Monday, April 30, 2007


King's Oak
Today I was here, watching Jane at work with her class in the virtual world. The school’s a new build, but it’s not exactly a new design. Light and airy it may be, but it essentially works with the idea of classrooms hanging off a central corridor. On a separate note I learnt today that working alongside the Barbie Girls World featured here, there’s now news of the Barbie Girl MP3 player which will be available in the States in July. It has 512 MB of memory holding up to 120 MP3s and takes a memory card up to 2 GB. It’ll have a belt clip, and durable storage case. When the owner is out and about, she and her “best friends” sync their players and chat online using the Secret B chat feature. There are heavy restrictions - she can only use words approved and compiled in the database. Gradually these big companies are attempting to colonise and commercialise virtual space.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Project V is an interesting example of comedy webcasting. In their own words the team produce ‘comedy-drama for a short-form world’ showcasing ‘the lives and observations of five performers reporting on their world on a daily basis through video postings’. So the site is like a video blog with feeds. Quirky humour – and most of Ruth Pickett’s stuff seems to be shot on a mobile phone.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bees, beaches and other worries

contact head
Apparently a scientific study appears to show that mobile phones kill honeybees. Now that it’s established that they don’t fry our brains, there must be something else! In the same article we learn that wi-fi makes us ill. So perhaps, the Spanish idea of beach access is not so great after all. Here’s a report about wi-fi on the beach. Is that what we mean by pervasive computing (or is it invasive computing?) . There's so much to worry about these days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Barbie girls in beta

Mattel’s Barbie Girls World will be launched later this month. You can imagine the idea – fun, friends, fashion and it’s safe too. You’ll be able to design your own online avatar choosing hairstyles and accessories, and then decorate your very own room! Friends, of course, will drop by and chat, you can then visit the mall for more fashion and hair accessories and maybe buy a pet, and pet accessories. Here’s the link. Meanwhile, following yesterday’s post (and my own random ramblings), others are busy exploring the educational potential of virtual worlds. Whilst film director Paul Verhoeven has other ideas – he’s holding auditions in Second Life…

Monday, April 23, 2007

What's it for?

Where next with virtual worlds? There’s amazing potential here, and they’re springing up all over the place. Colin and Michele have this on Sony’s 3D virtual world. It’s called Home! Read more about it here. Colleagues are experimenting with the educational potential of Active Worlds for developing young children’s literacy, universities are buying land in Second Life - but we still hear the question, what’s it for? The same question is often asked of blogs and wikis. It’s tempting to say, social networking – you either get it or you don’t – but I reckon there’s a lot to be done to explore the possibilities, let alone the educational applications. On the other hand I can confidently say that MySpace is rapidly becoming the place for music trading. Here’s my daughter Ruth, here’s a link she sent me (French Movies), but I must say I prefer the inimitable Dimitri from Paris, with his wonderful ‘French’ lounge music.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tree eats numbers

tree eats numbers
I love watching this - the gnurl of a tree trunk that is gradually consuming the house number on a nearby road. You can watch the tree slowly eating these numbers by comparing it with an earlier photograph, here!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virtually complete

Originally uploaded by on-the-run.

I've been over in Barnsley today working on the virtual world. The image above shows a slice of the residential area - but today we've been working on our Big Brother area - a small group of modern houses that are being used for a virtual reality TV series called 'The Village'. Great fun...originally quite a small world, it continues to grow and grow thanks to the good will of the planners and Richard at VirtuallyLearning. It now contains something like 1200 objects. The good news is that the teachers and children who are using it on a daily basis are so highly motivated!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Books on not-books

Ruth and Hannah
Here’s a new book on using blogging to develop literacy. Diane Penrod’s book is called ‘Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy: The Next Powerful Step in 21st Century Learning’ (there's a bit more here). Also I heard from Ilana Snyder today – she has a new book coming out, but I binned the email and forgot what it was called! Looking around I find that she has co-edited this with Catherine Beavis. It’s called Doing Literacy Online: Teaching, Learning and Playing in an Electronic World (New Dimensions in Computers & Compositions) – how come that passed me by?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Trash the blog

Originally uploaded by on-the-run.

