Monday, December 31, 2012

A new book at the end of a hard year

We don't know anyone who has found 2012 to be among the better years of their lives. Certainly, it has not been a standout year for us personally. It has been a long and hard grind with plenty to worry about on the world scene. As always, one of the things that has made this year a lot less difficult for us than it might otherwise have been has been the collegiality, friendship, and solidarity we have shared with family, workmates, neighbours, and amigos around the world. We want to thank all of you who added to our lives during 2012 for being there, and we want to wish you all the very best for 2013. May you walk in the sunshine and have all good things (and only good things) fall on your heads.

As the year drew to a close we managed to meet a fairly tight deadline and get a new edited collection into production: a collection that brings together a selection of recent works published in our "New Literacies" book series with Peter Lang. It has been another good year for the series, with pleasing sales and some excellent new titles. Many thanks to our authors, and if you are reading this post and have an idea for a book on New Literacies we would be very pleased to hear from you. As always, we are deeply appreciative of the generous efforts of all at Peter Lang Publishing, New York, and look forward to a new year of collaborative activity with you.

The new collection is called "A New Literacies Reader" and will be published in print and digital formats. We have provided a substantial thematic Introduction to the book, which comprises 18 chapters organised in 5 sections, as follows:

Part 1: New literacies in classroom settings

1. Multimodal pedagogies: Playing, teaching and learning with adolescents’ digital literacies
Lalitha Vasudevan, Tiffany DeJaynes and Stephanie Schmier

2. Trajectories of remixing: Digital literacies, media production and schooling
Ola Erstad

3. You won’t be needing your laptops today: Wired bodies in the wireless classroom
Kevin Leander

4. Slammin’ school: Performance poetry and the urban school
Bronwen Low

Part 2: New literacies and semi-formal learning beyond the classroom

5. Influencing pedagogy through the creative practices of youth
Leif Gustavson

6. Engaging urban youth in meaningful dialogue through digital storytelling
Althea Nixon

7. Learning about circuitry with e-textiles
Kylie Peppler and Diane Glosson

Part 3: New literacies and teachers’ personal and professional learning

8. Machinima, Second Life and the pedagogy of animation
Andrew Burn

9. New wine in old bottles?: Remediation, teacher as bricoleur, and the story of Antaerus
Teresa Strong-Wilson and Dawn Rouse

10. Supporting pre-service teachers’ development: The place of blogging in the Get Real! Science teacher preparation program

April Huehmann, Joe Henderson and Liz Tinelli

11. 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

Part 4: New literacies and popular cultural affinities

12. Language, culture and identity in fan fiction
Rebecca Black

13. Communication, coordination and camaraderie: A player group in “World of Warcraft”
Mark Chen

14. Youth participation: Learning and growth in the forum
Angela Thomas

15. Which South Park character are you?: Popular culture and online performance of identity
Bronwyn Williams

Part 5: Researcher perspectives on new literacies and learning

16. Learning about learning from a video game

James Paul Gee

17. Situated play: Instruction and learning in fighter games
Aaron Hung

18. Kongregating online: Developing design literacies in play-based affinity space
Sean Duncan

We want to extend special thanks to the authors for agreeing to be part of this project, and will be looking toward occasional similar projects in the future.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year to you all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Child deaths and gun laws

Like most everyone else I have nothing but sadness and sympathy for the children and their families who have suffered the loss of life in Newtown.

And like many people -- although nowhere near enough -- I heartily endorse President Obama's support for the victims and their families, and his intimations that he might get behind gun control.

However, there are some other things I believe need to be said, and I am sure there are many blog posts and other writings being undertaken right now saying much the same thing. Although, once again, probably not enough.

First, I wonder if President Obama could say truthfully that his administration (described in some recent newspaper reports as following a very hawkish foreign policy) has played no active part in fomenting and otherwise supporting the numerous 'uprisings' in sovereign states abroad, where countless thousands of children (as well as youth and adults) have died and continue to die. Simply because a country does not like another country's government is no excuse for helping foment and support activities that cause widespread death. President Obama sheds tears for innocent US children who die in a senseless violence, but successive US administrations have brought death and destruction on a scale not even remotely matched by any other country in history.

