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Archived Posts from “Miscellaneous”

Email is for Old People



I’ve just joined another Wetpaint site that seems to offer some interesting considerations of required shifts in communication strategies for educational institutions.  IN terms of communication, what can schools, teachers, administrators learn from students.  While the focus seems to be upon K-12 contexts at this stage, based on recent exprrience I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest that universitiues could also be considering some of the same questions.

EMail Is For Old People - EMail Is For Old People

EMail Is For Old People
Developing Our Own Digital Literacy (Session Overview)

Email has been around for almost two decades and has served us well. Through email, we stay connected and share information and documents. It would be difficult to conceptualize our work without it. Yet, the internet has evolved over the past two decades from a place one visits to a place in which one interacts, offering new opportunities beyond email. Numerous web resources such as social bookmarking, social networks, RSS aggregation, blogs, and Twitter can be used to keep school board members, administrators and teachers up to date on emerging technology, teaching resources, and support networks. This session will provide an overview of Web 2.0 applications for personal learning and instructional use.

Key Questions

• How do Board members, administrators, and teachers communicate professionally and personally? More importantly, how do they share professional information?
• How is that different from how students communicate and share academically and personally?
• How could web applications be leveraged to facilitate professional and instructional collaboration, connections and communication?

Getting ADHD from your RSS feeds? Try Particls



I’m not sure if this might make things better or worse for those of use who have a huge list of feeds that we try to keep up with but it seems worthwhile checking out. There are a few screencasts that give a good overview of this apps capabilities, unfortunately seems to be Windows only :-(

Prensky and Digital Colonisers



Sitting here at the Duxton in Perth while Marc Prensky engages us with his ideas on the “New Paradigm”. Predicated on the notion that the majority of approaches to current education are not created with the modern learner in mind, these assumptions and assertions filter through:

  • Digital Natives - grew up in the digital world - without a guidebook and without guidance.
  • They have developed an ‘e-life’
  • Current students challenge traditional tools of education - but embrace the critical and social constructivist pedagogical assumptions.
  • Young people create as much as they consume (Q: degree and complexity is questionable)
  • “Growing up in the light” - metaphor.
  • “You have to slow down when talking with teachers” - a student quote.
  • The well known native/immigrant discussion.
  • To engage we must enagage WITH students - we must be part of the journey.

So far the description of the “New Paradigm” seems to be an iteration of Dewey and others who recognised that learning is done by learners. And that learners can include “teacher” - social constructivism and critical pedagogy… modes of input are interactive - output becomes multi-modal.

  • Evaluate quality - an essential part of the work done by teachers and students in learning - especially in a digital context.
  • About allowing learners to “DO” - set them loose on a task… where only the goal is defined.

Student panel revealed interesting (if not unfamiliar) attitudes.

I take on board some of the criticisms I heard uttered at the event today - that the oversimplification of the material is potentially harmful. It assumes a rich understanding of pedagogy and and a willingness to make a significant cultural shift that is probably not evident - the biggest risk is that studnets will be set loose without guidance.

That said, a lot of the material that Prensky offers is a digitally contextualised restatement of older studnet-centred, social constructivist approaches to teaching and learning. From my point of view it was quite refreshing to hear that the way I endeavour to teach in schools is being touted as valuable. Shifting quite comfortably to the meddler in the middle, I enjoy the processes that offer me a chance to be engage and extend my own understandings and knwledge along with the students.

One of the concerning factors, and I did pipe up quite loudly and unceremoniuously to challenge one teacher who seemed to be seeking a co-option of all of children’s play as some extension of formal learning. While Marc was talking about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, we saw the emergence of the Digital Coloniser

And I got to thinking about this notion of digital colonisation - a well established tradition of those with willingness to believe in their own power wanting to gain dominion over the new place they have occupied. We saw it with the great colonial nations of the past and I suggest we are beginning to see it now. While Marc was talking about becoming a learner alongside students I felt I was witnessing a very different mindset developing from some on the floor. We all know that many teachers are very conservative, often never having taken a risk… what I experienced today was someone desperately trying to maintain some sort of imagined power base. It showed a lack of respect and regard for the culture of young people, and no understanding of the iomportance of play in child development - it was rather an exercise in trying to co-opt the digital culture of young people to the existing paradigm of the teacher concerned. 

