Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Archive for November, 2009

Wii had a blast

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I do love the Wii Fit which Rosa got me for my birthday last year. We have had a scream playing on it – enjoying it as a family and ending up really competitive on the leader board.
It is obviously fast becoming the centre of family fun for others too. Flickr is full of images tagged as ‘Family’ and ‘Wii’ and there are marvellous shots of people having a great time – many of whom you would imagine were not ‘into’ technology. Such as this.And this.

There are some fabulous groups for people to put their Wii photos in as well. One of my favourites is Wii Motion here.

Of course if you are not satisfied with the aesthetics of still photography, YouTube has some classic shorts now. Take for example the much loved bowling one.


Oh No. It just seems so real when you are playing:

It seems that schools have cottoned on to the fact that people who don’t normally play sport, will actually participate in Wii activities. The Mail has this piece today, talking about how one school is allowing kids who are too embarrassed to do ‘conventional’ PE lessons will do Wii Fit stuff. I am interested mainly in the comments that follow this piece; they vary from those commending the school, saying that PE lessons in the past have often been of a bullying mach nature (etc ) and that this is a welcome change – to the ‘they have it too good these days’ type of approach. For example we have Beckie from Bristol saying:

Oh diddums – when I was a kid we HAD to do physical exercise – PE. Like it or not you did it and no excuses. Forgot your kit – no worries, the school always had spares. Funny thing happened – no fatties back then

While Derek says:

At least it’s a constructive approach, when I was at school the games teachers were a byword for sadism and sarcasm unbridled by any notion of their true value which was a big zero.

I love it that you can make comments on news reports these days and I also love it that you can vote for which comments you agree with.

Despite the fact that many commentators worry about new technologies making for isolated individuals who have nothing to do with each other, I see a lot of evidence that technology aids participation. This is confirmed By Pew’s report about Technology and Social Isolation.

Written by DrJoolz

November 25th, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Business as usual

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In the New Literacies MA we are doing the Research Methods Module with the second year, and this week we are looking at Visual Methods and Ethnography. One of the activities is to take a photograph of your workspace and upload it with a commentary (the course is online).

Here’s my post for the activity:
OK so this is my image along with text which attempts to provide a ‘made strange’ commentary. It is hard to make this stranger than it already is as you will see. Luckily I was able to set up the image remotely and take the shot with me in it, (actually Gareth took it, tbh) for added madness. What you need to know, is that we are having building work done in the cellar and lounge and so all the belongings from those spaces are in the bedrooms. We have had to dispose of all the comfortable furniture (and loads more besides). My daughter has had to go and live elsewhere for a few weeks as she would not be able to cope with the mess, cold, noise & general discomfort. The lounge window is ‘out’ and there is a huge hole at the front of the house which has been boarded up but it is very ‘leaky’ so we are quite cold. OK so that’s the background. Here is the title, picture, and commentary:

‘Making the Best of It’


I am in what WAS the dining room of my house. Evidence of this is to the right of the picture, a table covered in debris – stuff to do with my work and Gareth’s cycling. Central, are the two chairs which Gareth and I sit on. He has the bigger one as he is the biggest person and this is more comfortable for him. In the very little amount of stuff we can access, you see our priorities. The folding bike Gareth uses to do his bike-train-bike commute; my precious bike (on a turbo trainer) protected by a curtain on the left; and 2 chairs central. I realise now it is even funnier than we first thought (and we do think it is funny!). We are sitting in a row, as if to watch tv. But we have no tv!! We should sit and face each other as we can then talk more easily; we are obviously totally used to sitting in a row in the evenings from when we had our tv.  I am wearing an apron and yet am working on my laptop – as is usual I am cooking tea at the same time as working. I am wearing an incongruous sparkly cardigan (and new shoes). The whole space, although totally disrupted by building shows our values for sport and work (and my penchant for fashion). It also shows our determination to carry on as usual and to position ourselves in the room in a manner that suits custom rather than purpose. (Oh and we are using the chairs we take when we go windsurfing). We are doing what is known as ‘making the best of it’.

Not thinking ethnographically for the minute … I actually think this picture is hilarious.

Written by DrJoolz

November 23rd, 2009 at 10:07 pm


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I do have sympathy for the views shown in this kind of article: The Ten Things I hate about PowerPoint. The Ten then things formula is pretty common across blogs. Like this. Or this. Also common are the critiques of teachers/presenters (etc) who are just trying to get through the working day. (I have much less sympathy with this.)

