more on tv

marc and sarah's comments have me thinking...

powerful in what sense? i.e., in being able to reach oodles and millions of people with a single soundbyte? will anything reach the ubiquitousness of tvs? even ipods are trying to make tvs and the tv experience more accessible; tivo encourages our habits of making sure we don't miss a single episode of "america's next top model;" dvds of television shows are as popular (maybe more?) than movie rentals (especially for poor schulbs like myself who use the laptop as a movie/tv theater); etc... yet, the question about what the second most powerful medium is makes me wonder: is tv a singular medium? that is, can we watch tv now as a singular activity? re: the ipods example - it's tv in conjunction with a host of other functions.

getting back to exploring the dimension of "powerful" - in what ways is television powerful? while listening to someone wax poetic about the influences of media on "today's youth," i got to thinking about yesterday's youth? are we, or were we ever, without "influence" of some kind? why is influence necessarily a bad thing? i'm intrigued by the question of for whom tv is powerful... in viewing it? in producing it? in critiquing it? that's what i want to know from the Current TV folks - what makes TV the most powerful medium in the world? is it, as eric clapton sang, in the way that you use it? (sorry clapton fans!)



the "about" page of Current TV screams:

Right now, at this moment in history, TV is the most powerful medium in the world.

words like "unprecedented" and phrases like "carpe diem" are clanging around in my head as i read this sentence over and over again. this is something that i should be posting to the tv blog, but there's an aspect of it that compels me to blog here. i am referring to what has come to be called "youth media." this term seems to refer to a wide range of interactions between young people and the emerging and growing landscape of digital, documentary technologies. (that's my take on it...) so, with all this potential to counter-narrate and newly populate the viewing landscape with texts that may not currently be accessible, what is actually happening? how much of this "counter" work is currently going on?

so, back to the Current TV declaration: is tv the most powerful medium in the world?


youth outlook videos

i've mentioned YO! Youth Outlook before, but wanted to re-mention this "award-winning literary journal of youth life in the Bay Area" to highlight some of the recent pieces that have been added (both audio and video):

What are you thankful for? - YO! Audio Street Interviews
"YO! hits the streets to ask young folks what they're thankful for this thanksgiving."

French Riots Aftermath -- The Video

YO!TV @ G.A.M.E. Conference
"Gamers from all over the country came to the G.A.M.E. conference to get the first look at all of the new titles being released this year."

check them out here


greetings from aaa in dc

im at the anthro meeting, typing in the dark in my hotel room as my roommate sleeps. i told a story last night during my session that i feel compelled to share here:

a young man i interviewed, as part of an oral history project with young men who attend one of the dept of ed schools on rikers island, followed up our conversation by asking me whether "little kids" were going to be reading the book that we are working on which will contain the participants' stories (which they craft and which evolve from the initial interviews). i said that i thought they would be. he continued by acknowledging his approval at this intent, noting that he wanted his story and the benefit of his hindsight to reach younger kids. he then paused momentarily, and said that what he wanted my help with "mak[ing] sure that people feel [his] story."

i shared this story as part of a session entitled, "new methodologies and modes of representation in literacy research with youth." to be talking about this topic and related issues with others whose approaches are also ethnographic and wrestle with the challenges of researcher participation and roles, is exciting. the papers on the panel were all so diverse and rich in ethnographic detail and, like someone else noted, "had a great synergy" about them.

at the same time, i know that the nrc conference is going on and some of the folks there are asking, engaging with, and struggling to understand many of the same issues and topics related to youth, literacies, technologies, and representation.

amidst all this engaging, challenging, and struggling, are we finding - or even looking for - ways to make sure that people "feel" the stories that we're sharing? and if not, how can we do so with greater impact? and if so, then are we having an impact? are stories being felt as well as heard?


digital geographies

this spring i'll be teaching an offshoot, of sorts, of the adolescent literacies course from last year which will be titled, "digital geographies and virtual spaces." i'm so excited to explore this topic with students and, like earlier this year, am seeking suggestions for texts to include. the brief, in-process course description is as follows:

Course Description:
Youth are traversing increasingly complex digitized terrains with the advent and growing access to new media and technologies. Young people’s social and cultural practices reflect a heightened engagement of new forms of communication and learning that occur in newly developed spaces. However, the voices of youth continue to be largely missing from current debates around the implications of these emerging technologies. In this course, we will explore these spaces and consider how the evolving relationship between new technologies and new modes of communication and literacy are making these spaces possible. Using texts that put youth voices at the forefront, we will look at how youth are using these digital geographies for a variety of purposes as well as how they engage a variety of digital and non-digital resources to create new geographies in order to accommodate the emerging practices around meaning making, including: video games, blogs, video documentaries, and more. Finally, this course will be a space to explore what it means for youth to represent in this increasingly digital age.

i await your suggestions! :)


harry potter and the ever-growing todo list

it's the 20th of november and i still haven't paid my $10 to sit and watch the cinematic representation of the fourth Harry Potter book. i am utterly entranced when i read the books - most attractive to me are the spells that rowling conjures up and which then i wish actuallly worked.

at any rate, i recently came across some movie reviews written by seattle youngsters who had just viewed Goblet of Fire. their enthusiasm is contagious and their attention to detail is exciting, but perhaps most entertaining is the use of language, imagery and persuasion by 9-13 year-olds. the take home message: go see the movie!

i'll report back after i do. in the meantime, i need to fit in rereading the book between an upcoming conference paper and an article revision. sometimes it's so much more fun to engage with adolescents and their literacy explorations rather than merely composing texts about them... hmmm...


mirror, mirror...sitting in front of me

i've been thinking a lot about the role of interviews: their purpose, the social dynamics, the physical interactions and linguistic jockeying... i recently interviewed two young men who i had only for a very short time prior to engaging in this rather intimate exchange. in this setup, i, a stranger, asked them to share with me aspects of their lives, how they felt about learning in their lives, and asked them to reflect - out loud - about these big ideas while being recorded onto minidisc. what was most surprising to me, however, was the enthusiasm with which each participated in this event. after each interview, as we engaged in an impromptu debrief of our conversation, both young men described the time that had just transpired as cathartic and enjoyable.

shortly following these interviews i was talking with a woman about a different project and we were settling on a time for me to interview her. i have known this woman for a little while now and so the background for the interview is different, yet she said something that made me wonder about my conversations with the two young men: she remarked that she was happy to do an interview and said that she, like anyone else, would welcome the chance to talk more and reflect on everyday goings on. in saying so she hinted that an interview would almost be a luxury.

this got me thinking about the role of interviews in how we gather data with young people. if interviews are so out of sync with their usual discourse patterns, what role do they really play in research with youth? linguists and linguistic anthropologists have wrestled with this question in other ways, noting that the interview itself is a peculiar speech event. thus, the information gathered must be engaged with the proverbial grain of salt. but this line of thinking strengthens the case of those of us who are seeking new ways to engage and include young people's perspectives, positionalities, and imaginations in our work. i would argue that the peculiarity of "the interview" demands that we rework and re-imagine methods that create opportunities for youth-full reflections...

with that said, there seems to be something valuable and significant about "the interview" in talking with and learning from young people, particularly in honoring the historical importance and tradition of oral history. ... and in collectively creating still more spaces for more voices to be heard oustide the construct of interviews.

when i asked one of the young men to expand on his remark that he had really enjoyed our conversation, he paused... and then noted that this was the first time he had had a chance to talk about "some of that stuff" and that it felt good to do so. it is my/our responsibility to make sure that his "stuff" is handled with respect.


creating to the point of stupidity

last week i attended a conversation with frank gehry, hosted by kelvin shawn sealey. the conversation was held at columbia's low library as part of the citizen project, whose previous guests have included bell hooks, gloria steinem, and cornel west. gehry's visit was titled "architecture in the public imagination." i had little knowledge of gehry's work beyond the guggenheim extension in bilbao, spain and the experience music project in seattle, wa. (i later learned he was the architect behind one of my favorite buildings, located on the mit campus.)

during the course of the hourlong conversation i gained more insight into what i have written about earlier as trying to "break my eye open" - according to gehry, he tries to find ways to create movement through inert objects, hence the fluidity and almost falling-like nature of many of notable buildings. (there's also the significance of the fish as a source of design and inspiration, but that is a slightly longer story better told by frank, himself.)

in a clip that was shown from a recent documentary that his friend sidney pollack made about gehry, his life and his work, we see gehry note that a design he is working on is "so stupid looking it's great." he laughs to himself and the camera and at the cardboard mock-up of a building that has since been built.

as a young man, gehry was taken by his ceramics teacher, who, he noted at the talk, "must have seen something in me," to a house that he was working on and soon afterwards, seeing gehry's face light up with a mix of awe and enthusiasm, the teacher enrolled him in an architecture class. as he put it, "that must have been the beginning of that."

