All posts by Anna Smith

educational researcher & teacher educator writing about contemporary composition, theories of development, and transliteracies

Digital Trace Audit: A #clmooc New Year’s ‘Unmake’ Cycle

Want to join me in a #clmooc ‘unmake’ cycle?

(clmooc stands for Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration)

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the tracks, traces, and trails we leave as we work digitally and online. In a recent chapter focused on learning analytics and writing, I wrote about some of the potentials and pitfalls in education of the traces we leave when we write digitally. It begins:

Though the electronic pulses that transmit data packets across the Atlantic in milliseconds can make digital writing seem ephemeral, writers composing with digital devices and within digitally networked environments leave traces. Through new media’s social practices and algorithmic designs, these traces can be fed back and used, making them long lasting, seemingly indelible marks.

User metrics and analytics—though still early emerging socio-technological phenomena—have quickly become foregrounded in big business, policing, and governmental decision-making. At the same time, they have also become backgrounded in social life—an everyday, “unseen” aspect of the social ecologies of daily life. (Smith, Cope & Kalantzis, 2017, p. 235)

In addition to privacy, security, energy costs, etc., one of the pitfalls that this hints at is how our data traces are used as a commodity. What’s the saying? “If it’s a free app, you are the cost.” And yet, in order to realize some of the potentials with online writing and creating tools, we have to agree to terms of service that are written in such broad and inclusive language that we don’t really have the choice but to, in essence, sell our digital souls. I don’t know how many of those ‘Agree’ checkboxes I’ve ticked without reading, but even if I read, if I wanted to use an app or participate in online communities, I wouldn’t really have that much of a choice but to tick, tick, tick.

So, when Wendy posted a tweet about a Digital Detox, it definitely caught my eye.

So, here’s my idea for a New Year’s #clmooc UnMake Cycle…

For the month of January, I have made a grid with several ways to check in on our digital traces that I have been collecting the last month or so. You can randomly pick one each day or week, or you can work your way through them sequentially.

The reason this is an ‘unmake’ cycle is that we might choose to delete accounts, erase images, edit profile descriptions, clear browser histories, or otherwise ‘unmake’ our digital traces along the way. Let us know what you’re up to on the usual #clmooc channels.

However, there can be plenty of making opportunities as well!

  • We might check out a new app to replace an older one that isn’t functioning, and post something we create with it.
  • We might remix the terms of service of our favorite platforms as a way to actually, finally read those darn things.
  • We might make a network map of our personal learning network, including the digital platforms and tools that serve as the gatekeepers to the folks and ideas with whom we want to connect.

Digital Trace Audit: A #clmooc New Year’s ‘Unmake’ Cycle

Click on the squares below for your surprise digital data traces audit activity!
(I am still taking suggestions for activities that I can add. Please comment below!)


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Exploring Mobile Dimensions with NWP

This last week Amy Stornaiuolo and I had an opportunity to meet with teachers at the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project to discuss the mobile dimensions of contemporary literacy practices. By mobile, we mean the aspects that can move and are moved in writing. Most obviously, the list of things that move in writing includes the people who are writing, and all the old & new mobile devices we use to compose (tablets, phones, pens, notebooks, etc.). Composed messages, too, are mobile, and with networked means, their distribution can reach wide, potentially global audiences.

However, there are other aspects of writing that are similarly mobile, but less obviously so, including our passions and interests (such as an interest in language, data analytics, or an invested way of being), aspects of written products (such as genre characteristics), and writing practices (such as a particular way of revising or composing).

The mobile dimensions of writing have not traditionally received much attention in schools; however, they are important to consider if we are interested in young people’s growth and development as writers. This is particularly true when thinking about the immobilities in students’ writing, whether those are in their writing products, processes, or practices, particularly as some students’ compositions and creations are impeded differently than others–at times in inequitable and unjust ways.

A thread of this session also focused on ways to sense and trace these mobilities, and we used our work in two networks of writers to discuss these aspects through our transliteracies framework we’ve been developing with Nathan Phillips. First we mapped posts from an international network of young writers created by Amy called Write4Change, and then discussed how we might take part in some networked writing ourselves in an online professional learning opportunity for educators that Anna has been a part of called the CLMOOC (Connected Learning Massive Open Online Community).

In addition to the links available in the post and presentation above, there are some other resources that may be of interest:

An article on the mobilities of teachers’ posts in CLMOOC, called Remix as Professional Learning: Educators’ Iterative Literacy Practice in CLMOOC.

A webinar from the Connected Learning TV when we spoke with educators about possibilities of the transliteracies framework for their work with youth:


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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:

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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.

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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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So Many Literacies, So Little Time

The title of this post is borrowed from one of the pre-service teachers I’m working with in a Literacies and Technologies Across Disciplines course at my new institution. It’s the beginning of a new semester, and in this course that means, it’s Literacies Log time. In this assignment, I ask students to 201log their literacy activity for just an hour’s worth of time. The results are always interesting, if not mind-blowing as we consider how much of our time is spent engaging with a wide range of texts of various genres and formats mediated by a variety of technologies. As one student remarked, “It’s like we are constantly being literate. Even if you are just thinking, you are making sense of a text of some sort or another.”

literacy-logs

Above is just a smattering of the literacy practices we logged in an hour. And it got me thinking about a few things recent conversations I’ve had about literacies. For instance, we’re all (yes, I am speaking for all of ‘us’) tired of the ‘_________ literacies’ phenomenon. From visual literacies to digital literacies and fitness literacies to friendship literacies, from time to time hyphenating ‘literacies’ happens. (Heck, my work with Amy Stornaiuolo and Nathan C. Phillips is all about transliteracies.) Adding a term can help us to focus in on some aspect of literacy activity that we want to consider that may not—for one reason or another—have been foregrounded.

But it is always my hope whenever I see a ‘________ literacies’ that someday, because of the attention we give it with that prefix, that we’ll be able to talk about literacies, just literacies, and the focal aspect will be an obvious aspect to consider. And from the literacies logs turned in this year, I am even more hopeful that we’ll be able to drop some of those prefixes—like digital, visual, even trans—sooner than later. The everyday literacy practices logged were predominantly digital, involved visual modes, and a few of the students even noticed (without prompting from me) how their varied literacy practices allowed (or kept) them to be mobile across spaces and time.

So many literacies, but maybe someday…


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Learning Flows at Queens Paideia School

Today I had the opportunity to visit the Queens Paideia School for the second time this year. An instructor at the school, Tim Fredrick (a good friend and a great writer), had invited me earlier this year to check out the multi-age, open design in action. Within just a few minutes of being at the school again, I was reminded of how positive and pleasant the learning flows felt in the space. Along with time and space divisions typical of schools, such as small reading and writing groups and individual work cubicles, teachers and young learners moved to different areas through the open spaces around the school rooms in different allotments of time.

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