I do agree though that PowerPoint is overused and I think it has started to influence not just how we present things to people in terms of structure – but also how we conceptualise our ideas. It affects and structures our relationship with audiences. The bullet point was something I very rarely used to use. Yet these days I am forever listing things off to classes of students or at conferences. I think in lists. I think PowerPoint also keeps your audience at a distance. Keeps them as an audience. While you are messing about with clicking and laying with your fancy transitions and wotnot, you are not really talking to the people properly. If you depend on the technology to wow the folks, the chances are they will not be wowed. Not anymore. We are getting used to the flashy gizmos and sound files. It has got to the point that we filter a lot of these things out if it is not relevant; if it s overdone; if it is not accompanied with interesting ideas. Audiences are more demanding these days – and don’t really wan to be an audience. They would prefer to participate! (As Guy and I mention in our book – a lot of uses of technology in Education are about providing polished performances of old practices. Nowt wrong with being polished, mind you.)

Totally agree that you can come up with snazzy stuff and ways of keeping things interesting. But I think we need to start thinking about the possibility of presenting without PowerPoint from time to time. See what happens when you do stuff differently – although please – don’t let this be a move back to reading a lecture from a little notebook.

Anyhow, I prefer KeyNote. Check out the animations!!

Written by DrJoolz

November 22nd, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Out of Twitter

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I have not had as much time as I would like to keep track of stuff on Twitter lately. I really should try to look more often as there is always interesting stuff ..

take for example the link from @simfin

I just thought it was so great that at last we have someone speaking up for pupils and their teachers. (Even if it is Ed Balls)

Then there was also an  interesting little snippety bit – an exchange I picked up between Josie Fraser and someone I don’t know, called awhitehouse.  They were discussing stuff around the nettiquette of quoting people on Twitter. There seems to have been some discussion about whether it is OK to quote without permission, seeing as it is a public space – josiefraser mentions she would only ask for permission if people had originally sent a non public message (eg via the direct Message facility.) Otherwise she would assume she could share beyond Twitter.

For me this pretty much depends. The University ethics procedure has made me more cautious thn I used to be about some things. For example I used to quote from peole’s blogs wthout asking – but now I ask. Even though these are documents available publically, I somehow see them different from ‘public documents’ These would be things where it was clear that wide dissemination was the aim. There are some things online that anyone can read – but that it is clear that they are written for a smaller (usually known) audience. And I think that when some people are on Twitter, they assume only their friends are looking.

Finally we have this on Prezi:

How did I find it?  …. on Twitter.

Written by DrJoolz

November 19th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Viva angst

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Amazing how many post its you can fit in around one thesis.

jools' thesis

People get so nervous about their PhD vivas that this is the kind of manic preparation we feel driven to. Post it notes really come into their own in this situation; markers, colour coded and even with extra little notes written on them. It looks like an elaborate fringed ornament. Text upon text, multi-layered as well as multi-coloured. I am not sure if it also makes it multimodal – probably.

But anyhow congratulations to Jools Page for getting her thesis through on minor amendments. Marvellous. Her thesis is a brave one: Mothers, Work and Childcare: Choices, Beliefs ad Dilemmas. Jools follows (and tells) the stories of mothers who leave their children in the care of others while they work; one of her themes is about love – and she explores the idea of ‘professional love’ of carers for children. In this day and age where adults often feel they have to repress their emotions for children, even when choosing to work with them, I think this is a brave argument – that professional love is part and parce of what carers need to offer and that this is something mothers need to know their kids will get from nurseries (etc.) Considering these kinds of professions attract those who feel want to protect and nurture children it is bizarre that nowhere in the professional guidelines or training is love spoken of. There is a kind of embarrassment around it – and I Think it s great that Jools addresses this aspect head on in her work. Maybe, just maybe, it will have an effect and one day people will be allowed to bring this aspect of childcare to the fore in their work.

Lovely piece of work in my opinion and I am so glad it got through.

Written by DrJoolz

November 18th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

New is Good; Old is Bad (Not)

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Street has talked about autonomous literacy, associating it with traditional academic practices. This term describes the ways in which people (typically those in positions of power) think of literacy as being something to be taught; something to be aspired to; something to be earned. In a way it is not ‘of the people’ – but owned by powerful people who set the rules of engagement.

There are assessment criteria available which can measure people on a scale (that those in power have decided upon)  and compare aspiring writers and readers to each other. This model of literacy sees it as being about following rules set by others and the closer one can get to the norms, the higher the assessment. Ithe aim is to try and join those at the top – but you have to agree to their rules. The system is based on what is valued by the elite in educated circles; it is all about belonging to a club that sets rules for its members. Street has talked about this as autonomous literacy because it is about the individual and it does not recognise the social aspect of literacy.

