May is for Mapping

I have been inspired (again) this week by the work of a group of graduate student educators I’ve been working with this semester. They are currently revisiting maps they made at the beginning of the semester to reflect on their histories with technology in teaching, their classroom space, and paradigms of learning. After three months of intense discussions, critical reflection, and application through redesign, we are now taking a look back and reconsidering how we conceive of our various educational spaces and histories.

Maps, like all products, can appear to be stable, objective depictions of reality, but as we are often reminded, this is simply not the case. In fact, mapping is a practice that can be particularly powerful for discovering and asserting frames of reference on physical and conceptual space. Take the Mobile City Youth project, for example, in which groups of youth in urban areas use mobile and location technologies to map (and critically counter-map) the learning opportunities and deficits of their city landscape. The maps they create are much more than utilitarian tools, but rather, they are processes of critical and creative civic engagements.

Mapping has been an instrumental practice for me in my research processes as I work to understand young men’s transcontextual writing development, and my work with youth as we explore the new ethical dimensions and relations of contemporary times together. For a new project, I’ve been rereading James Corner’s work on mapping. In one piece he argues:

As a creative practice, mapping is a finding that is also a founding…Mappings do not represent geographies or ideas; rather they effect their actualization. Mapping is…doubly operative: digging, finding, and exposing on the one hand, and relating connecting, and structuring on the other. (p. 225)

This relating and connecting potential is where I want to go next. There are some exciting new connect-and-learn-by-mapping initiatives happening right now that you can join in on!

CLMOOC Data Postcard Project

If you haven’t already, check out the CLMOOC Data Postcard Project, a project inspired by Dear Data. Educators (for the most part) design, make, send, and interact around a series of postcards. And you can join in! From topography to mind maps, this month, the postcard exchange is focused on mapping. To learn more and join the CLMOOC Data Postcard Project, go here.

The View from Here

Right here on this site, inspired by another set of current graduate student educators, we have started the new The View from Here collaborative perspective-sharing map. Focused on varying themes, The View from Here’s purpose is to gather together multiple stories, experiences, and perspectives on education from different schooling contexts around the world, and draw connection between them. And you are invited to join the conversation!

The current theme is: What are the ‘hot topics’ in terms of technology & education at your school site?


Corner, J. (1999). The agency of mapping: Speculation, critique and invention. In D. Cosgrove (Ed.) Mappings (pp. 213-52). London, UK: Reaktion.

Feature Image: World Map 1689 By Gerard van Schagen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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Tracing Across Time & Image with #AltAction

I am thrilled to have been invited to participate with a group of youth interested in being positive change agents in their community. Called AltAction their team is serious about engaging in critical and creative action. I have only met with them twice, and I am already inspired.

In the coming weeks, they are going to engage in some community photo ethnography in order to “make the familiar strange,” to step close in order to step back in perspective. To this end, they presented me with some homework. (It’s been a while since I had homework assigned!)

Bring three photographs that tell the story of what brings you to AltAction.

I’ve been thinking about this prompt all week, and am so pleased to have been asked to think both critically and creatively in tracing across the moments of my life. I have learned from educators and artists, such as Janis Jones and her series on beach debris, how composing through image can be incredibly powerful social action.

It also reminds me of something Jay Lemke (2009, p. 273) asked that I am taking up in my current work on tracing writing development across lifespans with Paul Prior:

How do moments add up to lives? How do our shared moments together add up to social life as such?

Just this last week, my grad students traced their uses of technology across various timescales—across their careers, their courses, a unit—and I really saw the power of not just communicating through photographs, but also tracing across time as a reflective activity. Take Aaron’s reflection as just one of many examples.

So, here are my three photos in timeline form, representing the laminating of experience across my life that ultimately brings me to AltAction.

Homework done.

skirt and tightsstructural changeeye


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Say True Things: 5th Graders On Audiences On and Off the Grid

A couple of years ago, I posted about talking to my niece and her fifth grade class about audiences on- and offline. This week, in a graduate course I am teaching, the topic of teaching about online interaction and audiences with elementary students was raised...and I realized I never hit "post" on this companion post. So, here is a major #tbt to something that has been sitting in draft mode for too long.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with a fifth grade class about audience using a mini-lesson and guided practice that is probably familiar to many teachers.  We then extended that discussion into considering what writing for an audience means in contemporary times. The young people in that class shared great advice for the demands on writing in a digital, networked age.

Audience Offline

We started our conversation with a guessing game comparing two texts that were talking about a pair of shoes online:

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 3.57.05 AM
banner_shoe

We talked through the criteria the school was using in on online writing platform and saw that depending on the audience, every aspect of a piece of writing might change depending on the audience.

Message Continue reading Say True Things: 5th Graders On Audiences On and Off the Grid

It’s that Time of Year…

It’s that time of year…when I claim to reboot my efforts on this site…or not. I was inspired to write this non/anti-resolution post by two tweets that came across my feed this last week.

First, I saw that Melvina posted that she received a postcard from Kevin Hodgson via Karen Fasimpaur‘s #clmooc postcard project that has taken a data display turn this year.

If you look closely (click on the tweet to see the images), you’ll see that Kevin has mapped his resolutions…and their degree of accomplishment. (P.S. Kudos Kevin, beautifully displayed data!) It got me thinking about the commitments I’ve made over and over on this site. I’ve even tried the non-resolution approach!