"that" turned out to be some of the "stupidest" looking buildings that make people stop, talk, listen, wonder, and question. if that's stupid, we should all be so lucky.


youth sounds

a view from their first year:


for whom/in what ways does it matter that youth media production is a spreading phenomenon?

should we be seeking ways to increase the awareness of youth produced media? to disseminate it more widely? what are the consequences of doing so? what are the consquences if we do not?


storying his/herstories

this is the headline i saw when i logged onto cnn.com this morning: "Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks dies at 92"

it's been almost 50 years to the day since her rise to historic fame as one of the public faces of the civil rights movement. as we approach the anniversary of ms. parks' instance of holding her ground on a public bus, i'm moved to ask what has happened to the movement? before giving in to my cynical side, i turn to youth and the rich storying that young people are engaging across a variety of modalities.

among these multimodal texts is this one: the children of birmingham

in this piece of animated storytelling, produced and created by youth iving in baltimore, a young woman's voice talks about the historical relevance of birmingham, al, and specifically about the role that children and youth played in the protests against segregation. the participants in this project were 10-14 years old and created this text as part of a summer program called kids on the hill.

consider their text within the broader narrative of civil rights in this country, and ask who has been telling the stories? their images, animation, story, and voice - complete with an occasional chorus of "we shall overcome" sung by the narrator - adds a new and intergenerational layers to the interview segments available in the online resource gallery of the birmingham civil rights institute.

bringing together reflections of the past with present interpretations makes possible a path to different futures. at least that's what young people who are busy making movies, telling tales, and demanding their voices be heard would have us believe. the promise of youth media to me lies in both the medium and the message. and the legacy of ms. parks is not dead.


adult producers of adolescent texts

i've been thinking more and more about who produces the images of youth that we see on television, on videos, in the newspaper, in literary texts, and in the movies (and elsewhere) and am more confused than before. confused by the motivation for some of the portrayals that are circulating, in particular. in the tv and youth course that i'm teaching this semester, someone made the following comment in response to the point that youth ought to be more engaged in how they are represented: "who would want to do that?" this person was referring to the related point that simple characters and flattened representations are what sell to the public at large.

following this discussion, i recalled the show "you can't do that on television" that aired in the early 80s on nickelodeon. i am struck by the memories of adolescent sketch comedy, green slime, and forgetful dialogue. yet i was hooked on this show, as i was to reading and re-reading nancy drew novels, the stack of enid blyton books given to me by my older cousin who grew up in london, and listening to old lp records (including elvis and audio recordings of the "six million dollar man") on my record player. as i recall this pastiche of not-very-critical texts that made up much of my childhood and adolescence, i wonder how i arrived here; that is, a stance of ongoing, critical inquiry.

while writing a paper for a course in grad school, i took to heart what bell hooks (1994) wrote about her relationship with critical thought and theory and noted that while the texts i consumed remained fairly uncritical, the texts i produced - namely, my journals, poetry, and the enacted performance of being - made attempts at raising questions, challenging existing cultural scripts and performing different identities. but what if i had met june jordan's words as a teenager? or written back to the musings of adrienne rich? would i have come into a critical consciousness earlier? and if so, what would have been different?

when i hear some adults talk about youth today i wonder if we expect too little of youth as we assume that they need to be taught how to be critical? that is, what if assumed that youth are developing a critical consciousness in various aspects of their lives? would we ask different questions in our literature, social studies, mathematics classes? would the space of education shift more toward the possibility of with? how would the scripts of youth be different if adults took seriously the notion that youth are collaborators in the pursuit of a more just, and socially conscious world?


visualizing beauty and heartbreak

the girls and boys featured in born into brothels captivated me from the opening menu of the dvd. there is little doubt about the imagination, enthusiasm, and life that each child explores and exudes with their photographic journeys, sometimes to the chagrin and disdain of their families and surrounding communities. the power dynamics involved in taking someone's picture are complicated when the photographer is a child and the photographed is an adult; these dynamics are made further complex when the adult doesn't want to be documented in any way.

despite the moving stories and lives, i'm not sure how to respond to a dilemma that resonates with my work, as well: what happens when the project is completed? the filmmakers, zana briski and ross kauffman, have returned and done future photography workshop with increasing numbers of children living and growing up in calcutta. but the bigger question looms: what is the possibility of art to be a catalyst for social change? and from whom does art expect change?

i may return to this film for in a few posts - this images and stories will stay with me and will have to marinate for a while...


napoleon dynamite... and the representation of youth

i just spent an hour crafting a response to the movie that i finally watched after being told to do so by friends and occasional strangers for some time now... and then lost the entire post... idiot!

as i watched, i laughed, i winced, i shook my head, i pushed away images that crept into consciousness of certain individuals from my past, i shifted in my seat when i saw glimpses of something too familiar, and i remained awed by the power of the "lack of arm movement" maneuver used in television and movies to indicate some form of social awkwardness. (case in point: the seinfeld episode when raquel welch fails to swing her arms when she walks)

what i found it difficult to do was "break my eye open," like the character of claire tries to do in six feet under. like a good movie watcher, i brought to this experience the expected frames of normal and not, of awkward and not; i gave in to the moviemakers' manipulation of viewer discomfort for what seems out of the ordinary, which is often made manifest in laughter. deb, an eventual friend of napoleon's, makes and vends handicrafts that she makes herself, as well as takes "glamour shots" as an amateur photographer in her basement. pedro, newly arrived from mexico, becomes napoleon's "best friend" within minutes and brings to the cast an optimistic truthfulness which eventually earns him the title of class president (thanks, in part, to a solo dance number performed by napoleon).

for those who haven't seen the movie, i'm not spoiling it for you - definitely rent it. but as you do, consider these questions:
- how do we learn to see differently?
- what is the impact of youth-focused movies on the general public's perception of and response to youth?
- why do most of us understand this as a movie about overcoming social displacement?

would it be too bizarre to produce a movie in which deb, for example, is who she is and does what she does without feeling the urge to project a future as a photo journalist? that is, why do movies about youth either indict or romanticize youth? (with a few exceptions...) perhaps these are the clouded dichotomized memories adults are left with about their adolescence... i wonder what youth would/do say about their lives as they are happening...

if we encourage youth to be more reflective, aware, critical, and thoughtful in their lives as young people, will they grow up to make movies that continue the dichotomy? or will we have more texture in future articulations about youth?


youth voices

2 things:

check out this new article, full of links, from MediaRights:
Generation PRX: Amplifying Youth Voices

also, i've been reading more and more about iPod use in classrooms and college campuses and am wondering about how people have used the these shiny metallic, colorful sound and image boxes in other settings broadly defined as "educational"...?? im particularly interested in thinking more about the use of the photo display function in conjunction with an ongoing project im working on, particularly as the youth are engaged in 'on the fly' comparative analysis of the contrasting images from different parts of town, and the stories they hold.

so many stories... so little time...


fall means...

a lot of things... new colors on the leaves on the trees; the increasing need for a light sweater or jacket; a new grade and the ever-present potential for new friends at school; the new tv season...