Conversely, (and it is no surprise that Street is an anthropologist), there is another way of looking at literacy; it sees literacy ‘as a social practice’; as opposed to ‘autonomous’ literacy, Street describes this second type as ‘ideological literacy’. Of course it is not the case that autonomous literacy lacks in ideology; far from it. But it is presented as if neutral, as if it were the bare bones, the tools, with which to perform literacy tasks. Conceptualised as ‘ideological literacy’ , the other way of viewing literacy, is that it is absolutely about social and cultural values and practices. In such  amodel, I think we also see literacy as something which evolves by participation – in the same way as spoken language.  For me the analogy is spoken language; that it is something that has developed through community and that what gets developed is what is valued by the speakers. That  is to say, spoken language changes over time with new words being added, new phrases s adopted and even new ways of intonation or grammatical twists. The ideological view of literacy focuses attention on the nature and function of literacy in a social system. Literacy is an integral feature of the social system. Literacy is understood and used in myriad ways in the function of the social system. Literacy is a measure of social position, a metric of job eligibility, a tool for job performance, a device for exercising influence, and a medium for interpreting the world.
I think that in this sense we see that a move towards this newer conceptualisation of literacy is a move towards a more honest and open approach. It is seen to be as inherently GOOD. There is a moral stance being taken (I think) which is that the ideological model represents a view that is seen to be less judgemental, more accepting and even ‘kind’.
Brian Streets’ work fits well within the paradigm of the New Literacy Studies. Work has been developed, sitting on the shoulders of an argument first put forward by the New London Group whicjh proposes a new way of educating. The New London Group proposes that a new way of teaching literacy is required for the new kinds of texts being produced through digital technologies (etc); such new texts are multimodal and the fact that they are produced in different ways to those of a bygone era changes the meanings of those texts in all kinds of complex, subtle(and not so subtle ) ways.

Lankshear and Knobel’s (or Knobel and Lankshear’s) work is rooted within such a paradigm of new literacy studies and multiliteracies; they have developed the concept of New Literacies. In this concept they talk about ways in which people are producing new kinds of text; that they are involved in new kinds of literacy practice – because of the development of new technologies. New Technologies and all the affordances they have, allow us to communicate in new ways, with greater numbers of people and much more quickly than before. Crucially, we are able to collaborate on the production of new texts, we can change the texts produced by others, (see all the YouTube memes) we can have texts that change very quickly, that kaleidoscopically fit inside each other (eg through the use of hyperlinks) – we do not have to read in linear ways. All these things are NEW.

However, as a point of fact, I would like to say that more traditional literacy practices are not bad; nor are they likely to become obsolete. To conflate new literacy studies with new literacy practices is obviously an easy thing to do. However it is important to me, that I keep separate the ideas, since the new literacy studies is seen to be a theoretical move ahead. It takes a different moral stance to what Street has conceptualised as ‘autonomous’ literacy. However, older practices in themselves are not inherently ‘bad’ in the New Literacy Studies. We need to remember that in rejecting autonomous models we were also rejecting the idea of condemning the practices of others. All too often I see work which berates those who do not ‘properly’ adopt new practices. Whilst I would argue that we need, as teachers, to help as many people as possible to participate in what is possible with new technologies, we should not let this mean that we also condemn those who continue to value other types of text production and consumption practices. To do so, would be to play the elitist game and fall into the trap I outlined at the top of the post.

Street, Brian V. 1985.Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Lankshear and Knobel  (2006) New Literaies: changing Knowledge in the Classroom. OUP.

Anyhow… here is an interesting example of a literacy practice – this was taken in Chinatown NYC. What aspects of this reflect new practices? And what are conventional practices?


Written by DrJoolz

November 16th, 2009 at 9:55 pm

A Grand Day Out

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TT and I have to be out of the house most of the time at the moment as it is not very nice in our falling down hovel. We have “the builders in” and we are having to exist in a kind of bedsit existence – squashed into just a couple of cold rooms. Anyway it’s fine as we are having fun.

