Sunday, December 30, 2007


escape from the copse
Trying to collect as much material as I can for the Web 2.0 book I’m writing with Julia Davies, I keep on coming across familiar stuff. This on using collaborative technologies in education is new to me, but an on old link is not necessarily to be discounted! So here’s Will Richardson on connective writing in which he explores the concept of new writing in the read/write web. His blog is always good - a recent post on ‘nomadic learning’ is well worth a read. I also regularly keep up with Digital Ethnography. Maybe 2008 will bring some new stuff, too!

Friday, December 28, 2007


leaves on the track
Feedmap is an add-on for your site which works as a feed to show people where you're blogging from (or more accurately, where you live)....and who else in the area is blogging (ie using feedmap). More and more of these sorts of things are becoming available - and that's interesting - but as for declaring my location to other bloggers, that doesn't really interest me. They either know or they don't! The last thing I want is some random blogger knocking on my door just to pass the time of day. I'd rather stick with friends.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


tree with magpie
In the chill-out zone around the holiday period I’ve been thinking about relationships, social networks and community – part of which was sparked by reading Howard Rheingold. Although I’m very much an advocate of the educational value of participatory software, I find his step by step approach to citizenship a bit of a turn-off. It smacks a bit of an older generation telling youngsters to grow up quick and get political. It won’t work. But there is something new and different about relationships which we should be alive to…Ruth and her boyfriend did ‘virtual Christmas’ opening presents on a Skype video call…OK that may be trivial, but it’s a very different way of being together. The connection between that and my adult students doing distributed knowledge building with wikis is a useful one, but we have a way to go in conceptualizing this. Both examples are about relationships (one personal the other professional) but they don’t have a direct relationship with a public – or community in its wider sense. A community, like a tree is greater than the some of its parts – a network is a string of relationships (the connection between leaf and twig, twig and branch and so on). Communities and networks are equally valuable, but we do spend a lot of time worrying about notions of community. Worrying about what we’ve lost; worrying about what it is becoming. We don’t seem to worry half as much about networks. But then maybe the whole community thing is a bit of a fiction in the first place. As Richard Ford observes, it’s just like: isolated, contingent groups trying to improve on an illusion of permanence, that they fully accept as an illusion. (1995:386)...or maybe not.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


in progress
Talking to colleagues on our Multimedia course this evening, I was struck by the way in which lack of vision restricts the way new technology is used in educational settings. We were talking about how schooled ICT is so limited when compared to students’ everyday Web 2.0 practices. How can we harness the power of new technologies in meaningful ways? Howard Rheingold draws the connections between what he refers to as participatory media and education in the following way: My fundamental assumption for beginning to teach participatory media skills myself, based on my own encounters with students in social cyberspaces and the advice of more experienced educators is that voice, the unique style of personal expression that distinguishes one’s communication from those of others, can be called upon to help connect young people’s energetic involvement in identity-formation with their potential engagement with society as citizens. Moving from a private to a public voice can help students turn their self-expression into a form of public participation. Public voice is learnable, a matter of consciously engaging with an active public rather than broadcasting to a passive audience. (The article is here.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wandering into the future

down the garden path
There’s some interesting predictions in this article on the shape of things to come. I was particularly struck by peer-to-peer lending, reverse knowledge migration and virtual identity managers. More predictable, of course are guesses about the growth of social networking. And on an amusing note there is digital housecleaning which will require more than a virtual feather duster. I quote: MySpace pages will be cleaned up and mass "Facebook suicides" will soon become the norm as young people try to agree a bond of forgetting by deactivating their profiles in unison. Companies will spring up like Reputation Defender, an American firm that promises to search out and destroy all inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful and slanderous information that exists on its clients…that’s identity management for you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blog's 4

This blog was four years old on Monday, and is made up of around 1000 posts. I reckon it has become more focused during this time, and certainly readership has grown. The template's been modified a number of times, and I'm forever playing around with the sidebar! Since Blogger brought in a tag function I've been working with a relatively small set of labels. The most frequent tags are education with 45; social networking with 44; and digital literacy with 42. My blogging practice is closely tied in with photosharing on Flickr and allconsuming which I use for my bookshelf, music and video favourites. Occasionally I'll pull in something from YouTube. I use netvibes for feeds from other blogs. This nexus of practice has developed over time, and I expect, will continue to develop.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Big fun

Like the Primary Review, a recent press release from the headteachers’ union (NAHT) suggests that education has become boring – that there’s no room anymore for fun. That resonated for me with what Jackie wrote about educational videogames being devoid of the fun element. And, whilst I’ve always been a great advocate of fun, serious fun, and subversive fun, I wanted to think again about fun and learning. Because most of the important things I’ve learnt actually haven’t been fun at all – they’ve been challenging and sometimes uncomfortable. This is not to argue for serious and repressive educational regimes – in fact I think learning spaces should have plenty of laughter and enjoyment, but when it comes to learning we’re often out of our comfort zone. The real fun in learning is the thrill of accomplishment – the buzz of success – the pride that comes with achievement (not the false satisfaction of meeting someone else’s idea of our learning goals or targets). The learning journey itself is more complex than that - it’s a rocky road – you need all the encouragement and support you can get. Perhaps this is best captured by Jim Gee who talks here about it being pleasantly frustrating.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Place means nothing

