Saturday, August 16, 2014

Farewell to Jack Shallcrass: a splendid man who led an inspired and inspiring life

From friends in New Zealand comes the sad news of Jack Shallcrass's death. Well into his 90s at his passing, Jack will be remembered as among New Zealand's most inspired and inspiring humanist educators. A lover of fine arts and fine music, indeed, of creative endeavour in any form, Jack advocated ceaselessly throughout a very long and active career and retirement for the deepest values of liberal expansiveness. He championed the abiding worth of human imagination turned to constructive visions and purposes. He treasured open-ended pursuit of positive alternatives and would have defended to the death opportunities for exploration, experimentation, and the pursuit of varied forms of life and living consistent with human beings becoming the most and best that they might become. Jack had strong personal commitments but was forever tolerant of alternative opinions that were not hostile to human wellbeing, whatever forms that wellbeing might take. In short, he was the kind of person the world most needs right now, although we need such people at all times and in all periods. His spirit was kind and generous to a fault and I loved and respected him dearly.

On my trip back to New Zealand last year to catch up with folk I wanted to be sure of seeing again I had the pleasure of a memorable afternoon with Jack and Barbara. We talked and talked and I left them with some of my hand made Mexican coffee. We had a wee 'photo session', which means that when I am at home I see Jack's image every day.

Even though I only met Jack near the end of his professional career he gave me a degree and quality of support in my academic and public life that would suffice for several lifetimes. He gave far more than could possibly be hoped – let alone, expected – of anyone. And I treasured that support all the more because I knew that Jack would not necessarily agree with all the details of some of my commitments at the time.

In some typical cases, Jack used his “School” column in the New Zealand Listener to support academic and public work I was involved in during the late 80s. When Literacy, Schooling and Revolution was published, in 1987, Jack flew up to Auckland to launch the book. He never missed a beat, getting right into the heart of the book and developing themes and lines of argument that made the book sound way better than it was. He picked up some of these themes in a “School” column and then went even further in another piece. The book contained a core chapter on the approach to literacy taken in Nicaragua during the Sandinista period. At that time, with many wonderful peers and colleagues, I was involved in raising money for health, literacy, community development, and women-oriented projects in Nicaragua. Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson, among others, had worked behind the scenes to ensure our Nicaragua Support Committee received a 3-to-1 subsidy for monies raised. When Jack learned of these efforts he devoted a “School” column to publicising the fact, supporting it with the claim that it was “a brave cause”. One of the first cheques to come in was for $1000 from an elderly woman in Wellington. The subsidy made that worth $4000, enough to build a health centre. The esteem in which Jack was held publicly made that kind of thing possible, and I know there will be many people who will be able to recount similar experiences.

The kind of cloth from which Jack was cut is, inevitably, in short supply; so short they only made one of him. He lived well, shone like a beacon, inspired many, and will be deeply missed. In the course of a privileged life I count among the highest privileges I have enjoyed the fact that I knew Jack and that we 'connected'.

Rest in peace, Jack, you fought the good fight and, in doing so, you did us all proud.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Setting up Chromecast outside North America

This is really for my own backup, in case the Chromecast dongle waiting for me in New Jersey fails to set up properly for use in Mexico.

There was all this hoo hah about not being able to use this wonderful resourse outside the US, but the ways around the apparent impediment are wonderfully easy.

Here are two ways:


This is a wonderful use of Dropbox.

2. The second is easy as well. If you have a Chromecast compatible device and have it registered to the Google Playstore you can just google search "chromecast app apk file" on your computer and download the apk file. It will automatically bring up a dialogue box identifying your compatible devices and send it to them automatically next time they are activated. A nice link for this route is:!topic/chromebook-central/iGcydehSHRo

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Imagination wanted: mobile devices in classrooms

Most days I check out the homeland -- not as in 'security' -- by going over to the New Zealand Herald website to see if there is anything more interesting going on than the latest instance of Prime Minister John Key's shameless populism and principles-free opportunism.

Sometimes I get lucky.

This past week brought an opinion piece by Shelley Bridgeman, who specialises in commenting on 'injustices', 'bad behaviour', and 'modern day dilemmas'.

Her recent post was on the rampant introduction of iPad tablets into NZ schools. She first started worrying about this in 2011 when her daughter announced that their school would be going down this track -- surprise, surprise. Says Shelley, "It quickly became clear that this iPad craze was taking hold and it was only a matter of time before they were in every classroom in every school".

Her concern -- which is fair enough -- was with health. What do we know about the fallout from all those wireless waves in the air. How dangerous is it for children to be so much in wireless wave-charged environments? She did her homework and got the usual responses, and wished she'd had the information about wifi not being a safety issue before troubling the patient people at the laboratory labs.

As I say, fair enough. But to my mind the issue is actually very very different from the question of safety around wifi. Rather, it is to be found tacitly lurking in her reference to "this iPad craze ... taking hold". In my view, Shelley's concern would have been much better addressed to the issue of the moribund kind of imagination at play when policy types, administrators, principals, teachers, school boards, and the local ed tech junkies follow the hype pumped at them by the nearest Apple huckster. It parallels the kind of moribund imagination evident in so much current educational research. "Eeeeep, I need a research project. What can I do? Oh, I could look at iPads in classrooms .... (and replicate all the other results that show children love using them and enjoy the apps, and ......)"

