Thursday, July 26, 2007

Launch of Creative Commons Learn: ccLearn

Courtesy of the ever present and alert boingboing we are thrilled to learn of the launch of ccLearn. This is a new dimension of Creative Commons "dedicated to realizing the full potential of the Internet to support open learning and open educational resources (OER)."

ccLearn aims "to minimize barriers to sharing and reuse of educational materials — legal barriers, technical barriers, and social barriers."

Creative Commons acknowledges the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in establishing the initiative.

The project is still in its early developmental stages, but given the sense of potential unleashed by resources like Wikipedia there is every reason for all of us involved in educational work to get behind this Creative Commons project and see if we can't liberate some more ground from IP Inc.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sunday in Bottle Cove, Newfoundland

After a couple of days of rain the sun came back.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our music video on coffee: Learning as we go

During last week we were working with Masters students as they researched their own learning of unfamiliar tasks. One of these tasks was creating a music video. As part of the deal we learned to produce our own. It's about coffee and is set to blues rendered by Mississippi John Hurt and Cream.

There is plenty of room for refinement, but it's been a lot of fun thus far.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Double loading

At the same time as the earning is going on the spending is in full flight. What we earn in Canada stays in Canada, and this most conspicuously involves the building at Bottle Cove.

The barn, which is a garage workshop and bathroom downstairs and an open plan studio living space upstairs, is now almost completed, apart from the interior finishing work. The water has been connected and the power is about to be connected. The latter was delayed because you have to connect the house before the shed, and we had begun with the shed!! Yesterday the power pole went in. Both the barn and the cottage are wired, so it is just a matter of the power supply being connected and the faithful old generator will become a mobile power source when on the road or wanting to do work up in the trees and away from the cottage and barn.

Meanwhile, progress is being made on the cottage. The interior structural work is pretty much done, with the water on and the power imminent. The bathroom is half completed and the first floor is fully lined out. With the wiring in the upstairs lining work is now under way. The ship lap wooden siding will be installed over the next week or so, and the space should be habitable within a month.

We'll post more pix to our photoblog after spending some more time out at the Cove next week.

Back at work on The Rock

Following hard on the heels of the course in Toronto is the current course we are involved in at Steady Brook in Newfoundland. The venue is the same as in previous years, at the Marble Mountain Ski Lodge, but the course itself is evolving. Well, the Lodge too has evolved over the past year in ways directluy relevant to our work. Both the Lodge itself, where the classes go on, and the Villa, where we live whilst on the job, are now high speed wireless access throughout. The experience of 2004 when we hooked an Apple Extreme base station up to a dial up connection is now a happy memory. Somehow the dozen or so laptops brought by participants in those days managed to pull enough down the pipes to begin building a tradition. This year the speed is good and the access pretty continuous.

As a result we have had a bit of luck with the logistics of the course. It's a Masters program component, with 36 participants who have sorted themselves into 7 groups of 3-6 people. There are three main tasks, to be completed over the 3 weeks. The first and third weeks are face to face. In between is a "recovery" week, when participants will be "off campus".

The first task was for each group to immerse itself in learning a "new literacy" with which they were previously unfamiliar. No groups opted for the card games on offer but, rather, gravitated to the computer-based stuff. One group has set itself to programming a robot to perform certain tasks. Three groups are making machinima movies. One group is learning to play a computer-video game (Maple Story). The remaining groups are making music videos. Many participants -- probably 50% -- at best very basic computing experience (word processing, emailing; a few have Facebook pages).

The second task is to research their learning in situ -- collecting data about the processes they are going through in order to do their learning toward completing their tasks (negotiated and defined within the groups).

The third task is to present their research findings in a full day conference at the end of the course, having produced reports of their work in the interim.

There is good variety among the projects. Groups are using The Movies, Second Life and World of Warcraft engines, respectively, to make machinima. One of the music video groups is setting video recorded cosplay to music. They are all having to troubleshoot all manner of "inconveniences" in order to do their work. Ironically, one of the best troubleshoots so far has involved resolving the wireless connectivity problems of the two group members who had purchased new laptops running Vista (suffice to say, we will *never* move to Vista. Once XP has run its course we'll be looking to some other option). Eventually, it was found that the connectivity issue had to do with using the laptops on battery power. Online searches threw up information that Vista often needs AC power for sustaining wireless connections.

Needless to say, there is some pretty humbling experience for us watching participants pooling all their resources, and mobilising internet resources, to work their way into producing outcomes they were, in many ways, absolutely unequipped to do. By the end of the 4th day there were two machinima movies in good shape and another well on the way. The music videos (including our own one on coffee production, being set to Mississippi John Hurt's "Coffee Blues" and Cream's "Spoonful") are more or less on the way. The game players are powering along, and good progress has been made on a concept music video of Newfoundland music involving a bricolage of live action and "found" video.

For us this is the kind of teaching and learning we most enjoy being involved in. Fieldnotes are burgeoning, along with video grabs of troubleshooting and trial and error learning, and short audio grabs of think alouds and the like.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Inflight power

As inveterate coach class travellers we are always looking for power sources -- always in scarce supply -- at boarding gates in airports. We have even taking to carrying powerboards to maximise access for folk in general in the event of finding good sources.

