Minecraft is a great starter for blogging

Students are loving their work going up on our blog. They are extremely appreciative of comments people have made. It certainly encouraged I_eat_7_pancakes to put his second one up. Check out Skyelarox’s post on creating a trade centre for goods. They are powering along. So cool! RHS Minecraft blog

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Minecraft brings about so many opportunities

Minecraft brings about so many opportunities.

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Final thoughts, and they are just my thoughts

If we as teachers are to ensure new literacy skills are taught to our students we need to be immersed and proficient in them ourselves. This means moving out of our comfort zones, developing an identity in the online environment, being immersed in community online. It means we need to be learners as the new literacies that we need to teach to our students are new to us also.

To support students in developing identities they are proud of we need to be able to support them in developing their community connections and involvement, ensuring it sits well with their ethics, morals, beliefs and values. This will require us to support their learning within an environment that allows them to refine their understandings and make mistakes along the way, as is the case in the face to face world.

We now need to focus on leading staff into an environment that is unfamiliar personally and professionally to many, and consequently challenging, to ensure students can be supported well in the development of their new literacies.

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Copyright is a hotly contested debate in an ever-changing digital landscape, where we celebrate the political power of practices such as the remix and appropriated images and texts. What do we tell our students to best foster creativity without breaking the law?

Young people want to play, create and understand. They are also at a point in their lives where they are developing their identity which is reflected through the things that they do online and off line, their morals, ethics and beliefs. With a growing ability to access content and manipulate it they are now able to express themselves in a way that those before them have only dreamt about, as mentioned by Lessig (2007).

By remixing does this make it their own work? Is it using others creations inappropriately? What does it say about them? These are important questions for them to consider in their production of content that they are adding meaning to. Remixing is a new take on an old literacy (Remix), it is our responsibility to ensure students have the literacy skills to participate effectively.

Remixing is certainly a wonderful form of expression and a powerful one at that, displaying not only a message but also underpinning literacies, as shown by McIntosh (2009) in his remix. One cannot ignore the importance of the content being remixed and it’s appropriate use according to law and general moral expectations in our local and global society. It is evident that it does take time for formalised laws/expectations to catch up with what one can do online, but this does not mean that this environment is open to abuse. Students need to consider this when creating their work, they need to become aware of the legal ramifications when dealing with copyrighted material and make choices that reflect the identity they want to create along with the consequences they are willing to accept – positive or negative. I wonder if the band Men at Work, when creating the song Down Under, considered the future consequences that would arise through the use of  a riff from Kookaburra (a 1934 children’s song) when this song was written (Men at work – Wikipedia). This relates to a point, as they took something from a past era and put it into a new era and genre, hence giving it a different meaning and audience. If the song had not created such revenue and iconic popularity would there have been an issue?

This is a key consideration for young people, if they remix copyrighted material and then publish in spaces such as YouTube they need to be aware of the ramifications associated with it becoming popular and generating an income. And further to this other restrictions that may be associated with the copyrighted material.

This is not a new issue within our society as pointed out by Larry Lessig and hence the existence of Creative Commons has enabled a way of accessing and using, with greater awareness, material openly available.

In direct response to the above question, it is really about ensuring that students are aware that anything they use, that is not their own, must be used in a manner that sits morally, ethically and legally well with the identity that they want to portray. To achieve this it is my role to question and guide, support and learn with them, to be immersed in the technology as well. One of the greatest learning moments for my students creating a YouTube video for advertising their session at the VWBP in Education conference centred around this notion. It is in the act of doing that we learn along with the authentic nature of the task. During the production of this video students used music that they had not created and ensured that they used it in accordance with the creator. Although, not a remix, they have referenced their content where appropriate, as one would in a more traditional written format.



Lessig, L. (2007) http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

McIntosh, J. (2009). Buffy vs Edward (Twilight Remixed). Rebellious Pixels. [Online]. Available: http://www.rebelliouspixels.com/2009/buffy-vs-edward-twilight-remixed.

Men at work – wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_at_work#Copyright_lawsuit_and_controversy

Remix – wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remix_(book)

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What kinds of ethical considerations should be a factor for students using new media?

Levison (2009) discussed the importance of being aware that an item or tool by itself is neither positive or negative, it is more about the way humans choose to engage with it. My observation of a range of people in educational circles is that technology provides so many ‘dangers’, this has been connected to mobile/smart phones, gaming, Facebook and the like. The reality is that neither of these tools present as an ethical issue, the ethical issue is directly related to their use and consequently the choices those who use them make.  James, Davis, Flores, Francis, Pettingill, Rundle, and Gardner (2008, 45) comment on this:

Digital youth who also possess the cognitive skills and motivation to consider the implications of their activities are well-poised to use their ‘powers’ to engage in ‘good play.’ Yet the acquisition of these literacies—technical, social, and ethical—also depends on forces outside of a young person’s control, including the availability of ethical supports such as mentors and new media literacy curricula.

Gee (2007) also touched on this need to provide opportunity for play to enable learning and understanding of consequence. This is the key to enabling young people to develop ethical behaviour that they can be proud of. This must be supported in an environment that allows for learning rather than one that runs away due to the perceived ‘dangers’.

Young people and older people alike need to be aware that they are creating a digital footprint, this is part of their identity and cannot be separated from who they are in the flesh. Consideration must be given to the unintended audience and the consequences of their interpretation of what one places in online environments – as presented in Protecting Your Digital Footprint.

When reading Seiter’s (2008) article another dimension needs to be considered and that is the impact that access to the tools, such as computers and programs, that enable one to be a participant online. When there is reduced access to such tools there is less time available to learn in safe environment that will support the development of literacy skills that are connected to cultural expectations. Online communities are not void of social interplay and capital.

