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