A recent story on the Gizmodo gadget site may offer a good option here. The inflight power charger is something we'll try out asap.

Meanwhile, it'll be fingers crossed as usual in hopes of an occasional upgrade .....

Friday, July 06, 2007

Mexico in the globe

A couple of online stories from today capture rather beautifully the complexity that makes Mexico such a compelling place to call home.

Between the fortunes of Carlos Slimand the worlds sung out in los corridoswe find our universe of meanings.

Fun and games, with Jim in Toronto

This is the last day of our involvement in this year's summer institute for MSVU, and on Sunday it'll be the plane for Newfoundland. This morning Jim Gee is going to be talking on new ways of learning -- none of which existed 20 years ago, most of which are not available in schools today, but all of which are readily available on the internet. This creates a paradox.

In part we are looking at an information overload that needs to be negotiated, raising the question of how we can interface with information in user-friendly ways and modify it to work with our purposes. This attitude also is paradoxical -- because the value system that says "give me info in a form I can use and modify and purpose fit" is held by 7 year olds, but in education we are just coming to it.

To spell these paradoxes out and move toward resolving them Jim is returning to "old" literacies, beginning with the question of what predicts success in first grade. A common answer here is "early literacy at home". But current policy often skips the robust finding of emergent literacy and overrides it with phonics ... (speaking of paradoxes)

What predicts success in 4th grade and beyond? The answer arising here is "academic language". Jim is running the Phonics -- Academic Language rift: 90% of kids can decode but relatively few of them handle academic language. So what gives?

Let's assume that by high school it's too late to dump Academic Literacy on kidz. So what does early introduction to academic language look like? Jim is referring here to Kevin Crowley's transcript of the oviraptor egg (elaborated and discussed in Jim's new book Good Video Games + Good Learning)

Jim provides several examples of parents getting kidz well prepared for academic language, and shows how the mad(dening) emphasis on phonics fuels the 4th grade slump. He runs a lovely line on a major text book publishing company pondering whether they should some books on how to overcome the 4th grade slump, and Jim says "funny you should ask that, since you have done plenty to cause the slump".

So we are now moving into a discussion of lucidly functional language -- also beautifully covered in his new book (in case you missed the link first time round). The argument draws on Yu-Gi-Oh. (Try running the text of a Yu-Gi-Oh card in the biker bar -- to introduce another old friend.)

So, in effect, 7 year old kidz read and argue over doctoral level language (playing Yu-Gi-Oh).

Paradox: how come many middle class and other (poor) kidz fail at school academic language (in school) yet the same kidz excel in the same kind of language outside of school?

How does school manage to mess up what capitalists excel in enabling? Jim is currently running his early experience with reading the games manual as a way of getting into a game. "I know what every word in that text says in English, but I haven't a clue what that means".

He played the game for a while -- hours -- and then had to go back to the manual to solve a problem, and found he now had a situated meaning -- vivid pictures, vivid images -- for every word in the page of text that had previously been unintelligible.

Moral: If you haven't played "Geology" before reading the manual (textbook) you won't understand the manual/textbook. No situated meanings.

In school we give the Geology test, but make sure most kidz haven't played the game first.

Learning science shows us that we store every experience in our headsing video games in our heads to get ready for action. He cites Barsalou -- "comprehension is grounded in perceptual simulations that prepare agents for situated action".

"Higher intelligence is not a different kind of process from perceptual experience" (citing the inventor of the palm pilot). i.e., "thinking" is really largely a matter of "seeing".

Video games: "perceptual simulations that prepare agents (players) for situated action via a surrogate body". Imagine the kid who circulates as a T cell through the circulatory system of a pig, and what s/he'd know about that.

We are reminded that gamers don't attend to the eye candy. People learn by getting a ton of experience, but they have to have a goal. So in games players look through the eye candy to find how to get to the goal. If you focus on the eye candy you get dead. Hence, the game tutorials strip the eye candy away so you get to see what you need to do.

So the pennies are dropping here right now. If you want to do physics you have to see the world as a physicist does ("assume the cow is a circle" -- it's OK, you can adapt afterwards). This is why players don't watch the eye candy in Grand Theft Auto.

Moreover, to appropriate the knowledge, purpose it, learn it, the roles of modding and modeling become very important. Games introduce players to both -- to varying the values of variables, making choices (how to play the game, how to build the context of the game, etc.). Jim discusses models and simulations -- referring to games like "Civilisation" as a model for aspects of past times. Poor kidz are modding models of civilisations, and not failing, but are failing in school.

This turns on the difference between moving from experience to abstraction vs moving from abstraction to experience. Games do it the opposite way to schools/formal learning.

And we end with a reference to the graphical and other summary information the player gets at the end of playing a game. Do kidz like grading at school? NO. But they pore over the graphic assessment at the end of a game. The latter provide understanding of what one has done in a game so that the next time tround one can do it/play it better -- the data provides a model of all you did moment by moment so you can put it into a form you can think about and analyse and do things better next time. School assessment, by contrast ......