For sure I 'get' the short term 'convenience' that such fad-following generates. It's something that can be done, that makes it look like we are on the job and, best of all, that might somehow be able to be correlated with improvements on standardised test scores (though no such evidence that I know of has tracked out yet -- although if it did it would be a deliciously ironic achievement for an alleged 'smart machine'.

Nah, what we see here is pretty much a reflection of the fact that if you asked people at large to give the brand name of a tablet the one most likely to be given is "iPad". That bespeaks absolutely nothing about imagination, smart use, a propensity for inquiry and looking beyond the obvious.

And so, in education, we end up with exactly what you'd expect to get. Not much for a lot of money.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why literature is not data, and the significance of this

Many thanks to cj for sending through the link to this wonderful piece on the theme of literature not being data.

It's the kind of piece which, during times preceding the neoliberally rationalised university that has quickly evolved to the form today's algorithmic university, might have provided the catalyst for a semester-long class; a class in which participants, reading slowly, carefully, and with an historical imagination, could have pursued some heady themes in the kind of depth required by minds in the process of being educated.

I miss those times, more and more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Job opening for Director, Center for Learning Technologies, Montclair Sate University (New Jersey, USA)

More about the job:

Job description:
The mission of the ADP Center at Montclair state University (New Jersey, USA)) is to provide faculty, professionals and students in Education and Human Services with an interactive laboratory, showplace, and incubator for innovative educational technologies and a hub for trans-disciplinary research.  The ADP Center gives particular attention to fostering an appreciation for technology as a practice to improve issues of social justice across disciplinary fields. 
The Center is a College-wide resource that fosters collaborative partnerships among faculty and external partners by providing expert guidance and assistance on using technology in support of teaching and research. The Director works with faculty to plan, design, develop and integrate technology to address their teaching and research objectives. S/he provides a broad range of programs and services including educational and research technology planning, implementation of technology services that advance education and scholarship, and supports the development and delivery of high-quality online courses and programs in the College. In addition, s/he sponsors educational events for faculty on teaching and researching with technology and provide consultation services on instructional design, and research methods involving technology.

The Director reports to the Dean of the College of Education and Human Services (CEHS) and is responsible for developing, overseeing, and guiding the day-to-day operations and activities of the Center. Specific responsibilities include supporting faculty in the increased integration of technology in teaching and research in the fields represented in CEHS; creating and sustaining a management system and infrastructure to ensure the fiscal viability of the Center; providing leadership in developing structures, processes, and policies for the ADP Center; managing activities, personnel, facilities, and budgets; building relationships and partnerships with existing and potential community partners;  and collaborating with the CEHS Technology Services Office, the CEHS Director of Technology Services and Facilities Operations, and the University Office of Instructional Technology.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New book in our series: "New Creativity Paradigms"

Congratulations to Kylie Peppler on her latest book in our series (for her previous book, click here): New Creativity Paradigms: Arts Learning in the Digital Age (Peter Lang, New York, 2014; commissioned by the Wallace Foundation).

From the back cover:
Commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, this book explores research indicating that youth are learning new ways to engage in the arts on their own time and according to their own interests. Digital technologies, such as production tools and social media, allow youth to create and share their art. Kylie Peppler urges educators and policy makers to take advantage of «arts learning opportunities» and imagine a school setting where young people are driven by their own interests, using tablets, computers, and other devices to produce visual arts, music composition, dance, and design. This book gives educators an understanding of what is happening with current digital technologies and the opportunities that exist to connect to youth practice, and raises questions about why we don’t use these opportunities more frequently.
The book itself is a rich mix of theory, research and practical suggestions for classroom pedagogy. the appendices alone make this book a worthwhile buy: they list communities that support interest-driven community learning (including indicators as to whether the community or service is free or not); and apps and online platforms that support interest-driven learning. 

Contents include:

1. The Resounding Voice of Youth in a Digital Age
2. The Importance of Arts Learning
3. How Are Youths Creatively Using Digital Technology?
4. The New Digital Arts: Forms, Tools, and Practices 
5. New Media Arts, the Do-It-Yourself Movement, and the Importance of Making
6. Communities That Can Support Interest-Driven Arts Learning
7. Inviting and Sustaining Participation in the Arts
8. Challenges and Recommendations.

This is a book that's destined to find wide appeal in all sorts of education communication and media courses, not to mention proving to be useful to educators working in classrooms, after school programs, and non-profit organizations! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New book in our series: Junqueira and Buzaro's "New Literacies, New Agencies"

Loads of congratulations to Eduardo Junquiera and Marcelo Buzato for their new book in our New Literacies series titled: New Literacies, New Agencies? A Brazilan Perspective on Mindsets, Digital Practices and Tools for Social Action in and out of School (New York, Peter Lang).

