Skip to content

Special Issue of Learning, Media and Technology: New Narratives for Solidarity, Resistance, and Indignation

Untitled

I am excited to announce the publication of the latest issue of Learning, Media and Technology – New Narratives for Solidarity, Resistance, and Indignation: The Intersections of Learning, Technology, & Politics in a Climate of Fear, OppressionThomas Philip and I proposed this issue in the early months of 2017 expecting to highlight research of a passing moment. 20 months later, it is clear that the urgency around the themes for this issue has only increased.

The ten articles in this collection point to necessary scholarship exploring what learning and technology mean within the contexts of violence pervasive in recent years.

Our opening editorial essay for this issue, “Smoldering in the darkness: contextualizing learning, technology, and politics under the weight of ongoing fear and nationalism” attempts to situate the present moment within broader historical trends. It is freely accessible here. (And it quotes Rihanna.) Here’s a brief excerpt:

We write this acknowledging that the vast majority of educational—particularly classroom-specific—research is conducted now without acknowledging the sociopolitical contexts that press on the lives of youth today. As students sit in schools within the U.S., they are presented with reminders that youth are presently in cages, are victims of violence and unarmed deaths, and are foisted into debates of the morality of alleged sexual assault. To consider improving student learning outcomes, we must first acknowledge the substantial damage that is being incurred by both the blindness of schools to the healing needs of youth (Zembylas, 2007) and the normative approaches of educational research on vulnerable communities (Tuck, 2009).

Further, we note that the words, policies, and violence prevalent in global contexts is not bound to the whims or motives of individuals; we see today’s political actions—internationally – shaping the landscape of learning and technology long after the administration of individual leaders. As a result, the papers in this issue explore the broader landscape of the current political climate, rather than focusing exclusively on specific figures and events. It is our hope that they provoke renewed conversations
about the intersections of learning, engagement, and resistance.

We edited this issue because there is not a more important focus for us to center in educational research than the lives of individuals continually living under the threat of oppression and autocracy. Our contributors are interrogating this topic in powerful, imaginative, and hopeful ways. Please take a look at the full table of contents here.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 9.49.30 PM

Unpacking Everyday Advocacy – SLAM School Returns

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.04.24 AM

After a brief break, SLAM School returns with a five part focus on Everyday Advocacy. Co-hosted by Cathy Fleischer (Eastern Michigan University) and Antero Garcia (Stanford University), each episode unpacks specific approaches to building your skillset as a classroom advocate. Starting on April 30th, new episodes will appear weekly.

Guests and topics include:
1: Everyday Advocacy with Rick Joseph

2. Smart Advocacy with Kris Gedeon
3: Safe Advocacy with Sarah Vaughn
4: Savvy Advocacy with Alaina Felix
5: Sustainable approaches to Advocacy with Beth Shaum

As we dig into the nuances of Everyday Advocacy, we hope that you and your colleagues will—in real time—develop an advocacy plan related to an issue that is important to you. And we are here to help support you with that work! Online discussion will occur between episode with the Twitter hashtag #SLAMEdu and abundant resources can also be found at EverydayAdvocacy.org

You can catch up on all past SLAM School sessions on our YouTube page. SLAM School is an ongoing series for educators and organizers hosted by the NCTE Studies of Literacies & Multimedia (SLAM). Each class will feature a 15-20 minute hands-on session to help engage in discussions of activism in classrooms and beyond. For more information, please visit SLAM.education or the Twitter hashtag #SLAMedu.

An Origin Story on Empathy and Dungeons & Dragons

Earlier this week, my work was written up on an alt-right website:

That article and various reddit threads about it have garnered thousands of not-so-friendly comments. Not surprisingly, my inbox has been filled with a handful of nasty messages the last few days as well.

I’m not entirely sure why this happened now: the article described in that headline came out a year ago (it can be found here and I have talked through the paper in a handful of streamed presentations that also now have many unkind comments added to them). In case you’re wondering, I’m fine. Really. I think I got worse blowback a few years ago. As a bit of perspective, though, it might be worth offering a bit of an origin story to this work.