Shifting location has made me reflect on one's attachments to place...the memories and nostalgia that seem to shade particular places with meaning. This view to the centre of Sheffield does it for me - I don't know why (that's where the slight blurring helps!). And I suppose that vagueness is what infects Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe (the Bascombe character is really growing on me): Places never cooperate by revering you back when you need it. In fact they almost always let you down....Best just to swallow back your tear, get accustomed to the minor sentimentals and shove off to whatever's next, not whatever was. Place means nothing. (Independence Day: p152)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Intelligent life?

shopping in Chesterfield 2
The World Digital Library is a fascinating project which aims to harness the power of the web to establish a genuinely global resource. This is the promotional video, and you can read more on the site. I must say, though, I wouldn’t like to be faced with deciding what the significant primary materials from cultures around the world are…committed as I am to building intercultural understanding, it’s challenging to be all inclusive. This is not a problem that worries the editors of the magazine Intelligent Life – its web tie-in is here – which blends factoids with glossy features, under the strapline knowledge is pleasure. I wondered whether you could justify the idea that a little bit of knowledge constitutes a market. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More panic?

rest in comfort
The latest MediaWise report has some cautionary remarks about videogames. Despite the celebratory tone that talks about - Groundbreaking new technologies unlock new possibilities for interaction, entertainment, and impact. The summary goes on to describe how: findings suggest that the unacceptable negative impact of excessively violent video games on young people is a problem depicted in an everexpanding body of research. Despite this, recommending more stringent rating of games may not be the best way forward.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Where were you?

Revolution House
Most social networking sites allow users to create a profile and to publicly display their social connections and allegiances. Mobile social networking provides opportunities for participants to fine-tune their networks whilst they are on the move by saying where they are. Here’s Dodgeball which ties in location-based functionality together with these networks. I’m not sure whether geo-location or meeting-up becomes the social object here, but it’s certainly an interesting development. You could see Dodgeball in a number of ways - as a sophisticated tool for negotiating relationships, a consumer incursion into social living, or a risky development which ends up cocooning participants in their own small worlds. Alternatively, you could read this for some useful orientation.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


We decided to abandon the plan to stay at home last night and ventured into Sheffield to watch the Golden Compass which is a rather disappointing adaptation of the first volume of His Dark Materials. The CGI is good and the sets are pretty impressive, but in focusing on this you miss the depth of the narrative and the subtlety of character development. I also started wondering why these episodic fantasy quests have such enduring appeal...and was also struck by the simultaneous marketing of the PlaySation tie-in game.

Friday, December 07, 2007

New spaces/old practices

St Pancras
I’ve been reading about social objects – which is geek-speak for the kinds of sharing devices which act as nodes for social networks. So Flickr uses the photograph as a social object; YouTube the video clip and so on. This reminded me of the emphasis placed on the role of cultural artefacts in identity work by Holland and her colleagues (here). In Holland’s work the artefact is used to modulate behaviour, cognition and emotion so conferring a degree of agency. The idea of a social object seems rather one-dimensional in comparison and is being used to understand what works and why in the world of social software. But then social objects are cultural artefacts and maybe this is important to the study of emerging identities and Web 2.0.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

On change

I’m still catching up from my new location (see picture), so I need to announce that I’m published here and again here, and that’s probably it for 2007! Meanwhile I’ve been reading Lee Bryant on Emerging Trends in Social Software for Education – a recent Becta pamphlet. Mostly it’s right on the button and oozes optimism. For instance, Lee says "I believe that Web 2.0 tools and social software in general will have a genuinely transformational effect on technology and education over the next few years". They could, but we need to think more critically about the conditions required for that transformation. Deep institutional change doesn’t just happen because the tools are there, or because the time has come. Web 2.0 tools fundamentally challenge the cultural scripts of teaching – they challenge us all to re-think our practices and this isn’t going to happen in a culture where teachers are professionally insecure and educational administrators in a constant state of panic about falling standards and low test scores in print literacy.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Here’s another short clip, thanks to YouTube, of Ruth performing with Brown Eyes Blue (Ruth’s the one with the gold cap). I’ve learnt that I should tag the video as unsigned. On Sunday, the BBC broadcast a feature on online communities where a radio journalist lived a week online. The feature promised Howard Reingold (inventor of the term virtual community), sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, 'cybershrink' Sherry Turkle and science-fiction writer William Gibson – a star-studded cast, indeed. In the end, the programme was a flop. Paul Bennan, the journalist, found that life online was at the same time engaging and isolating. He sat on the fence, asked poor questions, and squandered his time online with the experts. Usually the BBC is good on these features, but it missed the mark this time.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pynot (dialect)

pynot house
Here’s the first of a series of pictures of the new home – a tease, if you like! I seem to be enjoying an intermittent broadband connection now which signals a return to the blog. So much has happened that didn’t get blogged – perhaps most notably the TV headlines on Wednesday that linked our declining performance in reading (from the PiRLS study) to computers. I’ve been trying to track the connection and it seems from this report that it’s down to one Ed Balls. But the BBC gave it all the weight of a moral panic, featuring interviews with well-spoken parents who were concerned about the evil influence of technology. So, of course, no-one reads on-screen do they? They just look at the pictures, wasting the valuable time that they could spend with books. Isn’t it about time that we abandoned this na├»ve view of literacy in favour of something a bit more realistic?