Matches from Estonia

Estonian matchbox
It’s not every day that you get matches from Estonia – and this box has stunning strawberry-eating na├»ve art so I'm especially pleased! For readers fluent in Estonian (which I’m told is a bit like Finnish), this is the link on the box. The best part of the weekend was going to see the Sarah Watt movie Look Both Ways. I thought the device of using animated drawings and rapid flow still images to capture mental states and emotions worked really well. Also the soundtrack was excellent and not too intrusive.

There's an bit of Peter Ackroyd that's stuck in my mind, too. He writes about the emergence of a new subjectivity, a new narrative self in the Elizabethan era.: "the growth of literacy was leading to great extension of letters and diaries; writing itself inspired introspection and reflection." (p.374) This is a slightly different take on ideas about the cognitive effects of literacy which was successfully debunked by Brian Street (and earlier by Scribner and Cole). Ackroyd raises the question of whether texts shape people or people shape texts.

But Ackroyd's passage also reminded of Stone in "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?". She shows how dress and increasing spatial privacy led to the construction of a more "inward" subject. A changing social context may then have led to new subjectivities traced in changing textual forms. So, this becomes significant when we look at new genres like emails and blogs and map this against contextual features like changing social networks and knowledge flows. If we're now witnessing the decoupling of the body and the subject, as Stone argues, how is this reflected in new genres? Is it here?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Done, again

Cortija ventilation
BERA went very well. Our symposium (thanks to Julia's organisation) was well-attended and Vic was fab as a discussant!! It does strike me that what we might loosely describe as the "Sheffield group" has developed a distinctive emphasis, perhaps not yet explicit or theorized but clearly concerned with the interweaving of popular culture, digital texts and identity work in learning. Apart from singing our own praises, there was plenty of other good stuff. Jing Sheng and Mary Hamilton on Chinese children’s multiliteracies practices were fascinating Rachael Levy’s work on becoming a reader in a digital age is interesting, not least because of its use of innovative research tools.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


It’s fascinating when you find out how cultural history is captured in tools and everyday artifacts. The picture shows Fatima’s hand – a popular kind of door knocker in contemporary Andalucia (also found in Morocco). It has clear origins in Moorish, Arabic and Sephardic traditions, but survives in modern Spain and other latino cultures.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New stuff

Literate stonework
This is a presentation on Windows Live Writer which is a tool that makes blog writing even easier. Is this going to open up blogging to whole new group of users? The whole presentation is so laid back, I nearly fell off my chair – the music too, is soporific. And whilst we’re on music Ruth describes Pandora as an amazing way to find new music you like – must be worth a try, at least! Finally, this book looks interesting. It deals with using a variety of digital media for learning science.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Spanish shutters
I don’t like to use my blog to rant, but prompted by an email from Colin (who seems to share my views) I feel moved to write about referencing conventions, house styles and so on. This isn’t an attempt to get at anybody or anything – just to raise some issues. Yesterday I spent a fair amount of time re-formatting references in APA. In that world everything is different - where I use quotation marks they don’t; where I normally italicise they don’t; where I use pp. they don’t; where they use brackets I don’t etc. etc. ad nauseam. I now know exactly what the student who comes from another institution feels like! But the real point I want to make is about who’s responsibility this should be. Providing all the right detail is there isn’t this a copy editor’s job – a task of making our work conform to house style? Given that we do the spade work and get little recompense for it, I think we get soundly ripped off. (End of rant.)

Monday, September 04, 2006


Yes I’m back, and at work, and it all seems rather boring after the beauty of Andalucia. Who else but the Moors could build the sort of stunning cupola in the picture? The good things that have happened over the past few days are taxing my car online (it usually takes a good half day to find the documents, locate the right kind of Post Office and then stand in the queue – instead it took me just over 2 minutes); insuring my car (on line it took 3 minutes); and registering to vote (also online). Today I got the proofs of “Do you like dogs or writing”, that’ll be out in the Autumn edition of English in Education. I also punctuated and tidied up the references on the final version of my chapter for the New Literacies Research Handbook. I now have hasty preparation to do for BERA on Thursday (I’ll put a link to the paper, here) and then need to put something together for Newfoundland. Meanwhile, for comic relief, Ruth turned up the live performance by OKGo.