There’s been a whole week of blog-bashing in the media. Bouncing off the ‘code of conduct’ story, journalists have been quick to suggest that blogs have had it – the newsmakers are telling us that blogging is old news! Blogs we’re told, are pointless, the territory of bores and backbiters with nothing important to say. No content only contact. Statistics apparently show that the rate of growth is slowing up and the average shelf-life of a blog is getting shorter. But, I’ll be keeping on, because I believe in circulating ides, keeping a record for myself and whoever else is interested - and I’m interested in having a voice. On Friday, the Rachael Bell story about a teenage party advertised on MySpace which ended in mayhem was the latest internet scare story (there’s an intelligent comment on the issue, here)…and today Death in Cyberburbia uses the depressing story of an online suicide to launch a strong attack on the dangers of spending ‘too much time’ in the unreal world of new media. Today I was looking at some of the exciting work that teachers are doing with blogs and wikis – and that made me think how easy it is to criticize the channel of communication rather than the content. Isn’t it a bit like blaming the development of speech for offensive language, or the invention of writing for fascist literature, isn’t it?

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Following this unhappy incident, there have been some calls for a blogosphere code of conduct. Tony Long is tough on this (civility, he argues, is about self-discipline, the absence of which is a more widespread malaise). On the other hand the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland says ‘the risk that the blogo-sphere, which could be a new, revolutionary public space, instead becomes a stale, claustrophobic environment, appealing chiefly to a certain kind of aggressive, point-scoring male - and utterly off-putting to everyone else.’ Again we seem to be back on the topics of authority, control, and censorship - and all the other problems that come with unregulated publication.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

(re-) mix the web

Hannah, hunting.
The whole notion of Web 2.0 can get a bit contentious, and some applications under this banner don’t exactly do the social networking and collaboration that are the defining features - but they can make it easier to organize that kind of activity. So for example, take a look at netvibes, it’s so easy and so useful – it’s a free-of-charge web portal. You can add your own feeds, manage multiple email accounts, store bookmarks, search for images, video, blogs...and customize it at will with simple editing tools and a drag-and-drop page layout. All that makes Web 2.0-type activity a whole lot simpler. In the designers’ own words you “(re-)mix the web” – don’t you just love the bracketed prefix!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Patterns of use

Barking Market at Dagenham Market
I’ve been down in London visiting family. I noticed that Emma and Sammy use mobile conversations to co-ordinate social arrangements and the net to get information. Ruth and Hannah, who are younger, use SMS much more and overlay this with MSN chat. Ruth’s probably the most connected, using MySpace to check for updates, MSN to maintain presence, SMS and mobile conversations for more precise co-ordination and YouTube for entertainment.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hanging out in 3D

Some pundits have been arguing that the rapid development of 3D virtual worlds constitutes a paradigm shift – the birth of Web 3.0 (see here, for example) whilst others, such as Henry Jenkins, argue against this. It’s not all SL and Active Worlds though, new ideas are around. Here’s Kaneva described as “a kind of 3D MySpace. Instead of reproducing an entire world complete with houses, shops and casinos etc (as Second Life does), Kaneva simply offers members a flashy apartment of their own where they can bring friends, watch videos, play music, chat endlessly or teleport themselves instantly to someone else's apartment.” – from Victor Keegan, here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


SL stories are rapidly becoming a media staple in the UK and US alike. Here’s another :‘Halavais, who first entered Second Life a couple of years ago, has conducted one-shot class sessions in-world for about a year. He says some students find it completely disorienting, while others are entranced. The same is true for professors.’ One of his students talks about ‘addiction’ whilst Alex errs on the side of freedom and fun…you can read his blog here.

Monday, April 02, 2007


In this article I wrote about some of the popular manifestations of moral panic that surround online interaction. I suggested that the internet is often depicted as a hostile and volatile frontier, an insecure environment in which anything online can be stolen or corrupted by infectious viruses - a place where identity theft is rife and deception always around the corner, where you are constantly under surveillance or at risk from sexual predators. At that point I left narcissism and addiction out of the equation, but these must now take their place alongside cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is described by Noret and Rivers as ‘indirect’, a bit like gossip. Now ‘teachers and parents need to realise that a child’s mobile phone or computer isn’t just a communication tool – it’s also a way for a bully to reach children in their own homes.’ That’s quite a dramatic press-release. OK, 15% of the 11,227 children had received a nasty and aggressive text message or email, but come on, name me one communication tool that can’t be used for such purposes. Of course bullying of whatever sort should be discouraged, but on the other hand do we imagine that all communication whatever the medium is going to be ‘nice’ and harmonious and carefully policed by caring adults – and that we’d even know, most of the time. On a completely different note, here’s Ruth – in the studio again!