Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Archive for the ‘‘widening participation’’ Category

Learning Futures

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I have been thinking about the ‘Away Day’ I am attending tomorrow where we are thinking about the Faculty of Social Sciences Learning and Teaching Policy for the next 5 years. In particular I will be thinking about the technology aspect as this is part of my job and I have a responsibility to develop ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’.
I have taken part in this kind of event many times in my career and it always feels hard to project for the future. I think our best bet is to realise we cannot project for the future and that we need to have a policy which allows for this flexibility.

In essence this is what David Puttnam argues in his talk captured on video here about ‘The Future of Learning’.

I agree that what we have to do is invest in developing individuals to work in teams, to collaborate, to have agility. And that competence based learning is not what we need any more. This is also argued by Sugata Mitra in this film:

He despairs of those who insist that kids learn their times tables, saying that the system of education the Victorians developed was one in which all the kids had to learn the same as each other. This obviously allows us to compare kids all the time and this is what we seem obsessed with. But like James Paul Gee, (in this book) Mitra and Puttnam are arguing that we need to develop individual skills and help people think and work together. We should have different roles from each other in project based learning that we collaborate on.

Puttnam makes the point that classrooms these days look very similar to what they looked like 50 or even 100 years ago. This, he points out, is different to the progress we see in the operating theatres of today’s hospitals, compared to 100 years ago. I am less worried about this; I am happy that many classrooms are still keen to encourage interactivity that is not always mediated by technology (and actually my GP’s surgery is still very similar to one we may have seen in 1915). Sometimes we have to think about the kinds of interactivity that is right for the job we have in mind.

We are all still a bit alienated by things working on a grand scale and are inclined to hang onto technologies that let us talk to small groups of people, or privately to our best friends. The important thing is that technology allows us to make choices. We can select which one we need for the job we want to do. We are pretty good at this in our social lives but less good at work. We select whether to use Snapchat, Instagram, Flickr or email to communicate with each other. But in our classrooms, it seems to be one PowerPoint after another – that we mediate for our class or share in our Learning Management Systems. This is ‘polished performances of old practices’.

Puttnam talks about how teachers use lesson plan sharing sites and shows how in 2012 over 2 million plans were downloaded from one webiste alone; and that one teacher in her history of being on the site had seen her work downloaded over 1 million times. This kind of self generated activity is fascinating – and points to how we prefer to interact in ways that are not overseen by massive corporations and let us develop in ways we choose.

Mitra talks about how important it is that we teach the skills of reading comprehension; search and retrieval of resources; and critical literacy skills. This third point her refers to as teaching about belief and ‘armour against doctrine’.

For me, the pointers I take from this is that we need to teach students to:

Use technologies to find, evaluate and share knowledge; to collaborate and participate in research about knowledge; to collaborate in the creation of new knowledge. this I think, also means moving away from the traditional ways of presenting knowledge, and that we should allow them to choose the right technology to mediate what they have learned. I would also like to see us using technology in ways that does not simply replicate old practices but allows us to do new things. We need to realise that we have to move beyond the word processor.

Written by DrJoolz

May 20th, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Social Media to Big Media

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This last week has been an emotional roller coaster. From tiny acorns great oaks do grow. (And other cliches).

After a disappointing result in the UK election, where the right wing Tory party for the UK got voted in by a majority, a lot of us here were gutted, especially as the Tories were voted in on a mandate that supports the ‘ordinary working person’. Many of us have seen this as a vote against the non working people – including the elderly, sick, infirm … etc. It is not great being ill or disabled to such a degree that you cannot work; work is about access to the world, participation in interesting and exciting things. It allows you to meet people, to socialise and of course, earn money. If you cannot do this your choices are limited. No one chooses this for themselves. Obvious to me. But I live with this reality through my daughter so I see it daily; but she and millions of others remain hidden behind closed doors from the rest of the world.

After the election my daughter posted on Facebook about her disappointment and was astonished to see how quickly her post received literally hundreds of shares by people she odes not know.

The following day Rosa was asked by The Guardian to write an article for their ‘Comment’ series. After a bit of angst about how to approach this task, she produced a great article that to date has in excess of 9,500 shares. It’s here.

She has now been approached by other newspapers and by disability organisations who are asking her for quotes and comments that they can use too.

So – out of bad, can come good. The Tories gave her the push to shout her head off.
Rosa has lived a difficult and isolated life since her illness, aged 11, stopped her from attending school and she has been virtually housebound ever since. The internet has been her umbilical cord to the word and she has friends across the globe. She is networked and respected. But this latest event has given her the recognition that gives her the confidence and assurance she needed. She has a voice that people want to hear. The Internet did this for her.

