Monday, December 7, 2009

De chilldran kanst nut reed!!!

I see the merit of Bauerlein's perspective. I really do. The numbers and test scores are alarming, the lack of reading among youths is troubling, and the fact that some folks dismiss these worries so easily is puzzling to say the least. But decrying the technologies that youths have access to is not useful. While I don't agree with a lot of Prensky's work, I do acknowledge that technologies that we have today is here to stay. There is no recourse but to contend with it.

We know youths love netspeak and shortening everything under the sun. Liek, hu dun noe dis? C'est terribad. But it's here and it's a reality. My gut reaction to this is to highlight to youths that they are never alone on the internet. There is always an audience and nothing is ever private, even if they think so. Knowing that the audience is ever present, and at the same time, encouraging the flourish of prosumer identities is probably the few ways that educators can let youths realize the importance of literacy. Writing for your friends is very different than writing for a wider audience. Making a video for home use and making a video for a bigger audience has very different implications. The audience is not passive - the audience can be highly critical. Creating artifacts (texts, images, etc.)is no longer the realm of adults, it's time to acknowledge youths' diverse literacy practices and let them learn to contend with ours.

On crafts and gender

So I got involved in Diane and Charlene's gig on the Dragon Math game. I don't exactly remember how, but I remember being interested in the game aspect of it. And why not, who doesn't love designing games, even if at times, the consumers revile your design and criticize everything from start to end. When we first sat down to talk about the design, however, I was quite hesitant. Both my team members were designing for princess-type children, you know, the kind that love dresses, wands and all that jazz. As a child growing up, I loathed the idea of playing the gender game. It wasn't fun being a girl, since boys in the yard expected you to cry and whine when things don't go your way.

However, Diane posited the idea that these crafts could be an entry-point for these little girls to get into programming at a young age. I could get into that so I shook off my lack of enthuasism and dove into it. In hindsight, I think that if the girls are not involved in the creation of their costumes, they won't get that you get the nice blinky lights through programming. So, I'm still wondering about the value of our project. Perhaps getting them a simple craft kit as Diane suggests would make me more amenable to it. It is immensely fun making poofy skirts, and even the sewing wasn't terribly hard. At the end of the day however, I have more questions than I do answers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reconceptualizing the arts

Hetland et al's focus on the issue of art in education is centered around the notion that there is no empirical data that proves transfer occurs. Jeff's post on this article provides a nice summary the concerns of this article, although he is unconvinced that there is a place for the arts based on their article. I would disagree to a certain extent, because the various dispositions presented in their short paper does provide a clue as to how they think skills and abilities practiced in art studios are relevant to scientific endeavors.

Unlike Hetland et al, however, I believe a simple reconceptualization of what the arts mean is in order. To merely conclude that it is simple is of course, hubris. The reconceptualization is necessary in order to answer Dewey's conundrum in his exposition of a theory of aesthetics. To Dewey, art is an act of creating and process, whereas aesthetics lends itself to indulgence and joy. Design in this sense, captures the essence of both aspects. Game designers for instance, design for a end product, or conclusion which presents "its qualities as perceived have controlled the question of production." (Dewey, 1980:48) Yves Behar, on th other hand, is a great proponent of creating products that provide experiences for users. It is no accident that his slogan is "design brings stories to life" and "life brings stories to design". Moreover, programs that combine the arts and aesthetics come together in courses offered in Parsons School of Design and Carnegie Mellon. Acknowledging that the two aspects of art and aesthetics are instrinsically related in design might signal the impact of the arts in society.

Perhaps the battle might be less about transfer or visual culture but more on the symbols and meanings of art as a cultural construct as it changes over time. Becker's (2003) presentation on the new directions of sociology of art includes the history of art from an upstream and downstream perspective. His approach touches on key aspects of why design education (or arts, if you must) is important for students. The geneology of a work of art presents to others (in the present, near and distant future) the representation of what certain members and groups in society consider as important. Virtual data arguably, has no lasting footprints due to its existence as bytes and dependency on power sources. Without the physical infrastructure and energy sources, the technologies we depend on will not exist. To put it quite dramatically, if civilization as we knew it encounters another ice age, what relics of the past will endure? Would it be mud or computers?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Computational literacy

The debate in class over computational literacy was one I really enjoyed, primarily because it represented the various views that the field has over what constitutes as necessary skills for students. One key assumption in the debate however, and the course to a certain extent, is the fact that these technologies/computers are here to stay and that we have to reckon with them.

