Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blogging in School

With the semester coming to an end, I want to take a minute to reflect on how blogging, the big thing I added to my teaching this semester, went.  As with all first attempts, there are several things I would do differently, but the big thing I'm thinking, especially after reading and watching my students' digital reflections, is that I will do it again.

I assigned blog posts and responses once per week.  There was to be a post for each of our readings and then we had a series of inquiry posts to think about the projects we were working on.  These were all to be pretty informal.  My idea was that students would use their daybooks to collect thoughts for the posts (just as I have done for this one) and then craft the more public post from that.   Then, the students were to respond to each other on the blogs.

The big issue we ran into was responding.  I asked the students about it and as you can see here, the reasons why it wasn't happening ranged from feeling that it was pointless, to time, to others' not posting on time.  We worked some on that and it did get better, but it never got to where I wanted it to be.

I suspect this has to do with the authenticity of the blog writing to begin with.  I think if the students had had more choice in what was posted, responding would have made more sense.  In many ways, my request to post about readings was a surveillance move to see that reading was actually happening.  Lacy simply had students write responses in daybooks and then pick what they wanted to post once per week.  I think that might work better.  Also, I think I want to encourage a "creative" post that can lead to the ethnography project once per week earlier in the semester.  And then one of my students even suggested giving the theme for the week and letting the students pick their own readings.  I think some would LOVE this freedom and I'm seriously considering making it an option (if you don't like this reading, pick your own and share it) next time I teach this class.

In the end the students said they loved the blogging and that it taught them to work with and respond to their group members - and gave them a place to do it when they couldn't be face to face.  Not bad for a first attempt.  But, I want the blogs to do more.  I want them to truly become places where students think out loud with others.   That's what I'll be pondering as I move forward with this project.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teachers as Writers

I'm sitting with my people, Writing Project TC's, thinking hard about writing and the teaching of writing.

In a discussion of issues in professional development, we were talking about keeping the salient idea of writing teachers being writers themselves and the difficulty with all that K-12 teachers are asked to do in a day, of keeping that idea front and center.

And then I realized, writer though I am, I've been writing less and less as the semester moves on.

One reason is that I am stuck on my book proposal.  But that's an excuse because my writing group has really been helping me.

Another reason has been the time I've been spending on student papers.  But, that's an excuse.

My NaNo piece hasn't gotten any attention.

I promised my students an inquiry blog post based on some things they were helping me think about that is still in my drafts.

So . . . am I a writer?

Yes.  I'm in a spot in my life where I'm doing a lot of personal journaling.   Stuff that I'm not at all interested in sharing right now.  I write everyday.  That is what makes me a writer.  And this is making me think hard about how we can make the teachers that are writers more visible.  And how we can make classroom space for the very important habit of writing that isn't necessarily to be shared.  In school, and as writers, we do eventually need to move from private to public, but I'm wondering how we can also value this private writerl-y-ness . . .

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's Up With Responding?

In my last post about mid-terms, I mentioned that my 1101 students had given me some important ideas about how the rest of our semester should go.  With that in mind, I'm going back to them again with a problem we are having in our class and hoping that in this space we can help each other out.

My students are not regularly responding to each other's blogs.  I even gave class time for this on Monday and flipping through blogs last night to add my two cents, I noticed that there wasn't much responding there. 

Responding to other's writing is a large part of this class and something that I really hoped the blog space would help with, but some how it's not.

Experience tells me that when my students aren't doing something that I've asked them to do, it's because they don't see the value of it, and if they don't see the value of it, it's because of something I've done or not done.

So . . . in a grand experiment, I'm using my own blog as our writing into the day and a place to practice some responding and think about the value of it. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Midterm Reflections/ Exam

I've just finished reading midterms for my 1101 class.  They have been so honest and insightful.  For the most part I now have a very clear picture of their experience in class so far, where they are with their understanding of literacy, and how they see all of the moving pieces (daybook, blogs, projects, readings) of the class working.

They have also given me some great suggestions about the second half of the semester.  I have to admit, these are my favorite part, because it lets me know which things seem like valuable use of class time and which things do not, in a way that wouldn't happen if I simply asked "Do you think time to write in class is useful?"   "How can our class help you going forward?" is much more difficult (at least I think so) to answer in a way that the teacher wants to hear.

