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.

I could say sorry for the interruption I caused to your busy schedule, but you had too many interesting things to share for me to mean it!!
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