When reading the diSessa article, I was curiously uneasy with this assumption. The article provided a broad overview and had its theoretical merits, but to a certain extent, it felt like colonization all over again. I'm not denying the benefits of technology, but the image of the torch of technology as a beacon of light that will illuminate the uncultivated, less advanced corners of the globe is unshakeable and disturbing. To this end, everyone must arm themselves with the necessary knowledge, less they be left behind. I'm left wondering why this trajectory seems to be the most viable one. Can other societies survive without a full computational revolution? Will they be relegated into peripheries and be considered "non-progressive" if they do not adopt these new technologies? Perhaps the world is getting increasingly flat as Friedman argues. However, to what extent are all societies participating? And are they participating as full members? Or are they the savages that need to be educated in order to be on the "modern progressive track"?

Friday, October 23, 2009

On the nature of chaos and order

Steve and I were talking about our upcoming presentation the other day and he offhandedly remarked, and I'm paraphrasing, "Order is good, but sometimes chaos can be just as great." I almost stopped dead in my tracks, because I thought I was a child of chaos. Ironically, someone who fought social control a greater part of her life is perpetuating control. Oh, Bourdieu would turn in his grave in disappointment. Yes, I like to pretend that he's my cool but very dead Jedi master whom I talk to once in a while.

First, let me situate Steve's perspective. I had been obssessing about the upcoming discussion like fangirls over Backstreet Boys back in their heyday. And the poor man was being inundated with spam and probably lost in my crazy attempts at organization. Now, I don't know Steve very well, but he's super cool, I adore his wife, and he's Mr. Chillax. For the uninitiated, it's Mr. Chill and relax. So, when the epitome of Chillax says "Order is good, but sometimes chaos can be just as great," I almost cried. Well, not really. But it did set me thinking.

Research, be it in literacy, new media, etc., is chaotic. For the most part, as researchers, we're often trying to pin down how best to capture data in the chaotic human world. We're trying to draw generalizations based on the empirical data that we observe. Theory, in short, is our key to making sense of the world. Moje's work on adolescent literacy for instance is ethnographic, and in my limited experience, analyzing ethnographic data can be insurmountable. But one cannot deny its usefulness as a methodological tool. In fact, the funds of theory approach mentioned in the Palinscar & Ladewski is highly useful, particularly if we are to understand how students from different cultural backgrounds have different dispositions towards the various kinds of knowledge that are available in schools. It seems as if anthropology and sociology will never release me from their disciplinary clutches. Ah, but I am a willing prisoner.

Monday, October 5, 2009

On literacy and not learning [or two disjointed thoughts]

I was trying to be a good classmate by keeping up with blogs, and I must say that I'm failing miserably. I think the tendency for me is to read the post, respond in my head and then forget to acknowledge it by forming my own comment. It's certainly easier that way, so I will take this opportunity to inform my classmates that I do make it a point to read your carefully crafted thoughts - I just don't translate my response into text. And that brings me to how we view literacy. Literacy is almost always in the form of an artifact of some sort, be it text (typograph or chirograph), images, videos, ... you get the point. But does literacy includes all that is visibly communicated? On my part, more information processing is required before I come to a definite conclusion.

[And yes, I was exercising what I learnt in class - CHIROGRAPH. For the uninitiated, that means handwriting. Wewt. I remembered. Score one. Do I win? I should really stop my stream of consciousness typing. Ahem, back to the point. And I do have a point somewhere.]

Class discussions on interactivity centered on how individuals may learn if there is deep immersion and interactivity. In my experience with MMORPGS, I can definitely say that no content learning can occur even if there is immersion and interactivity.

Now, this seems to go with flow theory on the surface and I'll get to this later. Simply put, the theory states that if a player is deeply engaged in tasks that match their ability, they experience a state of flow or intense concentration. Players feel like they have mastery over the task that they are engaged in and go through, what I call, losing time. Motivation is also intrinsic and curiosity is what drives inquiry.