Why Study Dungeons & Dragons?

It is fitting that I  actually started studying tabletop roleplaying games because of the violence and discrimination that women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community experienced in video gaming culture. (The good reads on Gamergate are here and here and a segment of Reply All heard here.)

There’s a real conflict in educational research on games that persists today. Much of my doctoral work looked at the liberatory possibilities of games in the lives of the young people I was teaching and working with. As I continued to dig into the literature on games and learning, most of the key studies focused on video games. However, studies that praise the possibilities of games and learning tend to look blindly past the broader culture around gaming, issues of exclusion, and the cultural role these games play. (I write a bit about this in my chapter in this recent book.)

My hypothesis was that it would be harder for gaming culture to so openly reject the lives and experiences of some players if anonymity was removed and play happened face to face in analog gaming environments … like Dungeons & Dragons.

To be absolutely clear, I had only positive interactions with the participants and friends I was privileged to learn from in my two years of ethnographic research as part of this work. The article in question, though, points to how the mechanisms that led to Gamergate can be seen embedded in the systemic designs of the earliest editions of the first roleplaying game. In some ways it feels like coming full circle: I moved away from digital gaming research because of the negative culture attached to it, only to end up experiencing the brunt of it as a result (admittedly, a somewhat crowded inbox is nothing compared to the experiences of many Gamergate victims).

This is not all gloom and doom, though. There are an amazing variety of games (digital and non), designers, fans, and players interacting in a thriving and inclusive ecosystem today. The resilience of a minority of players that feel threatened by critique, by diversity, by change parallels broader resistance to progressive social change throughout history. Fittingly, as I write this, I am also in the midst of research tied to empathy, care, and healing in the lives of students and teachers.

At their best, tabletop roleplaying games imagine worlds unseen; they can spark revolutionary civic thought in the collaborative narratives of players around a table. Preparing the next manuscript tied to this work, I am excited to push for alternative worlds and possibilities in schools, in cultural contexts, and in the lives of players.

Addressing #MeToo within Academia

I’ve been thinking a lot about a post that Nelson Flores posted on Facebook last week. I’m pasting it below with his permission:

Yesterday a poster was posted next to a picture of Dell Hymes, a former dean at Penn GSE and the founder of the Educational Lin

guistics Division where I currently work (credit to Kristina Lewis for posting this picture that originally brought the action to my attention).

This is not just a rumor. Jenn Phuong has tracked down archival material from the Daily Pennsylvanian that show that these allegations were well-documented at the time and the university even agreed to a settlement with some of the victims. Yet, somehow this documentation has been erased from the official narrative that has been associated with Dell Hymes….until now.

This public reminder has led to his portrait being taken down pending further investigation. This important symbolic gesture was made possible by the tireless effort of Penn GSE students along with the university-wide GET-UP organization. I admire their courage and am in awe of all that they have already accomplished.

As a Penn faculty member, especially one who in some ways has inherited the legacy of Dell Hymes by working in the program he founded, I feel compelled to amplify their voices on this important issue. Here is a link to the recommendations that the students are proposing to improve sexual harassment policies to prevent what Dell Hymes got away with from happening again in the future: https://docs.google.com/…/1g9Gb46-pYiKpGZAi-TJBKybAr91…/edit

In checking in with Nelson, he pointed me to articles about the issue that students researched and collected here.

Among the comments responding on Nelson’s page, my colleague Jonathan Rosa wrote (again, sharing with permission):

So…when do we get to the questions about how this misogyny and predatory behavior informs our inheritance of the logics and practices of linguistic anthropology and other fields Hymes helped to found? I’m thinking especially of the positivist gaze and narrow view of power and inequality that characterizes them. It’s one thing to take down a portrait, entirely another to indict and reimagine fields and the academy more broadly.

The #MeToo movement, of course has been shaping conversation within academia. The results of an anonymous survey only highlighted the unsurprising fact that misconduct runs rampant within this profession as it does across myriad others. 

