Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Virtual bowling

We've been having a bowling competition on Robbie's Wii. Spending a little time making our Mii avatars makes all the difference as the screen gets populated by our alter-egos. It actually begins to create a bit of a virtual space and certainly increases the level of identification with what's happening out there/ in the screen or wherever. I also discovered that you can download software to enhance your Mii design or (less adventurously, really) you can practice your design-craft. Interesting how working through options on multiple templates can begin to create an impression of personalisation. It's the sort of effect that must be explained by a mathematical formula.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Lower Level 2

If you've ever had anything to do with literacies, you can't fail to be struck by the dense textual environment of Hong Kong. It's a sort of junction of so many linguistic crossings. When I hear the term multiliteracies it always brings to mind that order of richness of different practices, in different media and in different places. A kind of multidimensional diversity. This diversity seems to me to be shape of the future (or is it the present?). So it's very good to see Martin Waller launching his Multiliteracies Learning Initiative with a well designed space here. I hope this work continues to thrive!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Take five

Don't think just work

Well, it's time for a nostalgic sort of post. Time because this old blog is now five years old. And in that time it's become a part of my life as I construct this fluid and rhizomic text that weaves in and out of other spaces. Sometimes I surprise myself; sometimes I'm embarrassed. And when there's time I blog about the process over here. More than anything though it provides me with a space to give voice to some of the things that interest me, and some of those things become themes that I pick up in my published work. Other things are more transient. Dead ends leading nowhere. As bloggers come and go, vary in their posting habits, become intermittent or give up all together, I seem to carry on regardless. I must be a born blogger!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost in translation

So, after yesterday’s post and in the interest of balance, here’s the Hong Kong duo Fama. Now is that indie, or canto-indie? I’m no longer certain, but I suppose the danger of reporting on cultural hybridity is the danger that in translation you create the exotic. Now to me Fama seem more MOR, but maybe their message is more authentic, or is it just matters of taste that give Alice bad dreams? The more I wonder, the less I know.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hong Kong rap

One of the most fascinating papers at Hong Kong Pop was Angel Lin’s sociolinguistic study of local hip-hop artist MC Yan. Fascinating because of the ways in which local artists work with (or appropriate) global trends and genres to fashion new cultural forms. MC Yan uses chou hau the unofficial language of the street to make strong statements, remixing familiar rhythms in his conscious rap. Watch the video!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Participation (again)


I finally made it to Hong Kong after getting stranded in Paris with bad weather. If I get a good night's sleep then I should be OK tomorrow for the paper (with Julia) on Web 2.0 and social participation. At the moment I'm holed up on the 13th floor of a modern hotel with a slow internet connection. And this is the conference!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Internet safety

Yale (turquoise band)

There's a great little story here in the Guardian about how easy it is to cut keys from images on your Flickr photostream. This adds a new dimension to debates about internet safety. Local authorities and other administrative bodies may now have to change their policies. I'm taking a different view and hoping that someone can cut a key to unlock the padlocks that keep us out.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bad games


We often hear stories about the evils of gaming. Earlier in the week I reported about the Italian boy who was diagnosed with PlaySation addiction. Apparently it all ended well when he told his father to throw it away. But the really bad games are played out in the Nevada desert, where miltary operatives dispatch unmanned drones to wipe out settlements of Islamic extremists in Northern Pakistan (news story here). Now what kind of terror is that? I'm still having a personal moral panic attack about this one.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pirate Macros

This video is interesting in a number of ways. It plays on the amateur feel of a lot of language instruction material to feed that obsession with talking like a pirate. The American attempt at that 50s English voiceover is also a nice touch. But why talk like a pirate in the first place? Who knows? Interesting, at a time when real pirates are very much in the news. Then to entertain us all, along comes the latest mash-up as the lolcats phenomenon meets pirate-talk head on with Pirate Macros – argh Jim Lad, that be photoshopped!