Here's what I've jotted down in my daybook based on what they've said:

1) Allow students choose their own readings and topics for blog posts/
2) Allow students to choose topics for blog posts
3) More free-writing in class
4) Talk about form, purpose and audience in connection with ethnography projects
5) Work with interview questions
6) Work with the idea of artifacts
7) Focused writing time on ethnography in class.

Coming right up oh brilliant students of mine!

This list alone makes me feel like we have had a very solid midterm exam experience.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


In response to Brooke's "Underlife" with my students today . . .

Twitter, twitter
Tweet, tweet
About what's being said -
But in critique of it
Cuz critique is not
Engagement here.

Underlife then,
On a social network,
Heavily engaged
But "disruptive"
Surveillance begins.
Conversation moves
And becomes deeply engaged
Away from watchers.

Quietly engaged.
Under the radar
While "teacher" looks into backs of laptops

Convincing herself that students
Know their roles, their positionality.

Their place.

As receivers of knowledge rather than makers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dumpster Diving and Storify

I've been thinking some more about Pickles the Cat and the idea of Dumpster Diving has come across my screen and into my readings quite a bit lately.

So, in order to create an example or how interesting and easy to use Storify is for my students, and to give them yet another quick image of possibility for their ethnography project while still thinking about the rhetoric of help

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Julia's Coffee Dig

One of my favorite places to work is Julie's coffee on Monroe Road.  It's an independent shop attached to the Habitat to Humanity Store that sells awesome coffee, has an incredible used book section, and lovely places upstairs and down to work.  The furniture is all recycled from Habitat donations.  Because of my obsession lately with the Rhetoric of Help, I thought this a fine place to begin a little literacy dig in order to model the ethnographic projects my 1101 students are going to be getting into.  In this post/ dig I'm focused on the art in the place.  What can be read about the place based on these photos of their original art?
Wall Art In Loft
Ceiling Collage - Taken from Loft

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Assessment Thinking - An Experiment

I've been thinking a lot about assessment over the past couple of years, and Chris Gallagher's article "Being There"  where he talks about the teachers and the students as the major steak holders in education and thereby assessment.  For me, and for colleagues Tony Scott and Lil Brannon, whose article studying assessment in First Year Writing should be coming out very soon, this rings true.

With that in mind, my students and I worked today to decided how we wanted their first project, a digital literacy narrative, to be assessed.  I gave them a quote from Gallagher's piece and some time to write and think about that, what they wanted to get out of our class by the end of the semester, and what they thought were most important aspects in our reading talking and thinking   so far that might show up in these products.

Here's our brain storming.

(Quick aside. This classroom has those cool chalkboards that slide up and down and I feel like the professor in Good Will Hunting  - but cooler because we aren't using all those numbers) every time I get to use it!)

From here, we talked about what we felt was most valued and important, and while they worked in writing groups, I came up with the following rubric for us to work with.

_______  (10) Effort/ Risk Taking

_______ (10) Effective Use of the Digital Tool

_______ (10) Narrative hangs together ( Coherence/ Organization)

_______ (30) Reflects what we’ve learned about literacy

_______  (30) Is the narrative appealing?  Do we care?

________ (10) Grammar/ Conventions

We talked about it and agreed upon it, which feels great.  The students are happy with the way things are weighted and what is valued.  They will also turn in a reflective letter with the project.

This "Rubric" feels a little better than one I've just made up by myself, and CERTAINLY better than one handed down from on high by a text book company or testing corporation.  It's  really, really subjective.  Of course, there's no getting around that.  But something is still bugging me about it.  


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hanging with the Wrong Crowd of Words- an Inquiry

In my 1101 course we are embarking upon a journey of inquiry blogging - among other things  I started last summer with the UNCCWP SI group of 2012 with an inquiry around the rhetoric of help, where I got particularly caught up in Pickles the Cat - a character from a children's book.

I'm planning to keep that project moving and actually do an enthnography around the literacy and rhetoric of help along side my students.

