July 31, 2005
For the past 6 weeks or so I have been reading Big Blogger on and off - I wasn’t really into in because there were too many people in it and too many posts to go scrolling through to try and understand it properly. But I have been voting each week because I looooove Vitriolica’s amazing artwork and her fun stories about Portugal and I wanted her to win.
In the past week however, the number of bloggers has been reduced to a manageable-for-me-to-read number (i.e. 4) to actually work out who is who and also to understand the personalities of each one much better. And I think the “tasks” for the bloggers are becoming more interesting - less superficial and more about the real people. So I have now fallen in love with all four of the remaining personalities and even though Vit MUST win, I am thoroughly enjoying the others as well.
If you haven’t voted for Vitriolica yet, please click the logo and head on over to do so :>
Honestly, Winter in Sydney is like Summer in Tasmania! It is the middle of Winter here but the afternoon was sunny and warm. I couldn’t resist a stroll through the park on my way to Broadway (shopping centre).
When I first read the title of this post, How you SHOULD use blogs in Education, the hairs on the back of my neck bristled. I hate being told what I SHOULD be doing - SHOULD is a very highly modal unfriendly word if you ask me. Anyway, once I calmed down and actually read the post, I was extremely relieved to find that it was pretty commonsense stuff. Here are the first two points:
You must incorporate blogs as key, task driven, elements of your course - This may sound obvious but simply providing blogs to learners and saying ‘Hey, use them however you want’ is an absolute guarantee of failure as all but 1 or 2 people will take you up on it. Significantly here that I’m not saying assessment… you can provide non-assessable but socially motivating tasks, as long as they form part of class activities (i.e. competition for best designed blog with each participant presenting for 3 minutes) but they don’t have to be parts of assessment, and talking of assessment…
You should use assessment tasks that incorporate subversion - One of the worst things you can do is mandate posting on particular topics with particularly rigid frequency… you’ll over-assess & kill off exactly what blogs are good for: personal expression & exploration. By all means say that you’re expecting a post a week… or ever more, but let people approach this in ways that fit them and set tasks that allow for deviation and subversion. Never, ever, mention number of words!
Because I used blogs as an assessment tool myself for a Master’s unit I ran last semester, I can support both of these points - keeping the structure loose enough for the students to explore and experiment was really important. I also told my students that they had to write within a minimum of 4 categories that included: something to do with their developing understanding of their selected topic based on theoretical reading; something that included examples / anecdotes / data and analysis related to their topic; something that showed they had found other blogs, other online material and teacher resources about their topic; and finally a fourth topic called OTHER - where they could write about anything else meaningful to them (their personal reflections, their own classroom context, memes and quizzes, whatever…). The “other” category was non-assessable. I was really impressed with their efforts - some of them did really amazing posts that went way beyond anything I could imagine. Its easy with post-grad students to give them a loose structure and say: PLAY.
It was a little more difficult with the undergrads I experimented with (*grin*). I gave them this assignment, where the students had to work in groups to discuss a scenario. I gave each group a scenario, a set of readings they could draw from to guide their discussion, and said: GO DISCUSS - they had to discuss until they had come to a conclusion and resolved the teaching dilemma that was posed in the scenario. Some students chose blogs, other chose forums, others did email groups - I left it pretty open but gave them the default WebCT as an option if they wanted (only one group in 25 groups used WebCT, which goes to show my hatred of it is shared by the students!!). Overall there were some absolutely fantastic responses, but I found that there was a bit of a hangup about how many words they had to write and how many posts they had to make and what if Melanie didn’t write as much as the others in our group and so on and so on (all that undergrad angst - ugh!). So I had to scaffold it a little more for some students. Most groups “got” the discussion angle though and really did brilliant responses - some had me rolling on the floor laughing because their discussions took so many unexpected turns.
I would like to write about these different experiences with blogging / online interactions some time but for now I have a long list of other writing commitments that I SHOULD be working on!
