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Presentation at UC Davis 5/3

I will be giving at talk as part of the first Emerging Scholars Panel at the UC Davis School of Education this Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. Those of you in the area (or in the need of an excuse for a road trip toward 80+ degree weather), come by and say hello!

Emerging_Scholars_May16_v3 copy

Discussing Teacher Education and Public Scholarship at #AERA16

At last week’s AERA conference, I was thrilled with the conversation (both in person and online) that emerged from the session, “Talking Back: Public Scholarship, Productive Practice, and the Future of Teacher Education.” Organized by Lauren Anderson and Jamy Stillman, the session was framed around sharing photojournals what teacher education work looks like and our role in terms of public scholarship.

Because we were limited to five minutes for discussing our work, I wrote out my notes for the session and I am sharing them below. Prior to diving into these comments, I really encourage you to look at the photojournal here and to look at the other photojournals my amazing co-presenters shared. My page looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 10.16.24 AM

And my comments:

Thank you Lauren and Jamy for inviting me to share my work with all of you.

As I assembled my final photojournal, I did a lot of deleting of words.

There are voice memos sprinkled throughout my journal and they are full of blemishes: ums, uhs, and even blasphemous “likes.” There are more photos of sitting in meetings or of traveling than there are of my students and work in schools. There are a lot of photos of computer screens.

And so while I first attempted to justify these pieces of media with flowery prose, I eventually deleted those words to allow a public image of my scholarship and its processes stand on its own.

There is a rambling video introduction at the beginning of my journal and at the risk of being redundant, I’m going to cover and expand on a few of the main principles I ummed, uhhed, and liked my way through in that video.

When I was in graduate school, one of my advisors, Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, talked about the fundamental differences in time and the various professional and home demands on it. Case in point: regardless of what kinds of deadlines, meetings, or piles of letters of recommendation that are awaiting completion on my desk, the raising-children-training-wheels that my wife and I have: two headstrong, scent-driven beagles must be walked.



Sure, if things are busy you could hypothetically not walk them, but they have Machiavellian plans a la Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone – they will destroy the house (and destroy it gleefully) if unwalked. This is a blood oath they have both forsworn the moment we adopted them from the shelter.

And as much as I can get frustrated by finding the balance between home time and time for scholarship, I believe they are two sides of the same coin. Aside from listening to audiobooks and podcasts, I find the time for reflection on our meandering jaunts to be fundamental for helping clarify my thinking; it is the generative space in which reflection helps bind the theoretical with the pragmatic in my scholarship.

And so, to the extent that home time funnels, focuses, and shapes the day-to-day public scholarship that I engage in, so too must I be direct in noting that teacher education is not confined to classrooms.

I deliberately only offered a few sections of photos that are classroom-focused. I think that we educate teachers and teacher education through modeling the various other non-teaching responsibilities we take on in the many spaces that we inhabit. Like my colleagues’ photojournals illustrating digital life and activism, I believe we need to emphasize scholarship that does not so easily appear as peer reviewed publications or get checked off as professional service. I take my responsibility of making the educational landscape more just seriously. And I don’t find the time engaged in dialogue in spaces like Twitter, building consensus with other educators, or even reflecting during walks as flippant or “extra” to my professional responsibilities; they are all interrelated.

Which brings me to a lingering question about public scholarship and teacher education: public for whom? As I think about the work that I am doing as equity driven and scholarship that happens alongside the teachers, students, and community organizations I see as colleagues, I am reminded that we are myriad publics today.

In light of online and offline persecution of young people of color, individuals by race, class, sexuality, legal status, and placement within societal gender binaries, ours is work about addressing varied publics, and looking for intersections for uniting, coalescing, and growing.

Probably weekly I say to my preservice teachers that ours is political work. It cannot not be. The work of education, political as it is, does not start and stop in classrooms. It seeps into the conversations we have, the ways our income is disbursed through the purchasing decisions we make, and the roads we make by walking – to riff off of a book-length dialogue between Paulo Freire and Myles Horton.

In this sense, public scholarship is something of an embodied stance.

To return to my opening thoughts on a false binary between school time and life time, I would add that this is about scholarship that – particularly in today’s digital, participatory culture – unfolds over a lifetime.