This is where I get excited for those students involved in Minecraft at my school and those that are involved in#massivelyminecraft across the globe. They are participating in online communities that have good mentors that support their learning and consequently are able to learn about being in such environments.


James Paul Gee, “Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: The Projective Stance,” in Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear (eds.), A New Literacies Sampler (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), pp.95-114.

Carrie James with Katie Davis, Andrea Flores, James M. Francis, Lindsey Pettingill, Margaret Rundle and Howard Gardner, 2008, “Young People, Ethics, and the New Digital Media,” pp.1-62.

Levinson, P. (2009). New new media. Boston: Pearson. (Chapter 11: “The dark side of new new media”).

Seiter, E. “Practicing at Home: Computers, Pianos, and Cultural Capital.” Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected. Edited by Tara McPherson. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 27–52. doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262633598.027


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In what ways can online communities foster knowledge, learning, understanding and citizenship?

Over the last couple of years we have seen social media used to develop community connections and subsequent learning. I personally am part of a PLN (Personalise Learning Network) where, on twitter, I follow selected educators and regularly read Blogs that are significant to my interests. I too am part of their PLN and consequently when I blog (which is directly connected to my twitter feed) or tweet I have people within my network who respond. Similarly when they tweet I respond, it is very much a two way relationship. To be very honest I have learnt a large amount from my PLN and have found it to be a confirming environment when one is trying new and innovative things. One of the hashtags I regularly follow is that of #elemchat, I find it challenging and it provides good connections and perspectives.

Being an active member of a community online immediately brings about citizenship as one is an inhabitant of a space with others. From this can activism and social change be effectively implemented via the use of social media? It is evident through political campaigns  and social uprisings like those seen in Egypt that this is possible, but equally so there have been potential moments like the Kony 2012 campaign that rapidly fizzled – see Harvey’s article in the Daily Telegraph. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/insider/how-kony-hashed-things-up/story-e6frewt9-1226335170068 .

As with any community there needs to be well thought out strategy to enable change and engagement to occur, and this is just as important when using social media as in the face to face setting. It is all built around social capital, as has been displayed by Obama’s use of social media (Levinson, 2009). Kony 2012 was an example of how things didn’t follow through to the end, some would suggest that this was due to the target audience and their lack of immediate connection to the issue or commitment to the cause, others would suggest that it was a result of lack of legitimacy and others would argue that those instigating the plan were not well equipped. If you do a twitter search #kony you will quickly discover that what was once a strong campaign is now used as a joke. The other hashtag #stopkony is still being used but is essentially meaningless.

With regard to activism at the level we have seen in Egypt, Libya and Syria there are many impactors that limit or enable the use of social media. These are driven by access and in many cases this access is bound up in government decision making, which is underpinned by cultural ideals and beliefs (Sander, 2011). Social media certainly is a valuable tool in creating connections and providing information, but it alone will not create social change. It is after all only a tool, it is the people and their use of it that makes it powerful.


Harvey., C. How Kony hashed things up. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/insider/how-kony-hashed-things-up/story-e6frewt9-1226335170068

Levinson, P. (2009). New new media. Boston: Pearson. (Chapter 12: New New Media and the Election of 2008).

Sander., T. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube’s role in Arab Spring (Middle East uprisings) http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/twitter-facebook-and-youtubes-role-in-tunisia-uprising/

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How is identity constructed online?

James Paul Gee (2007, 110) speaks about this concept of identity building through gaming and taking on a virtual identity. He vindicates the role that gaming plays in learning, viewing it as an avenue that enables people to learn through immersion and that the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ world are highly connected.

The recipe is simple: Give people well designed visual and embodied experiences of a domain, through simulations or in reality (or both). Help them use these experiences to build simulations in their heads through which they can think about and imaginatively test out future actions and hypotheses. Let them act and experience consequence, but in a protected way when they are learners. Then help them to evaluate their actions and the consequences of their actions (based on the values and identities they have adopted as participants in the domain) in ways that lead them to build better simulations for better future action.

Identity creation and connection to self is very strong when placed in a situation like Second Life or a game. I wonder if the same level of connection is in existence with online identity that is created through much less immersive modes such as facebook, blogging and twitter?

Thomas (2004, 369) points out that “identity online is primarily realised through interactions, it follows that literacy skills in terms of the ability to use language well plays an essential role in identity construction and perception.” Consequently online environments that rely more heavily on written interaction (such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging) require careful well thought out written content to ensure the identity desired is achieved as they are not supported with the embodiment of an avatar that SL and gaming provide.

I hold a number of handles/usernames/nicknames, some with avatars and some without. My professional focussed ones are as follows:

dbatty – minecraft avatar, beginning of blog address (wordpress)

dbatty1 – skype, twitter, blog (wordpress login name and beginning of blog address)

Indira Lytton – Second Life

With my avatar in Minecraft and SL I have spent some time developing the look of both. Both my SL and Minecraft avatar reflect a lot of who I am in real life. Each looks different but both have very strong physical connections to the real me. This is important to me as I want to be represented in the virtual worlds in this manner. With regard to my online identity that is void of an avatar they still connect into the professional me. Their thoughts are my thoughts.

Identity construction online is a constantly evolving construct for an individual, as it is in the ‘real’ world. If it were not then it would not reflect the constant growth that we undertake as individuals, through choice or circumstance. Our online identity is constructed through our use of literacy skills and consequently is benefitted one way or another by ones skills and understandings in this area.


Thomas, A. (2004). Digital Literacies of the Cybergirl For: E-Learning, Vol 1, No. 3. pp: 358-382.

James Paul Gee, “Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: The Projective Stance,” in Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear (eds.), A New Literacies Sampler (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), pp.95-114.

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