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Template society


We inhabit a culture in which choosing from a pallette of pre-written templates is common place. I'm just about to start some work on profile pages - which are apparently a template design which was originally borrowed from dating sites. The profile page is a sort of writing frame in which personalisation is constituted in terms of low-level choice with sufficient opportunites to perform a sort of cut-down identity. Gunther Kress extends the idea of templating to the wider social environment, using supermarkets as an example. Food for thought....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Hot Bikes Madeira Drive Brighton

The DJ metaphor, and its associated ideas of sampling and remix have now been adopted in a number of contexts to explain how new cultural material is generated: in young children’s writing (Dyson, 2003); in the production of AMV (Ito, 2006); and in the writing of fanfiction (Jenkins, 2006). At root the basic idea is nothing new. Mahler’s use of Frère Jaques in his 1st Symphony, Luis Buñuel’s Last Supper sequence in Viridiana and the work of the brothers Grimm all suggest themselves as examples of the same phenomenon. How do we create something new? Use the materials to hand.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Spent force

Jean Lave's seminal paper on socially-situated learning (in Mind, Culture and Activity) not only explains the limitations of psychological accounts of individualised learning but also points out the inadequacy of traditional accounts of apprenticeship. The emphasis on learning as changing identities is clearly made, but my favourite quote is in the conclusion - '...learning, wherever it occurs, is an aspect of changing participation in changing practices'. Its a tightly expressed re-formulation of the whole paper. The trouble is I think you have to read the paper in order to fathom its significance! Be that as it may, its helpful in unravelling what happens when individuals collaborate in learning spaces.

Friday, October 24, 2008



I was in Bristol on Monday at this seminar, and although I enjoyed it, I was struck by how little new stuff was being discussed. On the train down I reviewed a really interesting piece on chat, and this tied in with what I’ve been reading on IM as research tool (pdf here). It seems to me that there’s relatively little going in terms of research into interaction in virtual worlds, so when a friend drew my attention to The Journal of Virtual Worlds Research I began to imagine the possibilities. Well, prepare to be disappointed. There is nothing that really focuses on interaction but there are pieces by Rheingold, Benedikt and Schroeder. Worth watching, then.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Scratching the surface

In stone on Howard Road

I probably made few friends today by going off on one about the perils of thinking of software apps as tools for learning. The trouble is I have started to become suspicious of our rather glib use of the tool metaphor in education. To be sure the idea of tool-mediated learning has an impeccable pedigree in the work of Vygotsky, those who influenced him, worked with him and those who followed him. But if we shift the ground to think of learning as participation through the endeavour of shared communication, I think interactive apps are then better conceived of as spaces for learning. In an everyday sense, a tool is usually thought of as an instrument - an instrument with a mechanical function by which a human agent moves, shapes or marks parts of the physical environment. So perhaps the idea of the tool is entirely appropriate to a theory of learning as construction, and also, incidentally, in an educational discourse in which success is thought to be measured by impact. But learning through participation and interaction moves the focus to the inter-relationship between individuals, the spaces in which this occurs, and the texts through which they negotiate meanings.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning space

Sun, rain, water

It seems to me to be quite daring to explain to a group of hard-boiled teachers that the course they have just joined is a loosely-bounded learning space! Just tell us what we have to do to pass and spare the academic piffle, is how imagine their inner thoughts. But because I want to maximise the possibility of participation and ownership, it seems important to be purposefully vague - to create a negotiable online, offline communicative space for reflection. Richard, as always, acts as a sort of agent provacateur, keeping my own learning experience fresh and pleasantly frustrating. So that's how it feels starting off a new Masters group. Yesterday we played with a sandbox wiki on the theme of music. What interested me was the way in which this exercise enabled the particpants to draw on their varied cultural resources. So, for example, the students embedded YouTube clips of the Algerian Tonbak and the Basque Txalaparta. Richard, for his part, was in the late 6Os with the Bonzo Dogs. Plenty of fun and plenty of incidental learning then - and a certain amount of authentic participation in a loosely- bounded learning space!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Literacy coach

reading bus

I listened to Cathleen Kral talking about literacy coaching in Boston Public Schools today. The Boston literacy coaching scheme has attracted a lot of attention and there are some sound principles underpinning the approach, but somehow the whole coaching metaphor seems to me to be a bit problematic. Then again I suppose 'lead literacy teacher' or 'literacy consulant' can be difficult, too. I'd like to hear more about how literacy is actually defined in this scheme, because the examples of key words and think alouds seem very oriented to instructional print-literacy routines. Here literacy is the handmaid of content knowledge. A broader view of curriculum and a wider concept of literacy is needed if we are to better serve children and young people in my opinion. Here's the NCTE on the Boston programme and more background (PDF).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Birthday Zogg

There’s a lot of hype around the new Igor animation film, but nothing more virtual than the game (make your own monster here, and mail to a friend). The full platform game offers quite a bit more, though. But that’s entertainment, whereas the Forbidden City is genuine edutainment. I’ve yet to have a full look round, but it looks smart. OK you can’t stop off for a Tsing Tao, but at least you’ll get a feel for the place, and you get to dress up too!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Honey Monster topped!


