Thursday, May 28, 2009

Feeling for Mexico

After a week in Mexico I'm heading up to Canada for a few days of work. During the time I have been here the recurring theme has been of how the economy is hurting for the lack of tourists. Pilar mentioned hotels in Cancun closed down, and the ramifications all the way down the line to the shoe shiners and souvenir sellers. At another level, getting seats on buses has never been easier. Neither have I ever had such fast taxi rides through the city during working hours. It's almost like the town has put half or more of its cars off the road.

Now, I have to say that i have been the world's most cynical person about swine flu since day #1. It smelled bad to me from the very beginning -- like a media circus, like an over-hyped fear, like a very convenient set of circumstances that would encourage people in other economies to stay at home as summer comes on and spend their dollars there rather than in Cancun or Mexico City. At one point the "epicentre" of the aspiring "pandemic" was traced to a pig farm in the town of Perote. When we are in Coatepec we look out at the peak of Perote's mountain. I'd say that a crow could fly there in about half an hour. It'd be maybe 40 kilometres as the crow flies, maybe a little more, but not much. Yet all our friends were saying from the outset "not a single case in Coatepec", or even in Xalapa, with a metro area chasing a million souls.

It's the same today. I asked at the pharmacy where I went to pay the phone bill yesterday (as one does at the pharamacy) whether there'd been a case in Coatepec yet. "No", was the reply.

More than this, in a week here I have found practically no one wearing masks anywhere, including Mexico City. The occasional security person or check out operator in a supermarket. I haven't heard a cough or a sneeze. Hang on, I have heard one sneeze.

Meanwhile, the economy is shaken to its core. At the same time, yahoo has run a story in the cartels being unaffected because the North American demand for their product is "recession proof". It helps to have a sense of irony, for sure. If only the formal Mexican economy could secure markets on similar terms to those enjoyed by its darker underside.

Sorry for the rave, but I love this country and it hurts to see it hurting so bad. It will take a very long time to recover from the damage done by the real and hyped outfall from pig flu. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to getting back in a few days. It looks like a lovely warm summer ahead. If there is any significant health risk to coming down here, let's just say I'm not seeing it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Call for book proposals for our series: New Literacies

Those of you in the northern hemisphere who see summer stretching before you with no classes to teach and hours and hours of empty time, and those of you in the southern hemisphere who are battening down for winter and long, empty, chilly nights, might want to think about working on a book proposal to submit for consideration for publication in our series with Peter Lang.

The series--New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies--focusses on publishing single-authored and edited books hat focus on some aspect of new literacies. For us, new literacies are best described as newly developed or newly understood "socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participation in Discourses (or, as members of Discourses)” (Lankshear and Knobel 2006: 64). The series does have a definite lean towards sociocultural theorisations of literacy practices, but not exclusively so. To obtain a sense of what's already been published in this series, and the kinds of things we're looking for, click here, then type "new literacies" into the series title window. Our scope is really quite open.

In terms of putting together a book proposal, the following template offers a starting place.

Book proposal template

1. Proposed book title

2. Author details

3. Summary description of and rationale for proposed book (a paragraph or two)

4. Statement regarding intended audience or readership

5. Competing books in the area
Identify closest competitors and explain how your book will differ from these.

6. Course relevance
If possible, sketch ideas for specific university courses and the like where this book can be used. Part of submitting a successful proposal is showing a market exists for it.

7. Background to the proposed book
This is a more extended explanation of the proposed book. This section may well have a bibliography

8. Features
Explicitly identify things in the proposed book that make it distinctive

9. Recent Relevant Publications
List relevant publications that show you have an established track record

10. Provisional Outline of Contents
Provide a chapter-by-chapter account of the proposed book; include proposed author names if proposing an edited collection

11. Approximate Word Length
95,000 words (including the bibliography/ies is a good length to aim at)

12. Timetable
Indicate a realistic date for completion of the manuscript

Additional tips

  • Describing your proposed book in terms of it being based on your doctoral research, or on a conference symposium, won’t work in your favour

  • Write your proposal with an international audience in mind (e.g., don’t use terms like “sophomore” or regional acronyms; don’t assume widespread knowledge of a regional policy)

  • Be as succinct and to-the-point as possible (5 single-spaced pages for an entire proposal is a typical median length)

You can also get in touch with us (; and ask for advice or sample proposals, too. Email us your finished proposals and we'll set them on the review path.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

New collection hot off the press by Anne Burke & Bobbi (Roberta) Hammett!

Anne and Bobbi address an important--and often overlooked--dimension of new literacies and education: assessment. Their edited collection is titled Assessing New Literacies: Perspectives from the Classroom, and focusses on presenting a rich range of approaches to meaningfully assessing new literacies in classroom settings.

From the back blurb:

New literacies, globally popular among children and adolescents in and out of school contexts, are challenging educators and institutions to rethink pedagogies. As educators begin to embrace the pedagogical possibilities of multimodal texts and digital practices, they are exploring the complexities of assessing these new literacies. The essays in this book explore what it means to assess the sophisticated textual engagements of new literacies, including reading and writing online, social networking, gaming, multimodal composing, and creating virtual identities. Chapters offer practical examples of new literacies, and examine how assessment provides insight into the diverse ways in which language is conceived, valued, and used to inform the literate lives of its twenty-first century users. Scholars and educators will find this collection full of rich understanding of the assessment concerns raised by new communication practices, youth culture, digital engagements, and semiotic diversification.

