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...