Monday, October 31, 2005

Games as environments and systems

An interesting piece on gaming.

Many games take the player through some kind of narrative arc, but I think, in general, storytelling is one of the least interesting things about gaming. The great majority of gamers, I suspect, engage because they want to figure out how the system of the game works, or because they want to explore the space the game represents.

Banal narratives and one-dimensional characters sounds like a critique, but only if you are starting with the criteria we use for novels or films. But if you think about games as closer to architecture or environmental art, then it doesn't seem like such a failing. They are - first and foremost - environments and systems, not stories.

All the complex simulation games are, in effect, animated theories of how a society works, whether it is ancient Rome or a modern metropolis. You learn the theory by playing.


Maths teachers are failing too!

The poor old maths teachers are now coping some shtick. We could say they've been kevin'd!

Here is a quick linguistic analysis of Donnelly's article and it's helpful binaries.

(1)'Bad' / (2)'good'
  • 'Outcomes based education' / 'Syllabus' documents

  • 'Student centred', 'inquiry learning' / 'Direct instruction'

  • Teachers 'facilitate' / Teachers 'teach'

  • 'Standards have fallen' / 'master the basics'

  • 'substandard curriculum documents' / 'the importance of explicit and content based approaches'

  • 'highly variable and frequently weak' / 'mental arithmetic'

  • and my personal favorites ...

  • 'nonsense' / sense

  • 'trendy educators' / untrendy educators?

  • 'ideology driven' / 'commonsense'

While these binaries are great rhetoric, they don't move the conversations very far forward. Teachers, lawyers, nurses, bank managers, flight attendants, etc etc whoever, rarely work in black and white. This kind of treatment of the issue begins to sound simplistic and unrealistic.

It's also interesting that he refers to the latest interest over English (the VCE draft study design, 'critical literacy' etc) as a 'debate'. To this point it has seemed like a fairly narrow, one-sided debate. Where is the rigour and close attention to 'detail' and wide ranging debate in their own work that commentators like Donnelly continually call for in our students and curriculum documents?

It's is a little too easy to be a little to easy with the criticism.

It's much harder to try much harder to have a real 'debate'.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

School orders students to remove blogs

Teaching responsible and ethical use of blogs and other online communication is an interesting issue. This article represents one popular reaction. Also mentioned in the article is, I think, a more widespread response - ignore it and it will go away.

Here is yet another position,
Kurt Opsahl of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which champions the rights of bloggers, said there had been several attempts by private institutions elsewhere to restrict or censor students' internet postings.

"But this is the first time we've heard of such an over-reaction," he said. "It would be better if they taught students what they should and shouldn't do online rather than take away the primary communication tool of their generation."
Are blogs 'the primary communication tool of [the younger] generation'? That is a big claim.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Literacy lagging behind?

Donnelly, Donnelly, Donnelly!

It seems to me that the more Kevin, and others on the same wavelength, rail against schools, teachers and ENGLISH teaching, the more their arguments seem a caricature of themselves rather than something intelligible and worth any serious consideration. Although that remains the chief challenge - finding a way to intelligently and senstively resist what is generally populist and 'bludgeon' rhetoric.

I have more and more confidence that most people who are interested in schooling, education and young people, give little time to these comings and goings. Most people realise we don't live in the 1960s anymore. Most people know that things are a little more complicated than these pundits continue to make out. The challenge is finding a way to set the terms of the debate rather than always being reactive.

Problem is that 'proactive' news rarely sells newspapers.


Monday, October 17, 2005

Report finds teachers in tech gap

A technology-learning study conducted in WA with early childhood teachers has found some fairly typical results.


Generation Lite or generation hype?

Here is Baden Eunson's opinion of the proposed draft VCE English Study Design. Depressing stuff. This is not a vision of English teaching that I would necessarily share.

Of English curriculum in the past (specificially the 1960s) Eunson says,
While the quality was not always high, the quantity was, and the system produced generations of people who could spell, had a wide vocabulary and could construct and punctuate grammatical sentences.

