Looking for my corpse …

This is a post by Helen – it is an example of a kind of short, reflective post you might like to write for assignment 2. Enjoy!

***********************************************************

When designing any Masters unit it is difficult to narrow down the number of potentially appropriate readings that could support the curriculum objectives. For the ‘essential reading’ for Week 9 I selected Clare Bradford’s (2010) article that takes its title from a video game playing practice she describes as ‘looking for my corpse’. In this blog post I reflect on some of the reasons for this choice.

First, Bradford—perhaps like many of you—is a teacher of children’s literature. Second, she is a relative novice to video game playing. This is probably also true of some teachers of ‘a certain age’, or those with particular dispositions towards new technologies and computers. I imagined, therefore, that Bradford’s reflections on the topic of video games might interest teachers who agree that popular culture should be incorporated into the curriculum even if they remain unsure about how this should best be accomplished. Third, I believe this article is useful in this unit because it refuses to set up binary oppositions between high and ‘low’ (popular) culture, or between the study of books and the study of video games. Rather, the author takes a ‘both / and’ approach. That is, she argues that video games should be studied using both well-known strategies derived from literary and film studies and using specific strategies that apply to that form.

The body of Bradford’s article responds to Gee’s (2006, p. 58) caution that, as a new art form, video games are “largely immune to traditional tools developed for the analysis of literature and film” (cited in Bradford, 2010, p. 55). In summary, she argues that: “if we are to engage young people in games analysis, we must also encourage them to be conscious of how games work; the pressures and pleasures they exert; and how they position their players.” Bradford adds the caution that there are different genres and styles of games, played on different platforms, and by different populations of players. This means that it is impossible to make any easy generalisations about how video games should be studied even though we might agree that concepts such as ‘immersion’, ‘engagement’ and ‘flow’ (Carr, 2006 cited in Bradford, 2010, p, 57) are generally useful. In my view this is an important reminder.

A fourth reason that this article was chosen is that it reports in part on a three-year study conducted by Bradford and colleagues titled Literacy in the Digital World of the Twenty First Century: Learning from Computer Games (Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, 2007-2009). Project leader Catherine Beavis is one of the few Australian researchers in the field of English and literacy education to have a sustained history of working with schools to undertake research on this topic. Other papers from the project, published in the same journal as Bradford (2010), are well worth reading as is other work published by members of the project team.

By: Helen Nixon

References

Bradford, C. (2010). Looking for my corpse: video games and player positioning. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy 33(1), pp. 64-64.

Teaching video with assignment 2 advice

A new teaching video is up at viddler.com – this time all about blogging and assignment 2!

Any questions about assignment 2? Why not post them here as a comment so everyone can read the answer! (Or, if you’re feeling shy, just email your teacher.)

Watch the video on Viddler.com:

http://www.viddler.com/v/dda7af28?secret=97842289 (16 mins 47 secs)

Watch Kelli and Helen’s assignment 1 advice

Watch Kelli and Helen’s assignment 1 advice

Who to put in your blogroll

Hi folks,

I thought I would write another post on this blog, this time about making a list of links, or a ‘blogroll’. What is a blogroll? According to this Glossary of Blogging, it is:

 A list of other blogs that a blogger might recommend by providing links to them (usually in a sidebar list).

So far on our blogroll, Helen and I have added:

Heyjude is an excellent resource for Teacher-Librarians. Judy is an experienced TL with lots of practical advice and resources to share. She is also active on Twitter as: @heyjudeonline

On The Edublogger Sue and Ronnie post HEAPS of information about blogging, and about teaching with blogs and technology in general. Perfect to browse for this assignment, as many of their tips are directed at edublogs users; if you leave a comment they are also usually responsive. You can also follow them on Twitter at: @suewaters and @ronnieburt

Part of the second assignment in this unit is to cultivate a blogroll on your own group blog. If some of your links are the same as another group, that’s OK. If you’d like, you can even link to other group blogs, or blogs you are writing in for other units…the choice is yours!

Leave a comment here if you have any ideas about where to find great blogs for TLs, or recommendations for other links you would like to see on THIS blog!

Cheers :)

A virtual pinboard of my popular culture

Recently I decided to try a learning activity to see what I could learn about youth, popular culture and texts by reflecting on my own experiences with popular culture. If you have some time, this is definitely something I recommend that you try!

I used the free, online tool Pinterest to make this virtual ‘pinboard’ of images and videos:

Pinterest board - Kelli's popular culture

Pinterest board – Kelli’s popular culture

http://pinterest.com/kmcg2375/popular-culture/

At the time of writing this post I have collected 100 ‘pins’ on my Popular Culture board. I found most things by searching for various artists or toys or text titles as they sprung to mind.

