Thursday, 30 July 2009

I love YouTube

Why do I love YouTube?
I think its because people can have such a laugh making daft films.
A lot of the time they laugh at themselves and spoof big budget movies.
It is often an opportunity just to play and to celebrate amateurism.
I think this is what attracts so many people to watching YouTube as it links you to others and (sorry this is cheesey) you share a kind of humanity through your solidarity at being amateurs together!

Identity stuff: I also think we like to look at representations of ourselves on screen - having been mesmerised for decades by enigmatic folk on the tv and in big films - we can see that actually there is nowt special about people who appear on screens.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Bless us and all who sail in us

This is Guy and I happy at our book launch a few weeks ago... many thanks to Lynda Graham for the picture. This was also the day when we launched our new research centre - The Centre for the Study of New Literacies at Sheffield. We were so lucky to have Anne Haas Dyson from Illinois University and Angela Thomas from Sydney. They both gave fantatsic keynotes, focusing on their research. We had so many of our friends ad colleagues - teachers and academics, come along to wish us luck with the Centre. It was a great start for a centre that we hope will be a catalyst for research as well as a showcase and discussion forum. We plan lots more events for the coming year - not least a conference in July 2010.
We hope that students from the MA in New Literacies will like to come along to events - and that our doctoral students will be playing a role in the Centre too.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Repositioning the value of individual knowledge

A company called 'Common Sense Media' publishes a lot of stuff which I think is rooted in old school values that need to update and move on with the times.

They are of course not alone in continuing to value autonomous learning over collaboration; assessment of each individual's grasp of facts & knowledge; a desire to separate learners in an attempt to ensure that they can be evaluated more easily. This is what schools and schooling have been based upon over centuries.

But nowadays I think we need to value collaboration and participation far more; we need to think about how we teach students to read critically and to share knowledge; to show where they got ideas from so that others can look too. We need to be teaching them to understand that many people working together can achieve so much more than individuals working competitively. We need to show learners that it can be good to produce texts in collaboration and to amend them time and time again to add detail, to refine, to bring up to date (etc)

Thus in this article about hi tech cheating, the emphasis in my view needs to be on making sure kids acknowledge their sources. Showing them that it is of value to research and find information, will mean there is no need to deceive others. In this age of always on acess to info, there is no need to set such a high premium on reproducing facts. By continuing to insist that this is what is important, we are teaching kids skills that belong to past centuries.

Just in case you think I am totally utterly barking mad .. I do agree we need to know lots of things without the need to look up stuff online all the time - but I am arguing about a principle here. This is the principle that we need to relax a bit on knowledge stuff and concentrate far more on helping kids to use sources carefully and in a critical way.

End of rant.

Btw - does this sign mean 'No Arm Swinging'? Or is this an example of alternative readings? (Answers on a postcard please.)

no arm swingers

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Presenting the data

Many researchers are now asking the subjects of their study, not to be subjects, but participants.

Amongst other things, this is an attempt at making the whole process of research a more equal relationship - so that research participants get a say in how they are represented and in what data is used. They may also even help to design the research tool - such as put together the questions for interviews and so on. Researchers might otherwise risk representing participants in ways they are not happy with - or indeed which misrepresent them (this is an abuse of power imo).

More and more researchers are also using visual data as part of their research evidence - for example, giving people cameras to record aspects of their lives or to present the way they see things.

I love the site Duckrabbit as it shows what can be achieved when people are shown ways of representing themselves through words and images. Here the work is described as journalism - but there is sometimes a fine line only between ethnographic research and sensitive journalism which seeks to document people's lives rather than sensationalise.

Maybe the researcher and their participants will then look at the films as if pure data and discuss what they show. However I don't believe in 'pure data' and so think discussion between researcher and participants - around what is ahown and what is not, would be very fruitful.

Interesting also to wonder, is what is the effect on research participants of making their own films? How does the process of making the films affect (or not) the way they see themselves and their lives? And is this the same as the effect of the final product? (Does the product reflect what it was intended to?) Can the research process be transformative or therapeutic? Asking and thinking about these questions takes the research on a stage further.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Twitter and social capital

One of the things that Twitter does, is allow you to display your social capital. Of course this is what Donath & dana boyd were getting at when they wrote about social networking in general, being about 'public displays of connection'.

But I think that Twitter is a somehow more nuanced display and database of one's connections than a lot of other spaces. Maybe because of the starkness of it all - just the tweets and the identifying name/icon at the side. It looks like an RSS feed.

The display of one's network is not necessarily why we get involved; but I do like to see the displays of others - just in case I want to pick out a few people to follow. How do I select?

I look for the tweets which have interesting links; or maybe I recognise a name as being someone whose work I have read elsewhere. In making selections I capitalise further on my existing networks and thus extend them - according to what I value. I can accumulate additional social capital by building on what I already have.

In my son's case, he will select according to who links to the funniest jokes; the riskiest videos; the most obscure music sites (etc.)

The reason why some people talk about hating Twitter is because they hear about twitter feeds which are populated by people (and knowledge and cultural references) that they do not value.

So. as Bourdieu says:
Social capital is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in other words, to membership in a group – which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a ‘credential’ which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word.

I know that the term 'display' is a bit of an uncomfortable one - but most people do choose to keep their twitter stream public. We are increasingly happy to share what we say with many others. A lot of the time we assume our tweets will be read just by those we know - but are also aware of the potential of new followers. We display our stuff partly so that we can get to know likeminded others. (And this is why we all LURVE Web 2.0).

Just one more point before I go ... it seems strange to think about copyright and plagiarism in association with Twitter. Since what is valued is not just knowledge - but being a good sourcer of further supplies of knowledge - one necessarily credits where one got the information in the first place. If you Tweet - or ReTweet - as in quote someon'es Twitter stream, then you refer back by hyperlink to their origianal tweet. This gives you credit for picking up the source and the info, as well as crediting the originator. See copyright discussion here sourced via evestirling and digital maverick.

Can't do a post without a video ...

Monday, 20 July 2009

Twitter Rocks

Have been getting into Twitter big style and find the following benefits:

1. Can select tweeters to follow so that they fit a particular profile - for me this is people who are interested in talking about Web 2.0 and Education;

2. I can quickly and easily add to my contacts in a relevant way by looking at other people's tweet feeds;

3. There is a constant stream of interesting things to read about - ever changing and frequently reporting on stuff as it happens;

4. I can keep up to date really easily;

5. I can ask questions on my Twitter stream and will quickly get lots of answers;

6. The 140 character limit means that it is a quick job to scan each tweet;

7. Most stuff is public but if need be I can contact people privately - allowing a back channel;

8. The search facility works very well - I can look quickly at who is talking about 'New Literacies' or use a string like 'lost my job' - great for research;

9. Tweets can point to other online material and thus publicise stuff in a fairly unobtrusive way;

10. As far as schools are concerned - teachers can get students to tweet on particular topics - only needing to write a little bit and learning how to be concise;

11. Teachers can encourage kids to communicate to others what they are learning in school.

That's it for now. Apart from of course.... Flutter: