occasional musings on writing, literacies, and digital media
I am a learning scientist and an assistant professor of English teaching at the University of New Hampshire. My research focuses on writing, digital literacies, and learning in formal and informal environments.
Here’s a post that I wrote to my class post-election. Posting a slightly different, less-class-focused take here:
It’s never easy to be an English teacher in the aftermath of major public events. Teaching is difficult, particularly in swing states where students’ and families’ opinions are so diverse. From what I’ve seen in conversations and reading, this has been an especially difficult election season for teachers around the country as a result of the blunt, aggressive rhetoric leveled at a whole variety of constituencies. Students learn what they see and live (the sociality of language leads us to literally adopt each others’ words over time), and they’ve seen a lot of boundary-pushing by public figures in the past several months. Too many have rejected civil discourse in favor of attack. Reflecting on these emotions in class could become a source of re-affirmation and understanding, or a source of deepening division. Our students have their own strong beliefs and emotion, but new political ascendencies aren’t a mandate to perpetuate violence. This is my small place of common ground. Can we all agree that beating each other up—verbally or physically—doesn’t help anything?
Take care of yourselves and each other first. Respect each others’ right to react with joy or horror. Turn off the internet and the 24-hour news cycle for a little while. Take time to breathe. Get coffee together face-to-face. Go for a walk out under the trees.
Then: In your classrooms this week and next, listen. Resist name-calling. Ask fellow teachers and students about moving through a deeply divisive time. How have they (or you) chosen to address election results or resulting protests and violence in their classrooms, if at all? How have they (or you) helped students to share feelings of sadness, elation, fear, or longing without alienating or abusing each other? Especially for teachers in ideologically-diverse districts, how have they (or you) thought about re-establishing classmates’ ties or reinforcing norms of civil discourse? Most important: How can we protect and empathize with our fellow teachers and students who may be feeling very marginalized in this aftermath?
For now, I’m listening. And resisting with as much peaceful-but-violence-challenging conversation as I can muster. Be well and take care.
It’s August and I wonder where the summer went. But I’m excited that it’s time for GLS — the annual Games, Learning, and Society conference at UW-Madison. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, meeting new people, and learning about what games everyone’s playing and how they’re planning to incorporate Pokemon Go into various learning spaces. I’m especially looking forward to talking with as many teachers as I can. Bringing digital media and DIY sensibilities into classrooms in meaningful ways can be tough, particularly for K-12 teachers who work under intense assessment regimes, and I want to be able to share recent work with my teacher-candidate students.
So: especially if you’re a teacher who is thinking in similar ways, please come join me, Debbie Fields, and Jayne Lammers for our workshop session “Designing for DIY: Presenting Tensions, Lessons, and Questions to Guide Innovative Learning Environments.” Here’s the session link for more info. We’re planning to share experiences from our own efforts to bring various digital media explorations into our classes. We’d love to hear about yours, and we want to think about how we might consolidate these experiences into larger principles, research questions, or agendas. Join us!
Today I was asked by the lovely folks at DML Commons to participate in a webinar about writing and collaboration, and it was so much fun to chat with several fantastic academic writers about their writing ideas and habits.
In short, I’d say that the major lesson was that (surprisingly or unsurprisingly!), writing
is hard for everyone. That, and we all are addicted to coffee.
Here’s my tablescape from yesterday’s grant writing. A nice window, coffee, tea, and knitting are just some of the ingredients in my successful writing sessions. I have to have caffeine and a distraction for my hands.
Sometimes, I don’t think that my students believe me when I tell them that I have a difficult time with writing, too. It’s tough to make the time to sit down and hash out what I mean. It’s even tougher when I show a messy draft to someone else and that person doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say.
When you’re building research in digital literacies, it often is very useful to be married to a coder. Chris often helps me think about the perspective of someone who works in the industry and whether what I’m thinking about teaching might actually be useful for students — either immediately or at some point in the future.
Recently, he came in to help me teach my students about coding. All of the folks in this class are English teachers, reading and writing specialists, or headed into pre-service English teaching internships. To say the least, many of them were highly skeptical. They weren’t sure whether they could code, first of all, or whether they wanted to learn. What relevance does code have to teaching reading and writing?Read More »
Below you will find the text of the Shakespeare fan page that Chris made to push my teaching students into learning some HTML and CSS mark-up by compelling them into making some deeply necessary edits. English major humor ahead! I’m leaving it here for posterity, though you should be deeply saddened to know that you’re missing the original, eye-searing aqua-and-yellow color scheme.