But today' post, is a meandering one - inquiring a little more deeply into this idea of literacy and always it seems lately, connecting it back up to the rhetoric of help that has been pinging around in my head since class yesterday.

One of our readings for class last week was "Words Become Us,"  Convocation speech given by Ann Imbrie.  It's a say story of sorts in that one of the characters commits suicide and Imbrie goes on to ponder how the love affair with words, particularly borrowed words as teen agers led them to such different outcomes, she as a successful college professor and he as a victim of suicide.

One of my students picked out the line "it's possible that Gordon simply fell in with a bad crowd of words, that he borrowed the wrong words, that Milton's  words, say rather than Mick Jagger's might have redeemed him."

This idea of a bad crowd of words collided with the term "broken English" that can out of our dual conversation about Amy Tan's mother and another student in our class who has always made phone calls for her mother.

And it all made me think of the real, concrete power of words - and who gets to decide which words have power?  Is my English "broken" when I say "chester drawers" for bureau" or when one of my students who speaks multiple languages finds it easier to write in his first language to get thoughts out and then translate to English so that I can read it?   Right now, a big motivation for me is written on a white board in my home office "Dead discussion. You will not win cuz I will not loose." - It's a lyric from "Can't be Touched" - a song that I have to turn down when my children walk through the room and that I most likely wouldn't be blasting in my office in Cameron.  But it fills me with power when I need it.   Is allowing ourselves to "hang out" with these languages and words "falling in with a bad crowd of language?"    Is the code switching we all do, the lyrics and the movie lines, and quotes from books not in the cannon - the deviation from "proper" (whatever that is) English, hanging with the "wrong" crowd.

And so is the rhetoric of help bound up in this idea of "raising children up" to hang out with the "right" crowd of words" marking their home languages as "wrong" and broken?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Literacy and Power

          "Literacy" is a vexed term with copious conflicting definitions, but an attempt at a working definition is useful here as I explore it with my 1101 students this fall.  I am defining “literacy” as more than the skills of decoding and letter formation, but as reading, writing and composing practices socially situated within culture and power structures.  By using the term composing, I am including digital literacies, music, art and orality. 
            Due to their social situatedness, literacy practices are not neutral.   They are infused with world views, “saturated with ideology” (Street, 1993, p. 435) and therefore carry with them ways of forming identity and reproducing institutions (Gee, 1996 qtd. in Mahiri, 2005).  Brandt (2001) pushes us to look closely at how dominant ways of being and knowing are reproduced with her notion of literacy sponsors.  She asks us to think about who is bankrolling literacy practices in order to make generalizations about power and literacy.  Sponsors of literacy pass on their ideologies to those whom they sponsor.  If one’s literacy sponsor is not a member of the dominant group, or, if that sponsor is a member of the dominant group that is best served by keeping the non-dominant group in that position in society, she can find herself on the economic margins of society. 
             As Brandt points out, literacy is “a key resource in gaining profit and edge” therefore “the powerful work  . . . to conscript and ration the resource of literacy” (p. 21).  Think for a moment about what the music and fashion industries stand to gain from “gangster” literacy practices (Moje, 2000).  Brandt asks us to think about who gets to decide which literacies are valuable, how they are valued, and which ones not valued. She asks us to think of how that valuing is infused with issues of power and powerlessness. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

By Way of Introduction

I have two poems to share by way of introduction to our Fall 2012 1101 class.

The first riffs off Tom Romano's Where I'm From

Where I'm From:

I am from calculated risk, and trying again.
I am from close your eyes and jump and then be responsible for where you land.
I am from "when you are in a hurry, slow down," and "we make our own happiness." 

I am from my grandmother's yellow kitchen and buttermilk biscuits, chickens in the backyard and pigs out by the barn.

I am from field peas and collard greens and canning one more jar of tomatoes.

I am from West Meck high, circa 1992 and proud to be an Indian.

I am from the learning cottages of North Meck High, tracking through the mud to teach 180 students at a time. 

I am from writing groups and transformative dreams and conversations over a glass of wine with my Writing Project community and friends.

I am from re-writing and re-seeing, and re-visioning one. more. time.

I am from distance runs turned yoga practice.