Like nearly every profession that is confronting the long overdue reckoning of the #MeToo movement, academia is still reconciling–too slowly–with what’s to be done. In addition to the processes of healing, accountability, and action that must be taken up, I am wondering about some specific responsibilities that universities must face.  I am setting aside the most obvious issues of accountability and healing for the remainder of this post not because they are unimportant but because I think there is little ambiguity that action needs to be taken.

I am less certain about how our profession deals with the legacies of scholarship on which new work is produced. Bluntly, will we still cite scholarship from a publicly vetted case like Hymes? Does the foundational work he set in motion get taught in courses? Do we add an asterisk next to his name (and a growing list of others as they are made public)? Taking Hymes as a public example, I can imagine sociolinguistic scholarship being submitted to journals today that would be seen as suspect if it failed to properly cite Hymes. Unlike Hollywood, I think there are incidents where we cannot simply Christopher Plummer our scholarship with other studies waiting on the sidelines. At the time that I write this, Hymes’s Wikipedia entry does not mention any of his other lasting and damaging contributions to the field. 

The idea of citation at hand, I trust my friends, advisees, and mentors to understand why and how I define the scholarship I build from; however as I continue to write for an elusive “blinded” readership in order to progress within this profession, I am less confident about who I could exclude from my references. Within a profession that is obsessed with counting “impact” and measuring how ideas are taken up by others, each citation to a Hymes is immediately tallied on platforms like Google Scholar and Academia:

Taking down the portrait is an important first step and I am moved by the bravery of Penn graduate students and grateful for Nelson amplifying their voices. Removing the proverbial portraits within systems of peer review which may provide cover for complicity feels more complicated. I’m curious how others imagine we take this up.

“And night, night comes to Texas”: I Only Listen to I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats

Untitled

Over the past several months, Joseph Finks I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats podcast has been a particularly illuminating listen. Going song-by-song through the Mountain Goats’s 2002 All Hail West Texas, the podcast is an engaging convergence of fandom, analysis, and documentary-like insight. Co-hosted by the singular member of the Mountain Goats (at least at the time that All Hail West Texas was recorded), John Darnielle, each episode finds Darnielle and Fink reflecting on the writing of a single song on the album. Each episode also includes a cover of the song in question and a discussion with the musicians tackling the track.

Even if you don’t think you are a Mountain Goats fan, it’s a unique look into a singular creative process as well as a handful of covers that grow more playful by the episode. Julian Koster’s surreal, instrumental homage to Jeff Davis County Blues is a personal favorite.

Craig Finn’s full band spin of “Fault Lines”  and Amanda Palmer’s anthemic take on “”The Mess Inside” accentuate the strength of Darnielle’s original songwriting.


The somber dusk of this first season approaches as the final track, “Absolute Lithops Effect” will be released imminently.

Individually, the components that make the 40ish minutes of each episode so compelling are nothing new. Interviews with artists, fans digging into theories and offering personal anecdotes about art, playful covers of songs—these have existed long before podcasts (like Fink’s other series Welcome to Night Vale) came into popularity. Other than access to work alongside John Darnielle, there is no magical alchemy pulling this show together. That being said, I think the distribution of this podcast highlights the blurred lines of consumption and production in this participatory moment.

Listening to each episode is an invitation into how work is dreamt and produced. It’s also a reminder that the intense connections we might each hold to work are also something we collectively share and that make us human. In this sense, I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats has been a healing podcast for me. Discussing “Jeff Davis County Blues,” Fink describes how the song reminds him of his late father–a personal connection that Darnielle could never have envisioned as he penned the song more than 15 years ago.

The noise of the news-related podcasts I exhaustingly consume in this moment of Trumpism feels unhealthy; Fink and Darnielle’s podcast has been a respite from the loud and political world we continuously work to improve. Perhaps, as The Mountain Goats sing on the third track of All Hail West Texas, the humanity of compassionate creativity can “let the silence that’s our trademark make its presence felt.”

 Announcing Theory Into Practice Special Issue on Multiliteracies

"Hi wobot!"

