Monday, October 13, 2008

Games, technologies, new Literacies

In Faro (Algarve, South of Portugal) on the last October 13 was held a preparatory seminar of a workshop that will be organized on February 2009, always in Faro.
The seminar is part of a process that must lead to an International Congress about Digital Literacy hosted by Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy, on November 2009.
The idea of the process (part of the European Project MediaEduc) is to celebrate, five years after, the Belfast Congress about Media Education.
The topic we’ve discussed in Faro (I was invited as an expert) was the space of Ludology in youngsters life and in Education. With the term Ludology we mean a discipline taking care of all thoose forms of activities (like as videogaming, or social networking) non strictly aimed to produce learning.
The aim of the seminar was to map theese experiences, to reflect on consumption practices, and to imagine how organize the next February Workshop.
My contributions about the topic of the meeting are mainly coming from research.
In the last months, with my research team in CREMIT, we’ve investigated a lot about the practices of the youngsters with new technologies, particulraly mobiles and social software. I think to the SIREM (Italian Research Society about Media and Education) research “The sense of media making”, developed in occasion of the first National Congress of the Society (Padua, May 2008) that is going to be published on the Review of Association, EM; I also think to the research we developed with some psychologists of Rome University for the “Osservatorio dei minori” that will be presented in Milan, on 28 octobrer; finally, the referring is to to the research we’re developing for Save the Children Italy, going to be presented in Rome, on the second half of November.
The indications we can find in these researches are almost two.
Firstable, it is clear that adults are playing videogames and amusing theirselves in the Net more than in the past. Until Mediappro investigation, we had a really different situation about new media consumptions: adults (parents) revelead a more focused utilization, they reconduced Internet and mobiles to the job sphere; on the contrary, youngsters were more used to play with them and to pass their free-time chatting, phoning and using consolles-playgame. Nowadays the situation is quite different. May be that adults representations are continuing to put digital media in the area of desengagement, thinking about them as a risk factor for the youngsters, but the reality is quite different: they use technologies no more only as tools, or job devices, but as a space for managing their free-time. In fact adults in our focus groups revealed that they are on MSN, the have a Facebook account, they message their friends with their mobile phone. It means that what we used to imagine as an adolescential way of acting, in fact became an adults way of acting too. It seems that the generation gap is becoming less strong (even if there are again a lot of parents unable to surf the Internet).
On the second hand, research shows that technologies are becoming a shared space for youngsters and their parents. This means that they produce discourses around technologies making of them a real area of negotiation with adults. And many times this becomes possibile because the uses are crossing one with each other, because parents meet sons into their common social network. Two are here the main phenomena quite interesting from the education point of view.
The first one is the renovation of the traditional topic of telemothering. Usually, this means that parents believe that mobiles are technologies of control. If youngsters go outside with their friends, having a mobile they can be called by the parents and so the parents themselves can be more quiet (and youngsters feel more free). The youngsters of our researches show an interesting actualization of this topic. In fact they act the same strategies of their parents, controlling what they have into their electronic agendas, or which messages they received on their mobiles (probably imaging that they could have love stories with other men or women).
The second interesting aspect is the utilization of technology as a chance to share experiences. Normally could happen that youngsters become the trainers of their parents; on the contrary adults could drive youngsters consumption in the direction of consciousness and responsibility.
Instead of widing the gap among generations, technologies are bridging them, providing discussion arguments and making possible for the adults to come back to their traditional educative role.
The situation about teachers is quite different. The problem here is not about the use they make of technologies, but about their representations of them. In fact, many teachers are using technologies in their own lives: all of them have a mobile phone; with it they call their students; they often have a personal blog, or a Facebook account. They know and use technology. What they aren’t able to do is to imagine the didactic and educative application of it. Here we haven’t a technological problem, but a cultural one. In this sense it could be useful to foster teacher education, because normally teachers think about media and technologies what their teachers thougt and tought to them.
According to this last topic (teacher education about media and technologies) it could be very important to imagine the possibility to indicate the professional competencies we think a teacher must have for teaching asbout media and technologies. I agree with this aim. But it is also necessary to be aware of it: teachers, in our schools (almost in Italy), are charged of a lot of “educations” (environment, health, citizenship); these educations are quickly increasing in the last times in relationship with the social lack of thruths and values we are perceiving in our liquid societies. So, it is important that teachers don’t think that these competencies are too difficult and too many to develop, because in this case we will obtain the contrary of our aims. Another European Project - U-learn, about the definition of pioneer teachers competencies in Education Technology - some years ago didn’t work exactly because it was too rigid and asked to the teachers too many competencies than they could have.

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