We may warn our youthful future teachers to not put up any personal material on social networks or they will be fired and die. However, this is precisely how dialogue happens. My public work is inherently social work too. My educational scholarship is public scholarship.

I hope this journal reflects most wholly my own participation in a public sphere – be it in the generative and reflective processes while tethered to two beasts hot on the scent of a dastardly squirrel or while presenting at conferences or facilitating classroom activities. Ours is nuanced and complicated work.

Thank you.

AERA 2016 Schedule and Some Belated Updates

I want to briefly share my AERA schedule for this week:
Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 11.46.12 PM
Some details on these presentations:

  • My Saturday morning session is built around a broader project and AERA Presidential Session in which I was invited to produce a photojournal reflecting on my role as a teacher educator. I would encourage you to take a look at the project website here and my specific photojournal here. Here’s the abstract for the entire session:

    Abstract: This session challenges the overly simplistic public and policy discourses that treat university-based teacher education as fundamentally responsible for low-performing schools. It offers snapshots of innovative teacher education work and explores how such work might be presented more effectively to the public and policymakers as they consider approaches to high quality teacher preparation. The session features four equity-minded teacher educators/scholars whose innovative, politically engaged work reflects and expands upon the field’s longstanding commitment to producing public scholarship that connects research to practice in schools and communities. These four presenters – Elizabeth Dutro, Antero Garcia, Bettina Love, and Bree Picower – will base their brief comments, in part, on open-access digital photo-journals they created to capture and communicate their work. Two discussants – Ken Zeichner, senior scholar of teacher education, and Melinda Anderson, education writer and parent – will offer response that address teacher education’s future, specifically how to educate better the public about teacher educators’ work and its impact.

  • My poster session shares (very) preliminary findings from my ongoing ethnographic work studying tabletop roleplaying games. However, my D&D dice are packed and the bulk of the poster real estate is devoted to a gaming playmat: I fully intend to play through this poster session, so come grab a pre-generated character sheet from me!
  • Finally, my presentation Sunday morning is built on my work with teachers in Los Angeles engaging in “Player Professional Development” and community-drive game jams (described previously here). I will be presenting a paper co-authored with my nemesis, Mark Gomez.

I should briefly add that an update to this blog is long overdue! In the short term, let me say that I have still been blogging monthly(ish) at DMLcentral (recent posts here, here, and here) and have been mumbling through blog-like thoughts using Anchor, like this:

A few other housekeeping things:

I am co-facilitating a workshop based on Youth Participatory Action Research for the 2016 Digital Media and Learning Conference. My co-facilitators, Nicole Mirra and Danielle Filipiak, and I discussed the workshop recently:

You should consider joining our workshop!

I have a chapter in the recent collection The Role-Playing Society: Essays on the Cultural Influence of RPGs titled “Teacher as Dungeon Master: Connected Learning, Democratic Classrooms, and Rolling for Initiative”. It’s a scorcher!

Finally, back in January I delivered the keynote for the 2016 Technology in Education Conference presented by the Collaborative for Educational Services. If you’ve got an hour to kill, you can watch the whole thing below (my presentation begins at 6:20).

Beyond “Dead Channels”: Technology in Education Conference and Expo Keynote

If you happen to be in Western Massachusetts, I am giving the keynote at the Technology in Education Conference and Expo tomorrow, January 14th. With this year’s conference theme focused on Connected Learning, I am looking forward to engaging in conversations about the role of educators in shaping the contexts of connected learning in schools. In particular, I hope to focus on youth understanding of civic and social nuance of how they learn in participatory environments.

I’ll also be signing copies of Pose, Wobble, Flow and Doing Youth Participatory Actions Research.

If you’re at the conference, please say hello!

“Gnawing my way back home”: Books Read in 2015


I’m currently halfway through Paul Murray’s The Mark and the Void and not likely to finish it before 2015 is over. For the 7th year in a row, here’s my breakdown of books read over the past year:

Books read in 2015: 162
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 28
Books of poetry included in reading total: 3
Books reread included in reading total: 4
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 45
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 13
Roleplaying Game-related books (rules, modules, settings – related to this research work): 22

A few thoughts (As usual, here are my posts on books read in 2014,  2013201220112010, and 2009):

Two different sci-fi novels – perhaps thematically related – were highlights of the fiction I read this year: Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora were robust with ideas, questions, and plot hooks that I continue to ponder nuances from them. I also really liked Station Eleveneven if I wasn’t in search of another post-apocalyptic yarn it was an unputdownable book.