Like the colonialism of our history there is a risk that the teacher’s and education system’s control of resources for digital learning will foster a relationship of subjugation - that the lack of regard for the emergent cultures of our young people will see them pushed further and further from engaged critical pedagogies and self-direction. What is the point of giving lip service to all this technology engagement if our attitudes as tecahers remain constant. Who is willing to embrace the adage:

“Take your ideological hammer and smash your cherished values and at their foundation you will find nothing”?

Or the (allegedly) Hebrew proverb

“Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born to a different time”

The task undertaken with a student and 4 university academics to plan a mechanism for learning that did not allow for lecturing was engaging - our young helper was interested in a Drama approach and by unpacking a seemingly simply task to create an original performance we discovered enormous potentail to engage with virtually every learning area. I’ll unpack the program more fully elsewhere.

Eco House Challenge website



If you are planning to integrate climate change / sustainability into your learning programme in Term 2, the WA made enviro reality TV show EcoHouse Challenge may be of interest. The website contains some engaging activities and with a strong online collaborative angle on tackling the issue of living sustainably. In conjunction with Australian Teachers Of Media (ATOM), Eco House Challenge has developed a comprehensive study guide for use in secondary schools throughout Australia. The Ecological Footprint Calculator for example calculates how much space on earth you need to continue living your current lifestyle.

Here’s the premise:

EHCCan we save the planet? To find out two ordinary Perth suburban households have been wired to monitor their every eco move.

The challenge starts with a bang. Without warning four environmental hotspots, energy, water, transport and waste removal are shut down until further notice. Over several weeks, while still living their normal lives, the families must radically reduce consumption and learn to live sustainably.

I watched a preview of the first couple of episodes at Scitech the other week and the show will most definitely be engaging on many levels for teachers and students alike. It is also impressive because it is the possibly the first mainstream reality TV show to be based around an environmental issue. The reactions, both positive and negative, of the Perth teenagers to the eco-challenges they face, are something I believe all students will associate with. Watching the kids and parents having to use wind-up chargers for their mobile phones was a highlight.

The EcoHouse Challenge runs for 6 weeks on Wednesdays starting April 11th at 7.30pm on SBS. According to The Age, as well as Eco house Challenge there will be a series from ABC TV called “Carbon Cops”.

PS: Using the carbon emissions widget at this post would have cost 0.0634lbs of carbon to produce, but I’m on Synergy’s Green Power at an extra 3c per unit, so apparently my power comes from genuine, government approved renewable energy sources.

Sunday papers and Second Life



OK… several years after the launch of Second Life we find Perth’s only Sunday paper announcing it as the latest thing in gaming.  Like many other press outlets, the Sunday paper has opted for a quick pigeon-hole approach.  They refer to it as a game… which it simply isn’t unless you are talking about the “Game of Life”.

This is hot on the heels of a more considered and substantially more journalistic endeavour offered by the ABC’s Four Corners program last Monday.  The documentary “You Only Live Twice” is still available via the ABC website  and the ABC Island inside Second Life .  The documentary has sparked the imagination of many people and the huge surge of interest has been amazing.  I attended a session the other night by Tom Small from Hitwise (web marketing analysts) who showed figures that growth in visits to Second Life puts it second only to MySpace and a step ahead of YouTube. 

In response to a debate convened elsewhere about the nature of Seond Life and the nature of games-based learning and the nature of role-play….

Interestingly, (to me) my PhD research project is entitled “Drama Teacher as Games Master: developing digital games-based process drama as performance” My goal is to take aspects of process drama, role-playing games and dramatic performance to develop a hybrid model for drama education. 

Notwithstanding all the RL issues I’m facing trying to get institutional access to SL - it offers a platform that is not so clearly delineated that it over-emphasises one or other of the components. I think our old pal Erving Goffman has many useful insights that can be applied to thinking about Second Life - Frame Analysis, Presentation of Self, Interaction Ritual, Behaviour in Public Places - are all touching on the issues we are referring to. 

If we start exploring notions of identity in relation to SL we should be turning to Sherry Turkle’s old book Life on the Screen, and perhaps Judith Butler’s work on gender (as it is performed)… then onto Lyotard (parology), Bordieu (habitus and doxa)…. and so it goes… SL accepts the frames of analysis and perceptions shift to suit…. I shift my framing of Second Life very often depending upon my purpose - I love that it can accommodate multiple interpretations.. 

