New Literacies, Digital Media and Classroom Teaching Conference

I am convening a conference on September 3 and 4 which I am very excited about – click below for the conference flyer.

NewLiteraciesFlyerPDF

UPDATE: Here is a tv news spot about our conference:

and here is some assorted media coverage from the conference:

New Literacies conference media

Technology in Teaching: A Podcast with Chris Best and Angela Thomas

technology2

Hello there! Whilst in London, I spent an afternoon with Chris Best (a former student of mine who has been teaching there ever since he graduated, and who now produces a series of podcasts about technology in teaching). We did a podcast – quite informally – about what was happening in my world and why I was in London and the like. Here is a link to go to the podcast: I am “Episode 18″. Chris and I giggled a little as we were working out how to do the podcast, but we eventually settled down and discussed the state of our respective contexts and how our work needs to develop as teachers to account for new social and discursive practices of online communities.  Let me know if you have questions or comments!

HUMlab Talk/Tour Video

SafariScreenSnapz002

Today I gave a tour of Macbeth for the HUMlab in Sweden! Click here if you’d like to view the video stream of the tour. It goes for about an hour. It was a bit of an experiment for us to do the live streaming, but it mostly worked well, except an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in which I lost my hair! Thanks to Jim Barrett for the invitation to speak and for doing all the camera work.

HUMlab Seminar

Macbeth

For my Swedish colleagues at HUMlab, Umea University, I am giving a seminar on May 8th! See details below:

Seminarium om Macbeth och virtuella världar – i HUMlab och i Second Life

Angela Thomas från University of Sydney kommer den 8 maj kl 11 att tala om “Inside the mind of Macbeth: Understanding and interpreting literary worlds in a virtual environment” i HUMlab. Tillsammans med studenter har hon arbetat med en omfattande gestaltning av Macbeth i en virtuell värld inom ramen för det uppmärksammade Virtual Macbeth-projektet.

Thomas genomför seminariet i Second Life (ifrån Australien) och kommer där att visa upp det virtuella Macbeth. Allt detta visas på stor skärm i HUMlab inför seminariedeltagarna i labbet. Angela Thomas är bland annat känd för sin bok Youth Online: Identity and Literacy in the Digital Age (Peter Lang, 2007).

Transformative Works and Cultures

I am going to be interviewed for the Transformative Works and Cultures journal by William P Wend!  It’s a fun process. The journal claims that: “Interviews  - showcases interviews with interesting people in academia, media industry, or fandom”, so its an honour to fall into that category. Stay tuned, and thanks for the invite William!

Inanimate Alice – Teaching Featured

ialice

The class I taught a couple of weeks ago on Digital Fiction in which I used Inanimate Alice as a focus text is now featured on the Inanimate Alice iTeach blog! After a few exchanges on twitter and email, Jess Lacetti (who developed the fantastic pedagogy pack that accompanies Inanimate Alice) published this piece about my class. Included is a quote from me about why I selected Inanimate Alice as my focus exemplar:

Inanimate Alice provides a great starting point for pointing out to teachers an exemplary form of Digital Fiction. It progressively uses more complex features related to what I’ve termed (Thomas, 2005) as the affordances of digital fiction: multimodality, multiliteracies, hypertext, interactivity, spatiality, and identity. For English teachers who are not adept with technology it provides a wonderful introduction to new forms of narrative, yet the developing sophistication makes it richly layered with features that can be discussed, debated, analysed and interpreted by e-literature theorists. Pragmatically, it is something that every single teacher I work with can leave my workshop and go back and use it in some way in their classrooms. It has connected with all of my students at some level, whether they teach year 2 or year 12. It is very difficult to find such rich examples that are suitable for use in the classroom context and that have a universal appeal. More recently, the encouragement for teachers and their students to remix or mashup the story allows for a much higher level of participation within and around the narrative of Alice’s journey, and its clear that the authors are genuinely pushing boundaries and shaping new narrative possibilities – true artists of new media authoring.

Thomas, A. (2005). Positioning the Reader: The Affordances of Digital Fiction. For: Reading the Past, Writing the Future. Brisbane, Queensland Council for Adult Literacy Inc. pp.24-33.

It’s an honour to be included in their special news section – thank you so much Jess!

Digital Fiction Class

Virtual Worlds and Language Learning

During the (Australian) Summer I was invited by incredible and passionate-about-education-in-virtual-worlds colleague Nick Noakes to participate in the Virtual Worlds and Language workshops held in Second Life (link to the associated ning here). I conducted a few tours through Macbeth and talked with participants about some principles for education in a virtual world. Today Nick shared a presentation he co-presented recently about the workshops, and when you look through it, you’ll recognise a number of images from Macbeth!  I really enjoyed all of the interactions I had with workshop participants and tracing their blog posts and flickr images and ning comments across the web, and seeing it come together here in this presentation is really impressive! Well done Nick and team!