I am from early morning reading and writing sprints and late night ponderings interrupting a perfectly delicious novel.

I am from the sigh of my sleeping junkyard dog while my children build some crazy contraption in our office as my husband and pal of 16 years and I look on with wonder at how we all got to this place. 

I am from a candle lit back porch and the quiet moments that breathe the intensity of living. 

And another with a little more edge . . .

Funds of Knowledge

            trial by fire.

High pressure
            “I’ve got your back”
            back to back
            leaning, learning, always

“That” kid from “that” school
            street cred
            street smart

            for now.

Stretching to show
            what you know
            I want to know.

And don’t forget
            to breathe.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

On Planning

It's that time of year for me.  I've been planning a week-long workshop centered around making the Common Core matter in the lives of students for 70 teachers about to start the 2012-2013 school year. Last week, I was in Chicago planning partnerships with 70 other National Writing Project consultants.  In and among all of this, I've been planning for my freshman composition course this fall.

What strikes me about all of this planning (other than how much FUN it is) is that my plans would never be the same without the community of educators I have around me that are as hyped up about planning as I am.

And then I'm  sad, and even angry, about how isolating teaching K-12 can be.  We get shut up in our own buildings and classrooms.  Any interaction with other teachers is often scripted by administrations in this era of "ridding ourselves of bad teachers."  It's so rare for many teachers in many schools to have the time and space to plan, to do what teachers do, to come up with creative, awesome plans for their students that make the teacher jump out of her chair and do a little dance because they are just so excited about what comes next.  (Okay, maybe I'm the only one who actually does that.)

Instead, teachers are forced to fill out forms in meetings to prove that they are "hitting" standards each day.  Standards are certainly an important part of our planning, but something is very, very wrong when those standards suck the life and joy out of the planning process as they seem to do in many of our schools with the highest needs.  In my experience, the teachers in "high needs" schools are some of the most creative and enthusiastic when it comes to meeting their students where they are and getting them to where they need to be, and yes, meeting standards.  However, they have to do all of that off the clock and behind closed doors.  And when they are "caught" doing it, they are labeled as "resistant" and "problematic," the same labels the students they teach carry with them.

And as a nation we continue to wonder where all of the "good" teachers have gone. It doesn't matter what standards we write and how great they are if we fail to recognize the professionalism, creativity and brilliance of our teachers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

In response to John and Steve

This morning I've been Skyping with Steve about this blog post that he wrote into response to John's post.  Steve and I started pounding away on the keys, still wondering with John about the sustainability of student blogs.

Steve and I were wondering together about how many of the SI-er's will continue blogging after today, after the push to inquire in those spaces as a part of a course is over.  And I'm wondering about my own blogging over the past two weeks.  I have really enjoyed "having" to blog.  I say "having to" because it wasn't fair to ask the teachers participating in SI to do it if we weren't going to do it ourselves.

We are wondering together if part of the motivation to blog in classroom spaces is the immediacy of response.  It's part of the grade and we offer that space in class, so response definitely happens. I'll admit too, that I do really like the way blogger shows me how many views a post has gotten.  So maybe it's not even the responses that drive my motivation to blog, but just knowing someone is listening?

I'm going to be using blogs for the first time this fall in my first year writing course and I'm thinking at the moment that I'm going to model that very much after the way we've used them in SI as place to think through inquiry projects with the rest of us.  They will also have daybooks of course, so I'm thinking of the blog as one step away from personal, for the self writing.  I'm thinking of them as places to put the messy pondering of inquiry out into the world to find others to inquire with us.  That's not "polished" publication though.  I've dealt with that here by using a "messy, drafty thinking" label.

Like Steve, I'm trying to think of a way to connect our thinking up with the conversations we are inquiring into. So, I'm imagining a "polished for now" (because you can't really "finish" a piece of inquiry writing in a semester) or two.  I'm imagining that these pieces will get tweeted into conversation with others outside of our classroom.