It can serve as a game world - in fact, I’d say most of the non-academic reportage I’ve encountered seems to find users referring to “the game” It can serve as a site for games activity - SL has many users who create RPG type environments and approach their engagement with SL via that frame. 

It also serves as an alternative meeting place… a site for meditation and reflection…  a social space…  a private place… a stage… an auditorium…  a picture window… a site for deviance… a site for conformity…  …any action or representation I make inworld has the potential of being simultaneously framed - repurposed - something I referred to in a paper as “simultaneous reversioning” (gotta love a good pretentious turn of phrase!!) 

I think debating a definitive functional space for SL is ultimately going to wind back to a position that is based in far more relativism than many are comfortable with… And what’s more - the frames will also be layered - as more users become more comfortable with perceptual position shifts, the more we’ll be reading about multiple simultaneous frames in operation…  our students can see themselves in a classroom, as well as in a game, as well as in brave new world…  

When they discover “alts” they’ll start to multiply these perceptions yet again… they can encounter themselves inworld with conflicting or complimentary world views…  they can be compliant and rebellious…  they can actively demonstrate the partiality of existence… they can live through ambiguity and uncertainty… and they can retreat to the familiar to avoid such complications…  or to create even more layers of purpose…   The fact that Second Life defies ready categorisation - perhaps there needs to be a MUVE taxonomy akin to the “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge” - will allow multi-, cross- and inter-disciplinary approaches that have very blurry edges… fuzzy liminality if you will.  It will also mean that many will veer away from it because it complicates their perceptions…   

…however as others have stated, the 3D MUVE is not all there is to games and games-based learning - I also use MOO and other non-3D spaces…  immersion is more than a visual metaphor…  I suspect immersion is more closely related to “engagement”, which is so often misconstrued as “fun”….   The world of imagined experience is the world of my real-life classrooms - as a drama teacher I regular draw upon thin air and imagination as the basis for my teaching and learning… I work towards an ideal I call “generative play” - playful engagement in a fictional environment where there is an expectation of contextually relevant meaning-making that is both personal and shared but is not predicated by predetermined nor prescribed content… I’m hoping that Second Life will be yet another avenue for that ideal to be realised… 

For the time being, Second Life has the potential to be many things to many people and it can easily find itself included or excluded from many pursuits – academic or otherwise…  in the academic realm we often state our paradigm at the outset and then never revisit it throughout our investigations… constant restatement can be useful in the bigger picture – but often we are working within frames that we take for granted because of the faculty or discipline we are involved with … hardly any wonder then, why so many find the postmodern condition unpalatable… it just gets too hard… or can be seen as a reminder of the basic human functions of Deletion/DetailScope/GeneralisationConnections/Distortion that we use to make meaning…  we have the capacity, if not the will, to be very precise with our linguistic patterning - and we can also find revelry in the constant ebb and flow of unstated paradigmatic shifts…  

Vive la différance!!! 

In response to some of the recent coverage of Second Life in the Australian press I posted this:

I think there are some unresolved issues about what Second Life is.

Interestingly, many gamers (such as Tim who commented earlier) find that SL does not match their vision of WoW… they find the controls and interface relatively easy to learn and yet when they start interacting the world offers them very little - they seem to have the locus of control posited externally - they need to be driven by some external pressures.

On the other hand, there are people who find that games are not to their taste, but after an arduous learning curve (and frequent jibes by old time SL users who have a total of 3 weeks existence inworld) they find that SL offers them something different.

Social and networking opportunites that supplement nicely with their real life activities. Not everyone is glued to the screen as implied by some comments.

Educators and business people are part of the community of SL, as are thrill seekers and escapists. The strength of the world in my opinion is the diversity of culture that emerges - the model adopted by Linden Lab is one that accommodates difference.

It’s easy to poke fun at early adopters of any new technology. And Second Life is not the only MUVE that exists - we hear little mention of ActiveWorlds,, Entropia Universe, or the emerging open-source Metaverse.

The scope of the discussion is fascinating, although I often suspect that the journalists who drop in for 5 minutes and pass judgement really do miss the point. Like many undertakings, unless you invest something of yourself in the endeavour - time, money, identity, trust, etc - there is often very little in the way of meaningful reward.