July 29, 2005
The Last Resort is a really fun book illustrated by one of my favourites: Roberto Innocenti (who did Rose Blanche, one of my all time favourite children’s picture books). If you loved the Jolly Postman books by the Ahlbergs, then you’ll really love this, which blends some classic tales and famous images in an intertextual feast. Actually, its like a crossover fan fiction which blends several worlds and a mixed group of characters together as well as inserting the author (well, the illustrator in this instance) as the main character of the story. Stories and characters it draws from include Moby Dick, Emily Dickenson, The Little Mermaid, Huckleberry Finn, Antoine de Saint-Exupery and a number of others. Famous lines and verses from poetry are interwoven into the text, images and icons from favourite books overlap, and there’s even a videogame-like quality to the beginning which shows the petrol guage of a car being depleted over a series of images. The stlye of the images also varies slightly according to character, from photo-realistic to cartoon-ish. Low shots, high angle shots, framed images, silhouetted images, icons, and all manner of symbolism feature in the visuals.
I guess its very euro-centric in the tales it selects and the actual story is not meant to be taken seriously (lots of silly cliches), but its very po-mo and fun and I think you could do lots with it with older children.
Here’s a review from amazon.com:
When an artist’s imagination, “apparently angry at being ignored, took a holiday,” the artist goes after it, in Lewis’s (BoshBlobberBosh) unusual tale. Deposited by his red Renault (which “seemed to know the way”) at a seaside hotel, the artist is told “This here’s The Last Resort for folks who’ve lost a piece of mind.” There he encounters a strange parade of fellow guests, some of whom seem strangely familiar. The clues are legion; a few are easy to spot (such as Long John Silver, who “peglegs in here, signs the guestbook with crossbones”), others will keep even sophisticated readers guessing until the final pages on which their identities are revealed. The lineup includes poets, characters from novels (including Melville’s white whale), an actor who “had lost his range of emotions” (Peter Lorre) and more, all of whom eventually find their lost inspiration. Lewis’s colorful and imaginative prose (”blues and whites quilted the sky”) will keep readers’ attention, despite the meandering story line and occasionally affected tone (”The patrons of The Last Resort had shown me the road to self-discovery!”). Innocenti’s artwork consistently soars. His series of detailed, playful vignettes tweak perspective and brim with arch humor (as when he reveals the Little Mermaid’s identity in a page divided into four moonlit quadrants), and his spreads offer the kinds of details found in the illustrations of vintage Victorian children’s books. This elegantly designed volume will be most appreciated by bibliophiles and aesthetes: the artwork is spectacular. Ages 9-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
July 28, 2005
Will from Weblogg-ed has posted a really interesting set of slides from a talk he gave to teachers called New Internet Literacies. It covers a whole range of practices and new forms of community online.
July 27, 2005
Terri has stimulated a fantastic discussion on her livejournal about the themes of race and disability in Harry Potter. I must remember this for my children’s literature class next year!
Meanwhile, I must be one of the few people I know who hasn’t read HP6 yet, but thanks to the newspaper printing all the secrets (backwards, but who can’t read backwards print?) I already know what happens. The more HP I read, the less enraptured I am and the more I see problems with the discourses in it which serve to marginalise women, race and now it seems, disability. Thank goodness for all the amazing fan fiction writers who are responding critically to HP by writing their own versions which subvert these discourses, that’s what I say!
(See forthcoming chapter: Thomas, A. (in press). Fan Fiction Online: Engagement, Critical Response and Affective Play through Writing. In: Unsworth, L. and Hansford, D. ICTs, Literature and Learning: Re-engaging readers in the middle school years. )
Two of my research participants, Tiana and Jandalf, are spending time with each other in the same physical space. Jandalf took a 14 hour bus trip to visit Tiana and spend a week at her house. They organised a time to meet up with me and we spent almost 4 hours on and off last week role-playing together (well, they role-played while I watched and asked questions from the sidelines mainly). The final transcript of our interaction is about 33 pages long in single spacing font size 8 plaintext, so it’s too long to include here.
There are some really interesting things to note here though - first of all, I am searching for differences between this transcript (where the two girls were in the same room and could use spoken language) and the transcript from a couple of weeks ago when they were in different locations. So far there aren’t too many differences once the actual role-playing started, but in the pre-plan out stage there are a lot of references to what they are doing, where Tiana’s mom and siblings were, getting drinks and so on. I am still looking at this.