It’s been a while, but volumes one and two of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar were the enticing reads that returned me to the BSRAYDEKWTDWT genre.

Three different music related books I can recommend:The memoirs by Kim Gordon and by Carrie Brownstein were unflinching and feminist looks inside two tumultuous rock bands I’ve spent a lot of time listening to. And unrelated but Leon Neyfakh’s The Next Next Level was the music biography about a musician I didn’t know that I didn’t know I needed to read. (I would encourage curious readers to listen to the two podcast episodes of No Effects with Jesse Cohen where he talks with the author of the book and with the musician Juiceboxxx.)

In terms of non-fiction, there was no book more important or more affecting this year than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. Enough has been written about this book that you don’t really have an excuse for not reading it at this point. Do it.

Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation is a book that I’ve been chewing on and thinking about over the past two months.

In terms of more popular non-fiction, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed was the book that created some of the more entertaining conversations and arguments with friends. Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance was the book you give to a friend because it looks like another comedian’s memoir but ends up actually being a pretty impressive empirical, social science study.

In terms of other media consumption in 2015, there was no better live music experience this year than seeing Kamasi Washington with family and friends play a flawless and touching (and nearly three hour long) set. Epic indeed.

I listened to the Lady Lamb and the Beekeeper album a bunch (yes, that’s really her name and yeah, I know). The track “Billions of Eyes” lends a lyric as the title of this year’s post.

Other albums I listened to a lot were Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly, the Hamilton Broadway Cast Recording, Miguel’s Wildheart, and Chance the Rapper’s collaborative album with the jazz group the Social Experiment. (Check out Chance’s performance on SNL from earlier this month:)

When it comes to writing, I’ve been regularly listening to this Four Tet album, the titular Viet Cong record, and Jaime XX. (Did I mention, I published two books this year? It was an intense year for writing.)

What did you read and listen to in 2015? What are you looking forward to in the new year?

New Book Announcement! – Doing Youth Participatory Action Research: Transforming Inquiry with Researchers, Educators, and Students

YPAR cover

Last month saw the release of my most recent book, Doing Youth Participatory Action Research: Transforming Inquiry with Researchers, Educators, and Students. Co-authored by Nicole Mirra and Ernest Morrell, this is a book that details our work with the UCLA Council of Youth Research and the role of YPAR as a critical methodology. The book is published by Routledge as part of Sonia Nieto’s Language, Culture, and Teaching series.

I’m extremely proud of the work that we’ve described in this volume and would be remiss to note that the narrative of the Council of Youth Research (like many YPAR projects) is one that includes dozens of teachers, students, and graduate students. We did our best to include many of these voices in the book.

Earlier today, Nicole and I published a co-written blog entry for DMLcentral about YPAR and Connected Learning. I believe that this post captures the kinds of questions we are pushing through Doing Youth Participatory Action Research. I’m pasting the intro to our pose below and – if you want to see the ways we address the 5Ws (and “how”) of research, take a look at the whole thing here.

What the Connected Learning Research Community Can Learn from YPAR

Last month, the two of us (along with our mentor, Dr. Ernest Morrell) celebrated the release of our book, Doing Youth Participatory Action Research: Transforming Inquiry with Researchers, Educators, and Youth. The book tells the story of the UCLA Council of Youth Research (YPAR), a long-running youth participatory action research program that mentors young people from South and East Los Angeles to develop research questions about the educational and social challenges they recognize in their communities and then conduct rigorous inquiry into those questions for the purposes of fostering empowerment and action for social justice.

We drew on our membership in the Council community to detail one year in the life of the program and use this portrait as a lens through which to explore YPAR as a radical vision of knowledge production that can transform how educational researchers approach their work — particularly those in the connected learning community. While the central activity of YPAR — providing young people with the support and resources needed to develop, conduct, and share research projects of their choosing — occurs across many settings (schools, after-school programs, public health initiatives, etc.), YPAR is an umbrella acronym to describe a mode of scholarly inquiry that pushes back on traditional understandings of the key actors (youth), processes (participatory), and purposes (action) of research.

