Category Archives: #literacies

“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.

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

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Learning Pathways on ConnectedLearning.tv

What do learning pathways look like as young people move across learning contexts in pursuit of their interests in school, at home, in libraries, community centers and online?

Tomorrow, July 16th, at 1:00 PM Eastern/10:00 AM Pacific, I will have the opportunity to join Elyse Eidman-Aadahl of the National Writing Project, Kris Gutierrez at University of Colorado at Boulder, and Paul Allison of YouthVoices to discuss how youth leverage the opportunities, resources, tools, and connections available to them, and in this process, how learning and literacy practices are shaped. We’ll ask: How do individuals create and transform themselves as learners? How can we design learning environments to be responsive to these pathways? Continue reading Learning Pathways on ConnectedLearning.tv

Teachers as Contemporary Learners

Today I will be speaking with those at the Fordham Literacy Institute about how teachers can harness contemporary literacies for themselves and for their own professional growth. We’ll be taking their already great Guiding Questions and making a little twist in order to ask:

  • Who are contemporary teachers?
  • What is the potential for professional development in an age of Web 2.0?
  • How can we use technologies to build our literacy & content teaching knowledge & skills?
  • How can we use technologies to expand the walls of our professional development?

Ultimately…

  • Who am I as a teacher, and where do I need to grow to meet the needs of contemporary learners?

Continue reading Teachers as Contemporary Learners

#AERA13 or What I’m Up To This Week–Other Than 37,989 Feet Above Iowa

I am currently 37,989 feet above the middle of Iowa sending digital messages to people around the world. The next generation will be unfazed with this phenomenon. I don’t think I’ll ever cease to be amazed. Continue reading #AERA13 or What I’m Up To This Week–Other Than 37,989 Feet Above Iowa

To DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) or to DREAM (DRop Everything And Make)

20120914-131047.jpgLast weekend, as I was walking to my weekend office (my favorite cafe in El Barrio, East Harlem Cafe), I passed the corner of 105th and Lexington, which had been under construction for the last months. Suddenly, I heard someone calling my name from inside the building. Sure enough it was Manny Vega, visual artist and mosaicist extraordinaire, who is well-known for his restoration of the Spanish Harlem mural on 104th and Lexington and the mosaics in the NYC subway station at 110th street.

20120914-131059.jpgHe was working on his newest project, a mosaic realization of the appliquéd series of public art that runs along the businesses from 104th to 105th in East Harlem (featured in the NY Times). In the renovation of the building at 105th and Lexington, the art there had been removed in pieces, and the folks at 7173 Associates, LLC, and the owner of the long-standing neighborhood perfumerie, Exotic Fragrances, had decided this was not a loss they would let the neighborhood feel. Expected to run 20 feet long and 7 feet high, Espiritu: A Visual Prayer in Glass and Stone for the Here and Now, is Vega’s gift for the streets of East Harlem. It will be unveiled October 6th at 3:00 p.m.

The theme is a celebration of moments in my life where spirit has been the vehicle for living. It has been an amazing experience to share these images with everyone as folks have provided even more meaning to this project with their own association with my art and the realm of the spirit. -Manny Vega

And if I wasn’t already lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with such a vibrant art community, Manny Vega has been kind enough to take me on as an unofficial, part-time mosaic apprentice. We had met at East Harlem Cafe, where a commissioned piece hangs announcing their name. We began to talk technique and tools, and pretty soon, I had my first assignments. I studied, up close and personal, the mosaics throughout the subways stations in NYC (and got a more than a few weird looks as I stood nose to tile) and then on a trip to Russia, the Byzantine style that Vega practices. With pieces of construction paper and scissors, I drew then places tiles in channels, a Byzantine-style technique that creates the movement, depth and life seen in Vega’s creations.

It was a Saturday, and I had a long to-do list awaiting me, but I did what any sane person would do with your mosaic mentor working on a landmark piece. I dropped everything and went to get my pieces and tools. I returned and we worked alongside each other with a stereo blasting the local flavor for hours. Manny showed me a new fastening technique, and let me use a new clipper tool to practice making curved pieces that “fastened” into the next stone. (You can see magnified sections of some of his work here by running the mouse over the image. Watch for the channels and how pieces are cut to fasten into each other.) He told me that as tile and glass becomes malleable and the pieces begin to run as you intend in the channels, the therapy sets in. The mind and body and the creation become one. And, as usual, he was right. I was transfixed and healed. I tweeted and an old student of mine responded brilliantly:

This got me thinking. Just a few nights before during #literacies chat, we had been discussing contemporary digital literacies while listening in to the National Writing Project’s bi-monthly radio program. We had this little exchange:

20120914-131124.jpg Part of Manny Vega’s mosaic mural Espiritu will be a piece that features The Trickster, a mythical creature that shows up across time and cultures. As a mosaic, Vega is afforded the ability to insert actual dominos and dice in his rendition of a modern-day Trickster, who gets around via skateboard. The dominos and dice are physical manifestations of the hustle, of the gamble, of the games today’s Trickster uses to entrap us. This physically-realized aesthetic and referent would not be possible in any other medium.

I think this is the approach we need to take when thinking about digital literacies. What are the affordances of the medium that—if we took advantage of—would result in compositions that could do and be things otherwise not possible? A few of my grad students took to defining contemporary literacies last semester. Some of the results are here. Doug Belshaw, of the Mozilla Foundation, is writing a white paper on web literacies right now, and he is looking for input. What do you think these affordances are that we should be attending to in schools today?