And I'm really, really interested in the co-op blogs that John mentioned in his response to Steve.  I'm imagining these as multi-author blogs and thinking that may be just the thing to take some pressure off of some writers and create small communities within the large class community.  I'd like to hear a lot more about that.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On the Closing of SI 2012

I've been participating in UNCCWP Summer Institues since 1999.  In fact, I often mark years by the Summer Institutes, for example, thinking back when someone ask me when such and such happened to the year that X happened in SI.  That may be a little weird, but I'm putting it out there because I'm trying to explain here how much this experience has meant and does mean to me.

There's just something powerful and amazing about a group of teachers voluntarily coming together for six hours everyday over the coures of weeks to think this hard about what happens in our classrooms.  We almost lost SI in the spring of 2011.  I still remember Lacy, Lil and I sitting in Lil's office, crying and cursing because the NWP budget had been cut.  We'd already invited 18 amazing teachers and we didn't have the money now to run the program.  We scrambled and rearranged and made it happen, but we didn't know about this year.

But SI 2012 DID happen.  It's still happening right now, even though tomorrow is the last day.  It happened in ways we've never done before. In ways we couldn't have imagined.  And it is one powerful, amazing group of teachers.  So, am I nostalgic tonight? You bet I am, and I'll not apologize for it.  Because these people came together, I have a stack of blog posts and thinking and ideas and passion that will fuel me for the coming school year.  I have a new groups of amazing colleagues that I honestly call friends because we have spend this time inquiring, puzzling, furrowing our brows and out loud laughing together.  We have blogged and tweeted, which was especially important to me because I have not been able to share the physical space this past week.

This group has reminded me yet again what Writing Project means to me!

Thank you SI 2012!   See ya'll at Amelie's tomorrow for open mic!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thinking with Cowhey's Black Ants and Buddhists

I'm thinking this afternoon with Mary Cowhey through her amazing book, Black Ants and Buddhists.  This book has been an inspiration to me for years, since I picked it up because I was intrigued by the title.  This is the book that push on just about every teacher I meet who has any interest in critical teaching, or workshop classrooms or teaching for social justice.

I dug it out today wanting to re-read Cowhey's story of what she and her first graders did instead of the traditional Thanksgiving can drive.   She writes of participating in canned food drives as a child and wondering who "the poor people" were.  In the next line, she writes of having bologna for Christmas dinner and thinking it a huge treat because they usually had peanut butter and jelly.  When she asked her parents about the treat, she learned that she and her family were "the poor people."  Activities like this serve to further stigmatize the low-income children in our classrooms.  On the other hand, Cowhey's mother would not allow the family to use the words "poor people"  instead, they talked about those who are "less fortunate than us at this time" and they packed up their outgrown hand-me-downs for "those less fortunate than us at this time." (pg. 26)

Cowhey's book reminds me of the stereotypes propagated by things like canned food drives and even my children's penchant for tomato gleaning.   Having one's mom pick up cans for the school can drive so that the class can win the competition has more to do with the amount of disposable income in the class than it does compassion and caring Cowhey reminds us.  "It makes 'poor people' seem like a predestined, anonymous group.  It makes poverty seem like a permanent, almost genetic condition."  "It stereo-types low-income people as passively 'in need'.  "It fails to acknowledge the creative problem solving, resourcefulness, resilience, persistence, and enduring spirit of people who take nothing for granted." (pg. 26)

She and her students baked pies from pumpkins grown in her garden, then walked to deliver them for a Thanksgiving Dinner for the homeless in boxes donated by a local bakery.  They also met with local advocates for the homeless where they learned about the circumstances that could make a person homeless, and what life is really like for the homeless.   She tells her own stories, focusing on the creativity and resourcefulness of her parents.

So Cowhey's got me wondering, how can we make "helping" something available to ALL of the children in our classes.  When I look at her Thanksgiving project, I see that no money was needed from the children.  It was all action.  And as the Dalai Lama says (and Cowhey' reminds me) "It is not enough to be compassionate.  You must also act."

Acting doesn't mean token gestures of charity.  So, I'm trying to imagine more about how this can look, thinking particularly about the reading program I'm working with in my children's school.  How can we shift our program so that ALL students have access to "help" with reading, in our school and in our communities?   If I think about it, that's what The Fire Cat is about.  Pickles finds his place in the firehouse, where he can use his big paws, teach children about fire safety, and help kittens get out of trees.  He doesn't do all of this himself, no boot strapping for Pickles.  He finds this place with the help of Mrs. GoodKind, the fire chief, and the other firemen.   

