Skip to content

Invitation: The 2021 Speculative Education Colloquium

Spec Ed Flyer

The second annual Speculative Education Colloquium is happening on April 3rd from 1-3:30 ET. Free registration for the event is here.

We are absolutely thrilled that this year’s keynote is Dr. Marcelle Haddix. The title of her presentation is: “Are You Ready for Black Future Month? On Education, Possible Futures, and the Black Imagination.”

In addition to Dr. Haddix’s presentation, we will have a set of smaller spaces in the colloquium for intentional dialogue, for designing, and for dreaming. We will also be giving some updates on the future of the colloquium.

If you’re looking for information about last year’s convening, here’s the initial overview, some featured talks are here, and a post mortem is here. These events are co-created by Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia.

 

Why Another Colloquium?

Because things aren’t better.

Because “better” isn’t good enough when the purpose is freedom.

Because education still isn’t about dreaming.

Because the tools we have for this educational world are not just insufficient, they are designed for altogether different purposes than the educational world we are co-creating.

Because stimulus checks and vaccines don’t cure colonialism.

Because we’re tired of “allyship” and “fragility” and “mindsets.”

Because when do teachers and teacher educators and educational researchers actually center love and healing in their work?

Because how can you not center love and healing in a moment when more than half a million people are not with us as a result of willful, governmental negligence in the face of global pandemic?

Because, if we’re being honest, we don’t really know what NFTs are.

Because the portals we were promised a year ago have gone nowhere.

Because, even as we write this, schools have fully embraced “the new normal.”

Because “the new normal” is just “the old normal” with a new adjective.

Because, even though Zoom boxes are unfulfilling, they bring us that much closer to an analog connection with each other.

Because Black lives matter.

Because we also went to all of the amazing online talks and events over the past year and the world still doesn’t look much rosier.

Because your webcam and your Facebook account and your doorbell are all probably spying on you.

Because we are far too aware that dreaming is not simply a tool wielded for good and that white supremacist dreaming helped motivate ongoing violence in this country including insurrection and state-perpetuated murder of Black people. 

Because “learning loss,” “reading gaps,” and standardized testing.

Because George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the 1,127 other people killed by the police in 2020.

Because we are not on the verge of climate catastrophe.

Because we are in the midst of climate catastrophe.

Because our children are going “back” and there’s not a clear timeline of if or when they might be vaccinated.

Because if we do it again, I’m gonna freak out (so do it again).

 

Because we are still here.

Because last year had a lot of tomorrows and yet we are still here.

Because there are a lot of us that refuse to relinquish hope.

Because we have here and and we have now and we have each other.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#11)

 

  • “and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank”
  • The absurdly close, invasive camera that slowly eases off before closing back in on O’Hara in the final seconds.
  • I aspire to end something I write with the same thudding consequentiality as “which is why I’m telling you about it.”

Call for Chapters: Literacies in the Platform Society – Histories, Pedagogies, Possibilities

Phil Nichols and I are seeking chapter proposals for a volume we are in the midst of proposing focused on the possibilities of literacies in relation to platform technologies. This is related to our recent article in Phi Delta Kappan. The full call for chapters is below and abstracts are due April 15, 2021. Please share this call with any interested folks – we are hoping to hear from literacies scholars in varied, global contexts.

 

Call for Chapters

Literacies in the Platform Society: Histories, Pedagogies, Possibilities

Editors: T. Philip Nichols, Baylor University & Antero Garcia, Stanford University

Over the last decade, literacy teaching, learning, and practice have increasingly come to be facilitated by platforms — digital spaces where users engage in social and economic exchange. These include multipurpose giants — like Google, Facebook, and Amazon — that provide infrastructures for producing, storing, and circulating texts; as well as niche resources for designing, remixing, monitoring, assessing, sharing, and discussing them (e.g. TurnItIn, Voicethread, Nearpod, Epic Reading).

To date, attention to such platforms in education (when it exists) has tended to focus on the level of individual apps, and their opportunities and limitations for ethical, equitable, and justice-oriented pedagogy. However, a growing, multidisciplinary literature on “Platform Studies” has begun to recognize platforms not as discrete tools, but as an emergent organizational logic. This logic simultaneously (1) offers a range of consumer-facing services; (2) harvests data on the back-end of these transactions; and (3) interoperates with other platform-providers to share or sell this data, or use it in future product development. The steady creep of this logic, and its attendant datafication processes, into more and more aspects of social life has resulted in what some scholars have termed “the Platform Society.” For literacy studies, this view suggests that, while platforms can appear as ready-made tools for literacy instruction and practice, they are underwritten by sociotechnical architectures (e.g. code, data, algorithms, interfaces, governance structures, business models) whose inherited interests and assumptions may work with or against those of their users.