Then, I saw another tweet, with a possible solution. Ironically, it was a response from Kevin to Mia Zamora about her resolution.

Iscreen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-01-40-amn the post she shared, she committed to making “snap posts.” Snap posts are posts that are conceived, composed, produced, and distributed within 15 minutes. She is going to be posting these as part of her interaction with the Networked Narrative open journey (on Twitter: @netnarr #netnarr). I am not sure how closely she is going to watch the clock on all those parts, but I was inspired. In fact, I have…5 minutes and 57 seconds to finish this post. So, with no promise to write one of these ever again, here’s a snap post from me.

The main takeaway for me, however, is not actually the snap post idea. It is, rather, a reminder how much I gain from my personal learning network, particularly, how much I learn in the serendipitous moments I glance at my Twitter feed or see a post in a Facebook group. Some of the moments are leveraged by social media directly, like when I asked Ian O’Byrne if he’d be willing to do a recorded video call with me following the Literacy Research Association Study Group focused on developing a “domain of one’s own.” Others are only distally connected and come together unpredictably, and take off in new learning pathways. The kind that characterized much of what we recognized as learning in our Remix as Professional Learning piece that came out this last year as a reflection on the connected learning opportunity for educators, CLMOOC.

I am currently designing the syllabus and learning challenges for an Introduction to Educational Technologies course, and my interest in having the grad students check in on the health and development of their own learning networks is reinvigorated!

Confession: This took just over 15 minutes to write, inclusive of the tweets and photo. It then took another 5 to add all the links.


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Join Me at #4TDW!

On October 9th at 4:30 EST I will be joining the Teachers Teaching Teachers about Technology (4T) Digital Writing Conference. #4TDW, for short.

4TDW is a free, virtual conference on digital writing. They just ask that you register to get a newsletter with links to each week’s sessions. There are six sessions focusing on a variety of aspects of digital writing each Sunday in October. Here’s mine:Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 9.04.21 PM.png

Like the description says, I’ll be highlighting the Connected Learning MOOC (#clmooc) as an example of a community filled with educators who are contemporary composers. To introduce #clmooc, I whipped up a video filled with participants’ faces, reflections, and makes.

And perhaps most importantly, I am promising that the session will be production-centered just like #clmooc is. So, come get your make on. Hope to see you Sunday.


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Where’s Anna: Literacy Research Association Edition

This week I have the opportunity to join with many of you at the Literacy Research Association‘s annual conference. I look forward to catching up on the great work that I am usually only able to follow at a distance. Here are three times you can catch up with me:

Methods for Researching Transliteracies in Practice:
An Embodied Theoretical Review

On Thursday December 3, 2015 8:45am – 10:15am in Costa Del Sol Ballroom – Salon E, you can join us in an Alternative Format Session. This alternative session addresses a central challenge for literacy researchers–how to account for practices ‘on the move’–by drawing together literacy scholars working at the methodological cutting edge. Through data demonstrations and an embodied theoretical review, this symposium initiates a concerted effort to gather a set of innovative methodological tools that address the complexity of transliteracies in practice. The audience will collaborate in constructing a visual map, considering with panelists how to ethically represent marginalized voices.

Anna Smith, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Amy Stornaiuolo, University of Pennsylvania
Nathan Phillips, University of Illinois at Chicago
Christian Ehret, McGill University
Matthew Hall, The College of New Jersey
Jon M Wargo, Michigan State University
Joanne Larson, University of Rochester


“I’ve Become a Student of This”:
Temporal Practices in Transcontextual Writing Development

Continue reading Where’s Anna: Literacy Research Association Edition

Going on a Blog Hunt. #clmooc Marks the Spot.

It’s a blustery, rainy…and sticky-warm July day. And yet, I am still about to embark on a walk…a blog walk.

If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ve seen an abundance of the #clmooc hashtag in my stream. Hopefully, you haven’t muted it before I had a chance to explain. We’re right in the middle of the…

Connected Learning Massive(ly) Open
On-(and Off-)line Collaboration

(See why it’s shortened?)

It’s basically a connected learning summer camp for educators. There are a series of Make Cycles that begin (and only begin, never end) each week through July, and educators can follow their own lines of inquiry while making, experimenting, writing, and connecting. As you can imagine, it has turned out to be a choose-your-own-adventure space bubbling with ideas, rich with potential, and a little overwhelming to try to take in in one gulp.

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Photo by Alan Levine

This brings us to the #clmooc Blog Hub, and my blog walk (inspired by Kevin Hodgson’s idea of the blog walk and the results Deanna Mascle found on the walk she took). Since it seems that our Make Cycle #3 is focused on game design, I am going to change the blog walk into a blog hunt—a hunt for ideas that spur my thinking…

First along my way, I’ve met Aaron Johannes who is a graphic facilitator. I had never heard of this, but it resonates with the work I had done with Matt Hall and Nick Sousanis—and more deeply, Nick’s work recently published as the book Unflattening—to share the critical role of creating visualizations of our thinking while/during/in the processes of inquiry. This is what Aaron does for groups—on the fly graphic representations of a conversation or strategic planning meeting. What a powerful layer of understanding that must bring! Continue reading Going on a Blog Hunt. #clmooc Marks the Spot.

Anna Smith, PhD, educational researcher & teacher educator blogging about composition in the digital age, contexts for learning, theories of development, and global youth.

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