SL is still essentially an experimental platform and most of the big players, researchers and businesses are exploring the possibilities. Investment could be seen as R&D. There is going to be a major shift in the way we use the web.. SL may or may not present a window into the future… but is fairly sure to play a major role in defining the metaphors that will be used in shaping new interfaces.

While much of the rankling is ill-informed and amusing on some level, I think some of the reporting needs to rise above hearsay and conjecture and move towards a more considered analysis of the entire scope of activity within such worlds.

In response to an article by Jenny Diski at the London Review of Books and her blog.

Umm.. where does one start with such piously presented ignorance?

Your article may well serve your interests somehow - but it does little to paint a complete picture of what transpires within Second Life - a 3D persistent virtual world or MUVE - Multi User Virtual Environment.

I was hoping I might hear something about the various educational projects that are underway within the environment - or perhaps some of the interesting social research that is happening, or even some of role-playing games that occur, the business undertakings, the programming developments that allow experimentation with virtual eco-systems, the various performances or art exhibits that occur… Did you visit EduIsland, or EduNation or perhaps one of the more literary locales? Did you take time to investigate the projects looking at accessibility issues for visually impaired users? Did you look into the development of teaching and learning tools? Did you seek out islands that are drawing on non-realistic, non-literal metaphors? What of the libraries, the university campuses, the schools? Perhaps the locations run by Harvard, Stanford, NYU, Arcada (Finland), or even the egalitarian Open University from the UK?


.. I find no mention of any of these exciting and engaging projects - rather you seem to have deliberately sought out the most mundane of activities that are possible within the environment.

Did you talk to anyone working on the Diversity 2007 project? Or perhaps drop by the Transgendered Resource Centre? Or maybe you spent some time with Social Autopoiesis, one of the first fully-formed interactive NPC avatars in Second Life? Did you go to the building tutorials at the Ivory Tower of Prims to learn how to shape the world to create your own wondrous possibilities - or did you simply drop in like a tourist with little regard for local culture and heritage? Did you arrive in a world that draws on social constructivism and expect to be entertained without any investment of your own?