Yes, the Sugar Puff Honey Monster was publically executed by the Mighty Boosh live on stage at the City Hall, Sheffield on Thursday! Sitting astride a giant hairdryer, Noel Fielding decapitated the Monster. Following threats by the comedy duo to take legal action against Sugar Puffs for stealing their vocal style they dealt a hammer blow to plagiarism, using their most deadly weapon... stagecraft! Will the Honey Monster strike back? I notice that the YouTube video of the public execution has been removed, so evidently someone is getting twitchy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Communities of practice

mushroom maker

A number of us working to understand how social participation in Web 2.0 spaces actually works have tried to apply Wenger's concept of communities of practice. Sometimes this approach has been contrasted with Gee's notion of affinity spaces. Neither quite work well enough. So I've been moving away from both ideas, preferring instead the idea of participation and networking around social objects. But I was interested to note that Wenger has been working on a project (and a book of that project) which takes community as the starting point and then, rather like Wellman, begins to explore how digital communication extends or expands that sense of community. You can get an overview in the Digital Habitats project blog, and following the inks allows you to download some of the material for a closer reading.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

User-generated meaning

Fans of urban dictionary, which is based on user-generated content, may be surprised (or even horrified) that the owners have decided to cash in by producing a print version. As the online front page says, Urban Dictionary is the slang dictionary YOU WROTE. But the small print tells you that: When you post Content on the Website, you agree to grant the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, fully sublicenseable, non-exclusive license to copy, distribute, sell, publicly display, publicly perform and make derivative works etc etc. All this doesn’t really bother me, but it is just another example of how, in our enthusiasm to participate, it is so easy to overlook who owns our content. And on that note, I wonder if Blogger owns the words in this post?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Penguin club

book mugs

Lauren Fingeret's paper in the latest edition of The Reading Teacher is important because it shows how the use of film, in this case the March of the Penguins, can be integrated into the curriculum. That's not to say that I believe that learning facts about penguins is in itself important, or that I agree with the unqualified satements about high-quality documentary. But it rocks just because it is a very simple but persuasive empirical account of how a popular film can, with a sensitive and appropriate pedagogy, be completely integrated into early years practice.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Conspicuous consumption

Ruth and Hannah

Allconsuming is a useful add-on to my blog, acting as a way of sharing and displaying what I'm reading, watching and listening to. Unlike some members of that social network I choose not to share my taste in food, drink and so on. So perhaps there's a subtle deceit, or at least a conscious decision to display a certain sort of taste to mark a certain sort of identity. Consumption is, though, a much more complex affair than some of those in media studies lead us to believe. Appadurai is very good at examining the choreography and chronologies of consumption using, I think, Christmas as an example. So I was interested in how all this played out at a family wedding this weekend. But I was also struck by the ways in which consumption and production intersect, particularly in these social rituals. It's almost as if performance is dependent upon the careful interweaving of consumption and consumption, whether we're considering food and drink, location, clothing or the vow-giving ceremony itself.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Google me


I love my Blackberry and have, so far, successfully resisted the i-phone. But it looks as if the handheld is about to really take off with the launch of the Google Android operating system. What’s hot is that people will be writing programs for this software system and they won’t be locked down by Apple’s corporate interest. This is explained here. Textually has the headlines as well as a pic of the HTC Dream, the first commercially available piece of kit that runs Android. Admittedly it’s not strong on design; but makes up for this with promise. Available in the UK next year. Well let’s see. Meanwhile read Jeff Jarvis in today’s Guardian going through a list of myths about new media like a knife through butter.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Goodies and gadgets

ready or not

Well that's a damn fine description of technology. I came across it marking a student dissertation that quotes Gipson, who goes on about the: "absence of clear definition of what is going to be done with the "goodies and gadgets". As a result, too often the technology is never really utilised to support and enhance teaching and learning. At the heart of this is the fact that technology is simply grafted on to the existing program and against the existing school design and infrastructure. Consequently, technology often either exists as a tangential activity occurring in discrete computer labs, or as an ancillary activity in some classes." I think he's got it just about right (see it all here). What are you going to use it for? Will it be worthwhile? This is where I want to go next with virtual worlds research. Meanwhile, there's still the day job to do!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



