Saturday, April 29, 2006

London calling ...

It's been much harder keeping up online activities while travelling than I originally thought. Despite the rhetorica about growing wifi access in airports and the like, I've not had much luck. This includes those networks I've tried to hack and piggy back on. I've tried to avoid internet cafe type stuff just cause I've wanted to try and so things on the cheap or be a little more inventive.

So I've just spent two fantastic, glorious weeks in central Italy (Prato, Firenze/Florence and Roma) and yesterday E and I flew into the mess that is London's Heathrow. We grabbed a car and then drove to Luton aeroporto on London's outskirts to pick up Kent and Liz (my brother and sister-in-law). We then drove up to the Wirrel penninsula/Chester area, near Liverpool, to see some family. It's really beautiful here - looking arcoss the esturary to Nothern Wales just makes me want to stay here. 250 miles took 6 hours! UK roads are dodgy but fun (people drive so much faster here!)

Anyway, we'll stay here for a few days and then head further north. E's dad's family are from Scotland (around Stirling) so we'll spend a day in the area and then drive back to London through East Anglia/Suffolk. I'm meeting with Kate Pahl and Carey Jewitt next Wednesday. I need to do some writing before then so I have something semi-intelligent to talk about.

Pictures later. More on Italy later too.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Homing in on the human element?

Now this would be an interesting job.

Homing in on the human element


Monday, April 03, 2006

ASFLA Armidale

Here is the abstract I've just submitted to the Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association Conference 2006. This year it's in Armidale, NSW. Cross the fingers and hope for the best. It's not great, but it's something. Plenty of interesting people, including the young Angela Thomas (aka anya), who I've been wanting to meet for ages.

Using digital technologies for literacy across school, home and community: five case studies

Recent educational policy and curriculum debates have focused on a range of issues at the intersection of new technologies, young people and learning (eg Sefton-Green 1998; Marsh & Millard 2005). These debates raise questions about young people’s changing practices, the future of formal schooling and the changing social, cultural and economic conditions young people might meet in their varied futures. Within this broader context, this paper reports on the preliminary findings of a study investigating the connections between young people’s practices around digital technologies across school, home and community settings. The study is particularly interested in the implications of young people’s social and cultural practices for language and literacy learning and teaching in secondary schools. Ethnographically oriented case studies of five young people from five contrasting schools in Melbourne are examined from a New Literacy Studies perspective (Street 1984; Gee 1996; Pahl & Rowsell 2005) to understand: a) what technologies these young people are using and the spaces where use takes place, and b) how these different uses might be understood productively as social and cultural practices. The case studies promise insights into the everyday lives of young people in terms of their language learning, shifting identities and changing group memberships. The case studies also illustrate the kinds of pressures operating on teachers and schools through policy and in discourses about ‘changing times’.

As I'm sure you can see, I'm a beginner at his game ...

Reviewing what?

VATE has an annual organisational 'review day' where some meaty issues are nominated for extended discussion and reflection. It's held on a Saturday and provides an opportunity to get to some of those issues that are vitally important but not always urgent. With the amount of work that VATE does throughout the year some things, often the bigger picture issues to do with the wider educational policy environment, tend to get sidelined.

But getting issues on the agenda is tricky (and rather political). It takes time and 'lobbying' of a sort to ensure you have the numbers and clout. This year the main issue was 'tailor-made' professional development (as some around the table have been calling it). This is not a name that I fancy, but I guess it does suggest in part what the concept is on about.

The professional development situation is a complex and changing one. There was a time when VATE was happy to provide typical one-shot PD 'innoculations' (my term not VATE's). Some of those involved still prefer this model. I tend to think that it's rather deficit though and would love to see other things offered - ie more collaborative, over time models of learning. Of course one-shot workshops, or conferences, or PD sessions are useful for somethings, but they are obviously not the best and most powerful form of teacher learning.

The difficulty is finding a balance.

So much of the day was eaten up in discussing the finer points of how to rethink the way that VATE offers PD. School money for teacher learning is becoming more and more difficult to come by, bespite government rhetoric about 'teacher quality' and supporting professionalism and continual learning and all the other hollow platitudes. Increasingly, 'teacher learning opportunities' are becoming tied to school improvement goals. If the PD isn't seen as contributing to the teacher's ability to assist the school in achieving it's aims and goals, then the PD is not encouraged and at worst not supported (ie the teacher is not paid for or is not given time release from teaching or other duties). Rather than professionals encouraged to engage in the kinds of learning they think will help them improve their work, decisions abou what is best for students and the school and the teacher are made by administrators and others.

Tailor-made PD needs to be understood in this context. Although it's not as bleak as I paint here - there is another side to the story of course. The idea behind tailor made is to give teachers and English faculties the option of getting what they want, when and how. An English Coordinator sees a need in the faculty and asks VATE to help do something about it. Something is drawn up, people consulted and workshops run.

In many ways it's a positive step. A kind of half-way measure.

The rest of review day was excellent. I'm not going to write much about it, but Catherine Beavis and Chris Walsh spoke. Here is a paper that Catherine gave at DIGRA in 2005.