for me, all of these things coincided with another very important event, an event that allowed me the privilege of bringing in popsicles to school: my birthday. it is perhaps fitting that with each early september and new school year, i feel a sense of renewal and possibility - after all, according to the calendar, i am a year older. but each year, my birthday also gives me an opportunity to reflect on the years that have passed and whether it's because of my work or my memories, i find myself revisiting my teenage years. not because they were anything remarkable but because so much of who i am today was born in those years then. the shows i watched and the range of other texts i dove into, as well as the experiences i had to navigate no doubt inform what i do now. but how connected am i, really, to my adolescence? and how much is healthy? is there utility to this constant reflection? to reading my old journals? to watching reruns of old tv shows? does this help us better understand "the youth of today" or are we prone to idealistic nostalgia, running the risk of beginning sentences with "when i was young..."?

perhaps we do need to move on, gain distance, and perspective. and maybe this soliloquy is just my way of justifying my growing obsession with teen-targeted media!


katrina and technology

if you or someone you know has space to provide housing for those displaced by hurrican katrina, log on to: http://www.katrinareliefhomes.com

from the "about" page:
Katrinareliefhomes is a completely free site and built around the idea that technology can help to bring those who have, closer to those who need.

i also wonder: what about using mobile laptop labs at the 97+ shelters that have been set up so that people can connect with their missing family members??

what's on tv...

each time i prepare to teach a course, i find myself in the position of negotiating between "existing work in the field" and the real and shifting landscape that is being created from moment to moment. as some of you know, i am scheduled to teach a course titled "tv and (the development of) youth" - the parantheses are my addition... and the readings for the course draw on a variety of sources, including the suggestions made by some of you, including sefton-green, buckingham, etc... however, as i've been watching the tv somewhat obsessively over the past several days, the images of children and youth in the midst of the tragic disaster and displacement that has taken place in the southern united states seem to suggest - demand, really - that they, too, have a place in 'the course.'

reading television images, interpreting them, making sense of them, etc., all seem to be one arc in engaging this broad topic. but what of tv's role in making the identities of youth? what can/should we say and discuss about the use of the television as propaganda? as information? as inciter? as educator?

for what do we rely on the tv? has other media replaced it? or, as i suspect, is the average repertoire of everyday media simply expanding? an unrelated case-in-point: the degree to which episodes of 'dora the explorer' mimic the 'dora' video game environment. what does tv, the web, video games, and the oft-forgotten radio expect and assume about its potential audience?

i'll continue to wrestle with this balance of the exisiting and the now as the course and the semester unfolds, and hopefully will also gain some insight into "what's to come"...


to not know the internet...

it's nearing the beginning of the fall semester here in the north east. new freshmen - whose parents look closer to my age with each passing year, and whose abundant energy oozes from each exposed appendage and inch of skin - are moving in. gone are the quiet campus days of summer, replaced instead by the discernable hum of "the undergraduate."

as i sat watching these barely-out-of-high-school teens meeting each other, getting past the awkward hellos and maneuvering the delicate dance of excitedly-but-not-too-excitedly saying good-bye to their parents, i was struck by a thought. (after a brief reminiscence of my own freshman move-in, of course)... it is 2005. in a few short years, a class of freshmen will enter college and it will be safe to say that they will not have known a day-to-day existence without the internet. it's an exciting thought, and one that reminds me of the first time, about six years ago, when i was visually overloaded with the exponential growth of cell phones as a common accessory.

what will the learning experience be like, i wonder, for college students who have routinely shifted between multiple communication, media and information technologies almost from birth? true, the realities of varied access to the internet across neighborhoods remains an issue - that is, not everyone is online. however, as i sat on a bench in the middle of campus, surfing online simutaneously for a pair of sneakers and articles about mcdonald's, i was excited by the thought that sitting on a bench surfing the web won't be a campus-only activity for long. cases in point: philadelphia and new york are both exploring plans to become wireless cities. of course wireless service providers aren't happy with the thought of losing revenue, but imagine the possibilities.

in a recently published, much-hyped book, My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student, the author, rebekah nathan (aka cathy small, an anthropology professor) spent her sabbatical conducting research by enrolling as a freshman at the university where she teaches. she was mainly interested in what it was like to be a freshman, taking five classes and managing all the other "stuff" that comes with this big life transition. what i wonder, and what i don't think nathan/small focused on explicitly (though i haven't read the book to say for sure), was what it means to be a freshman given the newly developed mediating practices of information gathering, synthesizing, etc. that come with increased access to a wider range of resources. and, is there a widening gap, as many claim, in who uses what to convey how...??

so, i return to my initial question, with a twist: what will it mean to be teaching students for whom the boundaries between "online" and "offline" are as artificial maraschino cherries?


tv course

thanks to all who responded about the tv course! the suggestions seem great and i will definitely pursue them. anya asked me to give more ideas about scope and big issues i want to focus on - here they are in my jetlagged state (yes, that's right - i was away without email access for a whole ten days!... this was both traumatizing and liberating... hmmm....)

broadly, i'm desigining the course around the ideas of "tv with, for and by youth"... more specifically, i want the course to be able to meet a variety of student needs:
  • understanding youth as producers of media (including tv)
  • designing television and media for youth audiences
  • representations of youth on television
  • the role of television and related media in the lives of youth

also, if anyone has read steven berlin johnson's everything bad is good for you, i'd love some thoughts on the book. i'm still waiting for my copy!


l'il help

seems like so much of my references are tv-based... and finally i get to use the vast history of television viewing: i'm teaching a course on television and youth and would *love* any and all suggestions for texts - articles, books, dvds, sites, etc. - to use.

a million thanks!!


patterns, behaviors, and plaid

when do we decide how we're going to live our life? and how do we arrive at these conclusions? i re-read marc's piece (see below) and immediately recalled the show laguna beach - aka "the real life oc" airing on mtv. why the connection? b/c one of the girls on the show (from season 1) is the daughter of a well-known preacher, who, as is made obvious by his family's inclusion on the show, is quite well off. in one particularly memorable scene transition, the daughter goes from discussing her upcoming gospel performance at the church and praying with her family to singing along with 50cent in her very expensive car.

what's the problem, people might ask? well... i wonder whether one can espouse charity and the "christian" spirit, chastize individuals who live "the wrong way," and consume like there's no tomorrow all at the same time. how do the youth who are growing up in our increasingly hypocritical world making sense of it all? of the competing messages bombarding all of us, and especially addressing the "disposable income" generation...

goldhaber writes about the "attention economy", a concept taken up and expounded on by colin lankshear and michele knobel. the basic premise: it's the attention, stupid. perhaps that's oversimplifying things greatly, but all three scholars are inviting readers to consider the real commodity involved in influencing the practices of youth: attention. so, who's competing for youth attention? it's too simple (again) to say everyone... but it certainly seems like it. young people are the focus of school reforms, censorship ratings on television, advertisements, video games, toys, magazines, and on and on...

but, does any of this matter? or, rather, in what ways does any of this matter? and what are we missing?

schools are so desperate to get and keep young people's attention, yet so often it seems that school practices run counter to what we know about the attention economy. like one young man i know once said: "there's too much attitude in school." he was referring to the relationships between teachers and students, but i think that his observation could extend to the broader point about adults and youth and the not-so-delicate maintaining of power in one direction. what would it really mean to reimagine institutionalized education as a series of experiences in which youth expertise was taken seriously and not as a threat. currently, it seems like our thinking about the attention economy continues to situate the proverbial ball in the adults' court. that is, we are wanting adults to find new ways to reach youth, to engage productively with youth. this is necessary. but if we truly believe that young people are engaged in meaningful activities and practices, then how about enlisting their help and input.

i wager that our adult-focused questions about how young people do what they do and are who they are will experience a shift when we take seriously the lives and intentions of youth; and hope that we start asking different questions. maybe then we'll better understand how a 16 year-old finds it a seamless transition to move between dinner table chatter and lyrical head-bopping... and why it becomes increasingly difficult, as youth transition into adults, to maintain those multiple identities as too many of us give in to rigid definitions of who to be, what to do...

postscript: one of my friends, one of the warmest people and most committed teachers i know, was sharing a story about his kids with me. she is 8 or 9 and was visiting a friend who lived two towns away. my friend and his kids are african american and her friend and family are white and jewish. when he went to pick up his daughter my friend spent some talking with the friend's mother. they realized they had much in common - both are writers, as well - and talked for thirty minutes while their kids continued to play. as he recalled the story to me during a conversation about racial dynamics and interactions, he noted that he was from a generation that still maintained its borders and how unlikely it would have been that he and the friend's mother would have talked if not for their kids. he mentioned a combination of historical, geographical, and social factors that influence his patterns of behavior. when i asked him if he thought his daughter would have the same choices to make he shook his head no and said that she had friends of "every shape and color" and that it was with the kids where even the invisible barriers break down. i said i hope so... but couldn't help think of all the reasons why persist...