The second edition of Desirable Literacies is out! I know because Jackie had a copy on her desk. I have a chapter there on early reading, and it was really interesting doing a re-write. Nearly 10 years have elapsed since I originally wrote the chapter and whilst I reckon my writing is about the same, my ideas have gone through some sort of transformation. It would be really good to do a reflective commentary, but it's unlikely I'll find the time. But here's the headlines. Then I was immersed in the world of picture books as if they were a solution to every problem. Then I saw print literacy as the fundamental issue (I was a print literacy capitalist). Then I saw home and school as two completely separate domains and despite the occasional liberal get-out phrases, I thought that we should colonise homes with schooled literacy pedagogies. Now picture books seem quaint, print literacy one of many, and home, school and community as overlapping worlds. What was a one-way street is now a busy intersection; what was single and reasonably straightforward is now multiple, contested and devilishly complex. And so without further ado, here's a link to the publisher's blurb.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More or less the same


I’ve been participating in this ESRC Seminar Series, which is generating useful session reports. This is the first one. I like Neil Selwyn’s idea of a ‘soft determinist’ view of technology. For example he suggests that ‘This soft determinist view sees technology impacting on social situations which are, to a degree, malleable and controllable. Rather than the internet improving learning, it can be said that the internet can help improve learning, acknowledging the possible existence of other contextual factors, whilst retaining the notion of technological effects.’ (2008 p.20). So that’s a bit more of a subtle analysis than mine, here, but more or less the same, really.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fashion writing

text wear

We’ve got quite used to seeing writing on clothing. We have labels on the outside, slogans, names of bands and sports stars, and (perhaps more recently), random words as decoration. Ruth’s jacket, in the picture, is a dense collage of different fonts. I noticed here how gothic fonts are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. For many they have nazi associations, although as this suggests, they have a richer history than that: Blackletter particularly. That sort of style, formerly associated with Goths and heavy metal styles now seems to have been appropriated by rappers. This piece gives a commentary on these typographical matters and the changing fortunes of gothic scripts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ICT and

red shoes

I keep on reading things that work on the assumption that ICT or the internet is a unitary, autonomous phenomenon. Now I’ve always found Markham’s threefold categorisation really useful . She looks at how you can see the internet as a tool, the internet as a place or as a way of being and this framework is a good analytical tool for looking at policy discourse or even interview data. But it’s framed in the singular and that’s not so helpful. I think matters are made worse when writers attribute agency or effects to technology. Statements like: ICT is causing a revolution in how we think about learning or the internet is transforming social relationships are particularly suspect. After all it is human subjects who construct these technologies and human subjects who choose to, and choose how to make meanings with them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008



Reading Living with the Djins I was reminded of what the Muslim kids I used to teach told me about the good angel and the bad angel. It’s a perfect example of how religious and folk beliefs carry powerful messages about particular kinds of literacy. The good angel, who sits on your right shoulder, writes down all your good deeds, whilst the angel on your left shoulder records evil deeds. This is the evidence that is used on the day of judgement. The book(s) of your life become the enduring and authoritative record in the incontrovertible medium of literacy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wiki peep!


The ever-active Colin and Michele have just launched the New Literacies wiki. This is it! It looks great to me and they’ve already commissioned some material, so it’s all ready to go. And there’s just the right balance between looking at stuff and creating new content. For a start there’s material from James Paul Gee, Donna Alvermann , Jabari Mahir, Michael Hoechsmann, Rebecca Black, and more. The big idea is to build professional development resources for middle school language arts educators. Excellent - read all about it here, and peek at the new wiki!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Casual Data

Whatever next? This project explores how knitted garments can be used to visualize large scale data. News is harvested through RSS feeds, and using the latest knitting technology, it is transformed into a text you can wear. There are more images on Flickr, here. So this is a bit of a techno-art project, but I do like the idea of wearing yesterday's news, and customising your clothing out of your favourite feeds. I suppose it's a sort of a think-tank starter. Well if you can do that, what else could you do? Executive summaries, eco-feeds, dissertations.....

Sunday, September 07, 2008


At work

In Canada I collected the views of teachers about the slow take-up of new technologies in education. Unfortunately these didn't make it into the book, but they all have a familiar ring. Here they are:

1. They may be unfamiliar to teachers.
2. Teachers may be worried about moral panics around new media.
3. Teachers may be wary of colonising students' leisure pursuits.
4. Uncertainty about the boundaries between school and out-of-school.
5. Concerns about students accessing inappropriate material.
6. Concerns about cyber-bullying (of students and teachers).
7. Teachers may see new practices as distracting or time-consuming.
8. Many of the practices are not 'schooled', and they have an ambiguous position in the school curriculum.
9. Worries about loss of control.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Joggled voussoirs


What? Yes, joggled voussoirs! Those interlocking marble blocks (in two contrasting colours) that recur time after time in Islamic architecture are joggled voussoirs. Barabara Drieskens' fascinating urban anthropolgy "Living with Djins" uses joggled voussoirs as a metaphor for the interdependence of storyteller and audience, and story and event. What fascinates me about her book is the way she just stays faithful to the stories themselves. Whilst she looks at their significance, particularly to the urban poor of Cairo, she does not get distracted by looking at their relationship to "real events", but simply treats them as truths in themselves.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Did I say that?