One of the changes I see as necessary, is to stop saying literacy when we mean reading. Literacies in contemporary times (and perhaps always) are equal measure reading and writing/interpreting and composing. In a forthcoming chapter in Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections and Challenges, I explain (with co-author Glynda Hull):

Via digital means we are now easily able to compose in multiple modes and, with access to the Internet, to do so in response to and in collaboration with international others. Such practices are, in fact, increasingly viewed as central rather than peripheral to literacy (Andrews & Smith, 2011). Critical reading implies a reader’s active response, as Rosenblatt (1938/1995, 1978/1994) long ago taught us. The interpretation of written language and image resides at the intersection of text, the reader’s personal experiences with other texts, and the social world. In a digital age, a reader’s response can become manifest materially (cf. Coiro & Dobler, 2007). When readers engage with a blog, for instance, they are able, indeed expected, to click on links, add comments, and reblog or remix content. Such response is a customary, expected part of the reading experience. Thus, the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing becomes tighter in the digital sphere, making authorship more obviously tantamount to readership, and vice versa.

One way we could do this is change the DEAR program (Drop Everything and Read) and institute a DREAM program (DRop Everything and Make). As my old student Emily implied, this would include making meaning from existing texts, along with making new ones. I know from my Saturday afternoon with Manny, making is not just critical and creative, it can be healing.

(The #literacies chat also led us into another fascinating discussion of the boundaries of writing when considering contemporary digital composition. I’d love to continue the conversation on that topic that started here.)

#literacies chat: The Reboot

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As many of you know, after an intriguing semester collaborating across our courses in New Literacies and Content Area Literacies, using the hashtag #literacies on Twitter, Emily Pendergrass (Lecturer at Vanderbilt University and @Dr_Pendergrass on Twitter) and I (@writerswriting on Twitter) wanted to take advantage of the momentum built by having so many of our colleagues think with us about the demands and dimensions of contemporary literacies. Using our course hashtag, we began the #literacies chat which runs weekly on Thursdays from 7:00-8:00 PM EST on Twitter.

The #literacies network of educators, researchers and theorists built quickly and expanded to include international colleagues, grad students, in-service teachers, and many others working related fields. Several of these folks became my shortlist for #FF including: @klbz, @mhall78, @allistelling@Jessifer, @JRRockwall, @linlouj, @mday666, @cjprender@ryanrish. (If you’re a #literacies regular and I missed you on this list, I am sorry! I have been away—see Part I and Part II—and I’m trying to do this from memory!)

Already we have discussed:

  • Our priorities and commitments when it comes to contemporary literacies. (Topic here. Summarized here.)
  • Ideas that frame our thinking about “literacies.” (Topic here. Archived here.)
  • The deceptively simple definition of “text.” (Topic here. Archived here.)
  • Swapping syllabi–a chat that extended across two productive weeks of exchange. (Topic here. Archived here.)
  • The role time plays in contemporary literacies. (Topic here. Archived here.)

We then took a short summer break, and this Thursday we are “rebooting” (thus the reason for the Spiderman image) the #literacies chat with the very important topic #Literacies with Diverse Learners. As Emily Pendergrass said in her chat topic description:

[There are] dumbfounding disparities within our schools and communities. Economic, ethnic, and achievement differences are greater in the US than in other countries. So…

  • How can contemporary literacies help build learning successes with diverse learners?
  • How can we revive the flat line among all our students and promote achievement and understandings?
  • What role does contemporary literacies play in reviving achievement and closing the gap?

In the coming months, we are looking forward to several guest hosts with great topics. We’ll have @ryanrish and his crew hosting about multimodality. @MaryAnnReilly is going to lead us in deep discussion on remix. And the team at @HybridPed, led by @allistelling, is going to host a chat on hybrid pedagogies for these contemporary times.

I hope you’ll join us Thursdays from 7:00-8:00 PM EST on Twitter using the hashtag #literacies! (Directions on how to do that here.) Check out our #literacies chat blog for a calendar and descriptions of upcoming topics and links to archives from past chats.

The Texas GOP’s Real Mistake: Thinking? Misunderstanding? Fearing?

I thoroughly enjoyed Colbert’s skewering of the Texas GOP 2012 Platform, which involves a rejection of “critical thinking skills.” The Washington Post quoted the statement as such:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Taking into consideration that the platform also mentions that multicultural education is “divisive,” and that they support “objective teaching” and “school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles,” I am wondering if what they meant was critical as in critical literacies or critical race theory and the like. I can just imagine a particularly conservative person in the educational field making a case against critical theories or critical literacies, and someone outside of education thinking that these fit under the more generally-known concept “critical thinking skills” and then thought that these were also the same as “higher order thinking skills.”

Has anyone heard if that is the case?

In a statement from the Texas GOP they indicated that they did not intend to include critical thinking skills in their list (even though it was voted on and approved by the general assembly—after, as Colbert pointed out, it was said, written, read, and perhaps even discussed(?)—and cannot be edited out now). However, I think a misunderstanding of the concepts themselves is more likely the mistake they made.

(If you asked me, the real mistake is being afraid of youth practicing critical theories and literacies. But that’s just me. Is it you, too?)