"the lost generation"???

apparently, according to a preacher that my friend marc watched on tv recently, "Kids growing up today don't care about nothin' and nobody" and goes on to say that "All they want to do is party and have fun."

read marc's response, titled I Bling Because I'm Happy, part of the series, The Barbershop Notebooks.


poetry for a change

read this contribution to the latest Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education:

No Cow Left Behind
by Alexandra Miletta and Katherine Morris

the question remains: "Will the politicians listen?"


summer wind

the new york heat is something out of fiction - who can believe it can be this hot? and it's not so much the weather as it is the millions of people who are moving at lightning speeds through it... and some who are moving not fast enough!

however, last week i was momentarily unaware of the searing heat as i sat in a subway car, which, thankfully had working a/c. but what captured my attention was a scene in which three teenage girls were laughing and enjoying themselves as they engaged in play around imagining futures with the help of a digital camera. one of the girls stood up and said, "what if i was a scientist?" and made a gesture like she was closely examining a test tube and adjusting her imaginary goggles. as she temporarily held this pose, she turned to her friend with the camera and asked excitedly, "did you take it?" her friend nodded and the three of them spent the next minute looking at the picture, zooming in on it, and talking about what it might mean to make the image into reality: what courses one would have to take? what kind of place a scientist would work? is this something either of them could or wants to do? who do they know who "does science?"

i wonder what we futures we imagine for youth... what futures do they imagine for themselves? and what are the tools, experiences, resources, supports... necessary to not only help them achieve these futures, but to keep imagination alive...?

on a related note, i learned the word "sankofa" today which is an Akan word that means "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today." what does the past of youth and education tell us that we may do differently and move forward toward change?

the young men and women who participated in the dvd documentary Echoes of Brown are engaged in that work through spoken word, performance and poetry. in a review of this piece i quoted one of the elders who is featured who wonders:

"I was thinking about how expensive it is for one group of people - White or Black, rich or poor - to hold another group of people back. Because you can't dance if you got one foot on someone else's neck. The only way you can dance is with both feet and … I hope this society dances."

the teenage girl's imagined future of being a scientist can come to fruition only if past informs present, left (hand) works with right (hand)...


seeing through child-full and youth-full eyes

a couple sites i found when looking for recent projects that use the photographs produced by children and youth as sources of knowledge and information:

through the eyes of children: the rwanda project

images from the fatherhood project


we know too much, and still...

seems like i start too many sentences out with that same first phrasing... i.e. we know too much for schools to look as they do in so many neighborhoods - bars on the windows, metal detectors in every entrance, slate grey paint on the bare walls of long hallways, tattered and outdated resources materials, computers that would begin the personal computing timeline in a technology museum...

i'm watching "System Failure," one of the 16 films currently featured at the media that matters film festival (#10). i had to pause it to get this out... and to encourage others to watch it, too. b/c we know too much for there to exist the kind of facilities known as youth prisons, detention facilities, "work camps"...

ok, back to the second half...



over the past 2 days i attended the digital stories conference held at kean university, which, by the way, has one of the most aesthetically pleasing campuses i've been to in a while - outside of the city, of course ;) there, i met several people who are already engaged in or deeply interested in digital storytelling, including joe lambert, co-founder of the center for digital storytelling. joe told, showed, and invited us into stories, and many willingly listened, shared, and participated. what is it about stories, i wondered, that draws us in, captivates our imaginations, and invites us to dream beyond the bluest sky? i went home the first night, having shared pieces of my work with several participants and receiving really encouraging feedback and thoughtful questions, thinking how lovely it would be for education to be more connected with storytelling.

also in attendance was
kimiko ryokai, queen of my very favorite toy, the I/O Brush. i love the recently added 5 second history - that is, the brush records and keeps track of up to 5 seconds before an image is captured, allowing you to click on the interactive canvas and see where in the world a particular color/image from. imagine an I/O painting, full of texture, emotion, Story. and then imagine clicking on each of the "paints" and seeing the stories behind the story.

day 2:
lots more stories shown, yet i wondered one thing:
what counts as a story?
(i ask the "what counts" question a lot - e.g. what counts as literacy? - cuz i'm interested in how "we" think "counts" should be determined. who's involved in this decision making, and of course do we recognize that it really is somewhat relative? ) have we come far enough when even digital storytellers are asking kids to begin with writing for their stories? or am i too far removed from reality when i think that story can be found in image, in a sound, in a single moment of unadulterated motion...



what do we know about youth? and how do we know it? let's not worry about "the youth" for a moment... let's consider our own youth, our days of adolescence under the hot summer sun, endless energy (except for the afternoons when sun poisoning knocked us out cold), and a staunch defiance of anything and everything we heard. we believed nothing unless we knew it for ourselves or could cite a credible source, even if that source was stacy's father's assistant's veterinarian. isn't that what we want from young people - a keen and sharp mind (which we - researchers, academics, educators - like to call "critical"); a penchant for evidence-based assertions (see above note about the veterinarian); a deep reserve of energy to draw from in pursuing a cause. and yet, too often in the sites for formal education that currently exist, youth (by which i mean 12-22 year olds, give or take a few years and depending on who you're talking to) are asked to routinely conform, trust, and be passive recipients of "education" - and to be critical within the dotted lines only.

enter: youth media. organizations such as MNN YouthChannel, Listen Up! Youth Media Network, Educational Video Center, and several others are creating spaces with and for youth that are focused on what young people have to say. no, these are not sites of chaos and havoc (although a little of both goes a long way), but are examples of how adults and youth can contribute something to broader common goal: hearing what youth have to say about topics of interest to them; creating experiences for youth to become adept at using technology for authentic purposes; extending conceptions of education beyond the school walls; and offering adults the opportunity to work with a new generation of creative producers, artists, poets, cinematographers, and storytellers that offer hope of change and justice.

right now there is an online film festival going on, sponsored by Media that Matters. of the 16 featured films, 4 were produced and directed by youth. each brings a new perspective to four diverse topics, but perhaps more importantly, uses visual and digital technologies to tell stories in a way that might not have been possible even 10 years ago. at the recent NCM Expo on Ethnic Media, there was a strand of presentations and discussions dedciated to youth media. at the end of a long string of presentations at the very end of the day, the person who was emceeing made the following point (which i will now paraphrase): given the increased availability of technologies, we (adults, educators, researchers, youth development staff, etc.) have the responsibility to make sure that different stories are heard. and, i would argue, that different stories are heard/told differently.


the $100 laptop

@ mit

tho not for purchase by individuals.

read more here.

i also like what they've got going on with wearable computing.

anya had something to say about this, too. (and with more refs on the subject)



i caught a headline from the front page of the ny times on my way back into the city today and it read: "The College Dropout Boom." the article details the experiences of one man who dropped out after his freshman year and explores some of the reasons for the growing disparity between students from differing economic backgrounds. according to this article, for "many low-income teenagers...whatever the reasons, college just does not feel normal."