As our DML community so often focuses on the role of participatory culture, collaborative design and research with youth and educators, and the possibilities of digital technologies within contexts of equity-driven education, we believe that the foundational work of YPAR points to design and research pathways for researchers of connected learning in both formal and informal learning contexts. YPAR is inspired by ideas about knowledge that have been reflected for decades in movements for social justice, from Paulo Freire’s work in Brazil to the Freedom Schools of the American Civil Rights Movement. As active participants in meaning making and theory building, youth and adults alike must consider how the work we do continues to work toward liberatory engagement in contemporary society. YPAR has much to teach us today as we consider what research means and what it is for in an ever more connected (and sadly, ever more divided) world.

The remainder of this post explores the 5 “Ws” and “How” of contemporary research: if we are to take the work of youth and our work alongside them seriously, we must question the foundational premises of educational research in the 21st century.

Again, this book was a two-year collaborative writing endeavor to capture more than a decade and a half of engagement in urban education in Los Angeles. I can only imagine it would make an amazing stocking stuffer for the critical educator in your family. :)

Notes for Class: Teaching Methods – Last Day


I want to emphasize a part of the title of this course for a moment: methods. I know many of you want to know the secret handshake of good teaching. Less flippantly, you want the key protocols that – if you put in the effort (and I know you want to put in the effort) – will make your class move fluidly, perfectly, just like in the movies.

But that’s not ultimately what these methods are about. Yes, we spent a lot of time this semester diving into standards, designing unit plans, and talking about classroom design. However, I want you to leave today recognizing that the methods of teaching methods are personal.

This is about the processes of reflecting, listening, growing, and feeling that make you the patient and responsive mammal that your classroom community needs you to be. It needs to start with that base, instinctual level that we have likely schooled out of so many of us by the time we are about to graduate from college.

You can fake it and be an … okay teacher. But if you want to be really good, teaching methods are the methods of reinvention. Continually.

In graduate school, one of my advisors often described the ongoing tension between “real” time and “school” time. The time for cooking, shopping, doing laundry, walking dogs, etc: it does not move at the same speed as grading, deadlines, letter of recommendation writing. Mentally, we are operating on two different circadian rhythms. Which one do you privilege? At what cost? Being in sync in one space may mean feeling like you are careening out of control in another. Game designer Jane McGonigal’s description of a “stereoscopic vision” comes to mind.

Thinking about the personal methods you are working toward (and it is a lifelong process – not a semester long one), think about where we are right now:

  • Northern Colorado – a shifting space at once familiar and growing in uncertain directions, politics, socioeconomic evolution.
  • The end of No Child Left Behind and the ushering in of … something new. As usual, everything is about to change. Or not.
  • 2015 curtseying adieu, 2016 bringing in new paradigms of engagement, new warnings of kids these days.
  • A period of escalating horror. Daily the news sings new tragedy that is felt in our bones and comprehended by our students. What lessons need to be taught, questioned, demanded?

As much as these are locations (literally and spiritual) about your personhood and identity, they are a part of your shifting syllabus for future methods. So too, is the fact that growing as a person is seeing the ecosystem that you are a part of: the family in your classroom.

Teaching is scary. It is okay to be afraid.

It is okay to be afraid.

Be uncertain but do right.

Likewise it is okay to be wrong.

It is necessary to be wrong.

At the end of most semesters, I talk to my classes about hope, love, courage. It sounds like the verbal equivalent of that “Hang in There” cat poster. But I don’t think I’m clear about a part of this: a big part of teaching we ignore is that it is about self love. Do you love yourself enough to meets the needs and demands arising or being stifled within your classroom?

Methods are personal. It’s about learning to be you in the classroom and willing to reinvent who you are in the wake of tomorrow.

Find Me at #NCTE15 & #NWPAM15


Like many of you, I am headed this week to Minneapolis for NCTE’s Annual Conference and the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting. If you’ll be in town, you can catch me at any of the following events:  


  • I will be co-facilitating an NWP workshop related to Pose, Wobble, Flow with Cindy O’Donnell-Allen. This is a part of the afternoon sessions listed here.


