Saturday, November 29, 2008


Jim Gee’s sustained examination of videogames does two things. Firstly it helps to show their learning potential in the face of ongoing moral panic; and secondly it generates principles of situated and distributed learning. In the second sense the videogame acts like an extended metaphor. But the videogame (or maybe the MMPOG) could also work as a metaphor for the education system as a whole. In which case, so-called education reform begins to look a bit like overclocking. And as every good gamer knows, overclocking can lead to component burn-out, system crashes and serious overheating, and that’s why there’s a market for heavy duty cooling fans. What’s more, the game that runs restricts interaction, limits user-generated content and rewards a narrow range of behaviours. Avatar roles have reduced functionality and their behaviour is under tight surveillance. Call in the game designers, we want something more rewarding to play in!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Here’s a link to a New York Times video which shows the faces of fascination when youngsters are emerged in video gameplay. I think it’s a good illustration of interest-based engagement with new media. danah boyd makes the distinction between interest-based and friendship-based participation in her commentary on 'Living and Learning with New Media: Findings from a 3-year Ethnographic Study of Digital Youth', the MacArthur-funded study she’s just finished working on. I note from the executive summary that despite the emphasis on peer learning there’s a validation of the role of adults who act as role models and experienced practitioners. But alongside that, the sense of engaged youth comes across, the willful participation, the fascination: there’s a lot for education to compete with.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A question of compliance

I’m beginning to work my way through a modest pile of assignments written by student teachers. What really strikes me is the way in which they negotiate the official literacy practices of higher education, grappling with new concepts and trying to match them up to their own experience of life in and out of school settings. This process reminds me of how Anne Haas Dyson describes the interplay between official and unofficial literacies in her study of young children’s writing; the only difference is that these older students mostly play the game and the unofficial is only subtly signaled or perhaps half-silenced. But also they have to take a stance on another official discourse, that of the school curriculum. And then they have to make some guesses about what level of compliance or critique is expected by their higher education tutors who, after all, hold the power by grading their work. These students grapple with a potentially perplexing set of multiples. The words multimedia, multimodal and multiliteracies (which they easily confuse) often appear in their work, and sometimes these terms interweave with multi-sensory approaches and even multiple intelligences in interesting unorthodox or non-standard ways. Broadly they stick to the idea of 'doing what the documentation says', conferring the power of an imagined common sense on curriculum documents; but occasionally it appears as if they are persuaded to try something different as a result of what they’ve read; but then you can never really be sure that they haven’t just got very good at playing their own official literacy game. I guess to have come this far they are in some sense or another expert at compliance.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Animated graffiti?

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

If the concept of animated graffiti sparks your imagination, then this video shows it in operation. Is wall art a time-based text? I wonder. Here it certainly is (or at least the video is). I know Dr Joolz chronicles how some graffiti artists in NY capture the ways in which their work changes over time, but blu’s work authors changes in a way that animates the walls themselves. The website is attractive and describes the work as 'ambiguous animation painted on public walls'. You can see the blu blog (here). Many thanks to John for pointing to this - respect!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New technology

Wires and cables

If you've got the latest, don't assume everyone else has! That's what Jackie and I discovered today at the NFT : you need compatible software (so save it as the old version). In the end everything worked out OK, and the in-school out-of-school virtual worlds theme worked well. And then in my rush to get back I completely missed the Carnaby Street silent disco, but at least Ruth made it. A brave new world in which you can't even disturb the neighbours! Mmm that's new technology for you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


red berries

Just when more and more people are getting comfortable inhabiting the Facebook space, along comes the spectre of the social networking scam. Graham Cluley of Sophos is quoted in the press as saying 'Facebook has opened people up to a lot of new threats. The more friends you have, the greater the risk.' He uses a slightly more measured tone on his blog, in which he explains how Facebook identities can be stolen (one incident illustrates this). Wired were there first covering this new kind of cybercrime, but as Facebook updates its security systems and users act with due caution its probably just a storm in a teacup.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

From sweatshop to sweetshop

Mill HQ

The UKLA regional conference in Sheffield was a great success. Celebrating the National Year of Reading, it was deftly steered into the terrain of new literacies. The Digital Readings conference made me reflect on how in the instructional regimes of print literacy the working conditions are hard, the tools old and worn, the hours long, and the labour rarely appreciated. These are sweatshop conditions in which the pay is rubbish and even your bosses are working for 'the man'. In comparison digital literacies seem like a sweetshop, full of goodies that are colourful and interesting. It promises fulfilment (if you've got some small change) and it seems like fun, even though there's always someone saying it's bad for you!..... and you get all that by shifting down a row and two spaces to the left - I'd call it keyboarding, but some call it grapheme substitution.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Web 2.0 is bad

Love at first sight

Cultural chaos and moral decay are strong words to use about Web 2.0, but Andrew Keen isn’t afraid to use them. He dares to question, and so it was entertaining to listen to Andrew Keen’s critique of participatory media on the BBC last night (particularly because listeners' text messages and emails were woven into the programme format). Of course it was a bit of a rant, but we’ve come to expect that. Keen claims that the professional knowledge of experts is being eroded by self-publishing amateurs and citizen journalists. And he scoffs at bloggers! Ironic then that he publishes the text of his talk on his own blog. He also claims that new technology is ‘assaulting our economy’. His book ‘The Cult of the Amateur’ seems to be doing well at £7.94 a copy, and probably better as a result of free BBC publicity! But of course that assumes we were listening and not updating our Facebook or frittering away our time on YouTube. Is expertise and authority under question as a result of Web 2.0? That would be hard to prove, and if we really are moving dangerously towards a situation in which ‘all truth is personal and all knowledge is local’, could you really blame the technology or would you have to blame the producers and the consumers? Yes, all of us. If you believe this then you’d believe anything, wouldn’t you. Wouldn’t you?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008



OMG, it's arrived! I'm now the proud owner of a Mino (from Flip). Design - good; packaging - i-podesque; heft - brilliant; ease of use - excellent. So I really must have a gadget fetish. I know that because of my excitement when I opened the package. Almost on a par with the US election results and the news that Emma has passed her driving test. But then somethings you just can't compare.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Google empire


There's something faintly disturbing about Google gobbling up whole libraries of print. It's an unsettling paradox in that the most ubiquitous player in the digital realm is busy colonising bookspace. On the one hand there's a sense in which more knowledge is being made freely available; on the other, the fact that Google will own it (or at least be the all-powerful gatekeeper). For un update on what's been going on between Google, the libraries, and the book publishers, read this, by John Naughton.