Tough Chicks and Femme Fatales in Film and Video Games

I wanted to share this great slideshow courtesy of my SL friend and fellow Australian virtual worlds researcher, Joanna Robinson. Joanna works and studies at the GNWC Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver and is a leading presence for digital media studies in Second Life. Her work is very cool and theoretically rigorous – enjoy!

New Media Literacies

Oh! This video provides a great overview and definition of New Media Literacies.

Members of the research team at Project New Media Literacies discuss the social skills and cultural competencies needed to fully engage with today’s participatory culture. Featuring Henry Jenkins, and produced by Anna Van Someren at Project New Media Literacies. See more NML videos at http://techtv.mit.edu/collections/newmedialiteracies

This is great collection of over 80 short videos covering topics such as the value of tagging, animation, DJ culture, fanvidding, mashups… and more from the team at MIT. I’m such a fan of the prolific Henry Jenkins, blogger extraordinaire, and he is even on twitter now!

We’re in the ACTF Newsletter!

ACTFYay! News of our ARC project with the ACTF (Australian Children’s Television Foundation) has been posted out with an invitation to schools / teachers and kids to participate. If your school is doing anything with Kahootz (a multimedia authoring tool used to make animations, 3D stories, and even games) please contact the person listed in the news item above!

Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters: Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Second Life

UPDATE: Please see corrected times for the launch of Macbeth!  Also, we will be honoured with the lovely voice of Paisley Beebe entertaining us on the day. Hope to see lots of friends there :)

It is my pleasure to announce the grand launch and opening of our new Second Life sim, Macbeth (SLURL: here).

This is a project I have been working on since March. The project, Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters: Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Second Life is a collaboration designed by  Angela Thomas (virtual worlds content designer), Kerreen Ely-Harper (director) and Kate Richards (producer).

Funding was provided by Literature Board of The Australian Council for the Arts , and investor partner, the New Media Consortium (full credits)

The island is accompanied by a wiki and the page labelled island guide describes the island and some of our design choices. On the wiki we have also started a collection of teaching resources for the use of the sim and also for teaching Macbeth in general.

Please feel free to join the sim, the Macbeth group in world, and the Virtual Macbeth flickr group.  Contact me in Second Life if you want a private tour – Anya Ixchel.

Full press releases coming soon :)


Horizon.au

Next week I am off to the NMC’s Horizon.au advisory board meeting. I am doing my homework right now and finding some great articles about emerging technologies in the associated wiki – its public for viewing, so go have a look!

The press clippings are most interesting, with an assorted compilation of reports, articles, and media attention given to new media and education. I am in the process now of starring the clippings I think are significant from my teaching and research perspective. But its difficult not to just star them all.

ARC Linkage Grant Success!!

OMG the best news ever today – the ARC grant I have been working on for a long long time was successful! I am very very excited as this means I will get funds to help me research younger children’s machinima, game-making and 3D digital storytelling. I have been working on the grant application with colleague and co-chief investigator, Professor Len Unsworth, and we are collaborating with our industry partner, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, specifically with Peter Maggs, who is the Head of New Media at the ACTF. If you are interested in the long process of getting an ARC grant, please read on. Continue reading

Book Review of Youth Online

An otherwise bright light in a stressful semester – a very complimentary review of my book, Youth Online. The review is from the Education Review Journal and can be found here. Here is an excerpt:

Conclusion

This work is extremely important for educators in understanding the state of current students, and as a call for changes in the future educational process. This is an accessible work that explains the theories and their applications in a very clear way. Through Thomas’ case studies, it also offers a picture of the world of the modern and future student. This work is useful for those in academia, in teaching, or those looking to understand what it is that students do online. However, it only offers a glimpse. Thomas opens the reader’s eyes, but it is up to the reader to proceed down the rabbit hole.

Can the institution of education proceed in the traditional manner? Students spend most of their lives outside of school. What they are learning outside the institutional environment is not replicated inside it. Certainly students need to learn about mathematics, language, and science. But is the medium currently used the best, or is the world that Thomas is showing a better one to model for educators? This is something that Thomas calls for in Australia, and around the world. Online literacy will be important for success in the future. It is a travesty for schools not to integrate these areas of literacy into education

Thomas is not the only voice urging these ideas. Her work resonates with that of Gee, Hawisher, Selfe, and Steinkuehler. Some of this work focuses on videogames and how they can be used in education, but also on how videogames form an important part of learning literacy. Reading and writing are not enough – other literacies are important in education.

As Thomas has shown, students will spend the time learning them, and they can learn from each other as a community of experts. This work also attempts to understand identity creation of students in online environments, equally echoing the call from Gee. The problem with utilizing these works is not educating the students, but educating the educators.

Lovely words, my thanks to this reviewer!! :)

Guest Lecture on Second Life

An inspirational introduction to the potential of Second Life, from the NMC’s Symposium on Creativity:

Your avatar: the means for personal expression and identity exploration.

