Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What's cooking?

I'm not sure where the media obsession with food came from - it seems to fill the newspapers and swamp the TV schedules. Perhaps I shouldn't be that surprised. Food is, after all, the original consumer product. We consume it, we digest it....and we want more. That's as close as you'll get to a seasonal message on this blog! But I do think this particular mash-up is excellent. That's good entertainment value, and I consumed that!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Searching limits

At the CSU technology symposium, we were once again alerted to the ways in which our casual searching behaviours may be shaped by search engines such as the mighty Google. This time it was Judy O'Connell issuing the warnings. So we learn to be sceptical of the JFGI approach. But since then I've got interested in something else about searching - and that's related to modality. I've been using the image above a bit lately, and have got quite interested in its provenance. A contact tells me that it shows the warehouse inventory process - possibly at a shipping line. Well that's OK, so far. But what I really want to do is search for the image and find out more about it. Of course Google (can I still mention it?),will allow me to search for an image related to a word, but it won't allow me to search with an image. Hence the modality issue. So I'm wondering if anyone's come up with a way of searching with an image? Maybe they have. Since some photo apps can now recognise your friends, image matching should be possible - and of course images are tagged and labeled. I wonder.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beyond binaries

This is actor Jack Thompson, ending with a Riverina rhyme. Many thanks to Barney Dalgarno for this link. At the risk of undermining the entertainment with some analysis, it does seem to be a good example of something that's simultaneously recognisable but different. Same/not same. So the overall form and structure make sense; the liberal use of the adjective insert (we'd recognise it as the expletive-as-infix) are familiar. But unless you've been to Tumbarumba, or tuned into the patterns of Aussie conversation, they constitute the unfamiliar. Interestingly our patterns of thought (or socio-cultural dispositions) work in these sort of binaries. But isn't there really just a continuum of familiarity? In fact could this be a wider problem? At our symposium yesterday some familiar binaries popped up at regular intervals (global/local; online/offline; actual/virtual; me/not me; material/immaterial; mobile/static). We encounter these and we rather clumsily start talking about blurring the boundaries, but even this language tends to get in the way of the fluidity we want to talk about. We need to replace the light switch with a dimmer switch. But maybe we really need a new language, or a new philosophy for doing this. Perhaps, at the end of the day, this is part of the problem with affordances. It's a sort of on/off concept, and it doesn't allow enough space for fluidity, the evolution of new practices and conventions, human agency and so on.

Affordances symposium

I had a great day at the symposium organised by the Technology and Teaching Practice Group at CSU. The presentations were great and in fact the whole day was very stimulating. I realise that one thing I really like about technology-focused discussions is that you don't have to deal with the book fetish. Of course, there are other things to get hung-up about - but today, which was about affordances (not my topic of choice, I must admit), included some quality discussion. The fact that the symposium was held at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre, could be misleading. But there wasn't a bottle in sight. The only nod in the direction of wine was the barrel-shaped podium. Oh, that and the vineyard outside!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Schools - the future?

I went for a cycle ride at the weekend. Riding round Lake Albert I thought of three possible future for education. They are:

Deletion schools as institutions are increasingly irrelevant. As social structures strongly formed by modernist thought, they perpetuate a factory model of education, which attempts to prepare the young for a world that has long since disappeared.

Re-construction schools as they are currently conceived are incapable of delivering the kinds of understandings and skills or cultivating the habits of mind that will produce 21st Century citizens or a 21st Century workforce. A new vision of schooling is required that incorporates the new literacies and is responsive to emerging patterns of social organisation.

Reform schools are out of step with society and need to capitalise on the new literacies that children and young people engage with on a daily basis. Extensive professional and curriculum development is required to align our education systems with the lives of young people.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Strange places

OK, so when you have a bit of down time, what do you do? Well, I'm always drawn to the places with the most interesting names. I remember watching the film 'The Last Journey of a Genius' in which the famous physicist Richard Feynman went all the way to Ulan Bator in Mongolia - just because he liked the sound of it! Now I don't pretend to be a genius - far from it - but I get the idea. So I had to go to Tumbarumba, up in the Snowy Mountains, only to discover that it isn't much of a place. But it does at least have the 4 Bears cafe, with its absolutely amazing collection of bears. I suppose that, in itself makes it worth the visit!

