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Links for June 11th 2008

Interesting links for June 8th 2008 through June 11th 2008:

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Videogames, Storytelling and Sex … all in 10 minute animated lectures!

Thanks to Boing Boing, I’ve just discovered two excellent animated mini-lectures from Daniel Floyd looking at story-telling and sex in videogames. The first one argues that videogames have an extremely exciting potential to be story-telling spaces, but that potential is rarely fulfilled and, at present, is largely discouraged by game distributors:

The second animated min-lecture is sure to prove a little controversial as it argues that in order to be taken seriously as an artistic medium, videogames need to have more sex in them. Floyd isn’t arguing for more sensationalised and sleazy games, but in contrast points out that every notable artistic medium is full of explorations of sexuality. If videogames normalised sex as part of character development and stopped using extremely large-breasted women killing things as a marketing tool, then sex would become part of the fabric of games, normalised not demonised (Floyd also reminds us that many gamers are adults; he’s not suggesting sex has to be part of all games):

I really like these videos: they’re an accessible and entertaining entry point for thinking about some big concepts in relation to videogames and they’re creative ways of engaging students on a topic beyond the traditional lecture style.

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Links for May 27th 2008

Interesting links for May 25th 2008 through May 27th 2008:

  • Death knell for television as we know it [The Age] – “Japanese television technology that will give viewers access to high-speed broadcasts over the internet could render conventional television obsolete and transform the media landscape within years, analysts have predicted.”
  • Owning the Clouds [how now, brownpau?] – A worrying look at the way Google’s copyright takedown system favours big media over amateur production by letting derivative works (initially) send takedown notices to the original authors!
  • HSC students to get Wikipedia course [The Age] – In an Australian first, NSW HSC students will from next year be able to take a course in studying Wikipedia, the online collaborative encyclopedia. Wikipedia,… has been listed by the NSW Board of Studies as prescribed text for an elective course…”
  • Joss Whedon Fans Jump the Gun [NewTeeVee] – “Perhaps still smarting from their precious Firefly being killed off so soon, Joss Whedon fans are already mobilizing to save his next show, Dollhouse? before the first episode airs.”
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Links for May 23rd 2008

Interesting links for May 23rd 2008:

  • Lessons From the Class Blog [zigzigger] – Reflections on 4 semesters of teaching with a class blog in a media course. Some useful observations about how much students blog, ideas about assessing blogs and whether ‘forced’ comments are of any use.
  • Star Wars Kid: The Data Dump [Waxy.org] – Andy Baio takes a very in depth look at the Star Wars Kid meme (that he named, hosted and shared) from 2003, complete with very, very detailed stats and a look at the media coverage SWK got.
  • Cash will buy clone of man’s best friend [PerthNow] – “A US biotech company will clone dogs for the five highest bidders in a series of online auctions, in a move condemned by some ethicists who fear it could lead to human clones.” (Hello ‘RePet’ from The Sixth Day!)
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From YouTube to UniTube?

It would appear that the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has the dubious honours of being the first Australian university to have their own YouTube channel.  In the past couple of months, there have been a number of reports of US universities setting up on YouTube.  For example, this article from News.com on UC Berkeley’s channel:

YouTube is now an important teaching tool at UC Berkeley.

The school announced on Wednesday that it has begun posting entire course lectures on the Web’s No.1 video-sharing site.

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at youtube.com/ucberkeley.

Berkeley said it will continue to expand the offering. The topics of study found on YouTube included chemistry, physics, biology and even a lecture on search-engine technology given in 2005 by Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

“UC Berkeley on YouTube will provide a public window into university life, academics, events and athletics, which will build on our rich tradition of open educational content for the larger community,” said Christina Maslach, UC Berkeley’s vice provost for undergraduate education in a statement.