a few hours later, in my gmail, i received a message from the bill & melinda gates foundation. the message was announcing a new joint effort between mtv and the foundation - it was only a matter of time, i suppose - and the message headline read: "MTV and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Announce New Joint Effort to Empower Young People to Graduate from High School Ready for College" citing a telephone poll, conducted by cbs of 1586 young people 14-to-24 years old, the message offers the following observation about the ambition-gap situation:

Ambition: According to the poll conducted by CBS News on behalf of MTV, the Gates Foundation, and the NGA, 76 percent of all young people see a college degree as necessary for getting ahead in life.
Gap: According to a 2005 report from the Manhattan Institute, only 32 percent of American high school students will graduate from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college or work.
Ambition: The new poll indicates that 87 percent of all young people across all races and income levels say they would like to get a degree from a 4-year college.
Gap: According to a 2004 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 30 percent of 25-29- year-olds have earned a college degree, including only 17 percent of African Americans and 11 percent of Hispanics.

something must be amiss. who is getting it right? the folks that the ny times talked to? or the cbs poll? for whom is a college degree part of a possible future and for whom is it just not normal?

regardless of whether or not to go to college, one thing seems clear: high school is not the place where young people are getting the bulk of the education they need to navigate the world beyond the school walls.


what's in a name?

the semester has ended and i need to make a decision about what to do with this blog. one of the decisions, no doubt, will have to address the blog title. i originally chose it because of its use in the class of the same name, however the posts and my use for this space have transgressed these initial naming bounds. so, it got me thinking... just how important is a name? for a blog, or, for that matter, for a child...

according to research done by steven d. levitt, names matter - or at least enough for him to write about names and naming... in april, slate published an article that includes stories from levitt's book, titled Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. the article shares the story of two boys belonging to the same family and the impact that naming had on their lives. they were named Winner and Loser and, as things so contrived often turn out, Winner turns out to lead a life of crime and misdoings where as Loser enjoyed success in the police department. the authors of the article (of which levitt is one) ask of the father (who named the boys): "Though he got his boys mixed up, did he have the right idea—is naming destiny? What kind of signal does a child's name send to the world?"

levitt's bigger analysis has to do with the great chasm between black names and white names, which he then analyzes for success in life (across the dimensions of education, health, and income). he found that on average, individuals with distinctively black names had a worse life outcome than those who didn't. so what does he conclude?
from the article's final thoughts:
If two black boys, Jake Williams and DeShawn Williams, are born in the same neighborhood and into the same familial and economic circumstances, they would likely have similar life outcomes. But the kind of parents who name their son Jake don't tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn. And that's why, on average, a boy named Jake will tend to earn more money and get more education than a boy named DeShawn. DeShawn's name is an indicator—but not a cause—of his life path.

naming is a cultural artifact (the process) that is universal (that we are all named) but also highly differentiated by region, affiliation, and/or community. but naming, as levitt describes it from an economics perspective, is not only the act of giving or receiving a name - here is where the economics leaves holes for further exploration. naming is a multidimensional interaction in which exists not only the named and the namer, but also the immediate interpreter of the name. the third party here could be said to be institutions, hiring personnel, etc...

the question remains however: what becomes of this blog's name? should the contents reflect the title? do the contents help to expand the expectations of the title?

side note - my little red honda i drove in high school, the only thing i ever named (no pets, not even fish), was named jerry. hmmmmm....


i'll never get used to it...

the transitional nature of education in the lives of youth who are in the justice system, that. i learned that another one of the young men who i had begun to know better in the program where i spend my tuesday mornings has been transferred - this time to another school. this is probably a good thing for him, as he was full of hope possibilities that would creep out from under an otherwise quiet demeanor.

so, to his new school i say:
ask him to share stories through images with you.
let him rip up a draft of writing that he doesn't like - the next draft will be worth it.
ask him what he thinks - it may take him a second but he will respond.
give him space to be unsure and support ambiguity toward deeper inquiry.
expect thoughtful insights and listen for the questions that aren't asked.
laugh together.
trust him.

something about one door closing...

perhaps there is a reason for everything... so could someone tell me the reason for me losing my last entry b/c i hit the wrong key?!? and with it a list of questions that were still lingering for me after the last meeting of the course that shares the name of this blog.

i left thursday night feeling some sadness that sixteen weeks of collective inquiry, exploring, questions, and negotiation had come to a close; but i was also comforted that we had pushed up against and beyond conceptions of meanings of literacies in the lives of young people throughout this semester.

still, as it should be, i suppose, i am left with some questions (which i will try to recreate now from my fast-becoming-feeble memory...):

- in what ways did we peel back layers that often cushion the conversation about adolescent literacies? in what ways did our explorations remain on the surface?

- what did we learn about who adolescents are and the significance of literacies in their lives? and how does a notion of multimodality inform this journey?

- what should we add/remove from this experience to make it more meaningful? (damn! i wish i had asked this before we had adjourned for the semester...)

- how did our questions, experiences, and reflections extend the dialogue about literacies, technologies and youth currently ongoing "in the field"??

- how can/do we reconcile a belief about youth as literate with more traditional (deficit) notions of adolescents' literacy that circulate in academic and educational discourses?

- (how) will these questions and conversations live on?

and now, some words for thought:

youth?? education?? media?? representation(s)?? marginalized?? mainstream?? society?? online?? public?? purpose?? intent?? meaning?? reading?? technology/ies?? culture?? identities?? performance?? aesthetic?? teaching?? assessment?? justice??



and if that isn't enough: now what??

for me, i need to begin by doing something about this blog - the title doesn't seem to fit quite right. confining, perhaps... no matter - i will continue to use this space to muse and welcome any thoughts on whatever this blog turns out to be (and its contents therein).

it also seems that my initial inquiry related to blogging has evolved from a question of transparent pedagogy (which i don't think was really addressed in this space) to one of public inquiry... or, making (my) inquiry public, as it were... this is what it feels like i've used this space for. i'll have to revisit to see if that truly is the case. but for now it gives me some hope, in conjunction with the class reflections on the various paths of inquiry pursued, that perhaps we *can* support educators and researchers to take an inquiry stance that enhances, not hinders, their educational endeavors.

it might be time for bed now...


images of childhood

check this out:

An exhibit from the Library of Congress - When They Were Young: A Photographic Retrospective of Childhood

I submit again (in the full spirit of productive redundancy): what would happen if youth were actively engaged in documenting and representing themselves?


speaking truths

i was reading a book containing oral histories of young men spending their days in rikers island, who are part of a program called horizon academy. these stories, recorded as interviews at rikers and later transcribed verbatim, tell a thousand tales, evoke as many images and emotions, and keep bringing one thought to my mind: i've heard these stories before... when i talked with ed, or lawrence, or jose, or angel... there is a danger to interpret this last statement as a win for the glossing identities team - i don't mean it that way. what is similar are the themes of when and why kids conscisously disengage from formal schooling; the presence of institutional discourses in the lives of youth; the missed opportunities for adults and educators to connect with youth - and particularly young african american and latino men; the richness, surprises, and insight woven through the stories aren't too often heard, in favor of sensational soundbytes and images.

recently, laura bush has been on a speaking tour trumpeting the "helping america's youth" initiative put forth the administration. she talks about youth who have been helped by drug treatment programs and who are vowing not to repeat the mistakes of their neglectful parents; about youth who have failed their siblings and themselves; about government initiatives that are correcting these social ills.

where are the stories of institutions that failed kids? that held expectations so low? that supported the building of prisons at a greater rate than the construction and renovation of schools?

i wonder if the stories of the young men at rikers will make it into the first lady's speeches...


chocolate chip pedagogy - part 2

i emerged from the cultural studies conference drenched in questions, several of them circulating around where different research finds an intellectual (theoretical?) home; still more having to do with the remarks that cameron mccarthy made near the conclusion of the conference in his talk on "art and the postcolonial imagination." among them, i wondered: whose art is postcolonial? that is, does one have to participate willingly in postcolonial discourses, with the intent to disrupt prevailing "dominant" sentiments, in order to participate in the broad scope of the postcolonial imagination?