A key strength of the book is the range of perspectives it offers. It's also really international in its reach, with chapter authors hailing from Canada, Australia, England, the U.S., and elsewhere. Here's quick look at the contents:

1. Introduction: Rethinking assessment and new literacies
Anne Burke, Roberta F. Hammett

2. Assessing multimodal texts
Eve Bearne

3. Checkmarks on the screen: Questions of assessment and new literacies in the digital age
Anne Burke

4. Making the invisible visible: Assessing the visual as spaces of learning
Maureen Kendrick, Harriet Mutonyi and Roberta McKay

5. New literacies and assessments in middle school social studies content area instruction: Issues for classroom practices
Margaret C. Hagood, Emily N. Skinner, Melissa Venters, and Benjamin Yelm

6. My life on Facebook: Assessing the art of online social networking
Jennifer Rowsell

7. Distributed assessment in OurSpace: This is not a rubric
Jill Kedersha-McClay and Margaret Mackey

8. Aligning digital literacies with e-identities: New spaces for quality in learning, teaching and assessment
Kay Kimber and Claire Wyatt-Smith

9. Digital tools: Assessing digital communication and providing feedback to student writers
Richard Beach, Linda Clemens, and Kirsten Jamsen

10. New literacies and teacher education
Roberta F. Hammett

Julian Sefton-Green

Announcing a new book by Neil Anderson

Neil's book, Equity and Information communication Technology (ICT) in Education, is hot off the press. As the book's back blurb so aptly puts it:
Information communication technologies (ICT) permeate almost every facet of our daily business and have become an important priority for formal and informal education. This places an enormous responsibility to achieve equitable deployment of ICT on governments, education systems, and communities. Important equity issues examined in this book include gender issues, disability, digital divide, hardware and software developments, and knowledge transfer. Previous books have tended to concentrate on single aspects of equity and computer use; this book fills the pressing need for a comprehensive look at the issues. Equity and Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Education is an essential book for professionals involved in this emerging area of study, and a useful text for undergraduate and graduate classrooms.

Neil has long been an advocate for differently able kids and adults and their technology use in school and other settings. He's also spear-headed national, award-winning research projects on gender and technology in Australia (Colin was a Co-PI on this project, too). This book is a must-read for anyone interested in equity issues and digital technologies!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Lawrence Lessig's Remix now available ccFree online

Lawrence Lessig has announced that his latest book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is now available for free download. We have it in ardcopy and it's a highly recommended read!

Not only is the book itself now free for download, but the publisher--Bloomsbury Academic--has just launched a competition to remix Lessig's remix. According to the competition rules, your remix take the following forms:

And "No entry may be submitted that violates any copyright law" (via BoingBoing).

The competition ends on 31st May (U.S. time), and submissions seem to need to be submitted via Facebook.

We have actually remixed Lessig's work--with his consent--in a chapter in our edited collection, Digital Literacies (Chapter 12 - Digital Literacy and the Law: Remixing Elements of Lawrence Lessig’s Ideal of “Free Culture”. We took Lessig’s 2004 book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity and two variants of his renowned illustrated oral address on the themes of copyright, free culture and Creative Commons that has been presented many times and in many places around the world, and mixed them together. Here's how we went about it (pp. 280-281):

[This chapter in Digital Literacies] is not “our own work” in any significant sense. It represents our particular selections, editing and re-voicing of excerpts from an extant corpus of written and oral texts authored by Lessig in accordance with our choice of argument structure. To produce this chapter we have done the following things.

First, we generated verbatim transcriptions of recordings of the two talks, so far as it was possible to “catch every word.” We spent a lot of time reading these transcripts, locating online as many as possible of the artifacts referred to in the talks, and consulting these artifacts.

Second, we then excerpted and arranged stretches of the transcriptions in accordance with a scope and sequence of argument we thought would meet our purposes for this book and, especially, that would provide a useful introduction to readers who may not previously have considered the kinds of issues Lessig addresses academically, professionally and politically. We have stayed as close as possible to the wordings in the transcriptions (from Lessig 2005a, 2005b) for each passage selected. Where appropriate, we have revoiced the text or reported content in the transcripts by paraphrasing. We have moved between the talks, using one talk to render a particular idea and the other talk to render another, according to our personal preferences. To a very large extent the words presented here from the talks correspond directly to passages from our verbatim transcriptions.

Third, we consulted Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity (pdf) and identified passages we thought would best augment content in the talks for our purposes here.

Fourth, we then excerpted (with full citation) and paraphrased passages from pages 7–8, 36–38, and 140–144 of Free Culture and integrated this content into our argument structure.

Fifth, we have inserted ourselves more directly into the text in the Conclusion,where we draw briefly on some current themes in educational theory and research to distinguish a “content transmission” view of education from an ideal of “expert performance” in a range of social roles and identities. The cultural transmission model raises the stakes for “ownership of intellectual property” and, to that extent, goes hand in glove with intensified copyright legislation and use of “digital rights management” technologies—to what Lessig (2005b) calls a permission culture. Th e expert performance model presupposes keeping culture as free as possible, so that learners have maximum scope to become experts through acts of tinkering and remixing.

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