I am thrilled to share a recently published special issue of Theory Into Practice focusing on Twenty Years of Multiliteracies: Moving from Theory to Social Change in Literacies and Beyond. As a project that my co-editor Robyn Seglem and I started in 2016–twenty years since The New London Group’s seminal publication—this issue brings together leaders across the field of education exploring how multiliteracies, pedagogy, and “social futures” have shifted classroom practices and educational research.

I describe a little bit more about what drove Robyn and I to pull this issue together below but, really, I encourage you to go to the Theory Into Practice page and dig into the amazing work of our contributors.

Twenty years ago, the ten members of the New London Group noted:

The changing technological and organizational shape of working life provides some with access to lifestyles of unprecedented affluence, while excluding others in ways that are increasingly related to the outcomes of education and training. It may well be that we have to rethink what we are teaching, and, in particular, what new learning needs literacy pedagogy might now address.

At the 2016 Literacy Research Association annual conference, Allan Luke elaborated that the conglomeration of technological advances with global power, competition, and neoliberalism have shattered the utopian possibilities of digital tools held by many during the turn of the century. Particularly considering the role of technology, oppression, and communication in this current moment of Trumpism, the articles in this issue point to specific opportunities for pedagogical innovation and new research pathways vis-à-vis multiliteracies scholarship. As Robyn and I write in our introduction:

            [T]he framework for “designing social futures” at the heart of this issue was written long before the existence of online social networks like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Technical advances from “smart” phones to internet-enabled thermostats, doorbells, and fitness trackers had not yet redefined our relationships to “stuff” at the time that multiliteracies outlined new modes of communication and understanding. Though advances in technology were still seen as central to the hopes of educational reform in the U.S. (Cuban, 1986), entire ways of interacting and communicating with one another and mediating the comfort of middle class lives did not exist. Similarly, Amazon, Uber, Warby Parker, Blue Apron, and myriad other companies did not reimagine new modes of commerce. In 1996, rather, media such as books, music, and VHS tapes were largely bought in malls; the ushering out of smaller mall-based bookshops like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks had not yet happened and larger shops like Barnes & Noble were not the threat to mom and pop shops that today’s eCommerce behemoths may be. New content was not yet downloaded (illicitly pilfered or paid for) from online sources.

Illustrating the kinds of advances that we have seen in the years since the New London Group’s publication, let us consider “the boy who lived”: Harry Potter. In 1996, the first book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series was still a year away from being published. This publication, in turn, would not only get caught in the hearts of millions of readers (many impatiently awaiting magical owls bearing invitations that would somehow whisk them to their own wizarding school experiences) but would also redefine the markets for publishing young adult and children’s literature. The powerful links between serialized novels, Hollywood adaptations, and books as portals for lucrative transmedia franchises was fully realized across the decade of Harry Potter novels that led to films, fan fiction, and even theme parks. The advances in technology that were in lock-step with the possibilities of mass-market profit were both suggested by and unable to be anticipated by the New London Group. Multiliteracies, in classrooms and in broader society, highlight how even liberatory possibilities of literacies–to reach new audiences and foment new voices–are often hemmed in by the auspices of those that wield societal power.

We are thrilled with the amazing contributions in this issue. I am pasting the table of contents below, but encourage you to visit the Theory Into Practice website to access the abstracts and full manuscripts for the entire issue. I hope you check these articles out!

Contents

This Issue – Antero Garcia & Robyn Seglem

Pedagogies and Literacies, Disentangling the Historical Threads: An Interview with Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis – Bill Cope, Mary Kalantzis, & Anna Smith

From Digital Consumption to Digital Invention: Toward a New Critical Theory and Practice of Multiliteracies – Nicole Mirra, Ernest Morrell, and Danielle Filipiak

Multiplicities in Motion: A Turn to Transliteracies – Anna Smith, Amy Stornaiuolo & Nathan C. Phillips

Design, Desire, and Difference – Kevin M. Leander & Gail Boldt

Centering Nepantla Literacies from the Borderlands: Leveraging “In-Betweenness” Toward Learning in the Everyday – José Ramón Lizárraga & Kris D. Gutiérrez