Still thinking on this one. 

Issues With Adjustment

            Soft and subtle
            strong and transparent
                        protected when necessary
                        by removable armor.

Should I adjust or
            Definitely not.

           Re-Vision myself.

The debriding,
            removing thick, calloused, tough
            fire-proof, bullet proof

Leaves me pink
            Sensitive and raw.

Telling myself that maybe
            If I can stop struggling and fighting
and shivering,
           If I can accept rawness
            for now.

I’ll have the energy to grow
            the skin “they” say I should have.

Outwardly, I academically inquire
            into help.
            Who gets to give it?
            Who has to receive?
            The socially constructed boundaries.

The critical lens turns here and shows
            I’m locking out help.
            Yanking hard again
            On my bootstraps.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pickles and Tomatoes with Heroes

First thing this morning, Mary had us all thinking about social action in our classrooms, and how "real" it might be in terms of the student's participation.  Okay "real" is my word, not hers, but that's what it's got me thinking about.

Anyway, Lacy and I were out in the hall trying to place our actions on Hart's ladder with the rest of the participants and I started telling a story about my children asking to go with a neighbor to glean tomatoes "for the people." I was focusing on the fact that this is something that my children ask to do.  But Lacy immediately problematized me about the language my children are using, "for the people." So, this thing that they are doing is totally disconnected from the community "getting" the tomatoes.  "The people" are made passive and not "allowed" to be involved or even voice their ideas about it while the white middle class children "help" by gleaning the tomatoes. 

And all of the sudden, we were right back into the conversation about "help" and all of the power dynamics around who gets to help and who is seen as "needing" help.  And then the twitter feed started blowing up as we came back into the classroom to discuss.

And then, with tomato gleaning is rolling around in my mind with Pickles the cat, Reynelda moved us into "making" through an activity that had us pulling apart the social construction of the word "hero."

Lots to ponder heading into the weekend with some time to write about the rhetoric of help!  Thanks SI-er's  Ya'll ROCK!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Trust and Assignment Making

Jesse did a demo today getting us to explore the idea of assignment making and how our students see our assignments.  When she was telling me about it, I thought it was such a powerful inquiry for thinking about "why" sometimes students don't seem to follow directions, but the way she went about the demo opened the inquiry up for me in an even deeper way.  Because one person had to be blindfolded and then guided (kept safe) by the assignment maker while trying to fulfill the assignment, we really got into an amazing discussion about the trust that we are asking students to have in us when we make assignments and take them up. Christin was my partner.  You see her consternation at being blindfolded.

So, now, I'm seriously thinking about anxiety and trust issues when I struggle with my students trying to get them to risk and explore, when they get so aggravated with me when I won't give them an example or describe exactly "what I want."    I do that because I know that when I leave some space for interpretation, they come up with ideas I could never dream of, but, that is a HUGE HUGE risk.  I think I need to do more to earn their trust, to really help them feel that I have them, that I won't let them trip, or fall off the top of a building or get smooshed by a car.

And I think this all comes back to "help."  Is "help" telling someone exactly what to do, or is it giving the support to explore and amaze.  How do "helpers" in schools, groups who come to "help" the "underprivileged children" define "help."  Heck, how do I define it when I'm asked to "help" with a school's writing program?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thinking Digitally

Though I've always loved seeing what other people can do with digital tools like Prezi and Jing, Animoto and Devolvr, I tend to shy away from actually creating those things myself.  I get intimidated by the open-ness of the spaces and worry that what I have isn't worthy.

Last February when it was time to defend my dissertation though, I kept seeing my research as shifting, moving and flipping and Prezi seemed like the only way to show that without waving my hands in oddly distracting ways.  The time I took creating the prezi though, really helped my get my research off of the pages and talk about, represent, what I was trying to do and the way all of the methodologies worked together.  Making that Prezi made it possible for me to boil my 200 page project down to a 30 minute defense.