Many players that I've played with arguably are focused on the goal of the activity, and very motivated to achieve their aim. Let's talk about a hypothetical player called Leet who happens to be a He IRL . Since Leet's ability does not match the task that he is engaged in, he is often frustrated because he is failing (ergo no flow). However, since he really really really wants to achieve the outcome, he asks someone to help him- let's call this player, Aweful, who is already an expert player. Arguably, Aweful should be able to help and also inform Leet how to L2P (learn to play). However, this almost always is an exercise in futility. It's like talking to a wall. So Aweful gives up and  Leet has mastered the outcome through other means. So is there no flow for Leet? There is arguably no content learning, but Leet has learnt to manipulate others to do his bidding (or maybe to end the incessant whining - hello, negative reinforcement). You've probably come across one of these people in your lifespan. You know, that kid that manages to coast through classes by hanging out with hardworking kids and tap on their expertise.

Flow theory is fantastic in explaining how personal motivation can drive learning. However, how do we account for these master strategists and the social games they play? Is this a kind *gasp* of literacy?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's new or not so new....

Flurry of activity all around surrounding our readings for this week. David had an epic piece that rivaled the works of Homer and Dante. Julie had a most insightful post on the nature of the medium (though I agreed with much of what Jenna responded with). Ying-sin spoke of interactivity and how that facet appealed to her as a representation of new media. I cackled at Steve-o's wicked references (Menna and Meffrey - too funny) - all in all, it was exhausting to keep up with the crazy people in my class. After being critted by the massive wall of text (I apologise for the gamespeak, but it's the 'new'), I wonder if it really matters. The only constant theme in human life is change. What was new will be old, and what is old sometimes becomes new (Retro mmmm).

Amidst all the discussion of new versus old, I never felt as if there was much of an issue. Perhaps the media theorists and historians will hang me for thinking so. It seems to me that the discussion seems to center around how individuals and society deal with changes. So why the distinction between the old and the new? We can never leave what we know about the past, the knowledge is necessary to help inform/how to deal with unknown (or if we must, new) entities and experiences we encounter. I'd rather think of it as building blocks of knowledge - a constant synthesis of everything that goes on around us. Maybe I don't get it, or maybe I'm just too lazy to reflect on this properly. Maybe today's class discussion will help me ponder on the matter more - but as this juncture, this concern seems trite. New media is old, much of it is at least twenty years old, some are even middle-aged. Perhaps we should just leave the categories be. It's sorta old news.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Continuity or ... reflections on Gobo's first misadventure

I sat down with the other half this weekend, talking about Scratch and how useful it was for kids to learn the logic of scripting. I then showed him Gobo's story and traced an outline for Gobo's destination (i.e. the rest of the projects). I realise that the other projects have to be different in terms of genre, media and ideas, but the theme of Gobo appeals to me as Gobo, in my perspective, is the central character. Playing around with Gobo also made me realise how we take what we know for granted.

While my first project was simple, I went about it the same way I go about a lot of things. Tinkering and research, or as my friends would say, rtfm. I had also used the other projects as a springboard for my own interpretation of what Gobo's adventures would look like. Through experimentation, I realised that I liked the simple animations that tell a short story. I think in terms of skill sets, I merely appropriated a certain wave file - the Scratch sprite reminded me of an ogre which resulted in a quick Google search for good old ogre sounds.

Now, everyone knows that sorting through information on the net is like finding the contact lenses you dropped on a wet, white sink. It's wasn't necessarily difficult, but it was annoying and also meant discriminating between search results- which again, is a skill that most of us take for granted. Choosing the correct images was also important in telling my story. My protagonist was a cute little flame-like creature, and the antagonist was a big green ogre, which was necessarily ugly. Ah, the conventions of storytelling ... seems simple enough, but again, it involves certain literacies that we take for granted. Later, as I talked about Gobo's future adventures, I began to incorporate more fantastical popular culture, both for the sake of absurdity and amusement. Ah, the possibilities.