I did a phone interview with a TES journalist about social networking in education. Apparently, in commenting on the english space and LinkedIn I said " I see the use of these sites to further careers as being the next stage of development : it's quite exciting." Well there's nothing like a bit of enthusiasm, don't you think? Anyway, you can read the whole thing, here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I am dance

Crop dance

I am dance for two good reasons. The first is that the book Web 2.0 Learning and Social Particpation is finished (Dr Joolz has a few final tweaks). And second, and not completely unrelated, I have the music. Writing on Web 2.0 and music took me to, and I love it. I have the music to dance, and what's more you can see it as I play it by scrolling down the page and looking on right sidebar! Sam kindly gave me an fm transmitter, so I can hook that into the USB port and play my station through my tuner. How cool is that? As I say, I am dance.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I cried

It's won a string of awards already and Somers Town is a great film. Shane Meadows always seems to come up with a new take on masculinities. Anyway there's a bit where the Polish boy gets drunk and a bit carried away and ends up trashing the flat. The next morning his father makes him a coffee, gently wakes him and apologises! Tears were running down my cheek at this point. It's so sensitively done. Whether it triggers the whole father-son thing or whether it's a broader theme about parents getting it wrong is unclear to me...but it's still powerful. And here's a YouTube teaser for Shane's next venture. I'm from Nottingham, too. Cool!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Originally uploaded by De Seven Free.

There’s a whole lot of work to do on creating a taxonomy of graffiti tags. Recently I’ve been tuning into the diversity of all the calligraphic styles. It’s interesting that they can’t all be read by the tagging community, but there’s clearly an awareness of styles. So De Seven Free's picture Clear introduces ambigramming, a reference that had me racing to the dictionary and then here, where you get Hofstadter's definition: a calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves. Many thanks to DSF, keep on ambigramming, its remixing the script!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Post industrial post

I went to pay my last respects to Tinsley Towers last week and somehow managed to leave my camera at home! But not to worry, there are some excellent views of the demolition on YouTube and on Flickr, too. The two towers were right beside the M1, the major north-south arterial which was constructed when I was young. They were a sort of gateway to the North, or of course a return home; depending on your point of view. Anyway, I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about growing up in the twilight of the industrial age. As a child I remember factory sirens, factory shut downs and crowds of workers leaving Raleigh Cycles, Players Cigarettes, and Erikson’s. Now only Erikson’s remains as we inhabit a post-industrial landscape where the sites and markings decay into history or are completely erased like the Towers. Erased except from memory and archive material on YouTube and Flickr.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Les fleurs du mal

they knock yer back
I've just been writing about music-sharing for the Web 2.0 book. I wrote this. 'Legal file-sharing can be used in the study of music, but also educators have a responsibility to alert students to the potential risks involved in using and downloading from sharing sites.' I referenced Becta on the risks, one of which is exposure to viruses and hacking.....A few minutes later I was on to downloading beats from DJ spaces and that's when I got the malware. Antivirus 2009 looks just like a Windows security message. I clicked and downloaded a whole bucket load of trouble! The laptop froze, error messages were popping up like crazy and all operations ground to a halt. I looked on my other computer and read the boards and it seemed like SpyDoctor was the answer, downloaded that, copied it, loaded it - but reader beware, its just as much trouble! Eventually I managed to rescue the book document (and keep all this secret from Dr Joolz). It then came down to a deep clean. This involved running F-secure in safe mode...and that's not easy. That, quickly followed by Spybot from my pen drive. Now I'm clean. Ironic, or what?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Born to be random