Similarly excited press has greeted other US universities, this article on the University of Southern California’s channel (Via).  However, the I think educational administrator and web 2.0 aficionado Greg Whitby notes probably wins the most excited prize for his take on the UNSW channel (Via):

While it’s a great marketing strategy, it recognises where today’s students are.  Although the channel will broadcast some lecturers in an attempt to reach potential students, it captures the ubquitous nature and popularity of Web 2.0.  

This is the democratisation of knowledge – no longer contained within lecture theatres or classrooms but shared.  Learning becomes accessible, anywhere, anytime.  Transportable, transparent, relevant and exciting.

The University of NSW is to be applauded but we still lag behind.  iTunes has developed a store dedicated to education called University.  It’s ‘the campus that never sleeps’ –  allowing universities across the US to upload audio/video lectures, interviews, debates, presentations for students – any age, anywhere.  And it’s free. It’s astounding and exciting to think that a cohort of students and teachers from a school western Sydney can watch a biology lecture from MIT. 

The challenge for us is to open our K-12 classrooms to a new audience – to share knowledge as professionals and to showcase quality learning and teaching as we move from isolated classrooms to a connected global learning environment.

Readers of any of my blogs will know I’m also an advocate for integrating certain web 2.0 tools into learning and teaching.  However, these announcements seem oddly familiar to me – it’s just like the press that came out as pretty much every university in the world embraced podcasting one after another, each pushing out press releases about embracing the future.  However, what didn’t happen half as readily was the pedagogical discussion about how podcasting should or could be used in education.  Nor, I have to say, are we seeing much interrogation of the use of online video via YouTube or other services.  Let me be clear: there is certainly value in using YouTube in particular ways in education.  However, as I argued about podcasting in the past, it’s probably more important to focus on working out new ways to engage students (such as having them create content for podcasting or to post on YouTube) rather than primarily just replicating the top-down structures of lecture delivery. (I don’t have a problem with recorded lectures, I should add, I just don’t think that’s all we should worry about.)

It’s also worth keeping in mind that YouTube is a two-way street as demonstrated by clips of teachers at their worst appearing on YouTube.

[Cross-posted from my eLearning blog.]

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Learning Futures: Day Two Insights

Insight #3: If ePortfolios and other forms of electronic presence are going to be (or are) a core part of the way graduates ‘sell’ themselves to employers, then identity management needs to be taught at all levels of education.  Identity management includes those aspects of identity which we intend employers to see, and those we don’t want seen.  If a basic search online for someone’s full name reveals drunken party pictures on Flickr or YouTube clips of bullying antics in their youth, then that is just as likely to be viewed by employers as the intended ePortfolios or other material.  Identity management clearly is something of a challenge, especially as many educators aren’t fully aware of how much students can put online (or how to temper that), but the Internet never forgets and we need students to be able to understand that for all sorts of reasons, and future employability is clearly one of them.

Insight #4:The unconference model only works when all the participants have a strong sense of what they are intending to pull apart or critique in advance.  If half of a conference is populated by people trying to get a basic understanding of something – in this case Web 2.0 – then the unconference model of primarily relying on informed participants leading all the conference sessions themselves, directed by their conversations and thinking, to the exclusion of traditional papers or presentations, is doomed to disappoint a lot of people attending that form of conference.  (This, incidentally, is not a personal gripe, but a clearly articulated sense from a number of my fellow conference delegates).

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Learning Futures: Day One Insights

I’m at the Learning Futures Symposium today and tomorrow.  I’m not blogging summaries of sessions because, to be fair, that’s often quite dull.  However, I thought I’d take the opportunity to take the conference discussions to springboard some observations or thoughts that occurred during these interactions…