Is this what English teaching is designed to do? What other functions might VCE English serve? Can we imagine a VCE English course that is not exclusively designed as 'Pre-tertiary English'?

I must say that I also believe it is important to be able to do the things that Eunson identifies. But I don't believe that these things should be the staple of an English course.

Interestingly enough, Eunson closes with what sounds like hope tinged with nostalga (at least he is offering a suggestion that seems reasonable)
It is not only possible but highly desirable to go back to the future by building on curriculum models of 40 years ago and make them relevant, interesting, motivating and enriching for students of the 21st century.

(those watching this blog closely(!) will notice that this post has been changed to reflect a more considered position - I must thank Baden himself for prompting this rewrite!)


Friday, October 14, 2005

journal of what?

I love using journal alerts. Great way to keep on top of stuff without having to go looking every month. You can have a crap load of journals sending contents pages to you!

The other reason I love it is for the weird ass stuff that I just cannot work out. Check this article title from the latest edition of 'Human-Computer Interaction' vol 20, no 3.

"Exploring the Functional Specifications of a Localized Wayfinding Verbal Aid for Blind Pedestrians: Simple and Structured Urban Areas"

Now can someone tell me what a 'localized wayfinding verbal aid for blind pedestrians' is?

Now there are discourses and there are Discourses.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Watchdog calls for shake-up in English

No not Australian, but British. Good to get another perspective now and again. It looks as though the poor brits are being pushed the same way we have with the VELS/ELS, New Basics stuff. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has released a 'Futures' paper reflecting on the nature of schooling and current curriculum modes.

Perhaps compared the the National Literacy Strategy this rhetoric seems welcome? What say the brits?

There are also a series of 'think peices' tied to the same 'futures' thinking, written by some interesting people. Among them such luminaries as Angela McFarlane, 'Assessment for the digital age' and Cary Bazalgette, 'Literacy and the media'.

Also looks like professional teaching standards are catching on there too. And opportunities to comment on the draft standards are being advertised in the National papers! How bizarre! Check out the 'professional threshold standards' categories: 'Senior teacher' (right that one is an oldie), 'Advanced skills teacher' (yep, that one's been used before too) and wait for it ... 'Excellent teacher'.

Ummm ... ?


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Steve Johnson on Web 2.0

Thanks to Colin for this article. I'll have to get some of Steve's books.


Monday, October 10, 2005

A state of decay?

School buildings in decay? Learning environments or holes for student oppression? Another beat up or something more?

My experience of state schools certainly fits with much of this. In fact is seems to me that governments can get away with this kind of crap first because it's really expensive (I'm sure they could spend the entire state budget on school works and not finish the job) and second because schools are for YOUNG PEOPLE and YOUNG PEOPLE don't VOTE (ie they don't really matter in terms of government expenditures and vote buying - which is what government spending is about - let's get serious).

Do you think that if parents and adults had to spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year in squalor that there would be silence and aquiescence about the state of public school facilities?

mmm ...

(do you need more time on this one?)

We should remember that many independent and Catholic schools face similar problems, and that some government schools are much better off than all of them (a state school near to where I taught last year received in excess of 10 million bucks to upgrade some facilities, new middle/junior school etc - this particualr school is a 'show piece' school though and has recieved probably twice that amount over the last 10 years for various programs to ensure the government has a couple of schools to show to the public).

What is your school like?

(there is the editorial same paper)


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ideology blackens schooling research?

Professor Moe, Stanford University political scientist, whose 'market-based' research has inspired the "school choice" movement in the USA, says that while educational research is often clouded by ideology, that his own research is not - it's just research and has nothing to do with ideology.

Oh, I see.

Thanks, Professor.


Time for teachers to talk the iPod talk?

This article mentions a recent report called 'Emerging Technologies', published by the Department of Education and Training in the ACT. Written by people at limited.

There is also an interesting report published by the LSDA and Ultralab in the UK, called 'The use of computer and videoo games for learning'.



Saturday, October 01, 2005

You can lead kids to authors, but you can't make them think

Thank goodness for restraint in the face of frenzy and unashamed stupidity. I love this man's mind. Thanks, Chris.