Second, there is a lot of breast-beating going on around why there are so many public attacks in the US involving the weapons of war. This raises the question of "whose gun control?" Just who, exactly, will have pressure brought upon them to refrain from using guns.

Here's the thing. Once again there are many such posts and pages available, but this one, by Dr Zoltan Grossman, on A Century of US Military Interventions will serve perfectly well. And it does not even include The Cold War waged by the US on the Soviet Union from the years immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution, that ushered in unprecedented production, distribution and exchange of weapons of war and mass destruction. The US waged the Cold War on the Soviets, not the other way round. Meantime, it is nothing less than sobering in the extreme to try and look for a year or two here and there in which the US has not been involved in using guns and supporting the use of guns in some foreign country or another. (Grossman's list also includes military interventions against various Native American Nations).

In the face of lists like that provided by Grossman, the question that arises for me is not why there are so many 'random' killings in the US civic sphere, but how the number remains relatively small. We are talking here about a society that lives by the gun on a tragic scale. Taking up arms against other people, and maintaining a massive arms producing industry, is closed to the very heart of US society. Killing is hardwired into the society.

If the President -- and/or anyone else is going to talk gun control, let's hope there is some serious talk that extents to the roots, not just to the symptoms.

This, of course, gets uncomfortable for people like me, because I know that even though I have not voted for it, and never would, I -- and people relevantly like me -- am a beneficiary of this recourse to force. All my working life I have received "more than my fair share". For sure I have given plenty away. Some of that has gone into financing projects that have been shot and bombed out of existence as a result of US foreign policy initiatives in various places. But in a world where a very small minority get more than their fair share and the vast majority get way less than their fair share, the 'interests' of those relative few are 'protected' by force: with guns. There is no way I can make an educated guess at what the income or benefit level is at which one can say that a person benefits from the industry, strategy, policy, and intervention that involve guns (and other weapons) at their heart. Even if we ignore the so called "under-developed" countries and just focus on countries like our own, my rough guess is that any individual earning more than the equivalent of US$35,000 a year is a 'beneficiary' of the threat and exercise of armed force hardwired into "the American (Australian, British, New Zealand, you name it) dream".

Beyond tinkering with symptoms, none of us can sensibly talk "gun control" without talking in the first instance about "economic justice". Unless and until there is no need for "the force of arms" to sustain privilege; unless and until we can eliminate this 'need', I don't believe we can even get on first base. I believe that getting to first base begins by asking the question "who benefits" from the circumstances that require arms to sustain them.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The mess that is Air Canada

Just wondering if anyone out there knows what part of 'good service' it is that Air Canada does not understand.

Hang on, maybe it would be better to ask if anyone out there knows which (if any) part of 'good service'Air Canada does understand.

That should have it covered.

I know about 'dial a delay' and 'infinite itinerary changes'. Also 'mechanical malaise' and 'lost luggage' (albeit only at second hand in the latter case -- touching wood and hoping not to jinx anything, although the reputation going round suggests it can only be a matter of time.

But there is bound to be more.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

RIP: Dave Brubeck

It's been a while since we've had a chance to get here, but I'm sure we won't be the only bloggers who have been silent for a while who are today drawing inspiration from Dave Brubeck's remarkable life as jazz musician and human being extraordinaire to break silence.

More important, in my view, than his outstanding creative achievements as an innovative jazz pianist and jazz combo leader during an era of fabulous musical development, was his example of being an artist who refused to play venues that would not accept a racially integrated band. Whilst far from being on his own, particularly within the music world, in this respect, his example was highly influential and duly noted. Brubeck could not be ignored.

The fact that four sons followed his musical ways doubtless speaks volumes for Brubeck as a father, as well, of course, for Iola Brubeck, Brubeck's wife and collaborator on numerous musical projects. A family that played together and stayed together.

I always travel with Brubeck. He's kept me going on endless bus, plane and car trips, across and around the globe, for longer than I care to remember. And for as far ahead as I can see.

Rest in peace, maestro Dave Brubeck, and many thanks for so many magic moments along the way. Time to take five.

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