  • In the evening from 8-10, the amazing Chad Sansing and I will be running a game jam at the NWP Annual Meeting:

Join fellow National Writing Project educators for an open-ended conversation about games and play in the classroom. Pitch and prototype your ideas for games that teach, join a group learning a new game, or revisit a favorite game with friends. Part workshop, part hangout, all fun. Don’t be afraid to bring your own games, either!

  My NCTE schedule looks something like this: Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 3.25.00 PM  If you like comics, inquiry, YPAR, yoga, middle school, connected learning, or unkempt hairdos you should come say hello!

I’m particularly excited to invite you to the first SLAM meeting on Saturday night:


On Sunday: I rest (or I meet you, IRL, if you ping me on Twitter first!) and then hop on a plane in the afternoon.

I’m excited to learn with many of my friends and colleagues at this year’s conferences. I hope to see you there!

A Few Updates

I’ve been under-the-proverbial-gun writing to various deadlines these past two months and need to wipe the dust away from this blog soon. “Soon,” however, is not today!

In the meantime, three recent-ish updates that may be of potential interest to you:

1. I will be giving a keynote talk at the Colorado Language Arts Conference this weekend alongside a couple of awesome speakers. Check out the flyer below. I’ll also be running a workshop related to key ideas from Pose, Wobble, Flow later in the day. If you’re going to be there, come say hello! You can still register for the conference here.

CLAS Flyer

2. I recently wrote a blog for DMLcentral where I interviewed Jeff Share about critical media literacy and the 2nd edition of his book. Read it here.

3. The Composing Our World project that I am a part of – currently being designed in coordination with teachers throughout Northern Colorado and funded by Lucas Education Research – has a design blog. The blog is very much a work in progress, but will be updated regularly. Interested in learning about our work around Project Based Learning (PBL), Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in 9th grade ELA classrooms? Follow along with us here!

New Book Announcement! – Pose, Wobble, Flow: A Culturally Proactive Approach to Literacy Instruction


I’m thrilled to share that my newest, co-authored book, Pose, Wobble, Flow: A Culturally Proactive Approach to Literacy Instruction is out next week from Teachers College Press!

My brilliant co-author, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, and I wrote Pose, Wobble, Flow as a book for current and pre-service teachers in English classrooms. Considering the feelings of burnout, frustration, and stagnation that may come in waves in one’s career, I see the model at the center of this book as one that supports teachers across their careers. From looking at the civic responsibilities of teachers (both in and out of their classrooms), our role as curators, and the need to “hack” the content standards we engage with today, this is a hands on book that we wrote to think about what do teachers need now and in the future.

But wait!

  • Did I mention that Linda Christensen wrote an amazing (amazing!) foreword to the book? She did!
  • Did you know that both Sonia Nieto and Bob Fecho write amazing things about this book that you can read on the back of the cover? Hell yes, they do!
  • Did you know you can read a sample chapter through (co-publishers) the National Writing Project, right here? Do it!
  • And did you know you can get a copy of the book online here (and of course you should harass your local bookstore and librarian!)?

If that’s not enough, how about this hot-off-the-presses description from the back of the book?

This book proposes a pedagogical model called ”Pose, Wobble, Flow” to encapsulate the challenge of teaching and the process of growing as an educator who questions existing inequities in schooling and society and frames teaching around a commitment to changing them. The authors provide six different culturally proactive teaching stances or ”poses” that secondary ELA teachers can use to meet the needs of all students, whether they are historically marginalized or privileged. They describe how teachers can expect to ”wobble” as they adapt instruction to the needs of their students, while also incorporating new insights about their own cultural positionality and preconceptions about teaching. Teachers are encouraged to recognize this flexibility as a positive process or ”flow” that can be used to address challenges and adopt ambitious teaching strategies like those depicted in this book. Each chapter highlights a particular pose, describes how to work through common wobbles, incorporates teacher voices, and provides questions for further discussion. Pose, Wobble, Flow presents a promising framework for disrupting the pervasive myth that there is one set of surefire, culturally neutral ”best” practices.

As the online appendices gets uploaded shortly, I will be sharing additional info about the book, including places that Cindy and I will be hosting workshops and presentations related to the book.

If you can’t tell, I am really excited about this book: I think Cindy and I are presenting a model of teacher support and education that reflects our beliefs about how English classrooms today can transform society. I hope you’ll take a look!