Comparative and international education
Gaine and Weiner, the editors of Kids in Cyberspace, offer a candid analysis of the success of Eurokid, a joint British, Spanish and Swedish project aimed at creating a digital space for teaching and learning about racism and anti-racism. The project's goal -to offer a counter discourse to the burgeoning numbers of racist websites accessible to adolescents -is certainly a laudable one. In this book, Gaine and Weiner give an overview of the Eurokid project, setting it within the context of
... he context of electronic pedagogies, and discuss the challenges of designing an anti-racist website. They provide an account of the research undertaken at each of the sites (in Britain, Spain and Sweden) for the development of the websites and subsequent responses by students and the general public. Finally, the editors conclude with an explanation of the evaluation frameworks adopted for the project (questionnaires, case studies, observations of classroom use and interviews with teachers and students) and their own reflections on what those evaluations might mean in terms of implications for future projects of this sort. Although the book includes a number of tables and figures which provide the reader with an idea of what the websites actually look like, I found that visiting the Eurokid website directly (http://www.eurokid.org/mc.html) helped me understand the full scope of the project and after navigating the various links in the Britkid site, the majority of my own questions were answered satisfactorily. The book chronicles the development of the Eurokid project, and begins with a description of the "key goals and dilemmas" faced by the authors of the project. Each of the sites is based around approximately nine fictional characters, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The user is invited to "hang out" with one of the characters and to see their homes, meet their families and friends and to gain a better understanding of their religious beliefs and culture. Another option for the user is to explore the sites by issue. Some of the issues explored include the understanding of different religions, racism in sport, prejudice, immigration and harassment. On the Britkid site then, a user might go to the "Football Club" in Britchester and read a discussion among three of the characters related to racism in sport. The story format moves the user through the various issues. The authors argue that personalizing "abstract ideas makes them easier to relate to and identify with, hence building motivation into the structures of the sites" (p. 15). Story is a powerful communication medium as stories naturally structure our everyday thinking (Schank 1990; Bruner 1990 Bruner , 1996 and as Douglas (2000) points out, a hypertext format provides readers with a "sense of participation in the unfolding of the narrative," which in turn affects our experience (p. 5). Schank (1990) suggests that our cognition is story-based. We think in terms of stories. We see Janette Hughes is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Her research interests are in new literacies, in general, with particular emphasis on digital literacies. In addition to studies of the teaching and learning of poetry, her current research investigates online mentoring through blogs and wikis.