Sunday, May 20, 2012


There may be something in the idea that we are moving away from an era of discipline and punishment into an era of control and security. Certainly the technologies that are deployed in order to keep us in check are ever more apparent, and the sanctions (at least in everyday life) are more about being denied access or incurring small fines or penalties. A good example is the way in which our pathways through the urban environment are channeled and regulated. Driving to work certainly isn't an unfettered expression of free choice, and most of the time I'm thankful for that. But nonetheless my progress is carefully regulated by stop lights, my speed of progress monitored by cctv and police speed-guns, and should I be tempted to stray into the bus lane before 9:30, my registration plate will be photographed and traced, and a penalty notice will rapidly be dispatched to my home address. And then there's parking. Plenty of choice there, but without the right kind of permit or ticket, or if I outstay my welcome, hey presto another fine! This all happens before gaining access to the workplace, controlled by the obligatory swipe card, and letting myself in with the rather old-fashioned technology of lock and key - and at that point I have finally arrived! Then work - work, as we seem to know it, is regulated by any number of log-ins and passwords - fine if you remember them, impossible if you don't. To get a drink I need a door code to access the kitchen, and of course to buy anything inevitable involves a pin number at the very least. I could go on...and on. Of course, it all contributes to safety and order, and the alternative could be chaos. But still, we are controlled and the technologies of control are agents of the powers that be.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gaming and learning

Two recent sources cast some doubt over the educational benefits of videogames. Young and colleagues (2012), in an extensive literature review, were able to find little empirical evidence of impact on student learning, whereas Tobias & Fletcher (2011) suggest that the state of games research is not particularly robust and that work on the affordances of videogames is far more advanced than evidence of how those affordances lead to learning. This is interesting given the growing interest in gaming and the widespread claims about children and young people's involvement. To add to the confusion, evidence on the latter is not straightforward. Many researchers, myself included, regularly quote from Pew, but as Warschauer & Matuchniak (2010) point out Pew and other frequently cited sources are limited and sometimes methodologically questionable. I was surprised to read that the average gamer in the US is 37 (Entertainment Software Association, 2011) - although, of course, averages themselves give limited information. Despite all this, there's nothing wrong with being positive about popular pursuits, particularly when they have suffered from such bad press, as videogames have. But these debates made me think about an incipient scientism in the study of digital literacy - one in which percentages and averages masquerade as the truth. Anyway, I got a nice email asking me to show this stuff, below. What do you think?

Little Games Big Business
Created by:

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


In a relatively short length of time, ways of thinking about digital technologies in schools seem to have shifted. When we started up the DeFT project last September it was pretty clear that the ICT curriculum was the last place to look for interesting digital practices. The team we assembled were from the start more interested in the literacy part of digital literacy than the technological bit. Indeed some of us had already started to use the idea of literacy as digital practice to describe our work. But as the academic year has unfolded, competing conceptualizations of digital literacy have surfaced - some of them not too far from Glister & Rlister's (1997:290) original definition: 'a set of skills to access the Internet; find, manage and edit digital information; join in communications; and other wise engage with an online information and communication network. In simple terms, digital literacy is the ability to properly use and evaluate digital resources, tools and services and apply it to their life long learning process.' But in the project team there is also an awareness of how work in fields such as media literacy, popular culture and information studies informs how we see things. In January, when Gove addressed the BETT conference, two things were quick to emerge: firstly that the ICT curriculum in England was officially moribund, and secondly that computer science and coding were in the ascendancy. No surprise about the former, and of course the latter simply plays into the myth that education has a direct link to some imagined future economic salvation. So now we have a consultation on 'disapplying' the ICT programmes of study. The summary will soon be published. Meanwhile, as always, interesting work is going on in the schools. In our project schools, for instance, the work is not exclusively digital, but of course it always contains that element. It plays into all sorts of kinds of learning - in the classrooms and outside the classrooms, in art projects, community projects, writing projects, English and media projects and with pupils of different ages and from different backgrounds. It's not so much a case of a digital curriculum, more a way of exploring the digital in the curriculum - the sorts of practices that might work, the kinds of barriers that might need to be overcome. If disapplying a curriculum helps this sort of creative exploration that's good. My worry is that it will be replaced by something worse. The NextGen report referred to coding as 'the new Latin', and for me that conjures up the idea of a very worthy but largely irrelevant and poorly taught curriculum (with high symbolic value) that simply reproduced social division. But the DeFT project isn't that, it's about open-minded teachers involved in a creative exploration of technology and learning.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Where am I?

I've been experimenting with GPS - doing my homework for the DeFT project, and I must say I've always been impressed with the whole concept. I think I first heard of it in connection with marine navigation. The idea that satellites might replace the compass, map and chart, or the night sky as ways of plotting a journey is interesting in itself. More modern magic. I've been rather dimly aware that there are 2 sides to the GPS coin - track and trace. Not only can I see where I'm going, other people can see where I'm going, too. But who exactly? In idle moment I found myself reading the manual, the small print as you might say. There I learnt, what I assume most people already know, that GPS is owned and maintained by the US government. That's interesting, and I expect those social geographers have written all about the topic. Anyway, I'm sure there are checks and balances, I hope so. That a government might one day change the map would be nothing new, but that our position on the landscape and our direction of movement might be modified is a chilling prospect. Overnight respect for friends who pursue the noble art of orienteering has increased!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Google is rubbish

I've been keeping a Blogger blog for nearly 9 years now, and it suits me down to the ground. When Google bought out Blogger it didn't really make much difference to me. Gradually they've developed features and changed things around a bit, but all to the good. Then a few weeks back they just completely changed the posting and editing layout. And I must say it was much worse. Yes it was perhaps simpler, but it was certainly more of a straight jacket. I thought long and hard about migrating to Wordpress, but decided to wait awhile. And now, at the weekend I think, they send a stupid email about terminating 'legacy accounts', without really specifying what a legacy account is. I dutifully followed a link in the email, that then required me to log on. I tried this using my standard Blogger log in, but that was no good. A helpful link directed me to a forum - God, I hate them - where a very unhelpful Google statement tried to explain what a 'legacy account' is. A 9 year-old could have done it better. By the time I'd wasted 20 minutes I decided the easiest thing was to email back, asking for clarification. Guess what? You can't do that, you get a gmail error message. I suppose that happens when the big guys move in. The web changes; it loses its appeal. I think I'll move on.