Friday, December 09, 2011

More Ziggy?

Reading Bauman is a bit like listening to Leonard Cohen. He's either gloomy and predictable, or sad and beautiful, depending on your frame of mind, or mood. So when Christina passed me Education in Liquid Modernity, I wondered what listening to the honey-tongued purveyor of post-modern angst would tell me about my own state of mind. Well, I like his six features of contemporary life: the rapid changes of short shelf-life; the way power, politics and the state begin to peel apart; the noticeable decline of collectivity; short-termism and disposable planning; an anxiety about the future; and the shape-shifting individualism - always adaptable but always in fear of irrelevance or exclusion. But although I liked them, each one may not be quite as certain as it sounds against the strum of his intellectual chord shapes. Perhaps: 'it is better to think of knowledge consumption and production after the pattern of fast food' 316 (on-demand and just-in-time). Still Bauman's conclusions are slight. Of course, we know all about the student as consumer in a marketised system - but what else is there? Bring on Johnny Rotten for a bit more energy!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Unlearning literacies

What might the study of literacies look like if it was set free from its histories of theory, its well-rehearsed models and research routines? That was the question we generated yesterday, with our talented colleagues at CSU - and, of course, that is a challenging tack to take. Moving away from familiar text-centric approaches became a key theme for me as we thought through how complex histories and diverse meanings are negotiated in social contexts. Not only do learners - and in a sense we are all learners - bring their own learning histories, social and cultural capital, and resources for meaning-making into new situations, but also these play out against the backdrop of powerful global and local flows that position them and carry the stories of how they became who they are in a social, cultural and historical sense. At the same time, the material resources for meaning-making play their part in constructing, communicating - mediating our relationships with others. Here, the available technologies, the modalities of representation and the codes (languages and scripts) can be seen as the tools or resources. This remains a sketchy outline of a detailed conversation - but it leaves me with a sense of how textual approaches might be displaced in order to allow us to develop a model of literacy that (re)places social interaction and meaning making at its centre. To be continued.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Wagga Wagga

Wagga Wagga is a great little place. There's a picture of the Lagoon I took yesterday evening. I'm so fortunate to be so well looked after. Today I've been up to the university and in between meeting people I've been reflecting on Stephen Turner's ideas about emulation. They've got rather mixed up in my mind with something from Philip Roth, which I think is so neatly expressed. He's introducing the central and charismatic character, Mr Cantor. Here goes: 'His athletic, pigeon-toed trot was already being imitated by the playground kids, as was his purposeful way of lightly lifting himself as he moved on the balls of his feet, and the slight sway, when he walked, of his substantial shoulders. For some of the boys his entire bearing had become theirs both on and off the playing field.' (Nemesis:13) There goes my role model!

History of use

I looked in the mirror this morning, saw my face, and thought well there's the history of use. That's after more than 20 hours of flying; so it's not surprising. But the phrase a 'history of use' comes from a paper on distributed cognition that I've been revisiting. It's by Hollan, Hutchins & Kirsh (2000) and it occurs to me that I may use it while I'm down here in Australia, not because of the history of use, but because it connects with Ihde's idea of human and technology as an active-realtional pair, as well as elements of practice theory, and even parts of actor network theory. In particular I like the idea that '...just like a blind person's well-designed work materials become integrated into the way people think, see and control activities (178)'. The blind person's cane is, I think an allusion to Heidegg
er. But as well as this, I like the observation that 'the environment people are embedded in is a reservoir of resources for learning, problem-solving, and reasoning.' (178). It's a thought-provoking article, a good example of psychologists moving away from their fixation with individuals - and that's all before you get to the history of use bit!