Saturday, 29 November 2008

Virtual world links

Thanks to Joanne Larson for the link to this overview of the most amazing interactive interface, g-speak. I can't wait until that technology becomes affordable for schools! In the meantime, there's lots to think about in terms of the educational implications of virtual worlds. I was interviewed by DK of MediaSnackers this week about my 'Club Penguin' research and found out about his excellent website that contains interesting podcasts on virtual worlds, amongst other issues - the link is here. The podcasts have been recorded for RezEd, a community of educationalists interested in virtual worlds. Check out their site, lots of interesting stuff on it.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A world of language

My four year-old-nephew asked me, "What's the world called today?" and I realised in the context of our conversation that he was asking me what the date was. I told him, and marvelled at children's verbal dexterity and their ability to find ways of making themselves understood. I look forward to more explorations of children's language in a fantastic new project I am involved in. Led by Andrew Burn at the Institute of Education, it is a project that involves tracing children's playground games and rhymes in a new media age and will lead to the development of games for the Nintendo Wii. You can read more about it here and I will update you on the project as it progresses. We will soon be advertising for a .5 post-doctoral research assistant for 2 years from April 2009 to conduct playground ethnography in a primary school in Sheffield as part of the project, so if anyone reading this might be interested, let me know and I can send you details!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Digital social capital

Thanks to Sheila Yoshikawa, I can post a photo here of the seminar I gave in Second Life, on children’s use of virtual worlds. ‘Twas fun and people made some very interesting comments in the discussion of the data. One of the points we discussed was that the children in my study used 'Club Penguin' to meet friends and family. This is one of the findings of the 'Digital Youth and media' project run by Mizuko Ito and team in the US. They have released the report on their three-year study of children and young people’s informal learning with digital media. The report can be accessed here. It makes for fascinating reading, and the summary includes the following finding: 'Most youth use online networks to extend the friendships that they navigate in the familiar contexts of school, religious organizations, sports, and other local activities.' I think there are interesting issues to explore here in terms of digital social capital - do these online networks reinforce offline ones? What implications does that have for children who find online access difficult at home - are they further excluded from these communities of practice? Or is it, like those of us who avoid networks such as 'Facebook' and 'Twitter', that the connections you want to make will be made anyway, so little is lost in the lack of their use? I think that for different groups, this will play out in different ways and that for some children, not being invited to classmates' 'Club Penguin' parties will mean decreased social capital and a risk of further exclusion in offline spaces. This is an area worthy of further research - if only I could fit it in!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Early Years Practice

I have mentioned Film Street before, which is a great online resource for children and teachers. They are currently running a competition supporting the National Year of Reading, in which children, through their primary schools, can submit animated trailers for their favourite books. A great idea, and I look forward to seeing the entries. I hope that they receive many entries from Foundation Stage children. I am sure the very talented teacher Lynn Scott, at Childwall Valley Primary School, will be submitting such entries - to see the animations produced by children in that school, visit the site here. Lynn also talked about her work in the publication 'Nursery World' and you can read that report here. I featured Lynn's work in my chapter on 'Media Literacy' for the new edition of Desirable Literacies, if you are interested in reading further. It is very important to highlight excellent work in the early years field in this way because, as this BECTA report suggests, there is still a long way to go in terms of extending practice.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Virtual furnishing

I have neglected my blog lately due to life becoming very hectic - too many things happening to list here. Amongst other things, we now have a new building for the School of Education in Second Life, pictured here - it is shared with the Department of Information Studies. I gave my first in-world seminar this week on my research on children's use of Club Penguin and I really enjoyed it. I have found that I like managing multiple threads of conversation at once! Furnishing the Education building is more problematic, as shopping in SL is not my favourite activity. I will therefore not be one of the users flocking to the Digital Dollhouse, a site which enables users to furnish virtual doll's houses. KZero report that in due course, 'real-life' corporate brands will be selling furniture and designer items on the site. Oh dear...will soon even MFI and IKEA be muscling in on the children's virtual world market?