Thursday, November 17, 2005

Love textually

A followup in an earlier post about love poetry on mobiles. Well not exactly, but in the ball park: txting and romantic relationships.

Interesting, but rather positivist research. 'Findings' are fairly obvious. And I had to chuckle:
But while text messaging seems set to continue its meteoric rise in popularity worldwide, Robinson's own phone has suffered a steep decline in incoming messages.

"It was interesting to read other people's text messages," she says "but I have found that since doing this research very few of my friends send me text messages any more!"


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Orwellian night moves?

The recent ARC funding round has been much much lower than anyone really expected - approximately 16-17%). The grants for Education research in the whole of Australia can be counted on two hands. People are trying to make sense of what happened. Stuart Macintyre has a few ideas and they are worth some careful investigation.

"A committee appointed by the minister, meeting in secret, is vetting acadmic applications."

This 'minister' is of course, the Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson.

I'm lamenting my future already.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Kelly's lyrics right on course (but Rick Price is still with me)

Not a day goes by.

Some people are annoyed with the selection of Paul Kelly's song lyrics/poetry as a possible senior text in the Victorian English course over the next few years. Salam Pax's Bagdad Blog is also on the list (the print version!).

The text list was released last year and has only been picked up by the media now? It all works to build up to the National Literacy Inquiry due to be released in early december.

I worry for DE&T if Victor Perton is around when the 'Liberal' party is next in power. This is probably going to be a long long time, but you never know. As they say oppositions don't win, governments loose and Bracks is doing a good job of turning plenty of people off.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Testing blitz in reading reforms (winners and loses?)

Here is the next article on the National Literacy Inquiry debacle.

It makes sense doesn't it? If we want young children to learn to read, we make sure we test them before they begin school and then every year after that. That way they can learn early on whether or not they have a future. No need to waste time and resources on the ones that are dumb. After all some are winners and others losers. That's just the way it is. All that fluffy talk about 'reaching for the stars' and 'acheiving your goals' doesn't do anyone any good. Better to just accept the hand that's dealt to you.

If this sounds a little rough, then get on over to Andrew Bolt's column today 'Losing is real life'. I'm a little disappointed that his argument about winning and losing and personal value is so weak and ill thought through. He uses the example of a singer being voted off 'Australian Idol' as if this is due only to the singer's musical ability/talent/competitiveness not being up to the mark. He says this is an important lesson to learn. That some are winners and some are losers and that's just the way it is. He doesn't seem to see the irony in his mentioning that his own son adored this particular singer, not for his ability but for his dreadlocks.

Might it be possible then that other people felt the same way? That they too based their decision to vote this performer off the show, not due to his inferior singing ability, but because of a variety of other reasons? (that he was a white guy? not as attractive as the others? not 'star' material? not an object of attraction for the demographic that votes on these types of shows?) It seems that the fact that competitions like 'Australian Idol' are not about ability or skills, or talent or anything akin to it has been lost on Bolt. Could it be that shows like this work as popularity contests rather than measures of ability or talent? That instead of a display about real talent and ability of performers, they are measures of audience desire (and prejudice)? That the real competition is about popularity and (media constructed) image? About measuring up to the very ideal or model of a young adored performer? Good looking, tanned, healthy, selling potential. Is this what winnnig means, Mr Bolt?

(Readers might remember the winner of Idol a year ago was a larger girl - overweight, 'alternative' and not a traditional beauty. In her post idol career she's been overshadowed by the runner up in the same year, and he meets all the popstar requirements - she's been turfed out and the real winner has been put in her place. While she won the popular vote, she was abviously not 'Australia's new Idol' and not someone whom the media and music industry could bank on).

In arguing that this performer (back to the present year) was voted off the show simply because he was not good enough, Bolt not only shows his ignorance of how the media machine really works, but becomes party to perpetuating its myths.

I might even suggest that if he does understand (which I actually would prefer to believe for his sake) then the situation is even worse. He has appropriated a shallow and weak argument simply to have a go at teachers and educators, who, understand by personal experience just has he might, (teachers are parents and have children too after all!) that teaching (indirectly or otherwise) kids that some are winners and some losers and 'you had just better accept that and move on' is a crime, perhaps as much as planning a terrorist attack.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Reframing the debate

Letter from SMH today. Now this is 'reframing the debate'

Double standards again?
Dr Brendan Nelson continues to disparage the literacy of university graduates ("Teachers told: prove you can read and write", November 8). He also frequently criticises numeracy standards among Australian students. At the same time the Government insists that all workers, regardless of education, can readily understand the personal and financial implications of a complex workplace agreement offered by their employer. Am I missing something here?
Steve Bright, North Avoca

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Prove literacy, teachers told

Well, it looks like things are getting started early with reporting for the National Literacy Inquiry. A draft report has been circulated to 'key bodies' for comment ahead of the official release date in early December.

