Category Archives: In Practice (Teaching)

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.

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

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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A NWP Backchannel: Rethinking Interest-Driven

I had the opportunity to present at the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting at the end of last year. For the Annual Meeting, NWP used the concept of “HOMAGO”—a new term that comes from Connected Learning research and refers to the learning that comes from Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out.  Nicole Mirra and I were invited to present our research and work with youth in the Geeking Out strand–specifically, to address how our work with youth has moved us to re-think some current approaches to “interest-driven”  connected learning.

I shared some of the findings of my study into how young men develop as writers in their teen years. For this session, I focused on sharing the ways the young men participated in activities in schools, in out-of-school contexts, and online. Quite briefly, the young men used their experiences in these contexts as resources to help them achieve their developing writing purposes, preferences, and aspiring literate identities. Their invested interests in who they wanted to be as writers, what they wanted to write, and how they wanted to go about doing those activities influenced the writing practices they took up, adapted, and resisted. The young men habitually reminisced Continue reading A NWP Backchannel: Rethinking Interest-Driven

What Do We “Let the Page Be”?

Today I came across this recording of the spoken word piece by Bonafide Rojas called “In Front of the Class.” In it, he describes a group of youth who, at first glance, may seem hopeless. He says to the young people:

Let the page be a doctor.
Let the page be a therapist.
Let the page be a lover.

Let the page be your enemy, punch it in the face.
Let the page be your best friend
who will never stab you in the back.
Let the page be your Prozac.

Let the page be your hip hop.
Let the page be your rock and roll.
Let the page be that fancy ride you’re always talking about.

Let the page be that bling, bling on your wrist.
Let the page be the underground beat you’re about to rip.
Let the page be your autobiography.

This week I will be speaking with the NYU’s ELL (English Language Learners) Think Tank, a consortium of teachers from across New York City. One of the first things I am going to do is ask us to (re)think the typical definition of writing that we see at work in our schools, and particularly the limited ways we talk about writing when working with those who are learning English. What do we “let the page be”?

photo (5) 2For the young men I got to know while researching how young men develop as writers, “the page” was all of the things Bonafide Rojas listed, and more. At some point during the two years that I traced their writing practices, each of the young men dealt with particular social tensions like for one young man, trying to make sense of having an abusive father, and for another young man, being considered by some to be “too White” and by others as being “too Latino.” To make sense of these social tensions, each of the young men independently turned these literal issues into figurative literary tropes through writing.

Continue reading What Do We “Let the Page Be”?