Multiliteracies in Practice: Integrating Multimodal Production Across the Curriculum – Patricia Thibaut & Jen Scott Curwood

Changing Literacies and Civic Pathways: Multiliteracies in Inquiry-Driven Classrooms – Robyn Seglem & Antero Garcia

From Designing to Organizing New Social Futures: Multiliteracies Pedagogies for Today – William R. Penuel & Kevin O’Connor

Looking at the Next 20 Years of Multiliteracies: A Discussion with Allan Luke – Antero Garcia, Allan Luke, & Robyn Seglem

“Do the trap jump? Is the plug right?”: Books Read in 2017

IMG_6770

As I’ve only just begun The Bughouse, I think it’s time for my annual tally:

Books read in 2017: 132
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 23
Books of poetry included in reading total: 3
Books reread included in reading total: 2
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 17
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 17
Roleplaying Game-related books (rules, modules, settings – related to this research): 5

A few thoughts (As usual, here are my posts on books read in 201620152014,  2013201220112010, and 2009):

I would be remiss to also point out I published two books this year as well. I’ve written about Good Reception here and Alternate Reality Games and the Cusp of Digital Gameplay here. Additionally, I read substantially fewer gaming-related books as that work is now moving toward being submitted for publication. Initial work related to tabletop gaming came out earlier this year here and here.

Moving on to things I read, the first book I finished this year (on January 4th) was Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. Perhaps the most relevant and accessible book that illustrates the paths that lead to Trumpism, the lessons here continue to resonate.

A couple of novels I enjoyed: Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and Dexter Palmer’s Version Control both played with precision and form. They were quick reads that still felt sumptuous. Speaking of form, I read Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter for the first time and the possibilities of that book as a template for conveying ethnography have had me mulling. Likewise John McPhee’s Levels of the Game is a book length reckoning of one tennis match that continues to make me think about how to step up the narrative threads in academic writing; I’m pretty sure this will make some of my graduate syllabi in the near future. 

In terms of YA books, I re-read Cathy’s Book and read Nnedi Okorafor’s stellar Akata Witch both for separate projects, I hope to talk about in the future. I also really enjoyed both of Becky Albertalli’s books this year and look forward to the film adaptation Love, Simon (even if I don’t love the film’s name).

Finally, while Meet Me in the Bathroom was the quicker read about hipster music culture, Damon Krukowski’s The New Analog has been the book that has most directly affected some of my recent research. The related podcast series has been illuminating as well.

In terms of music, Vince Staples, SZA, Bleachers, and Rostam have all gotten consistent rotation. Daniel Caesar was the most surprising artist I learned about early on this year. I’ve probably streamed the Praise Break EP a couple dozen times. The 1-2 punch of the Casablanca interlude and “We’ll Always Have Paris” has been a musical highlight.


Announcing Good Reception!

I am thrilled to announce the release of my newest book, Good Reception: Teens, Teachers, and Mobile Media in a Los Angeles High School. Published by MIT Press, this book synthesizes nearly a decade of research that began in my classroom as a teacher in Los Angeles and continues through various work today.

Here’s a description of the book:

A year in the life of a ninth-grade English class shows how participatory culture and mobile devices can transform learning in schools.

Schools and school districts have one approach to innovation: buy more technology. In Good Reception, Antero Garcia describes what happens when educators build on the ways students already use technology outside of school to help them learn in the classroom. As a teacher in a public high school in South Central Los Angeles, Garcia watched his students’ nearly universal adoption of mobile devices. Whether recent immigrants from Central America or teens who had spent their entire lives in Los Angeles, the majority of his students relied on mobile devices to connect with family and friends and to keep up with complex social networks. Garcia determined to discover how these devices and student predilection for gameplay, combined with an evolving “culture of participation,” could be used in the classroom.