in particular, i was thinking about the ways in which the young men and women with whom i have worked, learned, and imagined have created aesthetic representations that "do work" similar to that of basquiat (whom mccarthy noted) in that they offer commentary on the current social realities while presenting multiple perspectives of the often "othered" realities.

i think i just lost myself in that observation... needless to say the conference raised some questions for me about research, our explorations of culture and cultural forms, and the significance of cultural in/for/of education (this latter point better articulated by john broughton, who concluded the conference with some - as i like to call it - thread-pulling).

and finally, re: chocolate chip pedagogy - a phrase that emerged from a conversation with my sister, that has since come to mean several things (in its short 4 day-old life). approaches an interesting commentary on how educational notions (i.e. pedagogy) are situated amongst and in broader and more commonly known realities (i.e. chocolate chip cookies)...


chocolate chip pedagogy

just attended a workshop by rhonda hammer - who is presenting at the cultural studies conference going on here at tc.

first, an interesting example of clever editing

she talked a bit about how the students in her class, which i think took place at ucla, created critiques of media by using media that they were critiquing - a little bit of imovie magic and voila! a whole new reality...

'cept... earlier this morning there was a lot of talk about the use of art to critique the printed word (at another panel - youth, youth cultures, and politics - read more at: www.subjectmatters.org)anyway, a point raised by all the presenters - who were sharing their work with/about youth - suggested that we need genres other than the ones used by "dominant" forces or discourses in order to effectively critique them.

seems like a good time to bring up hybridity again... though, what of lorde's often quoted sentiment about the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the "master's tools" in dismantling said master's house... are there such clear distinctions? do we not all inhabit this house in different ways in our lives? (how) can we use the range of tools, resources, technologies, stories available to us in order to work toward productive, disruptive dismantling? what is gained? what might be lost? and for whom is there urgency in this critical work?

just day .5 of the conference... more to come!


riot grrrl anyone??

during a recent conversation with chuck, i learned about a new book titled girl wide web, which of course got me curious and online, and within a few seconds i hit upon a page of the same name, albeit unrelated to the book - complementary, nonetheless.

girl wide web, the book, explores "issues related to the ways adolescent girls interact with the Internet." (from peter lang description). i haven't read it yet but will post more thoughts once i do.

the GWW page is part of a site described in an article as "the voice of the new girl order": Bust.com.

so check them both out, and for some very outdated background check out this article.

and p.s. - there's also a site with the url www.girlwideweb.com but it wasn't coming up when i linked to it.


images of youth

a few i've come across recently:

what happens when we invite youth to image/imagine/represent themselves??


brr! it's cold out there! (and i'm not just talking about the weather...)

it was my objective to eat a freshly baked chocolate croissant within 24 hours of landing in montreal, pre-diabetic status notwithstanding. i succeeded only partially, purchasing and consuming said baked good with much delight, albeit not freshly baked (at 1:45 pm).

another interesting point of note: fred erickson reminding the audience during an invited presidential session that "there are no general settings" and that we are always engaged in doing work and research in specific settings. in saying so, he called on the generations-old practice of indigenous farmers who tend to each plot of soil and land with specific lenses, knowing that they cannot apply the one-size-fits-all approach to gardening. what would grow? or wouldn't?

i am reminded again of labels, and successful failure, and the purposeful construction of "us/them" dichotomies that deepen chasms and perpetuate savior mentalities. in class we began to delve into the questions surrounding the issue of what students are held to what expectations. how would we - all of us caught up in the web of education and educational discourses - fare if we truly were a we, and not an uncomfortable negotiation between "we" and "they"?

what does it take to become a "we"?
what does with look like?



what if we had no labels?
whose lives would we hear about?
whose voices would we listen for?

this past week, while working with a group of young people i have come to know over the past few months at an alternative-to-probation program, i felt these questions come crashing down on me at once... we were creating a group poem out of words we had selected the previous week - the meanings and resonances of which we had illustrated with pictures - and one young man started us off, choosing the words "Black man" and "freedom." we took turns walking up to the large post-it chart paper and adding our lines with a black crayola marker. one of the teachers added a line at the end of the poem, after we had each read the poem aloud one time. as i was writing this final line, nearly sitting on the floor, i looked up and saw the words, thoughts, hesitations, and declarations looming above me, and i thought:

who will hear these words?
what if we had no labels?
whose lives would we hear about?
whose voices would we listen for?

we are working now on another layer - looking for and creating images and other visual representations that emerged from the poetry - as we move toward the construction of a multimedia piece. again, i wonder about audience... and what can this (the program, our multimedia storytelling workshops) cog in the great wheel-system of the justice-education symbiosis really do? what else do we/i have to consider beyond audience and form?

what if we had no labels?
who could hear these words?
whose lives could we hear about?
whose voices could we listen for?


purple's the new red

if THIS is what cnn.com is covering in their education section, then we have more than a long way to go...!


searching for cool

so, in my usual saturday night web surfing, i landed on a site for a doc that i saw when it came out while i was in grad school: the merchants of cool. frontline (pbs) went "behind the scenes" of the relationship between teens and the media to get at the phenomenon that can be summed up as: "disposable income equals perfect marketing targets"

at any rate, they've added to their site since i last visited and it's worth a look: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/

now, you can watch the program online, too!


genre affordances...?

so we had this conversation in class the other night about different genres affording different "stuff" - of course, the students in the class were much more articulate that i am being here! but it's a question that surfaced in the context of our discussion of blogs and spoken word as literate spaces. i wrote down in my journal:
- who composes what?
- who uses what to compose what?
- what is afforded by what genre?

going in reverse for a minute, i should note that i understand that the language can be affordances constraining and even deterministic in nature. however, i am intrigued by how a language of affordances can be illuminating and full of possibility. (but that is a post for a different time...)

our conversation led me to wonder about the "what"s noted above as we explored ways to look at the "how" and "who" of blogs and spoken word. is it necessarily the nature of spoken word that compositions be imbued with stories of struggle and resistance? (as one author we read seemed to imply) recently, i read a piece in newsweek that wondered why "white men" are dominating the blogosphere.

i had a lot more written here that i just erased. i will simply ask this (in response to the above):
  • what mechanisms do we have for talking about and making sense of adolescents' practices, genres, and groups that fracture existing, (loosely) bounded categorization?
  • in this age of "ies" (multiplicity of literacy, technology, practice, story, identity...), when the existing ways of knowing in schools are out of sync with the knowledge and insights that are emerging from the growing body of scholarship involving youth, what are the spaces for possibility that we can and should address as educators and researchers?

manchester, england... england (indeed!)

makes me wonder how the hell we're going to get anything done anywhere when "educators" are in the business of deciding what "cultures" can wear what hairstyles...

case in point: olivia's story


economics and the digital divide

from this week's economist:
"So even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and cause a computer to appear in every household on earth, it would not achieve very much: a computer is not useful if you have no food or electricity and cannot read."

hmm... is there another dimension to this statement, and to their overall point in this article? before i go on, i should note: the thrust of this article - The real digital divide - calls for funding to focus on increasing the availability of mobile phone technology in areas of the world that are currently without mobile networks. A few cases of shared mobile phone use are presented in order to argue that "the mobile phone is the technology with the greatest impact on development." the article concludes with the following plea:

"Rather than trying to close the digital divide through top-down IT infrastructure projects, governments in the developing world should open their telecoms markets."

asserting that, "firms and customers, on their own and even in the poorest countries, will close the divide themselves."