In the end, Scratch to me, seems to invoke the continuity that Dewey talks about in Experience and Education. The completion of one project is not the end of the destination, instead it opens up the door to more possibilities and more ideas for experimentation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Simplicity in motion

I have a vision... Correction. I had a vision. And with all great visions of mine, I had to temper it in light of time constraints and lack of expertise(sounds familiar, anyone?). Despite that, I liked tinkering with Scratch. Gobo had captured my heart the moment I laid eyes on him, and I knew I had to give the little guy a story. That's where it got all tricky. In my previous life, all I had to do was sketch storyboards or have basic concept art ready or rattle stream of consciousness to anyone who would listen (read: team members). Then, all I had to do was to hand it over to our team's artist, Henry, who would do beautific things to my stick figures and made my imagination come to life. But alas, Henry is back home working on other designs of grandeur and I'm stuck with my visions vegetating in my head.

With such a huge handicap, I had no means of translating the images in my head. With grit and determination, I set out to amuse myself with Gobo and let Gobo dictate the story for me. There was no method to my madness. I started out looking at projects. I selected the aquarium project, giggled at it, and later shook my fist at the sleekness of Daydream. Those two ultimately informed my own project on Gobo. Armed with scripts that the authors used in the other, I played around until Gobo's story emerged. And here it is. It made me laugh while creating it but I am easily amused. Enjoy my mediocre foray into digital storytelling.

Learn more about this project

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On lowering expectations - or - Getting pwned by Scratch

Mike's post on motivation and learning was illuminating and set me thinking about the intricacies of learning. While I won't rehash my comments to his post, flow theory helps explain the process of disengagement and immersion. However, Scratch as a construct depends on other constructs, on its own, it is not a sufficient resource. Arguably, for successful learning to occur, the tenets that Bers (2008) refer to are vital. While Mike disengaged and did not necessarily learn from Scratch, his reflections on his own process was 'learning about learning'. Perhaps not learning Scratch was the lesson after all.

In contrast, my re-engagement with Scratch was influenced by Charlene's actions. Had it not been for an offhand remark about the Bozo or whatever-it-was-called sprite dancing to the music that was playing when Charlene's name was presented, I would have still been obsessed about getting the Bozos to roll. Charlene responded to my comment by scripting the actions, which I then took up willingly and shifted my original design. Do I still want to learn how to get those things rolling and bouncing? Definitely. But in the interest of time and collaboration, I shifted my goals. While my original goal had not been achieved, I realise that goals are permutative. As learners, we can shift our expectations, depending on our current abilities and context. As a new learner, I lowered my expectations and was content with the existing result. At the same time however, the original goal still exists. I am still very much motivated to learn what I had originally intended. Being frustrated is part of the learning process, but as Bers pointed out, having an outlet, or the design journal allows learners to express that frustration and the community will act as a resource to help motivate the learner. In this vein, I urge Mike not to give up on his relationship with Scratch. I had glanced at what he had designed and would love to see his work in all its glory. Think of it as teething, it is beyond exasperating but necessary.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Introduction - Afterwards

The obligatory introductory post was actually listed in the 'About Me'. But in the interest of less clickages, here's a cut and paste.

Antaera, or Ant, as my friends usually call me, has my internet handle for over ten years now and is as much a part of me as the physical manifestation that some of you see around. Due to my immersion in virtual environments, I am interested in the many platforms in which individuals come together, either to collaborate or compete with each other.

As a child of sociology, I am interested in how communities form and maintain cultural norms online. This interest extends to the classroom setting, as norms are exclusionary in nature, which brings up issues of equity. Games have the potential to positively affect how students are positioned in the classroom. Instead of focusing on their socio-economic or cultural background, students have the ability to immerse themselves in roles that will help empower their sense of self and in turn, their learning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Just a little update to fill up the emptiness of this blog. I have several blogs, which unfortunately, due to lack of interest, just fell apart. Primarily because I would use them as document repositories , rather than a platform to reach others. Privacy on the internet, imagine that.

One of the few things that crossed my mind when watching the Listening Post was the issue of privacy. While the data is mined from public chatrooms, the digital footprints that can be tracked still makes me uneasy. Google does it, data mining companies do it. I'm not a fan of having my information that easily tracked online, but that's probably the conspiracist and paranoid geek in me. Just a thought.

Edit: Blogger really needs a cut tag like LJ. I could probably fiddle with scripts, but that would take too much effort.