Garcia charts a year in the life of his ninth-grade English class, first surveying mobile media use on campus and then documenting a year-long experiment in creating a “wireless critical pedagogy” by incorporating mobile media and games in classroom work. He describes the design and implementation of “Ask Anansi,” an alternate reality game that allows students to conduct inquiry-based research around questions that interest them (including “Why is the food at South Central High School so bad?”). Garcia cautions that the transformative effect on education depends not on the glorification of devices but on teacher support and a trusting teacher-student relationship.

I’ve taken the years since first completing the analysis at the heart of this book to look at how my work can shift the landscape of educational equity in the U.S. As a result, I’ve had a chance to extend the research that first began as my dissertation in this book. At the same time, I’ve tried to fill this book with as many resources for teachers, researchers, and game designers as possible. The appendices has resources for structuring game design for K-12 contexts as well as frameworks for meaningful integration of technology in schools.

If you want to get a better sense of this work, Henry Jenkins recently ran a three-part interview with me describing some of the key ideas in the book. Take a look at parts one, two, and three.

I also recently was featured on Stanford Radio talking about the key ideas in the book and you definitely want to listen to that too, right?:

Good Reception is a project I’ve spent a long time refining my thinking about. I began this research a few years prior to one of the largest one-to-one debacles in the U.S. and concluded my analysis only after co-designing a school based on some of the principles featured in the book. Further, this work in the book has shaped how I have been studying project-based learning, tabletop gaming, connected learning, teacher professional development, “analog” and “gaming” literacies, research methodologies, and alternate reality games. Though I write about a lot of this stuff in a lot of different journals, Good Reception is where I’ve tried to be most accessible in my writing for a more general and public audience. I hope you give it a look!

(And since you’re here, I’m just gonna go ahead and put these awesome book endorsements down here too!)

A rising star in the Digital Media and Learning realm and a gifted storyteller, Antero Garcia combines an embedded perspective as a classroom teacher facing the challenges and opportunities of bringing mobile media into the public schools with a theoretically sophisticated grasp of contemporary pedagogical theories (Connect Learning, the New London Group, games-based education, and Paulo Freire, among others). This book could not be more timely or more urgent as schools confront a growing disconnect between their normal practices and the ways youth are processing the world around them.

Henry Jenkins, coauthor of By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism

As technology sweeps into classrooms, adults commonly regard it either as a magic bullet to deepen student engagement or as a hard-to-handle and persistent distraction to be put away. Instead, Antero Garcia, a gifted teacher, presents in Good Reception, a nuanced, alternative, and illuminating perspective, based on listening to the students themselves about their relationship with technology.

Jane Margolis, Senior Researcher, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA; lead author of Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing

I’m really excited to have this work out in the world. If you’re reading, talking, or wondering about this book or the ideas within, please feel free to get in touch!

WHO’s Calling the Media Literacy Shots? (Thoughts on the New Dr.)

As an admittedly non-Dr. Who fan, I had some thoughts about the new doctor and classroom implications:

 

#Literacies #Schmiteracies: An Invitation to Help Sustain Professional Teaching Practices

Untitled

This upcoming Monday kicks off the first class I’ll be teaching for STEP: ED289 – The Centrality of Literacies in Learning and Teaching.

This class is a two-week mad dash through all things literacies for secondary teacher education students. Recognizing the limitations of the course in terms of time and energy (students take the class in the afternoons after a full day at a local school site), I am hoping to center an ethos of critical, humanizing, and expansive literacies. You’re welcome to take a look at our perpetually-being-tweaked-syllabus here.

As part of the design of this course, I am also hoping to illustrate to students the broader critical community of literacies educators I regularly learn from. In this spirit, we will be hosting three shorter Twitter chats over the next two weeks, utilizing my new favorite hashtag, #schmiteracies.

If you’re lounging on your couch and hoping to engage in a discussion of Freirean stances of liberation and literacies, please join us on the following days around 4:30(ish) pst.:

7/17: Topic – Defining Literacies

7/20:  Topic – Enacting Powerful Literacies in an Era of Common Core

7/25: Topic – Connected Learning & Connected Literacies

I’ll send a #schmiteracies tweet with better ETAs on each of the days above. If you have questions prior to chat – feel free to reach out!