Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Attention all muggles...

Okay, so JK Rowling has taken the definition of "anxiously waiting" to new and excruciating heights, but it looks like the sixth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, will be released this year; July 16, to be exact. Hooray!

At this stage, the thing that has most caught my attention about this latest installment in the epic is the publisher's claim that the first chapter of the book has been brewing in JK Rowling's head for 13 years!!! Now, not that I'm justified in pointing a finger at someone who misses writing deadlines, but you'd think that after carrying a complete chapter around in your head for even 5 years you couldn't wait to get it out on paper and into print....

Latest installment in the UK Children Go Online project is now available

Magdalena Bober, chief Research officer for the UK Children Go Online project has just announced that the fourth report from the project has been published: Internet Literacy Among Children and Young People.

The report, according to a press release,

compares more skilled internet users with beginners. Professor Sonia Livingstone and co-author Dr Magdalena Bober found that:

  • Children and young people who are more skilled at using the internet take up more online opportunities than beginners – such as using the internet for learning, communicating with friends or seeking advice.

  • It is the skilled youngsters, more than the beginners, who are likely to encounter online risks – such as bullying, online porn or privacy risks.

  • Increasing online opportunities also increases the risks.

  • Those who manage to avoid the risks seem to do so by making only a narrow and unadventurous use of the internet.

  • and

  • Beginners lack searching and critical skills and so are more distrustful
    content than skilled users.

  • However, skilled users don’t show blind trust. Rather, they are better at
    and more able to find reliable websites, for example by checking information across several sites.

  • Overall, only one in three 9-19 year old internet users have been taught
    decide if the information they find online is reliable and can be trusted.

  • Been 'spimmed' yet?

    Yes folks, just when you thought spam in your email was bad enough, now there's spim: spam that comes via instant message clients.

    The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports this interesting fact and others in their recently released report on IMing practices in the US, prosaically titled, How Americans Use Instant Messaging. In addition to finding a growing amount of spim, the study found that around 53 million American adults use IM, with about 11 million of them using IM at work. the study suggests that IM is fast becoming an "expressive medium" and not just a communciation medium "through use of customized away messages, profiles and buddy icons".

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    The gentle art of item descriptions

    yumyumcherry, originally uploaded by muchacha_mx.

    And as another aside, yumyumcherry's eBay item descriptions are absolute gems! I follow her auctions just to read what she's written each week. So nice to see someone being so playful within the serious world of online auctions!

    In her deft hands, a mostly harmless, basic clutch purse becomes:
    Brand Spanking New (if you're into the S&M stuff--which means you have far more energy than I have...) Neiman Marcus/Manolo Blahnik Clutch bag. This was a gift with purchase that I received for shelling out another (ANOTHER!) $650 on ANOTHER PAIR of Mr. Blahnik's shoe designs. I wouldn't mind if I ever got out of my Reeboks. Sigh. Okay, so be that as it may, I just unwrapped this Baby ('THIS BAG IS NOT A TOY'.....I mean, how bored would your kid have to be? even my Cat won't play with it) and it is Yours for the bidding. Great for storing your make up, a dinner party where everyone won't be whispering, "Oh, Didn't Susan get that from Neiman Marcus last fall when she spent $650 on shoes...," or, of course giving as a gift to someone you don't like that much. There's the Holiday Spirit. Who needs Hallmark anyway? Will arrive with the plastic casing THAT IS NOT A TOY....Thanks for looking.

    The art of leaving feedback

    The art of leaving feedback, originally uploaded by muchacha_mx.

    I've been back spending a bit of time on eBay again (all for the purposes of research, of course!) and my latest passion is not so much to do with picking up fab bargains (no, really!), but more to do with reading item write-ups, or tracing what I call eBay "meme events" in the form of an item for sale that captures the imagination of the eBay community itself, and which often spills over into other venues (more on this in a tick). Before posting some of my finds, I just had to start with one of the most classic personal eBay projects of all time.

    No-one knows who andy46477 is, but he somehow managed to crack ebay security codes, set up a fake account for himself and somehow--his programming skills are clearly amazing--was able to leave feedback for products he never purchased (and which were never put up for auction in the first place). He would target usernames and leave decidedly quirky, albeit thematically related, feedback for each of his targets.....

    Kudos to two heroes!

    The New York Times today is running an article on Vint Cert and Robert Kahn, congratulating them on being the latest well-deserving recipients of the A. M. Turing Award (which, according to the New York Times is "widely considered to be the computing field's equivalent of the Nobel Prize"--those computer folk hold nothing back when it comes to designing awards!).

    Colin and I first came across both men in Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon's book, Where Wizards Stay Up Late--still one of the all-time best internet histories available--and have been enormous fans of their vision and contributions to everyday life ever since.

    Cert and Kahn are repsonsible for creating "the structure for Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a set of communications standards that enable different computer networks to share information, giving the Internet its power and reach" in 1973. Interestingly enough, they developed the protocol using pencil and paper....