We went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park today and a major bit of fun was to be had with my new kit… the Gorilla Pod. I cannot believe I did not take a photo of it in situ … but here is the kind of thing we were doing:

photo by elanbeat on Flickr

(Thanks to elanbeat for the image)

In the good old days when I was obsessed by Flickr there is no way I would have forgotten to take the meta photos alongside the photos. Interesting really, I was so obsessed by Flickr at one time and could barely go anywhere without taking loads of photos – and of course planned trips in order to take pictures. These days though I have calmed down – mainly because I just cannot squeeze in the time anymore for blogging, flickring, Tweeting and Facebook. How did I used to do it? So strange that already I am looking back into my early Web 2.0 days. We are all maturing in our uses and working out which bits we can fit in our lives and which we cannot. The obsessive start I had was a necessary one for me I think; I learned so much from being immersed. I still have not written everything I need to about Flickr even though I have written a couple of papers and maybe three chapters on it.

Anyhow, here are the pix we took using my little sony cybershot and the gorilla pod:

A Grand Day Out

A Grand Day Out

It was a bit fiddly at first and we had to get the hang of it … I forgot to do the timer for this one:

adjusting the gorilla pod

adjusting the gorilla pod

And this one is funny as we were tentative wondering if it worked:

is that it

Anyhow it was good fun to learn how to use a new toy … and this kind of self portraiture is becoming a ubiquitous practice … albeit that normally we see people making the shots using outstretched arms and a curved spine away from the lens!

More stuff about Flickr coming again soon – we have a trip to Paris planned for the end of this month and I am teaching some stuff for the online MA in New Literacies on image based ethnographic research.

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November 15th, 2009 at 10:36 pm


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In Leeds visiting Sam today the shops were already crammed with Christmas stuff .. the book shops selling the usual Christmas books – a strange genre of books – aimed at people who don’t like reading. These unwanted gifts will presumably have all made their way into charity shops across the country by June. (So if you do actually WANT one, I would wait till then). I think I will look out for Gok’s book as I am a bit of a sucker for this kind of stuff but don’t want to pay proper money for it.

Aaanyway, just thinking about this idea of selling things to people who don’t really want them … this is what the new SimplicITy pcs seem to be about. The Guardian gives it a bit of a thumbs down really, thinking the market it is directed at won’t look at it, and those who like IT won’t be interested either (like those Christmas books.)

This is technology for technophobes .. for those who now feel they have missed the boat. It’s for the people who saw technology coming, said “No thanks” and then looked again and realised they were on a little island all alone while everyone else’s faces were lit by the light of a screen.

Marketed specifically to ‘older people’ the software is set out in a simple way with the desktop offering clear choices without any of the ususal secret language of computers. The BBC has a nice video of a woman, aged 80, talking positively about it here:

Interesting for me is that she is attracted to the SOCIAL affordances first and foremost …the ability to keep in better contact with her brother in Canada; to be able to participate in social happenings online with her two American friends- as well as to look at fashion online – to give her an idea of what to look for before going shopping. She has an idea about how the Internet can enrich her life and affect her relationships with others.The Internet has matured and is a different beast to the one she first rejected years ago and I think it is great that this software is able to give her a direct route into what she wants from the net.

I think it is sad that some people (as with this lovely person) feel they have been a bit bad somehow in not participating earlier. I hope we do not move to a position where we see those who are not ‘in with ‘ technology as deficit, in the same way as some use terms like ‘illiterate’ about others. What I like about this software is it is helping people to join in in they choose – unlike those rubbish christmas gift books which are something very weird indeed.

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November 14th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

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I used to love reading this book to my kids (now in their 20s) when they were little.

Let the wild rumpus start

Let the wild rumpus start

Although the text is quite sparse, the words are quite magical and we read it zillions of times. We used the same copy as I had read to my younger sister (now 35) when she was little. I am not quite sure what it is that gives some children’s books such a timeless appeal; perhaps it is that the fantasy characters and fantasy worlds are not set in a specific era but instead are rooted in a sort of imagined space that is shared by many. A childhood ‘third space’ maybe.

where the wild things are

where the wild things are

Although this book was written in 1963, (when I was 5) I do not remember seeing it when I was a kid. Anyhow, I think I will not be the only adult wanting to go and see the new film. Its website is alluring and I am also quite taken by the Build Your Wild Self site and have made my own monster.

Go wild

I must admit that I cannot quite imagine how the little book can be extended into a proper big film, but suppose they must have added quite a lot of stuff in. I am looking forward to seeing what mechandise goes with it – soft toys I presume and of course dvds … but maybe costumes? That would be fun. Perhaps props to turn your own bedroom into a forest; perhaps people will be able to have wild rumpus parties. Let’s wait and see.

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November 13th, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Film,Picture books