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 log 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.”
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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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.
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
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.
I was just talking with a colleague in the throes of dissertation writing. She’s right in the middle of the mess that is trying to thinking new thoughts. And though she was trying her hardest not to show it, she was feeling downtrodden, and at a loss as to what to do about it. (And then today I serendipitously came across a series of tweets that animated what I saw behind her calm exterior. Press play and enjoy.)
Then she said something that I’ve heard (and said myself) a hundred times:
I just need to trust the process, right? I need to surrender to it.
It rang so false, so hollow, so hopeless. This was someone deeply invested in a complex effort trying to grab at something secure. And surrendering to some amorphous process was her only solution? That’s no solution. I wondered: What is this “process” that’s supposed to solve everything? Letting time pass as we continue to “plug away” at the same old tasks? (You know what they say about that.)
Leveraging “the Process”
Rather than surrendering to this amorphous process (which I am now thinking is just code for feeling lost and ready to give up), I think we could do better to leverage it.
I’ll say it. My 2014 Year in Review from WordPress is sad, just sad. And though the graphics are fun (thanks, WP), my work on this site has not been fireworks worthy. Let’s just take my 2014 Posting Patterns as an example…
Posting patterns? Pretty pitiful. I didn’t have a “posting pattern.” I was in an avoidance holding pattern. Sure there was a lot going on this year, but I don’t need excuses. To be blunt: The sustained intensity of the dissertation processes in concert with the massive amount of other critical and creative…and really exciting…scholarly work I had been engaged in for the last couple of years had left me a little tired, a little wrung out to dry, and thus, a little hesitant to engage in any kind of writing, creating or making that was not absolutely, utterly necessary. And yet, I’ve missed it, and I’ve missed the rush, the spark, the energy I get while writing, creating, and making in order to keep writing, creating and making.
So, what am I going to do about it?
Write. Create. Make.: A solution. Not a resolution.
In addition to discussing the kind of research we do regarding writing and young adults, we discussed the current context for teaching young adult writers, and how we typify the young adults’ writing practices. We tackled the reoccurring question: What does it mean to teach young adults how to write? And finally, we discussed what we hope to see in research and practice in regards to young adults and their writing practices.
Set up as a massive (over 1,000 makers), open (free, no prerequisites, across multiple platforms including offline), online (hosted at Educator Innovator) collaboration (organic, responsive series of make cycles led by participant-facilitators), this year I was able to experience the ways that connected professional development can allow us to learn in what typically would be considered disconnected ways. Case in point: #clmooc officially ended on August 2nd. It’s August 8th, and I am now working on my responses to the Make Cycle that began mid-July. Mind you, there is power in learning in synch and in conversation with others, but the threads of my “classmates'” work and conversations lay available to me across cyberspace, and what I would have otherwise missed due to life interruptions, I can now contribute to, i.e. learn by making and connecting.
So, let’s get to it. In Make Cycle #4, we were invited to Hack Your Writing. This led to a myriad of various makes and forks and very cool conversations about what it means to “hack.” I was (and still am) especially influenced by several fellow participants who grappled with what it means to “hack” and whether revising written products should be considered “hacking” at all.
This week I came across a post by Ian Bogost in the Atlantic called, “Shaka, When the Walls Fell“. The subject matter, of all things, was an episode of Star Trek, but more generally, language, figurative language, and meaning. If, like me, you are not a Trekkie, Bogost has your back. He recounts the episode nearly play-by-play while leading you gently in to the deep waters of language and meaning. I suggest reading the piece, so I won’t give a grand redux here. Rather, here are some main points and questions that I have been thinking about since:
Bogost offers a subtle and powerful critique of the way metaphor is typically depicted. The characters on the Enterprise are trying to talk to another species, the Tamarians, who communicate purely through short verbal referents to historical, cultural occurrences. Some call it metaphor, some images, and Bogost suggests: “Troi and Picard can’t help but interpret Tamarian through their (and our) cultural obsession with mimicry: Metaphorical language operates not by signification, but as poetry, by transforming the real in a symbolic mirror.”
He doesn’t go here (and in fact goes a completely different direction), but he has me wondering when (or if ever) words, whether figurative or as referent or sign, are ever real, or if they are always merely mirrors. I want to veer to the other end of that proposition. There are times that I feel words like weights inside me. They dangle before dropping from my thoughts. My eyes tighten in response and recast my vision and memory. This isn’t always. But there are times when words, especially those operating as metaphor, couldn’t feel more “real” (whatever that is).