The Internet is enabling. Rosa has read loads, spent hours, days, months and years interacting online; doing MOOCs; joining forums; listening to podcasts; reading reading reading. She is not addicted to the Internet. She would rather be out there, face to face, physically present. But this is the next best, and Rosa rocks.

Written by DrJoolz

May 15th, 2015 at 4:02 pm

little tiny libraries

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It is not often that I post about something that is so non-technology. But this caught my eye on Vivien Vasquez’s Facebook.
It’s a really cute idea that is designed to build on and develop community relations and also develop the reading of books. The project is described here.
The idea is that individuals and groups set up a little box or stall and place books in it for others to borrow/ exchange.

Books are placed in the box for sharing

I think I like the idea as it is so simple and so non-techy. I think a lot of people are reacting against this first manic take up and allure of new technologies, feeling somewhat over whelmed and saturated by it all. There is something comforting about the idea of re-reading a book that has been passed on in such an invisible giving kind of way. No digital footprint; no additional profit made. Something pure about all this – can this be so?

This is an innovation I think and one that uses no new technology and embraces the old.

Written by DrJoolz

August 8th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Breaking down the Walls

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I have a tough job keeping up with blogging, Flickr and Facebook. I like to keep up some kind of presence on all of them – communicating with different groups of people on each one – with my blog probably serving my purposes more than that of any readers’. My blog is me thinking stuff through; Flickr I like to comment on photos and have comments back. I definitely want interaction on Flickr. Most of my Flickr contacts are people I met IN Flickr rather than knowing them before. It has opened up new groups of people for me. Facebook is the place where I only talk to people I know face to face; it does the job of helping me keep in touch with friends and family I don’t see often. So I have my own ideas about how I want to interact in ecah space and who with. I wish I had time to keep up with Twitter – I follow loads of people who I think are interesting … and I am able to pick up their leads to useful sites and bits of info. I really appreciate it all – but at the moment don’t offer much. And I think I have not really yet worked out properly qhat I want Twitter to do for me and how I want to use it.

On Twitter I love how you can gather names of like minded people – I use mine to follow people interested in web 2.0 and education – but there are only so many hours in the day and I have not worked out yet exactly how to get the best from it, for my purposes. However I do really love to see what Orange Class (known as ClassroomTweets) are up to and think it is wonderful that a Year One group of kids are learning about how they can communicate beyond their classroom walls – that learning need not be confined to the space they are in. They have a teacher, MultiMartin, who is very inspirational and always looking for ways to broaden the learning experiences of his class. And in case you are wondering, here’s a handy list of reasons why teachers might decide to use Twitter.

In the meantime Mrs Cassidy has won an award and has showcased her Web 2.0 classroom activities on a super new video.

I love how her kids present the video and are so proud to show their learning. I am sure that knowing they can share what they do, engages them and motivates them.

Finally, I have another interest in the way people challenge walls … and that is with streetart. Here’s some from Toronto:

worship the walls


Written by DrJoolz

February 7th, 2010 at 9:37 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.

Written by DrJoolz

November 14th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

How Not to

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… After exploring ‘How to ‘ genre videos on YouTube and VideoJug, I could not resist sharing this wonderful promotional video, from a couple of people who make family videos for others:

there is certainly something to be learned from this … which is about how many of the videos on websites reflect that we know a lot about self presentation, about how to engage the audience,a nd about what works on film. (There is nothing like watching other people’s errors to make you realise what knowledge you have.)

For the umpteenth time yesterday I was part of a conversation where people were saying that it was terrible that there was so much rubbish ‘out there’.

What is meant by this, is that on the Internet there is a lot of stuff that people do not want to read, see, watch, hear, etc. It means that there is a lot of stuff that they think is not good enough.

These opinions implies that for some, the Internet should have some kind of system that sets a minimum standard. Maybe that some people cannot participate or that each text has to be checked somewhere or somehow. I do not agree this is necessary. (I do agree that we should not have pornography or violent acts etc – dunno who judges these really though). I think these comments often come from those who use the Internet mainly for work and it is deemed to be a SERIOUS place. However for others it is the place where they play and really act in a way they cold not elsewhere. And for some it is a place where they do ALL these things.

I think anyway that we are all learning about how to judge sites. We are all finding sites that cater to our tastes and that these sites change over time (Flickr) and also that our interests tastes change as well. Why do we need to have the Internet ape printed publication rituals and values? I challenge the necessity for this and although I sometimes see sites I think are of low value for me, they are of value to others. The Internet represents a huge range of people, interests, desires, values and culture. I would not want to say who could hang out there or not.

So yeah. I am happy for the Yotubers of all shapes, sizes, denominations and stuff. Anyway. I like to research it.

Written by DrJoolz

April 23rd, 2008 at 3:39 am

How to …..