it's an interesting argument, and certainly one that rings true in this country where mobile phone use is not only on the rise but is fast becoming the ubiquitous mode of communication across demographic boundaries. (as opposed to within, what Gee might call, affinity groups)

but i want to return to the casual use of reading and writing mentioned earlier, and restated below later in the article: "Mobile phones do not rely on a permanent electricity supply and can be used by people who cannot read or write." as a reader, i am making the assertion that the author(s) of this piece want me to think about reading and writing in the functional sense. (is this true?) if this is true, then the resulting thinking might be something along the lines of the following thought:
- the digital divide is primarily concerned with addressing the chasm of access to technologies that afford financial viability and competition in the global marketplace

i spend a lot of time thinking about and observing literacies in practice, and in recent years have shrugged off the burden of economics placed on my liberal (progressive?) sensibilities by what i call the luxury of graduate school. that is, in my work with youth in and out of urban schools, i regularly engaged in and documented literate practice that goes unrecognized by officially sanctioned institutions and formal educational spaces. but what happens when the question is about reading and writing? what is the space between reading and literacy?

i admit that my immediate reaction to this piece was one of indignance - who "says that people in monetarily poor countries can't read and write?" and "is this a measure of their english proficiency?" these questions have not gone away entirely, but this article made me wonder: what if we understood literacy as globally situated, with local meaning? that is, given recent debates about the "limits of the local" (see Brandt & Clinton; Street) could we imagine a way of talking about literacies that is at once local and global? could we, i wonder, take up the charge presented by the economist and assert this dynamic relationship in the context of the growing telecom industry? or, perhaps it is more accurate to say, in light of the growing telecom mediated literacy practices?

these are still "bubbling thoughts" - evolving in their form and content - and in that vein, i want to pose a question to the economist:

could it be that increasing the availability of telecommunications around the world, and particularly in monetarily poor countries, we might not only "close the digital divide" from an economic perspective within these countries, but we might also establish and strengthen lines of participation/collaboration/communication between people situated across these contexts in order to reshape what we understand the be global marketplace in the first place?

more simply put: could increased telecom markets help with learning from and with the local that many ethnographers advocate for, in a way yet to be fulfilled by the promise of the internet?

i'm off to read the rest of the related articles. in the meantime, for another interesting take on the digital divide, check out: Reconceptualizing the Digital Divide by Mark Warschauer.



until a few minutes ago i hadn't really articulated what the purpose of this blog was. sure, i noted that this blog was a risk i was taking, but i never really described why. so, in the midst of IMing my sister just now it came to me: this is part of my inquiry about making pedagogy transparent.

now, i am forced to wonder whether there are any readers of this blog and whether any of them happen to be enrolled in students in C&T 6501.001... b/c one could ask: "to/for whom am i interested in making pedagogy transparent?"

i suppose this inquiry is informed, in part, by my earlier readings into democratic and feminist pedagogies - moved by texts, stories, and experiences of others who strive, on and ongoing basis, to truly co-construct(pardon the hackneyed term) a teaching/learning space. in the courses that i've taught in the past, i've been aware of the gaps between the thinking and observing going on in my head and the "stuff" that was happening in the classroom. that is to say that i have been working on enacting a "with" pedagogy and attempting to do so as explicitly as possible. that's not without the aforementioned risks - mainly, admitting that i'm not really sure how something is going to turn out; and, more recently, recognizing that there may be times when boundary-less assignments truly are frustrating. a responsive pedagogy must attend to the need for structures as well as flexibility. that is my challenge.

on a related note, this past thursday the class shared their field observations. the assignment:
Students will conduct two field observations to be shared over the course of the class. These are intended to be opportunities to situate inquiry questions in the context of adolescents. Students will identify locations in their daily travels in which adolescents are engaged in meaning making, are hanging out, and are employing various literacy practices for a variety of purposes (e.g. the park, subway, local diner, school hallway, afterschool club, etc.). After a few informal observations, students will take descriptive notes on what the youth are doing, paying close attention to their meaning making in a particular context. Field observations can be constructed and represented as audio, visual, or written texts; students will pick two of the three when doing their observations. For example, if the first observation is in the form of written fieldnotes, students should choose to represent the second observation as an audio or visual text. Students should also include a brief discussion section to each observation in which they should make connections to the course texts. Examples of possible formats will be discussed in class prior to the first observation.

in class, in the weeks leading up to the due date, there was some considerable anxiety and confusion around what exactly i was expecting. and, to be honest, i wasn't sure...! i really was interested to learn about the different spaces for literate engagement that the students would explore, as well as the ways in which they would experiment with the representations of these observations. they didn't let me down. there were several online explorations: blogs, blogrings, icons, poetry, discussion boards; some meatspace reflections: in a local starbucks, at home during a LOTF re-enactment; and a few in-school observations: a school-wide literacy discussion, in-class play... and throughout our conversation, the question of representation continued to pulsate.
  • what does it mean to represent literacies in the lives of adolescents?
  • how can we show analysis multimodally?
  • what do we need to know in order to make sense of and represent adolescents' hybrid meaning making?

we're on spring break this week and i'm hoping that we all return rejuvenated, inspired, and full of possibilities as approach the next half of the semester. in the meantime i will continue my personal inquiry of (critical?) transparent pedagogy both in and out of the lovely seminar room in which we convene these discussions and explorations.

here is a site that continues to help me sort through questions & issues related to representation (of ethnography, in particular):
Visualising Ethnography

and a lovely piece from the always-inspiring doug kellner:
Critical Perspectives on Visual Imagery in Media and Cyberculture


engineering wonders...

i started out as an engineering student oh so many years ago, but after a year and half i realized that it wasn't through engineering - mech-e to b.e., to be precise - that i was going to be able to fulfill my then-naive desire to engage in some creative problem solving. (let's not worry that i didn't know what problems i wanted solved, save the o-ring snafu that left an indelible mark on my 5th grade psyche that led me down the path of engineering to begin with!)

today, i discovered another reason to love engineering: the i/o brush. those folks at mit are doing it again - enticing me with their truly fabulous imaginations and love of possibilities. scroll down and watch the video demonstration for some real fun!

off to find more wonders that i can play with :)


things i learned this week

- about wikis and the wikipedia

- teachers can be together for several days at a time and never once consider that what children and youth do out of school might be relevant to their in-school learning

- running on a track really is different than running outside

- cold stone creamery mix-in delights are definitely worth seconds

- the current administration wants to help america's youth



random string of thoughts

i haven't posted in a while - mainly b/c i'm still getting used to making my incomplete thoughts public... (although my class is faced with these digressions on a weekly basis!).

last weekend i attended nctear in columbus. apart from freezing temps - that contrasted with the near-balmy weather we'd been having in nyc in the several days prior to my leaving the east coast - i found myself in the midst of several multilayered conversations about literacy, literacies, semiotics, language, media, technologies, space, time, and love. yes, love. (i'll return to that shortly)

as i sat in audience through keynotes and roundtable style presentations, presented two papers (one co-authored with Kathy Schultz) and participated in informal conversations, i found myself laughing on the inside at one recurring thought: if we're all asking questions upon questions, who's offerring some answers? laughing b/c harvey graff and deborah brandt began the conference by posing broad musings about exactly what is literacy? laughing b/c the two participants that kevin leander brought with him - zoe and stephen, who are a part of his ongoing research on youths' online literacy and technology practices - seemed to be lightyears ahead of their audience in terms of what it meant to engage with technologies as an everyday practice, and had us rapt with attention as the lines between their presentation and practice blurred in front of us... laughing b/c so many of us are making a life in pursuit of still more questions... and perhaps that is part of the point: what new questions can we ask? that might, i hope, lead us to engage in work/research that is then responsive to the world in which we live. or, i fear, are we engaging in all this work without paying enough mind to what carol lee reminded us of: what is all this research for?

in between last weekend and this weekend, i had the opportunity to share some of my work with the teachers college community in two quite different venues. as a result i have been in email and face-to-face contact with students with whom i have been talking about the study that anchored my dissertation work. these conversations have caused me to reflect, again, on my graduate school career and the lessons learned by asking the question of for. and, has raised for me the question of what graduate schools of education are doing to support graduate students to keep the question - what am i doing this for? - at the forefront of their studies and practice. that is, how can we support research that is at once intellectually rigorous, ethical, academically responsible, and committed to social justice? or, as another colleague put it, in response to students who wondered aloud whether every day had to be about being "critical": can we afford to "take a day off"?

