Sunday, September 30, 2012

I knew it!! The Technoskeptic Strikes Back

We all know that a lot of money from big business is going into making teachers believe they are inadequate in some way if they are not using communications & information technologies whenever possible during all forms of pedagogic interaction. A recent suggestion by many is to "leverage" student time on social networking sites to the benefit of learning. Sounds like a good idea? The thinking is, and I've heard it put this way, "Well, as they spend so much time on Facebook, we should get them to use it to keep studying." Perhaps we should spend a little time, and comparatively little  money, on finding out exactly what benefits Facebook and other social networking sites have for education, before insisting that teachers spend time interacting with computers instead of students.

So far, as usual, there is little or no empirical support for the use of social networks for education. I have also heard it suggested that online learning benefits the few students who are likely to be shy in class, and they can then contribute more in online contexts because they feel less threatened. I am glad to say that I have found some empirical evidence for quite the opposite. In Tracii Ryan & Sophia Xenos. 2011. Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage. (Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 5, September 2011, Pages 1658–1664, see this DOI), it is clear that Facebook appeals to a particular demographic:
The results showed that Facebook users tend to be more extraverted and narcissistic, but less conscientious and socially lonely, than nonusers. Furthermore, frequency of Facebook use and preferences for specific features were also shown to vary as a result of certain characteristics, such as neuroticism, loneliness, shyness and narcissism.

Similarly, and more importantly for education, in Khe Foon Hew. 2011. Students’ and teachers’ use of Facebook. (Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 2, March 2011, Pages 662–676, see this DOI), we find a pretty damning indictment of the promotion of social media for education:
The conclusions overall suggest that Facebook thus far has very little educational use, that students use Facebook mainly to keep in touch with known individuals, and that students tend to disclose more personal information about themselves on Facebook; hence attracting potential privacy risks upon themselves.
y u no visit 9gag?

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Man A Plan

Palindromes - say them backward the same way you would say them forward. So, I've always thought "A Man A Plan A Canal Panama" was a pretty cool palindrome, until I came across this, "Dammit I'm Mad" by Demetri Martin. Mad, brilliant and strangely poetic. (Says a lot about the kind of poetry I read!!).

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
 In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash.
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.

Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Alternatives in Assessment

Just a quick one! This prezi was prepared for the Khalifa University faculty day which focused on "Alternative Assessment." For me, a test is one alternative in assessment that must be justified just as any other format, and so other assessments should not be considered alternative to tests; hence the title "Alternatives in Assessment."

I have to work on a way to add a voice-over. I know it can be done.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Meanwhile in Bologna - ESFLCW 23

A fantastic array of papers were lined up for the "limited-places only" 23rd European Systemic Functional Conference and Workshop in the beautiful setting of the University Residential Center of Bertinoro, hosted by the Center for Linguistic-Cultural Studies (CeSLiC), University of Bologna from 9th - 11th July.. I only wish I could have been there but you cannot be too greedy! 

I sincerely hope that there is a publication in the near future around the theme of "Permeable contexts and hybrid discourses". In the meantime we have videos of the three plenary speakers: Srikant Sarangi on Hybridity-types, role-sets and professional practice, Caroline Coffin on Re-orienting semantic dispositions: the role of hybrid discourses and Geoff Thompson on Hybridisation: how language users graft new discourses on old root stock.

ISFC 39 - Boldly Going

I was fortunate enough to attend ISFC 39, hosted by UTS. The 39th International Systemic Functional Congress was held at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), 16-20 July, 2012. The plenary talks were bold, innovative and inspiring, and none were presented by the SFL 'old guard;' the organisers were brave enough to give the opportunity to 'The Next Generation' of SFL researchers. The event was also attended by the 'legends' of the discipline: Halliday, Hasan and Martin amongst others. I met lots of very nice people that had previously been just names in books, such as David Rose, Mary Macken-Horarik, Terry Royce, Geoff Williams and Alison Moore (no relation!). I was introduced, formally, to Legitimation Code Theory, an update of Bernstein's code theory, by Karl Maton, dazzled, furiously, by Chris Cleirigh's rough ride over semiotics, biology and evolution, and inspired, sublimely, by Shooshi Dreyfus' linguistic analysis of her severely disabled son's communication patterns. The programme was packed with interesting talks full of insight. I learned about the grammaticalisation of movement, the pedagogic cycle that inspires the reading-to-learn programme and its application in new second language contexts, and the importance of the concept of recontextualisation, to name just a few. Finally, there were so many new publications by authors present at the conference that an extra date had to be added to launch all of the books (thanks to Pauline Jones' great organisational skills).

I was also lucky enough to attend two very different pre-congress institutes (courses related to SFL matters). The first was a 'traditional' tutorial-style hands-on attempt by Jim Martin to help the rest of us construct our own system networks. He advocates a 'gently does it' approach, limiting grammatical features and only bringing in new ones when you can account for all of the others. The second was a much freer discussion-based course on the concept and use of Register in SFL, led by Annabelle Lukin (yes, she of the Vimeo SFL group fame - the same). She kindly shared all that she could on a dedicated website and made it clear that we were there together not to find answers but to start asking the right questions. Thanks to Annabelle and ISFC39 I have a much better understanding of David Butt and the work that he and his colleagues have achieved.

Please download the ISFC39 Proceedings, carefully edited by John Knox. (My paper is also available on the site.) It is packed full of fascinating insights on a range of SFL topics covering a variety of modalities and languages. As soon as there are any videos of the plenary talks made available I will add a new post.