Born to be wild
One of the attractions of music file-sharing is that the user can select the specific track wanted, rather than the whole bundle and go on to produce a personalised compilation of his or her own favourites. This practice of creating your own mix, which first emerged with the availability of cheap recordable audio tape is now reproduced online. Muxtape is a Web 2:0 music sharing site that encourages its members to exchange compilation collections. But alternative patterns of consumption are emerging all the time. The CD multiplayer brought in the idea of randomly shuffling through a bank of CDs, but as Naomi Alderman observes, the iTunes shuffle function takes randomness to a new level, as listeners are able to draw on their entire music library. But Alderman goes one step further in suggesting that 'we’re welcoming more randomness in our lives'. She gives a number of examples including the Flickr concept of interestingness. Now that’s interesting, or is it random? And how random is random, anyway? Shall I tag this Web 2.0 or random?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Twenty two and three six four days
We’ve had a bumper crop of good SATs stories this year, starting off with this one about a student picking up marks for using swear words (appropriately) in a paper. Then that was followed by ETS Europe’s failure to do the marking on time. But of course it wasn’t the government’s fault, they just responded by cancelling the £156 million contract or at least asking for some of the money back. Surely the larger question is how the profession and the British public allow the government to get away with it. £156 million on marking something we never wanted, and most kids find mind-bogglingly boring.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Out of it on new literacies

Fog your brain
Thank goodness it's just texting and emailing....blogs are perfectly OK! Phew. Here's the wonderful Becky Bowley (remember the dissolving knitting?). Her recent performance piece Transmerge was based on her train journey from Sheffield to Manchester. In Sheffield she dug a hole: then she took the earth to the next stop, Dore, where she then dug another hole and filled that hole with the earth from Sheffield. The process was repeated right along the Transpennine train route to Manchester. The Manchester earth was then taken back to fill the original hole in Sheffield. The full story's on the blog, complete with photographs of the costume and props. How cool is that?

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I just love all those portmanteau words! In Canada I discovered the wonderful idea of a snack called a naanwich, a real linguistic mash-up! I also recently listened to a programme on infomercials. Infomercial is a term used to describe those endlessly boring programmes that try to convince you that you need some weird gadget - or on the lighter side, those TV shopping channels (which, of course I never watch). So when I saw the feed on this piece on frolleagues I just had to read it. Interestingly, I’ve just had an invite to LinkedIn so it was useful to read. Amusing that LinkedIn recommends that users keep a separate account for socialising so that business contacts don't mix with friends! Their spokeswoman warns us that it's becoming increasingly important that we keep our professional and social lives separate and manage our online reputation as effectively as possible. Well I suppose we all do a bit of impression management, but I always felt one of the strengths of online spaces is the opportunity they present to blur some of those boundaries. Oh and by the way, it seems that a frolleague is a colleague who sends a friendship request. So let’s put a stop to all that nonsense, first name terms and the like. It’s all on a professional footing now. If I met you through work and I see you on the street I’m going to blank you (or maybe not).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blog on blogs

Sarah and Danah
Wow! This was NRC - nearly 3 years ago. I realised I haven't been visiting some blogs very much lately. So I've done some catching up. Sarah has a great post on blogging (from April!). As she says: We're lucky if our posts get one comment, and even luckier if they spark a discussion!! But still we keep on blogging because we know they're not discussion boards. So maybe this comment on Web 2.0 - that they are based on the value gained from actions of users is a bit off-beam. Wouldn't that make a discussion board a bit more Web 2.0 than a blog, which it clearly isn't. Apart from spending my time writing about Web 2.0 I'm also trying to keep up to date with new stuff. There are a couple of list sites, here and here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

New technologies in childhood

I'm one of the founders of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy - and it's a fine journal. It's a great pleasure to work with such creative people in the literacy field! On the horizon we have a Special Issue on New Technologies in Childhood and I'm co-editing this with guest editors Victoria Carrington and Vivian Vasquez. The call for papers (which will appear in the next issue) reads something like this... New technologies are changing communicative practices on a global scale. Many children are apprenticed to these practices from an early age, in their homes and communities as well as through their early schooling. Nevertheless, the role that new technologies plays in early childhood literacy is under-researched. This Special Issue aims to stimulate academic interest in this area by focusing on young children’s experience of the literacies embedded in new technologies. Cross-disciplinary and international in scope, we seek to feature papers from researchers whose work addresses these new literacy practices and the complexities of learning through and learning about new technologies. Papers may be theoretical or report on empirical work within any research paradigm. The emergence of new technologies and new forms of digital text provide a changing set of resources for meaning-making, presenting young children with new semiotic tools and communicative possibilities. Key features of the communicative practices associated with digital text challenge traditional views and definitions of literacy and literacy development. This Special Issue will provide a forum for exploring these ideas and for setting the agenda for future research in this area. Submissions for the special issue of the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy are invited on any aspect of the topic of literacy and new's going to be a good one!