Category Archives: Theory

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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“You will always be the bread and the knife”: Metaphor, Meter & Meaning

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).

Continue reading “You will always be the bread and the knife”: Metaphor, Meter & Meaning

Learning Pathways: #DML2014 Ignite Recap

On March 8, 2014, I had the opportunity to tackle a new format for sharing my research–an Ignite Talk. With 20 slides that advance automatically after 15 seconds, those preparing Ignite Talks are given the charge to “be inspiring, but make it quick.”

I chose to talk about “learning pathways.” The word “pathways” showed up in 48 of the 70 session titles at the Digital Media and Learning Conference this year. I had yet to hear, however, someone talk about the concept directly, and critically. In the talk I asked:

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From my work researching the pathways of young men as they develop as writers, I had a few items I thought could provoke a conversation. Such as:

Below is a voice recording over the slides. Feel free to discuss in the comments below!

Continue reading Learning Pathways: #DML2014 Ignite Recap

Making Connections: Learning Pathways & Rhizomes

The following is a Guest Post from Allie Bishop Pasquier, an early childhood educator teacher in Bellingham, Washington. Allie has been a participant in the National Writing Project‘s Making Learning Connected MOOC or #clmooc. This post is a remix of a very thoughtful piece on her blog, Bakers and Astronauts, about some of the activity in #clmooc. Allie tweets with the handle @bakersastros.

When I reflect on my learning and growth outside of being a student, “sequential” and “orderly” do not come to mind. There are fits and starts, highs and lows, and brick walls. There are memories that stick out as momentous, but at the time, I probably thought I was just browsing the Internet or having a cup of coffee with a colleague. There are times when I thought I was making a discovery, but in hindsight, I did not follow through with the project. Learning can, and in one sense, must be chronological, but that is not the same as linear, like planned learning is often expected to be. Textbooks are arranged in chapters, to be taught and “learned” in sequential order. Yet I can’t think of any way in which my out-of-school learning has been linear.

Continue reading Making Connections: Learning Pathways & Rhizomes

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

Tweet-a-Read: Vasudevan’s “An Invitation to Unknowing”

Sometimes while I am reading, I am so struck by the ideas and the prose that I sheepishly begin live-tweeting. On even rarer occasions, when the text is one I can’t get out of my mind, I collect the tweets and recommend the text to you. This time it was Lalitha Vasudevan‘s “An Invitation to Unknowing.” Highly recommended.

Continue reading Tweet-a-Read: Vasudevan’s “An Invitation to Unknowing”

Your Voice in Mine

How can I hear my own voice unless it bounces off of yours?

I have had that single line in my mind for years. It isn’t particularly poetic, and I don’t completely agree with what it implies, but I’ve tried relentlessly to write the poem I hear inside it. It has something to do with the way the masses in NYC weave, avoid, embrace. I wrote another line once trying to get near it:

As a child I would drag my fingers through water or hold my arm out car windows to feel this–this particle rumba, this caressing, this giving and taking of space.

I thought of the line and concept again as I was flipping through photographs students in the EXCEL Academy @ NYU had saved while doing some digital writing of their own. I paused. I thought of the conversations we have had this week on #digiwrimo about the changing nature of audience—potential, imagined, intended, unknown, collateral—when our writing occurs in networked digital spaces. I wondered: If the world is my potential (imagined, intended, unknown, collateral) audience, is my looking glass self, is who I am in relation to who I think you are, what is the voice I hear when I write here and like this?

Unsurprisingly, when I looked up the photograph to find who I could attribute it to, I found four pages of “similar images” used in websites all over—without attribution. I thought of replication in the “particle rumba” I hear in voices, the constant “giving and taking of space.” I wondered: When your message, your media, your words can be and are so often available to be appropriated and remixed, what are we able to hear and voice that outside of a digital, networked space are unavailable? What voices do we hear when we are collapsed into audience—viewing our messages and media spin and weave—as we write, replicate to distribute, and write again in response, and in response to response? When we see our digital messages a month, a year, a few years later returned to us, can recognize the voice as it was above the din of all that we can now hear?

Just this week, I came home to find a special prize in my mailbox. It was my copy of Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections and Challenges, an edited volume in which I have a chapter with Glynda Hull. In it we detail the digital writing processes of Tyson, a high school student in the South Bronx, as he layered text, photographs, visual transitions, quotes, music, and eventually a film clip made by a young woman in India, Bakhti, whose work he had gained access to through a closed, international social network. Through this composing process, Tyson reframed the message he was intending to express, and this was no small shift: from “wanting lots of money” to the importance of exploring the concept of struggle through historical, global, and caregiving lenses. Tyson’s voice was accented by images, textured with quoted passages from a book, and (re)tuned to (and by) Bakhti’s voice—all through appropriation of other voices and their messages.

I’ve come to realize that we don’t have to be typing simultaneously in a GDoc to have your voice in mine. In contemporary composition, in digital writing, you are my collaborator when I sit to write. I hear @slamteacher‘s poetic strains and @jessifer‘s short, snappy refrains. I hear what @elemveee is reading and how @maryannreilly is seeing. I hear these in my voice, and your voices give my messages texture.

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This post was originally written and posted for Digital Writing Month. As one of the final guest posts of the month, it ended with the closing below, which I think, months later, is still apropos, especially given the connections and collaborations that have stemmed from Digital Writing Month—most notably my work with Kevin Hodgson to further interrogate the concept of “digital writing.” That conversation can be navigated here. You know, you should really check out Kevin’s latest installation of that conversation. It uses VoiceThread to engage and connect others in our conversation—and is in regards to communities online. It’s probably why I have been thinking of reposting this to my site lately. That and the tweets from Joyce Carol Oates this morning:

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How very exciting that the last day of this month does not mean the end to our digital writing! For many of this month’s participants, I’ve just begun to hear you. (And let’s be honest, the first I heard from you was probably a #TvsZ zombie groan.) I can’t wait to hear more. I can’t wait to dance the particle rumba, to collaborate from a distance, to hear my voice in yours and your voice in mine.