Why do all this, you might ask? Well, I think it is worth it purely for the sensation that you might get, like I did, after collecting 100 pins and scrolling down the page to admire your collection. Honestly, it was like getting a glimpse into my own DNA or something! At a glance I can see the origins of so many of my tastes, styles and preferences summed up in a visual display.

Spooky, but also enlightening…here are some of my observations:

Gothic Culture

The Gothic can be seen to feature prominently in my collection. From being glued to the TV for Buffy the Vampire SlayerCharmed or The X-Files to watching films like The Craft, the kids of my generation were hooked on tales of witches, vampires, monsters and magic.  Fantasy tales like Harry Potter weren’t big yet – though that did come out when I was 17 and I read the series in my early 20s – other series books including Narnia and Discworld were popular with readers, but I wouldn’t say they were popular per se.

Generally speaking, it was the dark, gloomy moodiness of the Gothic genre that I recall as being most pervasive. Even as a child I loved watching Trapdoor and Count Duckula, and there are pretty spooky themes in both when you think about it. The moody kids at my high school didn’t dress like ‘emos’, they dressed like ‘goths’. Most of us wore Doc Marten boots, most of us dyed our hair black at some point…

I was very interested in the extension reading for Week 2 by Carrington, ‘The contemporary Gothic: Literacy and childhood in unsettled times’. Carrington writes:

The Gothic just will not die. (p. 1)

She goes on to explain how Gothic themes, sensibilities and worlds have emerged and re-emerged over the past 300 years, and how in particular:

During the 1980s an identifiable Gothic subculture, which continues to this day, grew and spread across the UK, Europe and the USA. (p. 4)

It makes sense that this spread of Gothic subculture through Western culture is reflected in the popular tastes of my youth in the 1980s and 90s. I wonder to what extent I was what Carrington refers to as a ‘Gothic child’, a child living in a world where I ‘knew too much’. If so, has this situation reversed since then? (I think not.)

Text Mediums

While I collected pins for some of my favourite albums and songs, it was revealed to me just how many different text formats I had to manage and shift between as a young person. All of our household music was on vinyl records or tapes until I was about 12. After that came CDs, but slowly – they were $30 each, you had to save up! Saving and sharing digital music files wasn’t really part of my cultural practice until I went to uni. I feel somehow privileged to have lived experiences of all of these formats…but my husband says that is just ‘nostalgia’ (!) and that contemporary youth handle multiple formats too, using music across multiple devices and file types etc.

A TEAC hi fi system similar to my old one!

A TEAC hi fi system similar to my old one!

I often hear people talking about how ‘kids these days are more visual’, and how ‘the internet has increased the visual nature of texts’. But I’m not so sure that this wasn’t happening to kids ‘back in my day’ – so many of my popular culture pins were television shows or films! I was ‘a kid that loved reading’, and yet, books don’t figure that prominently on my Pinterest board. From Year 6 to about Year 10, books became much less ‘cool’, though magazines of all kinds were highly prized.

Final Reflections

There is more I could have written about here: the fact that my favourite pop culture books (by Stephen King and Virginia Andrews) were full of adult themes; the influence of North American popular culture on my own; the early days of household video game culture (Alex the Kidd and Double Dragon); the not-so-newness of cross-media text (Batman comics, TV show, films, action toys…); 1990s subcultures such as grunge, hip hop and techno; and more! But we can keep talking about these things in the comments section, if you’d like ;)

Tell me:

  • Have you thought much about the popular culture you liked when you were school-aged?
  • Have you used Pinterest before? What for? What else could you use it for?
  • Who else shares my popular culture history – and what have I missed on my board?!
  • How does the popular culture you experienced in your youth still influence you today?
  • …anything else.

Week 2: Popular novels

In week 2 we set everyone the option of doing some ‘further reading’ into either:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins OR Twilight by Stephanie Meyer.

cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo shared by kmcg2375

Some questions to spark discussion:

  • Did you read (or had you already read) either of these books?
  • Did you enjoy these stories or characters, or can you see the appeal of them for young readers?
  • Are these books inappropriate reading material for younger children?
  • Have you seen the film versions of either book?
  • What do you think about the potential for popular novels like these to get students interested in other texts?
  • How do you think teacher-librarians can use popular texts to engage students with other library resources?

We’d love to see some comments below! There are almost 60 students in this unit – let’s see if we can get at least 6 students (10%) to leave a reply and add a comment here :)

Hello students!

CLN647 (‘Youth, popular culture and texts’) is coordinated by Helen Nixon and Kelli McGraw.

This will be the ‘home’ blog for CLN647 at QUT in 2012.

We will post notices, information and advice here to help you complete the second assignment in the unit – a blogging assignment.

We look forward to meeting you in semester 2 :)