this weekend, i attended a few sessions of the ethnography forum at the university of pennsylvania's graduate school of education. in particular, i was moved by pauline lipman's keynote on friday evening when she spoke of "politcally engaged ethnography" and made call to action for researchers to take seriously their roles and work in the global discourses of education within this climate of war and resistance. she challenges us to take seriously and perform educational research that is political, partisan, and methodologically rigorous. she expounded eloquently on a question i have asked simply over the last several years: what counts as research/data/analysis? and whose voices/perspectives/realities are considered?

these posts always go on too long and make me wonder how they are connected to the topic of the course.. only they are - if only to remind me that we are not isolated in our work as teachers and researchers. this both a path of frustration and a sign of possibility...


collective, democratic spaces

perhaps it's because i've been reading a friend's article draft about counterhegemonic pedagogies in a middle school that i have been thinking a lot about pedagogy and space lately... i find myself in an interesting struggle at times between wanting to see where the conversation takes us, and the recognition that threads must be pulled together in coherent ways. on whom, however, does/should the dilemma/challenge/responsibility of making an activity meaningful fall? it is probably a better question to ask: how can all participants in a group contribute to the collective learning experience(s) within, for example, the context of a class?

in a related sense, i am still left wondering about our conversation from thursday evening. important ideas like agency, power, society, and resistance were brought up as we considered literacy in the context of adolescents. among the questions we asked had to do with the dissonances that exist (and that are often played out) between "old" literacies and "new" literacies - though to say that is perhaps distilling a complex conversation to few loaded terms. i will leave it at that for now, only to say that the resulting discursive meandering brought up the very significant and difficult-to-address questions of "who decides?" "who is included?" "what is and who has/enacts/uses agency?" i am left wondering, however, whether we raised any new questions? that is, is the function of graduate level seminars in the study of literacies to make sense of what has already been said, written, and debated? (and/) or is our purpose to consider still new ways in to the multilayered, always significant, ever-contentious literacy debates?

so now we arrive at another dimension of the aforementioned dilemma: what is the kind of pedagogy/ies that is inclusive and co-constructed (feminist? multicultural?), consciousness-raising and action-oriented (critical? antiracist?), and attends to the needs for lectures, discussions, hands-on experiences, and inquiry? i am forever in awe of and owe a tremendous debt to teachers who engage in these musings in both thought and practice on a daily basis, especially the many whose friendship continues to inform my practice. it is written on my schedule that i "teach" once a week, but how are those boundaries drawn? similarly, where are the boundaries between teacher and student in a context where we are learning from and with each other? beyond that, aren't we always teaching and learning with and from each other - beyond the classroom walls, outside of scripted curriculum and requirements...???

there, i've done it again - followed a digression straight to more boundary-less questions...! so, an attempt at thread-pulling (with a hope that i don't unravel the sweater in the process): it is my hope that we are becoming a community of learners together and that in doing so we are going to challenge one another to think deeply, express ourselves clearly and with conviction and support each other's burgeoning thoughts. i will strive to enact a pedagogy that is responsive to the diverse needs and interests of the fabulous group of people who are in this class, and ask for similar participation from the group.

now some words from june:

I ain’t goin nowhere unless you come with me
I say I ain’t goin nowhere lessen you come with me
I ain’t about to be some leaf that lose its tree
So take my hand see how I’m reachin out for you
We got a whole lot more than only one us can do
—June Jordan


while we're on the subject

here's a few more links to blogs and youths' online worlds:

there is another question at play in my head: are there private spaces online? or, perhaps worded differently: what are the parameters of private and public online? how are they changing? these are not just questions relevant for participating in online discourse (that's never really just "online"), but also for the wide, wide world of research and the politics of intrusion and researcher responsibility...

also related: if we're interested in understanding (for a variety of purposes) how youth are engaging in literacy performances across contexts and modalities, what do we need to know/learn/understand/explore about/with youth in order to perform research that is both responsive and responsible?

(mollie blackburn's work on literacy performances offers a lovely frame for considering the living, breathing nature of literacy in youths' lives; see above link as well this one for ongoing theorizing about literacy and agency )

adolescents online

once again, thanks to angela thomas and her fabulous e-selves site, i can pass on a wonderful resource: Adolescents and Teens Online (bibliography).

also check out lois's (the author's) blog (winner of all sorts of blog research awards).



i always feel a rush after a conversation so full of questions and possibilities. we troubled the notion of the in/out of school dichotomy and wondered, like moje, about where the youth are in literacy research. but what i was struck by the most is the these questions are still persisting... perhaps another way of stating that is to muse what the site of action is once we understand/recognize, e.g. literacies as social practices; e.g. youth as literate across contexts; e.g. the value of literacy practices beyond the school walls (literally and figuratively) for literacy theory, practice, research...

we also raised the question of representation today (much to my delight!). i made my standard comment about jim gee and his video games book: which is to say that the book is about video games and learning and literacy... and not an image to be found (?!?!?) i, like many others, enjoyed the book, but wished that some of the oomph! that is present when gee talks about "this stuff" was more readily present in the text. this brings us back to representation and the question of how might we go about researching and representing the literacy practices that youth engage in across contexts? what media do we access to do this representational work? and for whose purpose are the various forms of representation produced?

i have made another point clear to the class - this is my first time blogging. just saying the word still makes me chuckle. the point (and there is one...) being that for as much as i am invested in learning about and exploring youths' literacies, i have been remiss in delving more fully into the online literate worlds of youth - work that is being done wonderfully by many wonderful people:

...just to name a few... (i know there are others - let me know!)
but what i realized was this: for many of the youth with whom i was working, the online world had not become "home" as it has for many of the young people involved in the studies of the folks above. it's not that the youth with whom i worked did not play video games - they did! but their platforms of choice were more often the free standing game systems; on the whole, they accessed the internet for encapsulated tasks or practices associated with particular kinds of (in our case) storytelling in which we sought out images (or produced images and texts) in the ongoing production of other texts... the questions here have to do with equity and access to technologies, to be sure; but, i think that there was more going on there than just the usual talk of the "digital divide"...

i'll keep coming back to this idea - about who is and isn't involved in the discussion about the increasingly digital landscapes of youths' literacy practices; and i hope to keep asking the questions of why? and what questions are not being asked, particularly about "old" media and how we might engage in the construction of new literate spaces...


fellow blogger

see Sarah's class blog

thanks, sarah! i was encouraged to start this after seeing yours :) and heck, if i'm asking all of you to take some risks, it's only fair that i do, too.


responses and responsibility

when asked about how to compose text responses by someone in class last week, i initially indicated "somewhere in between" formal and personal, and offered to post an example of what i meant. i couldn't get that response out of my head all weekend and, as i stood transfixed by the snow from time to time on saturday, i couldn't help but wonder what my responsibility is in this situation. as a graduate student i relished the opportunity to truly experiment with responses to text, in both content and form. (and for many of those opportunities, i thank susan lytle)
so, in this situation (where i am in the position of instructor) i continually wonder about my responsibility to create similar opportunities for students in this class. it was the risk of boundless expectations that my inquiry thrived on... the risk of how to engage with the text while exploring the very nature of representation.

therefore, after much reflection i've come to what i hope will be the best conclusion for all of involved in this course journey: the format of the text responses are open. but here's what i would like to see with respect to content: for the first one - engaging a series of articles and/or shorter pieces in the response. and for the second response - engaging a single and more complete text, such as a book, documentary, or full edited volume.

i'm look forward to seeing where these text-plorations take us!



first class

i've never kept a blog before but this seems like a good a time as any to begin. so, i'll post as i'm moved to do so. for now, i'll say that i'm excited to be teaching this course (same as the blog title) and to have a great group with whom to get into this semester-long exploration of youth, literacies, and the increasingly vast world of multimodality, media, technologies...til next time...