No. Don’t Surrender. Leverage.: Creativity in Scholarly Work

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. 2015/01/img_59031.jpgAnd 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.

Continue reading No. Don’t Surrender. Leverage.: Creativity in Scholarly Work

Write. Create. Make.: A solution. Not a resolution.

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…

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 2.28.51 PM
Click image to see the complete pitiful, sorry excuse for a report.

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.

Continue reading Write. Create. Make.: A solution. Not a resolution.

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.

Continue reading IAmA LRA Show Guest: Young Adults & their Writing Practices

“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

Connected Learning and Hacking the Antidote

The following is a quick-fired dispatch from the outer bank regions of the zombie horde (i.e. from Pete (@allistelling) and Anna (@anna_phd)) to the #TvsZ community. #TvsZ is a massive zombie lore-based contemporary composition learning game. (That’s what we said: a massive zombie lore-based contemporary composition learning game.) Others are welcome to read it as it has equal amounts of connected learning and contemporary composition talk!

Continue reading Connected Learning and Hacking the Antidote

“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:

photo 2 (3)

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

Easy as Pie: Thanksgiving Dinner and Digital Content Creation

Thanksgiving is easy.

Hear me out: Turkey? Stick it in an oven for hours. Mashed potatoes? Boil some water. Yams? Sprinkle some brown sugar. Green beans? Open a can. Even hand-whipped whip cream? Yep. That, too. Whip it.

Even if you end up making a Half-Trifle Half-Shepherd’s Pie Rachel Special, “what’s not to like?” Joey will eat it.

Yes, I have a point.

We like to make Thanksgiving a big deal. Sure there are more mouths to feed, more places to set at the table, more potatoes to peel, but it’s not any more difficult than a single crème brûlée. A good mole? I have no idea where to start.

In the same way, there are some of us who still think that digital content creation—a video, a blog post with an image, a podcast, a visual meme, a musical track, an image collage—is a big deal. I am here to say that like Thanksgiving, it isn’t that hard. In fact, digital content creation has never been easier.  We don’t have to wait until next year for Facebook to provide us with another 30-second video with five of our photos. We can make our own in just about the same amount of time it took to watch it.

Here are my go-to apps for composing-on-the-go:

Animoto

This last winter, my nephew was performing at an Open Mic with his brother for the last time before he left on a two-year service stint. As I watched the performance, I took snapshots and recorded a couple of the songs. And as I went up to the bar to order a hot chocolate, I opened Animoto on my phone, selected a couple of pictures and a snippet or two of the video, typed a couple of words.  Continue reading Easy as Pie: Thanksgiving Dinner and Digital Content Creation

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

Anna Smith, PhD, educational researcher & teacher educator blogging about composition in the digital age, contexts for learning, theories of development, and global youth.

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