We almost end with that. We end, instead, with the example of Jim's son, Sam, playing civilisation by "turtling" -- using cheats, that in the particular case involve hippos. But a colleague at a games conference says that this in effect involves the player using a crutch. When challenged with this, Sam says that it is OK, since he is now down to a "one hippo game". So we end with a rhetorical question: is Sam cheating or customising the game to his own learning purposes and goals?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Remixing Thursday in Toronto

We are back at the school auditorium, and today it is Michele's turn to start the day. She's talking on digital remix practices. Her talk is called "Mixing it up: Remix practices, literacy and cultural development". The room is filling up and the various props for the talk are getting a test run.

Jerry has just introduced Michele, and we are into a definition of remix. Larry Lessig's concept of the new alphabet that young people like to write with -- images, sounds, animations, etc. -- is under discussion, including the copyright issues, and the need for educators to engage with these.

Michele is introducing a range of remixes -- from still image photoshoppings to music videos. Dangermouse's Grey Album is in there, and also some machinima, including Paul Marino's wonderful Still Seeing Breen, and (from some of our current research) Dynamite Breakdown's Konoha Memory Book.

The cultural aspects of digital remix are getting an airing

along with the affinity space dimensions of learning how to do it well.

We are getting near the end of the talk now -- as the obligatory "links to education" section checks in. Michele's just blown our secret about the new edition of our New Literacies book being pretty much an exercise in remix. (Did I just hear the words "cobbling together" in this context?)

Ending with the Shining Family Spoof is a nice touch.

That just leaves Jim's talk for tomorrow. And question time right now.

Meanwhile, BoingBoing are reporting allegedly successful ways of activating iPhones without getting the AT and T package.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Working with friends

It's a happy week. We are working with Rebecca Black and Jim Gee in Toronto. Rebecca is just about to do her keynote to start the day. The context is a M.Ed course where the participants attend the keynote at the start of the day, and then go into a 90 minute discussion of the keynote. After lunch comes a three hour workshop in which folk jump into various Web 2.0 applications, drive them for a while, and discuss whether they think these applications can be put to useful educational purpose.

Yesterday I looked in as some of Michele's group were making moving movies using Google Earth, picking up on aspects of identity and tracing them through place. Andrew and Kiki located their homeland locations in Greece, tracked some locations and dropped in some Greek music. Not rocket science, but a very fast and effective way to build up confidence in teachers around using new stuff in ways they learners in classrooms might pick up on.

Jerry Harste is introducing Rebecca right now. Reb will talk on "Learning via New Media and ICTs", and there is a high level of aniticipation.

... The emphasis is fan fiction, Rebecca's research specialism. Interestingly, the rapport is so good that the audience felt free to begin asking questions just 10 minutes into the talk. It's easy to see participants making big connections early on. Makes me think how crappy our undergrad teacher education programs so often are. This stuff should be routine literacy education experience for teachers in formation.

Still, having the chance to get it during inservice Masters programs is not too bad. And to be able to get it from the best, in a school auditorium in Toronto, as enrolees in a course offered by a small university located in Nova Scotia is, in my view, pretty good.

I'm hoping the iPod recording will come out well because it will make for a pretty good resource.

Reb's a dear old thing, looking for every opportunity to relate what she is saying to the tired old general overview talk I gave yesterday. It's so *handy* to have great concrete examples following so closely upon a talk -- 24 hours is close enough for the connections to stick. Thanks, Rebecca.

Question time now, with a participant noting the changes she observed in a university library around use of interactive technologies compared to the previous time she had been in one: a nice marker of shifts across a short period of time, and how much it had taken her by surprise.

One motif we have adopted for the course involves a temporal shift on the old Jane Kenway and Chris Bigum principle of "Teachers First". We have modified that a little to "Teachers Too".

Lovely response to a question about authorial sincerity, with Rebecca referring us back to those old classroom chestnuts like writing fromt he standpoint of being Benjamin Franklin's pen.

Definitely one of the funnest serious teaching weeks we've ever been part of. Nice work. Thanks Andy.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

GLIT 6756: Remix Workshop

This remix workshop has two purposes: (1) to give you time and space to muck around with a range of remix tools and processes, and (2) to critically examine your own experiences in constructing some kind of remix in light of local or regional literacy curriculum frameworks, standards or criterion-referenced tests.

1. Working independently or in small groups, complete one or more of the following activities:

(a) Photoshopping as remix

If you don’t have image editing software on your machine (e.g., Adobe Photoshop, Paintshop Pro), then use Fauxto online (requires registration).

(b) Second Life machinima remixes

Public access places within Second Life you can visit:

Role-playing areas in second Life (compiled by Gary Hayes,

(c) Video edited remixes

(d) Fraps/iShowU and Google Earth remix

Additional, more or less free practical resources, tools, and software etc.

2. Working in small groups with literacy policy and curriculum documents, discuss the following questions:

Under the skin

So, on the day of release the iPhone was faithfully undressed at ifixit.

I found the display by following the link beneath the pic on Phillip Torrone's 29 June post at Make Magazine.

Needless to say, I have hidden the screwdrivers around the apartment here.

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