    Saturday, February 12, 2005

    New Projects

    We are currently involved in a couple of new book projects that will ensure no shortage of fun during the year ahead. One is a large collaborative distributed project. The other is more on the cottage industry scale.

    The first is a joint edited handbook to be published by Erlbaum. It is The Handbook of New Literacies Research, which we are co editing with Don Leu and Julie Coiro from the University of Connecticut.

    The book will assemble contributions from internationally recognized experts contracted to provide state of the art chapters on specialized topics falling into 6 main sections: Methodologies, Knowledge and Inquiry, Communication, Popular Culture, Citizenship in a Global Environment and Instructional Practices and Assessment. The Methodologies section will contain work on social semiotics, ethnography, quantitative surveys, mixed methodology, and interviews and other qualitative research approaches. Knowledge and Inquiry chapters will include work on the internet as an information source, hypertext and navigation, multiliteracies, multimedia learning and literacy, comprehension and multimodal reading. Communication chapters will include thematic discussions of early childhood education, second language education, and gender, together with specialized chapters on IM, weblogs, Chat, etc. Chapters on popular culture will address school classrooms, college students, identity and adolescence, gaming, young children, and youth culture. Citizenship will address cyber communities and cybercultures, globalization and the internet, social inclusion, and collaborative community projects. Chapters on Instructional Practices and Assessment will address learning management systems, multimodal literacy, writing in the secondary English curriculum, new literacies in math and science and assessing learning in online contexts.

    We are hoping the book will be out early next year.

    The second project is a primer that has been contracted by Peter Lang Publishing. In this we are teaming up with Angela Thomas to look at new literacies from pedagogical, research, and social practice perspectives. The Lang primers are quite short texts, around 50,000 words, designed for undergraduate use. Joe Kincheloe's primer on Critical Pedagogy is a great example of the genre, and we will be leaning on its qualities pretty heavily as guides for our own efforts. This book may be as close as writing a book ever gets to being 'fun' -- serious fun.

    In case anyone reading this isn't aware, we edit a book series for Peter Lang called "New Literacies and Digial Epistemologies". If you are interested in having a proposal considered, please get in touch by writing to us at colin@coatepec.net or michele@coatepec.net

    I also co edit a series with Michael Peters called "Inteventions: Education, Philosophy and Culture" for Paradigm Publishers. Check out the catalog for a sense of the different series in the list.

    Other people have projects too *grin* and we thank Peggy Semingson for sending us the URL for a new literacy blog established by folk at the University of Texas, Austin.

    Finally, thank you very much to Laurie Henry, Julie Coiro and Jill Castek for reviewing our New Literacies book in the February issue of the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. It is a privilege to be reviewed in such good company. Thank you.

    Success for Boys Project

    My last task before getting on the plane in Mexico to fly to Australia to take up a new half time job as a research professor (with responsibility for helping the ongoing development of a reseach culture in the School of Education on the Cairns campus of James Cook University), was to send off some files for inclusion in a project application. The focus of the application was to develop and trial professional learning modules for teachers pertaining to boys and learning, with particular emphases on literacy, new technologies and learning disadvantage (Stage One of the Federal Government's "Success for Boys" initiative). The application involved a collaboration between a team from the School of Education at James Cook University, led by Prof Nola Alloway, and the Curriculum Corporation.

    The consortium was informed yesterday that it has won the contract, with a net worth of one million dollars. The project will be completed during this year, and I will aim to report progress from time to time as the work unfolds. I am looking forward very much to working on this project, which represents an opportunity to build on what I learned in the course of working on Literacy, Boys and Schooling with Leonie Rowan, Chris Bigum and Michele (Open University Press 2001). The current emphasis on boys' school-based learning in its own right and, particularly, in relation to girls' formal learning achievements is controversial and is often sloganised to an utterly unhelpful extent. The exciting thing about the work that lies ahead is knowing that the consortium has the kind of breadth, experience, and principles required to address the issues successfully on their merits.

    The members of the James Cook team are Nola Alloway, Neil Anderson, Peter Boman, Leanne Dalley-Trim, Rob Gilbert, Jeannie Herbert and myself. Having played no more than a bit part in putting the proposal together I have a kind of a feeling that my time is soon to come *grin*

    It is certainly a fast track into a new job, but I look forward to giving it my best efforts -- in this particular project and in the manifold other facets of the work involved. I see steep learning curves ahead.

    Meanwhile, today saw the completion of a paper based on the plenary Michele and I gave on the theme of 'new' literacies at the National Reading Conference annual meeting at San Antonio back in December. I think we have managed to squeeze most of what we said in the plenary into the paper. With luck the paper will come out in the Conference's Yearbook for this year, but we'll also aim to get a version of it online asap on our badly-in-need-of-some-updating website.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Latest issue of E-Learning journal

    The latest issue of E-Learning has just been published: vol 1, no. 3 (2004). It contains a diverse range of papers on the general theme of digital literacies.