Robbie Dingo’s machinima, MASK:

Questions: what do you know about Second life already? What were some of the key ideas made in these two videos? What are the questions you think would make an interesting discussion?

Slides: A sociocultural overview of Second Life

Reflection:

a) What makes Second Life unique and of interest to so many different groups of people?

b) What do some of the stories and case studies tell us about the worth of a space such as Second Life in their lives?

c) What are some of the potentials for using Second Life in and across a range of contexts?

d) How might you now answer your own questions before viewing the slides? What is left unanswered?

Further References:

iVillage Fashion Show:

IP Precedent (the sex bed):

Mixed reality event (beer):

Persephone Milk

Question : What do you think of this man’s story?

Reflection:

  1. What are some of the key themes and issues related to life in virtual worlds?
  2. Some say that 80% of internet users will have a second life within the next few years – do you think this is probable? Do you own bit of future speculation :)
  3. What questions do you still have unanswered? (Take them to your tutorials!)

Look me up on Second Life – Anya Ixchel

Mr Pixel Goes to Washington

Tomorrow the CEO of the New Media Consortium, Dr Larry Johnson, will address congress in Washington in a Hearing on Online Virtual Worlds.  Larry’s address is entitled:

“Online Virtual Worlds: Applications and Avatars in a User-Generated Medium”

A pdf copy of his testimony can be located here.

Of particular interest is one of Larry’s key points:

The emerging landscape of virtual worlds represents as profound an opportunity, as profound a driver of changes in the way we think, learn, and work, as any other technology that has ever preceded it – and more so.

Larry makes some calls for action to the US congress which we in Australia would do well to take note – speaking to the need for programs and policies that would allow people, communities and institutions to take full advantage of the potential of virtual worlds.

Larry address also uses CommentPress, so if you want to comment on any aspect go and do so!

Youth Online, Grant Success, SATC Updates, HP movies, and a Sad Sad Situation

Happy Easter! (to find out what this image is – keep reading!)

The beginning of the working year has been crazy crazy crazy this year – I took on some additional administrative duties and they’re really time consuming!! So here is a little update of some great news, some catch-ups and some very sad news.

Last week I had my book launch (a joint book launch with Jon Marshall) and we were fortunate and honoured to have Colin Lankshear come over (down / up / across) and officially launch our books. He was just so generous in his praise of our books and in his expressed belief in the value of our work. I am just so fortunate that I know Colin and Michele and they have become central to my International network of New Literacies colleagues. Thanks again Colin!

The book launch was just lovely and I met some great new people who came along who were interested in my work – thanks for coming to those people!  It was a really thrilling feeling to be sitting in the “author’s chair” and at the “author’s table”.  Being referred to as “the author” gave me a real sense of having achieved something special. Is it OK now for me to write the word “author” under PROFESSION in all my official documents now?

In other really fantastic news, I am pleased to announce that my colleague Kerreen Ely-Harper and I were successful in an application to the Literature Board of the Australian Council for the Arts for a grant to fund our What If? Virtual Shakespeare project. Although it is official I haven’t seen the public announcement of the details yet so stay tuned.

Lots of other interesting things have been happening in the pop culture / fan culture scene, some of them being:

- the cast of Sex and the City have given more interviews about their upcoming movie, and SJP is seen here doing one of them:

- The final Harry Potter book is going to be turned into two separate movies

- Britney Spears released an AMV for her latest single, leaving fans of Britney going “What the..?” and fans of the AMV scene disgusted  (and she appeared on How I Met Your Mother, and is also opening her own dance studio, and…)

-  The Beckhams have had their heads stencilled in dark chocolate onto some white chocolate Easter eggs (yes, that’s what my post image shows!)

- Prada created a really unusual short animated fantasy movie to support an upcoming fashion line:

And now in some sad and disturbing news, the amazing Al Upton (whose work with primary school children and blogs I have applauded and pointed to for a long time now as exemplary) has been ordered to close his blog. The outpouring of support he has had from all over the world is reflected in the many comments following his announcement. I want to publicly add my support to Al and his inspiring work with the kids in his class. We’re lucky in Australia that we have certain freedoms to explore and experiment with new and innovative ideas. But we’re also sometimes dragged down by the culture of fear and moral panic about kids and the internet, and this is reflected in some of our policies. It’s so frustrating for those of us advocating the use of social networking tools and practices in the classroom when teachers turn back around to us and tell us that their schools have banned such practices. I really sympathise with Al and send him my best wishes. I think it is always the case that those of us trying to venture into new ground are testing and trialling and pushing boundaries, but we should take heart that the problems we must face and work through will hopefully help those who follow us. I know exactly what it is like to feel like your work is on the margins and not really valued, which is why when I saw the hundreds of comments to Al I felt comforted for him and for all of us in similar situations.

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