Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Aaron Swartz's Afterword to Cory Doctorow new book, Homeland

Many thanks to Huffington Post for publishing this piece on the Afterword Aaron Swartz wrote for Cory Doctorow's book Homeland.

When someone as downright smart, clued-in, techno-savvy, democratic, and sensitive to human welfare as Cory Doctorow is, describes Swartz as having "the best techno-activist instincts of anyone I knew", you know Swartz was on the right side.

You also know that any government administration who hounds such a person deserves wickedly bad fortune.

Doctorow writes the following words, and if I could claim them for myself I would happily do so, because they state more clearly than I ever could one of my deepest beliefs:

"The scientific documents he allegedly took from JSTOR were public knowledge in every sense but one. They were publicly funded, produced for public benefit, and were critical to the informed choice of the public. But they were not *accessible* to the public. It's easy to understand why this offended Aaron. It offends the hell out of me."

 RIP, Aaron Swartz, and all power to your keyboard, Cory Doctorow. Your books for youth and young adults are as important as any such books could possibly be.

New book in our series: Media and Digital Literacies in Secondary School

Reijo Kupiainen is the author of this latest addition to the New Literacies series and what a marvellous addition it is! This is the first year-long ethnographic study of digital tech and media use in a secondary school to appear in the series. Reijo's study adds rich, contextualised insights into youth media practices. From the back cover blurb:
Media and Digital Literacies in Secondary School examines young people's media practices and media literacies in school spaces where these practices mix in the school environment and learning in different ways. Young people bring their own media and literacy practices to the school as an important part of an identity, taste, and social life. These practices are changing school's media ecology, making school's physical boundaries more permeable, creating new, unofficial spaces in them, and transgressing the boundaries of private and public. This book highlights youth's media production practices, from photography and video making to fan fiction writing and online role-playing, which have different relations to the school, and shows how these practices make a dialog between informal and formal learning and that teachers have an important part in collaborative relationships with pupils when teachers encourage and motivate pupils and help them to understand media phenomena. The volume will be of particular interest to scholars and graduate students in the fields of education, new literacies, media and communication studies, media and art education, and youth studies.
The Table of Contents runs as follows:

1. Introduction
2. Studying literacy practices
3. Media ecology in school spaces
4. Creative media production
5. Classroom strategies
6. Learning and media literacies

This is a must-read for anyone interested in learning, new media, youth and schools!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A brief introduction to economic literacy for today: Joseph Stiglitz speaks some true words

Today's Opinionator column in the New York Times online, by Joseph Stiglitz, on the debate theme of "The Great Divide" speaks many true words very clearly. Inequality is holding back the recovery pulls no punches. Stiglitz states simple fact and cites straightforward numbers. They are equally chilling.

Economic literacy for today begins with the sentiments Stiglitz expresses here. Beyond this, however, there is his new book, The Price of Inequality.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Making Stuff: Stop Motion Animation Option

Stop motion animation is a process by which physically manipulated objects or drawings can be made to look as if they are moving unaided. It begins with a series of still images taken of a scene wherein carefully planned, but slight, changes are made in each still shot. Run together, these still images create the illusion of movement. Digital stop motion animation is like an analogue flipbook animation created with a digital still camera and video editing software like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. Popular examples of commercial stop motion movies and television series include: Wallace & Grommit, Chicken Run, Coraline, and James and the GiantPeach, to name but a few. Stop motion animations can be music videos, or short stories, or full-length movies.
In this workshop, youll learn the basic principles of stop motion animation, and make a short movie of your own.
Stopmotion animation comes in a range of forms, including: whiteboard line drawings, hand-drawn images, action figure or doll stop motion, Lego stop motion, claymation, and so on. Search YouTube for examples, or check out the following:
·   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtbQ4J3RfQ8 (an example of what's often referred to as "pixelation")
·   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mwQIPodSDY (an example of object animation--in this case, beads on a bead board)
·   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR7pm9HkjoE (this one is just too clever for words!)
·   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-t2aqli5Z4E (an example of 2D paper animation)
·   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vZ0iqUS6sg (whiteboard and markers animation)

You can find a quick overview of the process here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop-motion

And there are lots of useful affinity spaces available online, including: http://www.aniboom.com and http://www.stopmotionanimation.com

Quick tips and hints: Do a quick trial run of the process first (e.g., five frames + a title and a credit page)  to get a fell for the technical dimensions of the process; watch a lot of exemplars of the type of stop motion animation you plan to create; Map out a bit of story idea first before doing anything else; keep your camera absolutely in the same position (taping it down if need be); use simple backgrounds; take care with lighting and shadows (including where you and your team mates' shadows fall); use your cameras playback setting to check image quality; tiny movements of key pieces are better than big movements; a music soundtrack will add extra-dimension to your video, too.
Have fun!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Categorising educators

There are all kinds of ways and dimensions along which to categorise educators.

One that may become increasingly important goes like this:

Educators can be categorised according to whether they approve of this kind of stuff (I was going to say "this kind of nonsense", and maybe I should have), or whether they don't.

Monday, January 14, 2013

RIP Aaron

Like millions around the globe we will miss Aaron Swartz. After all, he helped give us Reddit which, if anything, occupies as much of our collective time as we can afford. His death is already creating ripples, raising questions. But it would have been so much better not to lose him at all.

Two of our favourite wise people, Lawrence Lessig and Dave Winer, have spoken good words -- helpful words -- in the wake of the tragedy of Aaron's death. Lessig has said that the current US administration should have to answer for why Aaron had to be identified as a felon. Indeed!!

Winer posted well and appropriately over at his admirable Scripting News. In the context of talking more generally about grief and doing grieving, Winer asks:
What good can come from his death? I think we have to set more reasonable expectations for our brilliant young people. It's true that Aaron was smart, and had a great capacity to learn. But he was just 26. And for many of the years we knew him, he was much younger. He was very much his age, emotionally, even if he had knowledge beyond his years. To expect so much of such a young person probably puts too big a weight on shoulders that aren't prepared for it. I feel that there's a connection between Aaron's suicide and the suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the founders of Diaspora, and Gene Kan, who was one of the developers of Gnutella. 
I've had to deal with my share of death in my life, and one message I get from every one of them, approached from any direction, is that the dead are dead. Expressing love for their memory, support for the person, doesn't have much value, because they are not here to receive it. If you want to do something to honor a loved one's memory, be loving and kind to people who are still alive. That's the best thing you can do, always, every day.

We do well also to recognise that this current US administration leaves a lot to be desired. It takes its image from the top, from its commander in chief. That is to say, what you see is not what you get; what you get is not what you see. This is an administration that is distinctly hawkish in soft gloves. It creates all manner of foreign policy mischief and suffering in other lands under cover of secrecy and deceit. And it follows a brutal and bullying internet policy -- as anyone familiar with the Kim Dotcom case knows.

Needless to say, I had no time for the previous president, but at least what you saw was what you got. You knew what you were opposed to and why. This current guy has a much more subtle and undercover way of pleasing those who must be pleased. He's in there as much as MIT are when it comes to having some accounting to do. How ironic, you might think, that his team turned to Reddit when it was time to try and pull in some votes.

But, really, would *you* have expected anything else?

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