So already we have some interesting claims being made:
  • Teacher graduates (English and literacy teaching graduates) 'lack the skill required to be effective teachers of reading',

  • Teacher graduates don't have the skills becuase Teacher educators aren't teaching them properly, preferring to waste money and time teaching Buffy rather than Milton,

  • The lack of skills 'in' graduates is not their fault, but the fault of those who run teacher education faculties,

What is proposed to remedy this skills shortage (sickness?)?
  • "Make university education faculties test students on literacy teaching methods."

  • "Assess students' (graduate teachers') ability to write clear, coherent reports for students, parents and supervisors as a condition of accreditation."

  • Teachers should provide "systematic, explicit teaching of phonics"

So here we have 'the' solution to the literacy 'crisis'.

What is most interesting perhaps is the 'evidence' quoted (at least in this article):
"(There is) scepticism among practising teachers about the personal literacy standards of new graduates."
That's it. That is the evidence used in support of the above claims (so far).

Well it makes sense doesn't it? If you want to know how graduates are doing you ask other teachers they work for/with. That way you get it straight from the grassroots. No need to worry about the challenges of different knowledge and approaches between different generations of gradutates. No need to worry about issues of power relations between new and more experienced staff. No need to worry about the easy 'standards have fallen over the years' populist line that is alive and well in most schools. No need to challenge the theory-practice binary that rages in schools, where rich intellectual exchange is regularly silenced by comments such as 'forget all that uni crap, you're in the real world now!' This is to say nothing about 'literacy' itself and how it might be seen as far more than a simple set of skills to use in the 'breaking of code'.

So graduates will be framed as deficit and the solution will be to give them the requisit knowledge and skills they need to pass on to students. Teachers as technicians.

So teacher educators will be the real culprits. Cavalier new age radicals under the influence of left-wing ideology and passe post-modernism.

The stage is being set and the terms of the debate are being layed. What are we going to do about it?

'Don't think of an elephant'


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Computer and video games as a family literacy event

The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia has released a study that has found parents are spending more time with their children playing computer games.

The report is apparently 'independent', and authored by Dr Jeffrey Brand, director of the centre for new media research and education at Bond University. IEAA members include, Microsoft, Sony, Eidos, EA games, Atari, and Activision.

I haven't read the report yet, but you can get a copy here.


Can one write love poetry in txt?

This is worth a look. A study at Cambridge has found that young people's writing skills have not, as some continue to say, fallen, in fact they seem to have improved.

(From The Australian) Despite this, a two-year study by Cambridge University found that today's teenagers are using far more complex sentence structures, a wider vocabulary and a more accurate use of capital letters, punctuation and spelling. The quality of writing has also improved, said Alf Massey, head of evaluation at Cambridge Assessment, the department of Cambridge University that carried out the study.
What is really interesting is that this same article, by the same author, also appeared in The Times but with a rather different focus. It seems as though The Times has no problem forgrounding the the positive results of the study, but The Australian cannot allow itself (or our English teachers and young people) a moment of respite from its self-proclaimed campaign to champion and defend the traditions and values which are being eroded day by day in schools across the nation. I guess we should be grateful for the 'ideologically neutral' high ground The Australian always takes. Here is a selection from The Times.

Teenagers are ten times more likely to use non-standard English in written exams than in 1980, using colloquial words, informal phrases and text-messaging shorthand — such as m8 for ‘mate’, 2 instead of ‘too’ and u for ‘you’.

Despite this, the two-year study found that today’s teenagers are using far more complex sentence structures, a wider vocabulary and a more accurate use of capital letters, punctuation and spelling.

The study used samples from thousands of English language examinations sat by 16-year-olds in 1980, 1993, 1994 and 2004. Mr Massey compared students’ general written ability to express themselves accurately and clearly through a range of grammatical structures.

Vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and grammatical adequacy were then looked at.

He said: “The quality of many features of writing by school leavers has improved over the past decade.”