The cover image is a Wikimedia Commons image of the “Flower Portrait” of Shakespeare.
My favorite play is called Merchant of Venezuela. It is about two young people who fall in love even though they come from different sides of the tracks. The both have twins and when the four of them go camping in the woods one night fairies come and turn one of them into a horse or something. But that’s ok because they’re all on an island where a sorcerer lives (he used to be a king but when he tried to divide up his kingdom his kids kicked him out). So in the end there’s this HUUGE sword battle where everybody dies because one of the swords is poisonous and the other is really really pointy. It is SO COOL.
As a part of my School University Dialogues research project, I’ve been visiting high school and college writing classrooms. I spent some time with my UNH colleague Leah Williams yesterday. She’s a creative writer, primarily, and has done some amazing things as far as developing techniques for teaching students about multimodal writing and digital composition. I sat with her students, who were writing stories about first jobs and summer camps, landmarks and realizations.
They were working on Googlemaps biographies —using maps to chart their narratives through physical locations — which seemed like a lovely way to think about this week’s #walkmyworld theme, our Journeys.
So, I tried it. I didn’t include full stories or original photos for every location I’ve lived, but I enjoyed combining the map, my own stories, and images that I’ve made and saved over the years. This snapshots-like technique appeals to the poet who still lurks inside of me (and is a little afraid of long-form personal writing).
Here’s a link to my Googlemaps essay. You can’t see much in this tiny screenshot.
Hello for the first time in awhile, #walkmyworld folks! We in English 789 have been blazing a bit of a parallel trail, working around our larger research projects, Spring Break for the students, and digging into digital poems. Because few of us have worked with digital texts in deep ways before, I thought it might be a nice way to stick a bit more closely to text at first before composing on our own. We started with several poems broadly about reflections of self, inspired by Ian O’Byrne‘s suggestions for Mirror week:
We broke up into groups and started by annotating these poems in Googledocs, marking them up, making sense of them, and thinking about how we might use visual or audio components to help us “see” these powerful words and images in new ways. Shawna Coppola and I worked together on O’Malley’s Shape of Saying, which is about language, identity, and the marginalization of the Irish language under British rule . We spend a lot of time thinking about the sounds of the poem (for instance, listening to Irish speakers), trying to think about how we might represent the sound of a language visually, how language reflect selves and cultures. One person in the linked video talks about “the thought process in Irish” and how it’s distinct.Read More »
For this past week’s #walkmyworld, I spent a long time thinking about various possibilities and events for sharing. I’ve been many different people over the course of becoming the professor I am today, but I’ve thought of myself as a teacher for many years. My first teaching gig was as a teenager, when I taught horseback riding. When I abandoned my original graduate school plans to study education policy — by writing an undergrad thesis, I had learned exactly how much I disliked reading and writing that kind of research — I went with something that felt plausible, comfortable, familiar. I decided to become an English teacher.
It sounds too easy when I tell the story like that, though.
One thing I’ve found is that there’s very few people have easy, straightforward career stories. In the midst of this unrelenting winter, my methods students have been interviewing for their full-year certification internships. As they jump into planning their own careers as teachers, I can see the tension rising. They’re seniors, soon to be graduate students, and they want to know that their plans will resolve into solidity, too, eventually. So, I’ve been trying to talk through my own life more often. It’s complicated, even in hindsight, and I have to laugh at myself.Read More »
One of the things that I have been thinking quite a bit about lately is the term “literacy.” As scholars and teachers, we often use “literacy” to mean “the ability to read and write,” but, practically, it always means more than that. It’s well established that what scholars and educators and standards-writers really mean, especially at the secondary level, is not just reading, but something closer to “the ability to read and synthesize information from a text.” Not just writing, but “the ability to respond coherently within the boundaries of a specific genre.” These are basic social literacy ideas, of course – as Gee says, a student’s reading and writing practices and products need to fit into an acceptable form of school Discourse to count as demonstration of knowledge.
I’ve been thinking about this lately in the context of the new NAEP draft framework for what they are calling technological literacy. I found out about the invitation for public comment and took the survey just before it closed. Here’s a little about what I thought.Read More »