Archive for May, 2009

Learning by remixing: play and theater in schools

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Internet/WWW has made remixing everyman’s right. Same time Internet/WWW has brought the idea of remixing to other types of media than audio. When the original meaning of remix “is an alternative version of a song, different from the original version” (Wikipedia), today remix can be a mixture of video clips, text and images, several images, applications and widgets with content, etc.

In Internet/WWW everything can me mixed with everything by everyone. That is simply the nature of the medium. Seriously.

Already some time ago Heny Jenkins wrote an article
Learning by remixing
. Jenkins writes how children have recently become much more producers of media than ever before. Today a majority of children make some media to the Web: write blogs, do digital images, videos, sounds, games. In all this activity remixing content from different sources plays an important role. When remembering that almost everything we teach today in schools – from the results of science to humanities – are results of lending and referring to, as well as appropriation and transformation of earlier works – we should actually encourage our children to remix. Do we?

Behind the expanding enthusiasm of creating is the enabling technology: the nature of Internet/WWW (it is made for remixing) and the nature of digital commodity. As a material “digital stuff” is so flexible that you can make out of it whatever you want. You can shape it, carve it, glue it, add in it, color it and add in it other pieces of digital stuff – remix it. And yes you may share it.

If the enabling technology has been the factor that opened the flow of creativity doesn’t it mean that being creative is pretty inborn quality of us humans?

Doesn’t all this means that our creativity has been blocked?

Why? By whom?

I am right now listening my 4-year old playing with her 5-year old friend in a room next to. They are on their way to Africa. They have some jewels with them to protect them in their trip. They also have magic juice to get similar kind of forces Pippi Longstocking has. The trip is long and sailing all they way to Africa can be hard. It is actually so long that now they decided to take some of the magic juice to have the skill of flying. When flying over the sea they see an island where is Moomins home. They stop by to say hello for them. Then it is time to continue the trip.

The play continues and evolves freely. Everything is possible. Free play is beautiful example of ultimate remixing.

In my daughter’s kindergarten children do play. I have the feeling that the whole place is build around the idea of free play. They actually have research groups and they do some progressive inquiry. This year they have investigated “change”. Still, if children are playing the way I just heard them playing in here, I am pretty sure the teachers will understand its value, connections to “change” and will not disturb them.

What happens when children go to school? Do they loose playing? Unfortunately, very often they do. When they do not play they hardly have a chance to remix.

Today I went to see a pretty absurd theater play that was another example of ultimate remixing. The play Sudenmorsian (The Wolf’s Bride) is written by Aino Kailas , Finnish – Estonian author who lived in the early 1900’s. The play is a mixture of 19-century “romanticism”, “call of the wild” (Jack London) with a werewolf and some Finno-Ugrian story-telling tradition with strong Estonian spice, resistance of civilization and religion, as well as emancipation of women. Already as such it is a quite a package. On top of this in this particular case the style of the performance was traditional Japanese noh – “a major form of classic Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century”.

What a remix.

How much do they have theater in schools?

Not much. And when they do, it is often far from a free play.

Please, bring free theater to schools. Let’s remix in a real world, too.

Workshop on Social Information Retrieval for Technology Enhanced Learning: call for papers!

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

We organise the SIRTEL’09 workshop for the 3rd time this year! It’s about social media and learning resources in a large sense (e.g. educational resources, other learners, experts, tutors) and how they can facilitate teaching and learning tasks.

Paper Submission by June 14, 2009
The workshop takes place in the International Conference on Web-based Learning (ICWL) 2009
Aachen, Germany, August 21, 2009

Check out:

* the whole SIRTEL’09 call at:
* Background write-ups on Flosse from last years:
We use people to find content. We use content to find people and
Workshop to brainstorm an or a Flikr for learning purposes


Learning and teaching resource are available on the Web – both in terms of digital learning content and people resources (e.g. other learners, experts, tutors). They can be used to facilitate teaching and learning tasks. The remaining challenge is to develop, deploy and evaluate Social information retrieval (SIR) methods, techniques and systems that provide learners and teachers with guidance in potentially overwhelming variety of choices.

The aim of the SIRTEL’09 workshop is to look onward beyond recent achievements to discuss specific topics, emerging research issues, new trends and endeavors in SIR for TEL. The workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to present, and more importantly, to discuss the current status of research in SIR and TEL and its implications for science and teaching.


Sharing and Caring in Quality Education

Monday, May 4th, 2009

In the Media Lab Helsinki we are this week presenting and evaluating the Master thesis works of the spring graduates. Our two MA programs are relatively selective (we take about 20% of the applicants) and small (22 and 8 students). The small number of students makes it possible to have an event where our MA candidates are resenting and “defending” their thesis for evaluators and general public.

This is, of course, very time consuming and expensive. After the first day with seven presentations and following discussion I am sure that it is worth of the investment. It is “quality assurance”, but much more it is an event of sharing and caring. And why would sharing and caring be important in education? It pays off as quality. It is not only assuring quality: it itself produces quality results.

Sharing in the case of education (and science) of course means that everyone’s work will help other people working in a same field, doing studies or research from some topic close. Seminars, presentations, conferences, journals, coffee breaks, lunches and dinners …and final thesis presentations are all there for one reason: to share.

To be honest, what it comes to “web publishing” we are not “very good” in it in the Media Lab. For instance we do not webcast the final thesis presentations. One may claim this to be a paradox and totally contradicted to the idea of “sharing”. I don’t think so.

I have some pedagogical reasons to keep some discussions – if not private – open only for people who care to come over physically (the events are open for public). The request of physical present is related to caring. By being present you physically communicate that you care. You show with the most powerful methods of communication – presence and touch (we shake hands, hug, some people even kiss each other) – that you care, that you are part of the community.

Now one may ask what about people who can’t come? What about people who live outside Helsinki? Why they can’t participate from distance – via Internet?

The problems related to communicate the caring is one reason. The other reason is respect of people’s sensitiveness and limitations. Some people are simply not great “public speakers” or may be afraid of “large audiences” or “recordings of their performances”. Some other people may suffer from stuttering, speech defects, or have problems with language in general. Especially when our community is multi-cultural and most people are communicating with a foreign language this is a real issue. Keeping events open but limited for people who care to come we respect the people and their diversity.

Among the people who care to come over physically we may assume that they will get enough contextual information to make a right interpretation about the people’s “weaknesses”.

The caring aspect of education is not discussed that much. The “emotional intelligence” and “emotional learning” are not new ideas. From some part these are related to caring. Showing caring of someone is always emotional. It means that there is a connection that makes it a community.

Caring in quality education is manifested as tough but fair critique and praises when deserved. Neither of them – critique or praises – should attack the person. The value of the person is not questioned. It is untouchable. It is sacred.

“You gotta love everybody, make ‘em feel good about themselves”