Insight #1: There is a reasonable amount of critical distance in terms of the ‘digital natives/digital immigrants’ rhetoric, but the same critical perspective doesn’t stretch to critiquing the idea of ‘web 2.0’.  Whereas ideas which supposedly encompass an entire generation are easy enough to pull apart, many educators seem wary of software and claims made about software as they acutely feel that this is one of the few areas in which students know more about this area than they do.  I suspect that if the same educators were dipping their toes in a little more they’d realise something commonsensical which seems to have entirely escaped these kind of conversations: that while there are many types of web 2.0 software, there are generic skills to be found in using these tools and platforms.  The reason that people can move from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook so easily, for example, is that at a basic level there is a lot of similarity between the way these platforms operate and the skills needed to use them.  Sure, the rate of new names of software can be overwhelming, but if we remember that a large section of the skills learnt using one social software platform are viable for the next, super-duper, upcoming must-have web 2.0 tool are transferable, that makes taking the time to learn and teach them a whole lot more important and palatable.  And social software platforms are just one example; skills in blogging, using wikis and many other forms of ‘web 2.0’ tools are similarly transferable and, at some level, generic.  Perhaps we should be focusing more on what those skills are.

Insight #2: Often the people in the driving position for educational policy aren’t confident to make decisions about ICT – nor should they be!

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US Tweens and Teens Talk Education while participating in Online Social Networks

JD Lasica points to an interesting new report from the US National School Boards Association entitled Creating & Connecting /Research and Guidelines on Online Social — and Educational — Networking.  The report focusing on ‘tweens’ and teens, and has some really important notes about the role of social networking in forming learning communities and even casual connections between online presence and learning.

As this graph shows, more than half US tweens and teens have discussed education in online social networking:


Likewise, many tweens and teens are not just discussing and downloading, but also creating, uploading and participating in creative projects: 


Again we are reminded that education in the twenty-first century has to think about the digital literacies of students and how to allow those literacies to develop in our curricula.

[Cross-posted from my eLearning blog.]

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Australian Politicians … editing Wikipedia and spending big on redundant Internet filters

(I’m back in Perth, and …) All over the world the WikiScanner has been uncovering interesting trails and tails of previously unnamed Wikipedia editors.  PerthNow quickly jumped on the bandwagon and discovered the the Office of Australia’s Prime Minister has been busy:

The Prime Minister’s staff has been editing Wikipedia to remove details that might be damaging to the Government in the lead-up to the election. Staff in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have made 126 edits on subjects ranging from the children overboard affair to the Treasurer Peter Costello, Fairfax reports.

So, too, has Australia’s Department of Defense, although they’ve gone into Wiki lockdown while the Department figures out exactly who was changing what (or working out how to spin that story, at any rate).  The PM’s office have supposedly launched an internal inquiry, but I’m sure any interesting findings (whatever that might entail) won’t quite surface until the 07 elections are done, anyway!

At the same time, the long-awaited Federally-funded  NetAlert website, which is supposed to educate and arm parents, children and teachers to the dangers of life in a networked culture, has finally been released.  Sadly, though, the keystone of NetAlert are free family internet filters, which have been poorly received and for the most part, don’t appear to work.

PS Running WikiScanner past the University of Western Australia IP Address is far less exciting; there is one big Portishead fan, a few rants about masturbation, but that’s the juiciest we’ve got!

Update: Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer takes the cake with his thoughts on Wikipedia:

“My sort of recollection of Wikipedia sites is they are a bit, sort of, a bit anti-government, they are sort of a bit negative about people in the government,” Mr Downer said today. “That is my recollection of them, so maybe we should fire people up to edit them – but I know they have editorial control at Wikipedia so it probably wouldn’t help.”

It’s such a delight to have such informed politicians leading this country. *sigh*

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Powerpoint: Learning through Laughing

Using PowerPoint poorly is probably one of the most common sins of academics in the early twenty-first century. Being told how to make slides properly is useful, but so is an eloquent example of bad slides. Thus, comedian Don McMillan makes all of our lives a little easier, as he demonstrates powerpointlessness in his stand-up routine. Check it out:

Life After Death by PowerPoint

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Perhaps this should be mandatory viewing for all teachers?

[Via and Via]

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