From the back cover:
From students as teachers’ pets to teachers as Second Life avatars, or from being ridiculed for not knowing your syntax to ridiculing others through multimodal remixing, something has changed in the way people are acting and being acted upon through literacies. From parallel text processing «under a cloud» to text-as-process enhanced by cloud computing, or from one laptop per child to several laptops left behind by children in creative spoken interaction, learners and educators’ actions through and around texts and technologies provide quite a telling example of such changes. From writing as technology to blogging as a tool for fostering critical mindsets within complexity, or from automatized knowledge acquisition routines to new forms of relating to knowledge and new perspectives on autonomy, social ordering and Self constitutional processes defy binaries such as agent/structure, global/local, social/technical, virtual/real, or even human/non-human. In this volume a team of scholars from some of the most prestigious Brazilian universities address these issues, and illustrate them with findings from research on the interplay between new literacies, digital technologies and social action in and out-of-school. The chapters introduce, or revisit, an array of theoretical constructs from education, sociology, linguistics and media studies, while presenting a new inside perspective about how research on new literacies is being carried out in Brazil. Altogether, they provide a very useful set of ideas, tools and analytical frameworks for researchers, teachers, and students of Education, Language and Arts and Communication worldwide, especially those concerned with technology-enhanced education and social inclusion.

 Contents include:

  1. Eduardo S. Junqueira/Marcelo El Khouri Buzato: New Literacies in the Context of Brazilian Historical Social-economic Inequality: Past, Present, and Future Trends 
  2. Marcelo El Khouri Buzato: Mapping Flows of Agency in New Literacies: Self and Social Structure in a Post-social World
  3. Eduardo S. Junqueira: Peer-based Work and Agency in the School Computer Lab: Learning New Literacies as a Collective Practice
  4. Vilson J. Leffa: Distributed Agency in Avatar-based Learning
  5. Luiz Fernando Gomes: If You Can’t Play, Don’t Come Down to the Playground! Agency in Brazilian Humor: Parody and Verb-visual Remix
  6. Ana Elisa Ribeiro/Carla Viana Coscarelli: Agency, Collaborative Writing, and NTICs: A Brief Analysis of Three Cases of Textual Production Using Google Docs
  7. Walkyria Monte Mór: The Development of Agency in a New Literacies Proposal for Teacher Education in Brazil
  8. Edméa Oliveira dos Santos/Tatiana Stofella Sodré Rossini: Interactivity, Agency, and Mediation in 3D Virtual Worlds
  9. Marcelo El Khouri Buzato/Eduardo S. Junqueira: Afterword: Brazil Meets Brasil: Being, Communicating, and Learning in Times of Change.

This is a wonderful summary of a range of initiatives in Brazil associated with digitising classroom learning and an excellent introduction to English-language speakers to the important work currently underway in Brazil in relation to new literacies and digital technologies. Congratulations all 'round to Eduardo and Marcelo!

El Profe 2.0!

Kudy Kalman, Irán Guerrero and Óscar Hernández, from the Laboratorio de Educación, Tecnología y Sociedad (LETS), have a new book out together titled, El Profe 2.0: La Construcciónde Actividades de Aprendizaje con Tecnologíasde la Información,la Comunicación y el Diseño (trans.: Teacher 2.0: Constructing learning activities with information, communication and design technologies). The book, written in Spanish and published in Mexico, is aimed at teachers and contains an abundance of suggestions for incorporating all kinds of digital literacies into a range of classrooms. The book is chock full of really grounded, pragmatic examples of teachers actually engaging in suggested processes and activities, and how these play out in real-world classroom contexts. These actual cases are drawn from a four-year professional development project working directly with a group of teachers in Mexican middle and high schools that has been headed up by Judy Kalman, and on which both Irán and Óscar were key investigators.

The book is written from an explicitly sociocultural orientation, and as such, grounds suggestions in a deep understanding of the everyday life of teachers and students. It doesn’t idealise classrooms and focuses very much on using freely available digital tools and services to leverage curriculum demands into something satisfying and valuable for teachers and students alike. Within this book, it’s apparent that a “Profe 2.0” is:
a teacher who understands and is in touch with how everyday people are using digital technologies to access meaningful content and ideas; finding, storing and sharing digital resources (e.g., images, videos, texts, sounds); and how affordable software and devices mean more and more that people are creating their own media and ways of conveying ideas and information. A Profe 2.0 recognises the value to be had in working collaboratively, in making room for peer feedback and accessing multiple sources of distributed intelligence and expertise, and blurring the teacher-student distinction in order to recognize everyone in the classroom as a learner and a someone with valuable contributions to make to any learning activity. All of the recommended pedagogical strategies and classroom activities described in this book tap directly into these principles and make the most of sociocultural understandings of what it means to learn, “be” and “do” online in current times.” (from the foreword).

This is a marvellous book for educators working with teachers to develop their digital literacy take-up in classrooms, and who and need a resource in Spanish. Oh, and I (Michele), wrote the Foreword, so I know first hand just how good this book is!

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