The second thing I am working on is analysing the genre of the text produced. I used our last transcript as a focus for a genre and register analysis in my systemics conference paper last week and I want to refine that and turn it into a paper. So far the schematic structure of the text looks like this:
1. Conversation prior to role-play
2. Planning of the role-play in director-type roles (the girls call them narrator roles)
3. The role-playing, complete with OOC chat and Narrator chat to keep the role-playing on course. The role-play then follows most of the usual structure of a narrative: orientation, complication, resolution. The resolution has a different quality to it though as it really just sets a re-orientation for the next episode, since it is serial in nature.
4. Denouement - I steal this from my drama days because of the obvious link between online role-playing and drama - its a way of reflecting and coming out of role by talking about the events of the role-playing. The girls do this in their narrator roles for a while and then eventually switch back to their “real” selves.
In this last role-play, both girls were role-playing two characters - one “good” role and one “evil” role each. They role-played two related scenes with a time gap in between (it was very film-like actually). In the first scene, the character called Willow, a Jedi knight who had been trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi, had been kidnapped by a Sith lord and was being tortured. In the second scene, she was murdered. By the end, both girls were physically crying, but were also joyous about the depth of the scene they had role-played. Tiana, who was playing Willow, was crying about the loss of her character as much as her identification with the pain Willow was experiencing (a double kind of pain). Jandalf wavered between being really cold and intouched about the death because it was her evil character that had killed Willow, but then when her good character rushed in to find and cradle the lifeless body of Willow, she wrote in her director / narrator role (N1):
audreidi_ytho: N1: That sort of thing just reminds me too much of when I sat by my grandma’s hospital bed while she was in a coma. I held her hand like that for hours, and it was the last time I saw her alive. That feeling’s so real to me.
and then she too started crying.
It was very emotional for me too and I wasn’t even role-playing. I was so touched at the emotional depth the girls invested into their characters, and even though I’ve written before about how they do this, I hadn’t felt the power of it all myself until being a part of the role-playing too. I think its really important to understand that insider perspective!
I have blogged about the email serial fiction, Daughter’s of Freya here and included it an article I wrote here. Yesterday I received the email below from one of the authors outlining plans for a DoF reading discussion group that’s being organised. For anybody who hasn’t read it, I highly recommend it - it’s fun receiving emails each day and having the mystery unfold over time. Here are the details:
On August 1, readers around the world will be participating in a Group
Read of The Daughters of Freya. Readers will not only read the mystery
at the same time, they will be able to discuss it as it happens in an
online forum during the three weeks it takes for the mystery to unfold.
(Since all readers receive the installments at the same time, nobody can
’spoil’ the mystery for others.) The idea is to create a shared
experience out of what is normally a solitary activity and we think it
will be fascinating to see what kind of dialogue ensues.
The Group Read is being run in conjnction with ARGN.com, a website
devoted to alternate reality gaming, who will set up the forum for the
Readers who want to take part can purchase the mystery at a special
price of US$3.99 (Cdn.$4.79) at:
July 26, 2005
Last month I ordered the book Lara Croft: Cyberheroine, which I blogged about here. The book arrived last week and today I had a chance to start reading it. It’s only 100-ish pages long so its an easy read, but the concepts it covers ranges from the reduction of woman to their bodies, Lara as a symbol for the desire of power and the nature of the ideal virtual woman as a fetish “whose function is to deny the gap opening before the indecidability of nature and culture” (p.82). It also explains the biography of Lara Croft, the timeline of the phenomenon of Lara Croft in games, marketing and media, the fate of various models who were contracted to pose as Lara Croft, and the Angelina Jolie phenomenon in the movie.
Funnily enough, last night I was watching a documentary about Hollywood scripts, and it mentioned the Tomb Raider script and how the writers insisted that there be no plot and that the gaze should be on Lara/Angelina even to the exclusion of other actors - all to try and push the boundaries of film making by making it more game-like.