    The publisher has also just posted the contents page for the issue currently in production. This should be published within the next month or so. The contents for vol 2, no. 1 include the following articles:

    James Paul Gee. "Learning by Design: good video games as learning machines"

    Martin Oliver & Keith Trigwell. "Can ‘Blended Learning’ be Redeemed?"

    Angela Thomas. "Children Online: learning in a virtual community of practice"

    James Levin, Nicholas Burbules & Bertram Bruce. "From Student Work to Exemplary Educational Resources: the case of the CTER White Papers"

    Guy Merchant. "Digikids: cool dudes and the new writing"

    Susan Braley. "New Media: from metaphors of inevitability to metaphors of possibility"

    If you like the look of what the journal is trying to do, please tell your colleagues, and take advantage of the current unbeatable subscription arrangements.

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    Slow start

    The same old treadmill. Anya emailed the other day to suggest that maybe February wasn't too early in the year for posting a blog entry. Right, Anya. Good call.

    It has been the all-too-familiar treadmill story: all work and nothing interesting to say. There were some days away from the keyboard over Christmas, and a bit of nice tiling work at the house in Coatepec. Anyone who wants to check out that work will find the pix at Joypix.

    Since then it has been write, write, write, and start the new half time job on the Cairns campus of JCU. None of this writing has been self chosen, which is possibly why it takes so long: a chapter for X's collection, a chapter for Y's, turn the San Antonio plenary into a Yearbook paper, and so on. But the deck is almost clear.

    Easing into the job in Cairns has been interesting, not least since just a fortnight after arriving it was time to go to Palo Alto to take part in a working meeting with the Hewlett Foundation aimed at getting some ideas in place on using technologies in English as a second language learning in the P-3 years -- with a particular emphasis on Latino/a young people. The meeting took place on 3 and 4 February at the Foundation's complex in Menlo Park. There were 30 participants -- all from the US apart from Jim Cummins and myself. It was great to catch up with Jim again after too many years, as well as to catch up again with Richard Duran. Don Leu and Julie Coiro, with whom we are editing the Handbook on New Literacies Research for Erlbaum were also there. The smallness of the world became apparant yet again when I was speaking with a participant who had lived most of her life in Ciudad Juarez. I said I had been there and done some work with Beatriz (Calvo). "Beatriz", she said, "I know her well". I love those kinds of connections. They help make a bit of sense out of the rush and treadmill.

    There were some other magic moments along the way. One was watching Jim Cummins give a display of a learning program he had developed in collaboration with a programmer friend based in Hong Kong. The program had cost nothing other than human labour to put together. In the morning we had seen similar products, one of which had cost $13 million to date to develop. Budget Jim held up pretty well, I must say. I am looking forward to them getting the update of the "Brave New Schools" book together.

    Another magic moment was getting a chance to spend some time with my pdf file of a draft of Jim Gee's next book, "Why Video Games are Good for Your Soul". Jim looks like he is bypassing commercial publishers with this one and doing it with Common Ground Publishing. It's a great read, following on nicely from his 2003 Video Games and Learning book.

    Another magic moment came from Kristin Brown. She related the story of a teacher in an Oakland school who was working with some kids who were often in trouble despite the fact that they were committed to values of respect for their teachers and for learning. The teacher sussed out that they often came out of their dealings with the principal worse than they should have because they did not explain what had happened in ways that could help their cause. When the teacher talked to them she would ask "And what did you say?" The kids would reply that they would just tell the principal that it wasn't fair. But then the teacher asked them why it wasn't fair. They'd say "well it wasn't fair, or we shouldn't be getting blamed here cuz (because) ......". Well, asked the teacher, after they had given their reason, "so what?". The kids would then continue: "Well, f'instance ......."

    Out of this the teacher developed what I think of as her 'cuz and f'rinstance pedagogy'. She just worked with the kids around cuzes and f'rinstances, so that when they were next in strife they could present their position in a more effective way. And not just there -- reasons and exemplifications made easy crossovers to the classrooms as well. It sounded like good pedagogy to me. I don't think any PD package is being developed out of it, however......

    Anyway, it's an ill wind -- speaking of airports. Check out at the hotel was midday and the flight is 10.30pm. Some of that hotspot sleuthing I mentioned back a few posts (could have been up to 6 months ago -- grin) has checked in. I checked out the file I had made of the various airport freeload hotspots and the good old President's Club of Continental showed up as the possible option for San Francisco. It's by the Continental Ticketing Counter in Terminal 1. SFO is just a small airport, and the airtrain took me from the International terminal to Terminal 1 in a wink. The signal through the wall is pretty good, even from the distance of the comfortable chairs across from the ticketing counter (there are power sources there as well). So this post comes courtesy of the President. Thank you once again.

    And thanks to the treadmill as well. A post made under these conditions, and with at least a bit more of the same beckoning, has considerable personal meaning. With luck I'll get back to this page before Helsinki and Tampere in mid March, however. (Depends how long it takes to write the paper, I guess.)

    For anyone out there reading, happy 2005. Hopefully, this is a case of better late than never. Though I ain't holding my breath.

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