Category Archives: #literacies

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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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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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

IAmA LRA Show Guest: Young Adults & their Writing Practices

This post is updated to include a recording of the event...

Tuesday (8/19) at 8PM EST was the second live event in the month-long focus on young adults and their writing practices from #literacies chat and the Literacy Research Association‘s Research to Practice webinar series. I was honored to join Jen Scott Curwood, Ryan Rish, Jeremy Hyler, and moderator Paula DiDomenico and discussant Mellinee Lesley in the live LRA Learning Research to Practice show.

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.

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“Ahhhh, so this is what hacking feels like”: Ingenuity, Challenge & Glimmering Subversion

For the second July in a row I had the opportunity to participate in the National Writing Project‘s Making Learning Connected MOOC, or #clmooc as it is more commonly referred to across the webz.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 10.57.11 AMSet 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.

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