Although the first chapters are a little atheoretical, in following chapters the author draws on feminist, cyberculture and sociology theorists (Butler, Zizek, Marx, Haraway, McRobbie, Turkle… to name a few) as well as making reference to a wide range of magazines, video games, films, and marketing campaigns related to Lara Croft. I’d really recommend it!
July 25, 2005
Normally I am a champion for any means to improve the state of education for girls and women. I found this story somewhat disturbing though - scholarships to University are awarded to all girls in a particular province that can prove that they are virgins. I don’t for one moment object to the promoting of morals, but I think making virginity a criteria for education funding is really demeaning - it means the entire quality of a girl is reduced to her sexuality - the non-sexual subject = pure and worthy, and the sexual subject = vilified, impure and non-deserving of an education. Obviously I speak as an outsider here and don’t know anything of the culture so its probably a little unfair of me to me so critical. But…
Anyway here’s the story:
Ugandan legislator to reward virgin girls with university scholarships
KAMPALA (AFP) - A Ugandan lawmaker said he would reward girls from his central constituency with university scholarships if they leave high school able to prove their virginity.
Sulaiman Madada, a member of parliament from Uganda’s Kayunga district, said the scheme aimed to promote morality and that successful scholarship applicants would have to submit to a gynaecological exam to demonstrate their chastity.
“Our area has high incidences of early marriages and defilement,” he told AFP. “I believe this bursary will make a difference. The criterion is that a student is virgin and from Kayunga district.”
“This will promote morals, promote girls education and I have contacted some NGOs and well wishers to join me in this,” Madada said, adding that the scheme was for girls only and that high school boys need not apply.
Between eight and 15 girls from Kayunga district, which has a population of some 300,000, attend university each year, he said.
The idea to pay university fees for virgin girls — which can run up to 900,000 Ugandan shillings (515 dollars, 425 euros) per one four-month semester — is an offshoot of an earlier scheme Madada introduced in which he covers the costs of high school educations for bright but needy pupils of both sexes in his district.
That program already costs him one million shillings (570 dollars, 475 euros) from his legislative salary per year, he said.
Madada said the new offer would encourage responsible living and help in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS by offering a reward for girls to avoid risky behavior.
“We shall tell our children about risks they face if involved in early and unprotected sex,” he said.
Uganda has earned high praise worldwide for its anti-HIV/AIDS programs which have reduced infection rates to about seven percent from as high as 30 percent in the early 1990s.
Kayunga has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in Uganda and more than 80 percent of families living in the district say they have lost at least one member to the disease.
I got the flu blues. Anybody know a joke to cheer me up?
In other illness news much more serious than mine, my colleague Len went into hospital for an operation and I am pleased to announce that it all went well. I have been forbidden to visit him while he recuperates because of my flu germs
July 23, 2005
Well… I think this is kind of funny but I am sure lots of parents wouldn’t share my amusement. One of my research participants forwarded this latest “teen meme” on to me. I am fascinated to see that what they’re worried about their parents seeing is swearing or talking about their crushes. If that’s all they’re worried about hiding then I think parents can breathe a sigh of relief.
dear all ,
There is a new online code out, kinda like lol or brb. This one is a little different though. You all know how it feels when you’re talking to someone online, and your Mum is standing right behind you, reading every word that is on the screen. Then of course, the other person swears or talks about how much you luv your crush or something and your Mum reads it and tells you to get offline that instant, and not talk to that person anymore.
Well, what can we do about that? To solve this problem, now we have started the “Code 9″ system.
In code 9, u simply press “9″ when your parent or sibling is watching over your shoulder as you type. That way, the other person will know what you are talkin about, and begin a conversation about homework or something. When your Mum or Dad leaves, press “99″ to let the other person know that they r gone, so u can have a normal conversation again
NOW, SEND THIS TO EVERY1 U KNOW, SO CODE 9 CAN GO INTO EFFECT!!!