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Seems to me that so many people live their lives against a little commentary in their head.  (I am not talking schizophrenia here. I mean that little self presentational narrative …. no? OK…)

 I confess. 
When I cook I often pretend to be on the telly.
I do. 
I cut the veggies and cook the pasta and explain to my imaginary audience what I am doing. I offer top tips as I go, giving of course, a sexy little smile every now and then. (To many of my viewers this may seem like a nervous twitch or manic mannerism.
 Buy hey. 
Who can account for taste?
Some people go further. Not only do they do commentaries all the time…. but they also actually film themselves (probably doing several ‘takes’) make the videos,  and then  upload them to YouTube… or VideoJug (etc.).  Take for example, ‘How to shave your legs’: 

love the way  the video ‘How to remove permanent maker (sic) from walls’, actually begins with the person putting permanent marker (aka ‘maker’) on the wall.

Check out the first comment though … ‘Why am I watching this?’  (And at the time of writing over 1,200 people HAVE watched this). 

Well indeed you may well ask.  It is a good question.
Why are people watching this? (Of course a lot of people are NOT watching, I concede, but …. I think a lot of people tune in to LOADS of these … and also comment.) 

I think  it must be something to do with knowing that we are not bonkers and that actually everyone is ordinary and has a lot less in common with Sarah Jessica Parker and all other ‘celebrities’ than they do with all the ordinary people filming themselves and living ordinary lives. I think it is something about affirming our place in the world and getting a sense of who we are and how we fit (or not) with the rest of the world. There is also something marvellous about the immediate publication and sharing process that is alluring. And to watch it is to reject the shiny and saccharine feel of polished and professional film. Maybe we are sick of it. 

Others of these ‘How to’  videos are spoofs. Some of them are very funny, comedy type things and this one really makes me laugh… How to give a great man-to-man hug….

There is a genre that has been popular on UK TV for a long time now that has this very ‘underproduced’ feel to it … but which in fact is carefully choreographed. YouTube is clearly, for some, the nursery slope for ‘real’ paid film work and people are wanting to get ‘spotted’ I reckon.  This one has more that 23, 500 views. 

Then of course there are the slightly competitive how to films … this one is a scream, with someone demonstrating how fast he can fold his ‘bike Friday’.  (Others in this genre include how to’s on  Moonwalking, hula hooping, and such like. Well loads of stuff really.  The ‘how to‘ is a great formula for a little video. )

I am actually quite scared that TT might be putting a video up soon… he is so proud of his little foldaway bike. here it is all lit up….


Written by DrJoolz

April 20th, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Sheffield University Students Love YouTube

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It is a year since the Information Commons opened at The University of Sheffield.

What better way of celebrating than viewing a YouTube video filmed in that luscious space…

The popularity of YoTube is immense and in a recent piece of research I found that this is the favourite website of 24/24 interviewees aged between 16 and 18 . What is the attraction … well for the most part it is WATCHING videos and then talking about them on MySpace, Bebo or Facebook. It is a vital part of online conversation. Videos most watched are music videos ..’ so you don’t have to buy them’ and ‘funny videos’ . they did tell me that they would love to make videos and upload and would like to learn how to do this in school….

Seems to me that just as on other social networking sites, people do stuff in order to upload to YouTube… not ust about recording stuffalready going on. Look at this bit of naughtiness as students trespass on the roof of the infamous Arts Tower.


Written by DrJoolz

April 13th, 2008 at 8:43 am

Literacy for Lifelong Learning Conference

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I have had a fantastic time over the last few days at the Literacy for Lifelong Learning Conference here in Jamaica – The University of West Indies Education Department. .

When I get my photos and my head sorted out a bit more about the experience of being here, I will post more about the trip, but for now, here is the slideshow which I used for the keynote presentation. (Click on the orange and blue shareware icon to go to the shareware site and see the show on full screen)

I will add more links into this post when I get home so that conference delegates can access the paper I have written relating to the keynote presentation. and also the powerpoint I used and and resources I referred to in my workshop.

But in the meantime …..I also mentioned the book in my workshop by Marsh and Millard – see here.

And Kress’s book here.

Exciting, accessible and intelligent is Lankshear and Knobel’s book on New Lteracies …. as well as their book The New Literacy Sampler … which is also available online to read here.

Written by DrJoolz

March 14th, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Flash Mob

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The message was spread mainly via Facebook for everyone to KEEP STILL and FREEEEZE yesterday at 3.30p.m. in Trafalgar Square.

People turned up from all over the country to take part in a massive piece of art work – a community event which begins online, moves off line to the real world and is reported and documented online again.

Enabled by the web these flash mob games continue through the world.

Written by DrJoolz

February 18th, 2008 at 11:55 am