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Recent Comments
  • Melanie: Thank you Kim! I will definitely check out this link and see the developments for higher education on the SLED.
  • Kim Flintoff: We have been using Second Life in a range of situations. Built a Wound Care Clinic with Curtin University for training nurses about wound care and the relationship between hand-washing and infection in a...
  • Melanie: Hello Paul, I am wondering, have continued to utilize SecondLife? Do you find that it has better user-friendly features? Do you find that your courses are easier to teach in this format? Is the VLC classroom a...
  • Melanie: We may agree to disagree on the instant gratification society term, however when you look at new social network devices that are connected to mobile devices – there is an urgency that is attached to those...
  • Kim Flintoff: "instant gratification society" - I'm not sure I'm part of that society. Educational institutions do not make decisions - people do. Which people in educational institutions will cling dearly to email? Email...
  • Melanie: I agree that email is outdated in most settings. However, many educational institutions will cling dearly to email due to the aspect of "waiting before sending." Email is still a resource and an appropriate tool...
  • Maryjane: This is incredible and we need to spread it to school districts. It was posted two years ago and I've not seen new policies or classroom innovations happen since then. People are afraid of what the kids might do....
  • Suzanne: I cannot help but think that this trend, while reflecting archetypal youth rejection of all things "adult," is also related to the digital immigrant/digital native thing. The young are very flexible, very willing...
  • Maryjane: This made me laugh outloud. School districts are still discussing whether they'll give access to students for email; do all their business by email instead of walking next door and talking to someone; and wonder...
  • Nick Smith: This video was exactly what I needed/wanted to hear. As a student working towards being a teacher, I find it great to not only revolutionize teaching, but to re-invent it all together. One woman mentioned...
  • Scott Merrick: Hey there, feel free to unpublish this comment--it's more or less for your own info: This is to let you know that Digital Chalkie has been nominated for Blog-o-the-Month at the Blogger's Hut on Second Life...
  • Laura Seabrook: I have one other question, which I can't find answer to on the Murku wiki (no doubt the answer is right there and I keep missing it) - where/how does one get it?
  • Laura Seabrook: Murku looks really interesting (and I shall definitely try it), though the examples could do with some improvement, as per my comments above. Positioning can be important - see the Blambot article at...
  • Kim Flintoff: Murku is designed to facilitate the construction of comics based on content in a Second Life TM, ie SL, environment. Murku will be of interest to those who have always dreamt of creating their own comics but...
  • Laura Seabrook: Actually there was a typo in my previous comment. I meant to write wouldn't be, not would as far as being the first to do an SL comic. I discovered Plywood shortly after starting my own, which can be found...
  • Kim Flintoff: Hi Laura, The example in the article wasn't intended to be a highly refined product - it literally took me 60 seconds to create with some random images grabbed from my hard drive. The points you make about...
  • Laura Seabrook: I started doing Second Life comics late in 2007 ( though I didn't use Comic Life - rather I drew bits, used screenshots and put it together using PaintShopPro and Fireworks (for speech balloons etc). I knew...
  • michael chalk: Great stuff Paul .. lots of good points here. You are right about the ABC - they're really leading the charge into the new era of digital participation aren't they! My favourite thing they do is the way they...
  • Ken Allan: Kia ora Kim! I don't think it is anything to do with HOW we communicate. It is more to do with how kids see email. It is simply to do with the age-old feature of youngsters avoiding ANYTHING that is associated...
  • Aaron Fisher: This is very cool! It is amazing how those principles from long ago are relevant today, just in different forms. Students do learn better by doing, no matter the subject. We teachers need to do a better job...
  • Julie Carney: Thanks for this post, and for posters like Paul who have linked and commented on resources for educators to use. As is the case with most things, it seems the right combination of educator/program/developer...
  • Debbie: I, too am upset that this website has been taken off-line. My special education students loved it, and I knew I could always find an activity geared their levels and abilities. I hope that it will soon be running...
  • Andrew Westerman: Each LO costs $20 000. So, if 20 students use that learning object for 0.1 of an hour (6 minutes), that's 2 student / hours @ $10 000 per hour. If 2000 students use that LO for 0.2 of an hour (12...
  • Cathy Nash: Learning Objects are one of the tools in a good teacher's toolbox. It is simplistic to lay them aside as past it. A poor teacher can make a pencil look dull and a great teacher may just achieve great things...
  • Suzanne: I am so upset that this site has been removed, however I fully understand why. My Year One children and my pre-primary children loved using the site and it catered for all ability levels in my class. i do hope...
  • Julie: I am sorry that Rainbow Maths has been forced off the web. My daughter loved it so it is missed. Any idea when Jenny may put it back on the web with added security measures to prevent it being copied etc?
  • Jen Zupp: I totally agree with Jenny's reason to take it off. I have spent thousands of hours keeping my website up which is pretty much a directory of quality websites I find online. If I had created a masterpiece like...
  • Kristy Dickson: I agree with Paul, $20 000, $80 000, or whatever they cost, kids are losing interest. I think they have their place for a bit of drill and practice occasionally, but I wouldn't pay for them. Motivation and...
  • Ingrid: I'm distraught that rain forest maths is not available. My 3/4 kids loved it. My kids loved it and it is so easy to cater for their abilities with the different levels. Anyone know if there's a chance it will be up...
  • Azam Ali: my kids love this site, they come on rainforest to learn. Anyone trying to stop kids education is playing with our future. Shame on people who are greedy for money and dont care for the future.
  • Bryn Jones: Channel 4 in the UK has £50million to develop new media content. Ewan McIntosh has some role in it as Digital Commissioner for Scotland. Jobs open now!
  • Thomas Goodwin: Paul Reid has pointed educators in the right direction (create and collaborate) however he started from an incorrect premise; The Learning Federation's Digital Resources are completely different from the...
  • Patricia Corby: Phew, what a terrific wealth of useful info here! Thanks Paul. In reference to this comment "They need to move from static to dynamic in form" as an overall comment it is relevant but being fair some are...
  • Paul Reid: If everyone's Math is correct the Teaching & Learning Federation pays $20k for jpeg pictures Learning Objects! eg these ones shown here http://www.thelearningfederati
  • Janice Millard: its not fair that my class can't go on rain forest maths because of other people copying we were going to do a test on it but it was closed down my class was very upset not very happy!