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT YOU SEND THIS EMAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW
July 22, 2005
Here’s a little ad for a conference I’ve been invited to speak at next year:
Multimodal Texts and Multiliteracies: Semiotic Theory and Practical Pedagogy
2006 National ASFLA Conference (Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association)
in association with
Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (NSW)
27- 29 September, 2006
UNE, Arimdale, NSW, Australia
(there’s a website in progress here)
Professor Theo van Leeuwen (University of Technology, Sydney)
Professor Jim Martin (University of Sydney)
Professor John Stephens (Macquarie University)
Professor Peter Freebody (University of Queensland)
Dr Mary Macken-Horarik (University of Canberra)
Dr Jane Torr (Institute of Early Childhood Education, Macquarie University)
Dr Anna Healy (Queensland University of Technology)
A/Prof Claire Wyatt-Smith (Griffith University)
Dr Louise Ravelli (UNSW)
Dr Clare Painter (UNSW)
Dr Angela Thomas (University of Sydney)
WORKSHOPS dealing with multimodal text analysis and with teaching Multiliteracies.
It’s such an honour to be invited!!!
July 21, 2005
Walking home tonight I noticed how gorgeous the moon looked behind these dark clouds. The photo doesn’t do it justice.
Today’s highlight: listening to a keynote by Theo van Leeuwen! (I tried taking a photo but it was all blurry so I “borrowed” this one from his site - if anybody objects I’ll remove it)
I found his talk fascinating, as I knew I would! He discussed discourses of choice - I took pages and pages of notes but the most interesting thing he mentioned as a bit of a side note to a point he was making was that he once gave a seminar where he outlined a semiotics of smell! How funny! I would love to listen to him again and again because he just knows EVERYTHING!
July 20, 2005
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Today I attended the ISFC2005 conference. The day went like this:
First up, Frances Christie delivered a keynote address and traced the history of systemics in education, and then spoke about some of the current and future directions of research in this area. It was really interesting to hear her speak about the changing nature of language, metalanguage and the effect of the digital world on literacy.
Len Unsworth spoke about an intermodal metalanguage using children’s picture books and digital fiction as a focus. It was brilliant as Len always is, but what was especially good was that I’d had a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago so I could concentrate on specific details better - his talks are always so lexically dense that sometimes hearing it a second time is a necessity :>
Len’s talk was a preface to the next two workshops about digital literacies: Alyson Simpson spoke about book raps and then I spoke about online fan fiction. I am pleased to say that I had MEGA LOTS of questions afterwards by people intrigued by my research participants and the amazing writing they co-create.
Jim Martin came to my session and said that the data made his head spin :>
He also gave me some very very useful feedback about my register analysis and mentioned some additional resources that would suit the angle I was taking.
My favourite talk of the day was by my friend and colleague Sally Humphrey:
because she spoke about discourses of resistance and activism and used a text from a young adolescent girl’s blog as a focus text for analysis:
Sally is writing up this paper for a special journal edition I am editing - her work is very exciting and I am really looking forward to reading the final thing! One of the most interesting things Sally foregrounded was the notion of positive critical discouse analysis. The theme of the conference was “Discourses of Hope” and the idea was that we shouldn’t always be critically analysing texts which are “negative” but we should be looking at those texts which challenge, subvert, and work towards positive societal change, and analysing what makes them successful texts. I didn’t really “get” that until I heard Sally speak so eloquently.
The lovely side of the conference (well, so far anyway) has been the social side of it. I met up with old friends from my Multimodal Discourse Analysis research group that I hadn’t seen in over a year, I met people I had only previously communicated with via email, and… I bumped into a very good friend and colleague I used to teach with at a previous University that I’d lost touch with! I also met people I’d heard about or whose work I had used, which was lovely!! Oh, and I had a very good conversation with my friend Marie from Melbourne about Big Brother *grin*
THE BOOK LAUNCH
At the end of the day we had our double book launch. Len launched Fran’s book about Language in the Primary School:
Then Fran launched our book and very generously mentioned how much she especially enjoyed the MUDs and palaces chapters (they were mine)!!
I loved her coat so here is a better look:
I was really happy that quite a few of my friends, colleagues, current students and even former students who were not actually at the SFL conference came in especially for the book launch to share the evening with us.