just words

One of the joys of teaching is learning from and being inspired by the students with whom you are working. Last week in a graduate course I am teaching called eLearning in PK-20, we focused on multimodality and multimedia in our teaching and learning. We read a chapter I had written with a colleague called “Multimodal Meaning: Discursive Dimensions of e-Learning” in the book eLearning … Continue reading just words

#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”

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””

Creating Conversation: Composing in the Digital Age

Update: You can now navigate this conversation here. One of the many potentials of the shifts in re-envisioning writing in multimodal spaces is the chance for new conversations — for stretching out thinking beyond your own physical space and joining in discussions about the changes now underfoot. During November 2012’s Digital Writing Month, educators and writers and others from across many teaching levels and learning domains — … Continue reading Creating Conversation: Composing in the Digital Age

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

Last 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 … Continue reading To DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) or to DREAM (DRop Everything And Make)

#literacies chat: The Reboot

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 … Continue reading #literacies chat: The Reboot

Forget Defining Literacies. What’s ‘Writing’?

I’d like to talk to you about the 468th episode of This American Life. Specifically, I want to hone in to 23 and 1/2 minutes that makes up Act Two: Forgive Us Our Press Passes. I don’t recommend many things, as a habit, but this is worth your time. In producer Sarah Koenig’s story about a company called Journatic, which outsources local newspaper stories, be whisked away into … Continue reading Forget Defining Literacies. What’s ‘Writing’?

Multimodality is Old News: The Incas and Khipu

I have been off the grid for a bit, but more importantly, I have been on vacation.

With some old and some new friends, I hiked the Inca Trail through the Andes mountains from outside Cusco, Peru to the oft-photographed Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu and its location were impressive—as expected. The trek, however, which covered about 25 miles of elevation gains of up to 13,000 feet at Dead Woman’s Pass and losses and gains again across several passes, was the personally satisfying portion of the trip.

The following two photographs show a bit of the extent of this trek: The first, where we were going on Day 2, and the second from the other side while atop the next mountain range still on Day 2. We continued hiking that day.

While trekking we were led by Peruvian guides Marco and Roger, as well as hosted by 18 porters who packed and prepared all of our daily needs (amazing!). At each pass, Marco discussed Incan history with us (punctuating the tales with some great punchlines). At one particular pass, Marco impressed upon us the expanse of the Incan empire, which in the 1400s extended across several current South American countries and was the largest South American pre-Columbian empire. Food, supplies, building and expansion plans, astronomical predictions, and military commands were all transported across this terrain by chasquis (runner messengers) at a much quicker pace than we were keeping. (The trek had been run in 3:45 and we were taking four days!) Impressive as just that is, our guide said that at one point, the chasquis’ tongues had been cut off so that the secrets of the empire could not be shared. (I haven’t been able to corroborate this yet. If someone has a source, please let me know.)

So how did they do it? Without tongues, the only other reasonable alternative to expect was that these runners carried some type of text—a large scroll or a tiny printed words on coco leaf (implausible, but go with me). Well, we’d be wrong in such an assumption. Apparently, the largest pre-Columbian empire built stone cities with precision, expanded their reign across cultures, and managed their empire without a formal writing system.

As one of my students used to say, “Let’s let that percolate.”

Continue reading “Multimodality is Old News: The Incas and Khipu”