Now with that little hoop behind me, I've been thinking towards making the diss a book.  Last week I had and incredible conversation with a NWP representative who helped me see that I needed to tell the story of my research.  Yesterday, I woke up thinking about the gallery crawl we were having today and the i-movie I was working on.  I just wasn't feeling it.  I kept thinking, 'that Prezi is the best digital thinking I've ever done, I wish I could make it stand alone.'  That thought bumped up against the notion that I needed to tell my story and wallah, I was playing with Jing to do a screen cast.  The project forced me - again - back into all of those pages, all of that thinking, to re-vision it for another context - a sort of elevator speech about the story of my research.  The product is far from what I'd call finished, but the thinking involved in putting this together has me feeling like I'm well on my way to the next draft of my book proposal.

 I am reminded of the great worth of thinking with digital space, of moving any composing into another mode, or medium, or genre, or lens, or form, or space - to see it from a different angle, for a different audience, thinking about entering a different conversation.    For me, it busts my thinking out of whatever box it was stuck in before.  Magical!

Complex Texts and Critical Literacy and Help

Beginning with our reading of Foucault with Pencil in hand all the way through Rashid's rockin' demo that has us pondering the reality of the American Dream and debating Obama Care, I've been thinking about the idea of Complex Text, what makes a text "complex,"  critical literacy and my help inquiry.

I found myself scribbling again in my daybook about Pickles the cat.  And I'm thinking too that this "early readers" children's book is really, REALLY a complex text.  I haven't gotten past the first section yet in my thinking and I've read this book thousands of times.  It was a favorite of mine as a child and I've read it to my children thousands of time.  And this read, this time on that day, hit me in a totally different way.  Complex, complex text.  Going to be spending a lot more time with my pal Pickles.

Monday, July 9, 2012

SI July 9

The discussion that came out of Steve and I's Peer Writing Group Demo really has me thinking hard about what Demos do. On one hand, both Steve and I were showing some "stuff" from our classrooms that "work" for us in terms of Peer Writing Groups. On the other hand, we were working to think with the group about on-line and face to face groups- and how all that might work. It's a strange sort if balance. So often as teachers when we are in "presentation" mode, we feel like we are performing and need to have all of the answers. Having inquiry as a part of this, where we were genuinely asking the group to think with us felt a little bit disconcerting at first - even though I've done it many times before. However, I am walking away from the demo with some real important thinking about things like access and the need for some face to face time as well as screen time. To me, that's the beauty of Demos. Not only do we get tons of cool ideas, but we get extensions on those ideas. So I'm ending the day in the same place I began it, thinking about Steve's Where Ideas Come From video and the importance of "creating a space where ideas can mingle."

Playing With Lines

Lacy's demo had us thinking about placement of words on the page in order to get the message across.
I surprised myself here with what happened on the page with these three words. It's got me thinking about how placement on the page is actually a craft point. Wondering now how much of this craft point gets lost in lined paper and even in word processing and our concepts of what a "paper" looks like.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In Need of Help? Says Who?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of the rhetoric of help and an inquiry project based on that.  I’ve been working to get a summer reading program I was asked start in my children’s school into a community center that serves the majority of our school’s 48% free and reduced lunch population.  If I'm honest with myself, I assumed that the center needed my white, middle class, Phd holding “help” to make sure the children had access to the reading program.

I’ve exchanged e-mails and even met with the two folks who run it face to face.  In all of these communications, both have seemed really excited about the idea.  And yet, they have yet to respond to my offers to come to the center and run regularly scheduled “read-ins” over the summer. 

Today, I was running a poorly attended read-in at a local business (also interested in “helping.”)  I chose, The Fire Cat to read when kids got tired of reading on their own and as a book for critical discussion.  I was struck by the way Pickles the cat didn’t WANT to live in Ms. GoodKind’s house.  He liked his barrel.  Her house was too small.  He had big paws and wanted to do BIG things. 

Ms. GoodKind meant well.  She really wanted to “help.”  But she underestimated Pickles.  She slotted him into the “bless your heart, let me give you a better bed and better food” column instead of the “this soul will do great things” column at first. 

So this has me pondering . . .  how am I coming at this reading program thing as Ms. GoodKind?