07 – Book Review: Learning the Virtual Life: Public Pedagogy in a Digital World

BOOK REVIEW

Learning the Virtual Life: Public Pedagogy in a Digital World
by Peter Pericles Trifonas (Ed.)

Reviewed by:
Dr S K Pulist
Deputy Director, Distance Education Council
IGNOU, New Delhi, India

The revolution in digital technologies has paved the way for emergence of digital environment leading to development of a digital culture. This transformation has equally influenced the perspective of learning as well. The consequences emanating from this paradigm shift have forced the educationists as well as the technologists to integrate digital technologies with learning in a conducive manner. The volume in hand is a step forward to fill this gap of integration by focusing on the key issues related to digital culture and learning. The authors of different chapters have tried to present different dimensions of the digital learning environment. They fairly engage the readers in both theory and forms of practice while presenting discourse on crucial issues involved with the integration of digital culture and learning.

In Chapter-1, the author focuses on the question whether use of educational tools like e-learning software and social networking influence the students’ pedagogical behaviour. It explores as to whether in the wake of digital literacy the students have started to ‘invent a different university through an academic discourse’ leading to a different spatial politics.

Chapter-2 on ‘Epistemology’ argues that education has been trying to balance its role as historical cultural transferor and as ‘predator’ of innovative ideas, knowledge areas and social transformation. The authors raise some relevant issues in the current scenario where economic values ‘regulate knowledge and its public access and use’.

Chapter-3 focuses on the extensive use of social networking sites by the youth. The author distinguishes between the ‘viral networks’ such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and ‘viral communications’ such as socializing or hanging out, through his discourse. It analyses how ‘viral networks’ are complementing and displacing youth sub-cultures as vital nodes of youth identity.

Chapter 4 redefines the terms ‘technologies’ and ‘literacy’ in the new setting in order to deeply analyze the meaning of ‘technoliteracy’ vis-à-vis requirement of knowledge and skills. In order to think about digital literacy, we need to understand the fundamentals about the nature of technological literacy. The alternative technologies must become reflective and critically aware of educational, social and political assumptions as per the author.

Chapter-5 focuses on the discussion of characteristics of learning environmentwhich help in developing digital competence among the students and try to utilize their digital skills learnt in their informal settings. The authors draw their examples from three different studies related to ICT skills, their use and competence both in formal and informal settings.

Chapter-6 juxtaposes the works of McLuhan and Derida, the two scholars who offer the media educators a way to hold different but related levels of analysis. The author argues that the development of digital technologies and global media cultures has highlighted the pressing issues related to the nature of youth’s mediated experiences to be covered within the field of media literacy. The whole gamut involves the student participation in media education.

Chapter-7 presents the ‘wikilearning’ as a form of ‘collaborative, collective and democratic learning’. As ‘cooperative online learning’, it is suitable for the students connected with social movements and other activities who ‘learn in struggle’. The online communities of learning are built by the ‘wikilearners’ which are mainly based on wiki software and other social media. These learners help each other in their learning process even sometimes not realizing this. These communities help in creating more ‘humane and just societies’.

Chapter-8 discusses three research projects engaged with digital cultures and teaching and learning. The focus of these studies paves the way for further research which integrates teaching and learning with a fruitful interaction with digital cultures. These sets of proposals are cognizant of the changing perspectives of the younger learners.

Chapter-9 analyses how the wikipedians are strengthening and enriching the ‘English Language Wikipedia’ articles. The author here examines the integration of new forms of public literacy with more traditional forms. The open access and peer-reviewed ‘Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy’ (SEP) is taken as the basis for this analysis.

Chapter-10 begins with defining the term ‘Learn the Virtual Life’. It tries to find answers to some of the fundamental questions related to the future of engaging the ground of new knowledge. A journey of transition from traditional mode of learning to the technology intensive mode of learning has been delineated by the authors.

Chapter-11 analyses the behaviour of ‘characters’ in popular video game ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ and its ‘The balled of Gay Tony’ expansion pack. The interaction of male characters in this game provides an exploration of ‘homosocial’ bonding within the context of otherwise traditional forms of masculinity.

Chapter-12 elaborates how online education is used in Heritage Language Education in Toronto. It puts forth the commitment of understanding the needs of the new generation while presenting a case of an applied bottom-up reform attempt. The Heritage Language Programme is considered to be the cornerstone of Canada’s multiculturalism Policy. This chapter is an ‘autobiographical enquiry’ of a cross-culturally educated teacher.

In Chapter-13, the author studies the characteristics of a digital game and explores as to how it pops up as a strategic research site for studying cultural transformation of learning through play. The digital games reveal the convergence of diverse modes of literacy required by the player. The author raises certain questions related to virtual environment of digital games.

The book presents an international perspective on a wide range of issues connected with digital culture. The chapters attempt to present different theoretical aspects while presenting real-world practice. The book is a must read for multi-cultural practitioners and for those who are interested in digital culture, digital media and its integration with education.
Routledge, New York, 2012
ISBN 978-0-415-89204-9

Dr S K Pulist
Deputy Director
Distance Education Council,
IGNOU, New Delhi – 110 068
INDIA.

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