This raises significant challenges for literacy practice, teaching, and research. While there are rich lineages in literacy studies that explore the critical potentials of digital media for producing, circulating, and interacting with texts, platform technologies tether such activities to design constraints and commercial actors that delimit their form, content, reach, and impacts. Likewise, though there are powerful pedagogies that make use of digital connectivity, platforms enroll educators and students in regimes of surveillance and data-extraction that raise thorny ethical questions for schools. And because many of the mechanisms that drive the ‘platformatzation’ of literacies are hidden beneath-the-screen (e.g. in code, wiring, algorithms), it can be difficult for researchers to account for their roles in co-constructing acts of reading and writing.

This edited volume aims to confront these challenges by bringing together scholarship that examines the shifting meaning, place, and work of “literacies” in the Platform Society. In particular, we are seeking chapters that speak to one (or more) of three themes that will assist the volume in articulating an agenda for literacy studies in emerging platform ecologies. These include:

  • Histories — continuities with, and breaks from, past perspectives in literacy studies that can help us better frame and understand reading and writing in platform environments; 
  • Pedagogies — instructional considerations for teaching with and about platforms in diverse educational settings;
  • Possibilities — opportunities for moving beyond critique of platform technologies and into forms of usage (or resistance) that prefigure alternate relations to digital and data technologies in literacy education.

We welcome chapter submissions that engage such themes through any number of theoretical, methodological, or transdisciplinary orientations. Chapters may, likewise, be empirical or conceptual in nature (though we will aim for a balance of each in the final table of contents). Potential topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • AI/machine-learning technologies in literacy instruction/practice
  • Civic learning and literacies within, within, or against platform ecologies
  • Social media, peer-production, and digital labor
  •  Algorithmic bias and educational justice
  •  Disinformation and ‘media literacy’ in platform ecosystems
  •  Datafication and ‘data literacies’
  • Surveillance/dataveillance in digital reading/writing
  • Reading/writing interfaces and their relation to practice
  • Platform capitalism and governance in- and out-of-schools
  • Intersections of code, coding, and literacies
  • Hardware and physical infrastructures of digital reading and writing
  • Environmental and global impacts of platform technologies

Submission Details

Interested contributors should submit a 500-word abstract to phil_nichols@baylor.edu by April 15, 2021. This abstract should detail the chapter’s contribution and fit within the edited volume, as well as the structure of the proposed chapter (including its argument, theoretical/methodological approach, and sources of evidence/data). The anticipated timeline for the book’s development is:

15 Apr. 2021 — Abstracts due

30 Apr. 2021 — Contributors notified

1 Sept. 2021 — First draft of chapters due

1 Nov. 2021 — Editorial feedback on chapters returned

15 Feb. 2022 — Revised chapters due

The volume will be submitted to Routledge’s “Expanding Literacies in Education” Series, edited by Drs. Jennifer Rowsell, Cynthia Lewis, and Carmen Medina. The anticipated publication date is late-2022 or early-2023.

Reimagining Schooling Colloquium: March 1st, 2021

Eu8swI-UYAIhp7T

I’m thrilled to join this panel of amazing scholars on Monday. The Reimagining Schooling colloquium is free and you can register here.

Sharing gratitude to the C&I folks at Madison for this opportunity and the work they’ve done with this initiative.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#10)

  • Lord, open my heart.
    Lord, bring me near.
    Lord, open my heart.
    Lord, make it into a mirror.
    To reflect the myriad colored lights of love and space.

 

  • Rest in peace, Miles Seaton.

Some recent media links: Civics and D&D

Nicole Mirra and I wrote an oped last month reflecting on the inauguration, insurrection, and the pathways for civic education.

Somewhat related, we gave a talk at UC Davis titled “I Hesitate But I Do Have Hope: Speculative Civic Literacies for Troubled Times.” The presentation and the links we mentioned are all available here.

I’ve also had a chance to talk about D&D, race, and contemporary culture recently. Here’s an appearance on KPCC, an article in Wired, and an article in the Los Angeles Times. Unsurprisingly, a handful of right wing publications have picked up on this (again). I try to share this research as broadly as possible and encourage folks to take a lot at what I actually wrote and the scholarship of other BIPOC gaming scholars.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#09)

  • When Fetch the Bolt Cutters was released last year, I played it every morning for the two of you as part of our morning routine. Bottles and diapers and Fiona’s bottled up joy and fury and clatter-y pop. For a good half of the year, we heard the album 3-4 times a week.
  • The run at 1:36 (“O yes, oh yes, there’s a dress” through “Cuter than a button) is the best verse we listened to in 2020. The internal rhymes and weird confessional approach to solidarity and kinship is dizzying.
    • I think about this live performance–from three years before the album was released, wondering how the seemingly unimpressed audience just stands there–if the stripping of unnecessary jazz chords, licks, and excess noise helped reveal the pith of what is in this rendition.
  • The final refrain, “Yet another woman, to whom I won’t get through,” a weight dragging Fiona down. It is a/the heavy balloon in the title of the following song.
  • Honestly, what I come back to most frequently are the ten seconds from 4:30-4:40 where the song lifts: “a comparison with you.” It feels like a mirrored moment of six or seven seconds near the end of Radiohead’s “Nude” (3:38) musically and tonally both doing similar shifts.

“Knock, knock, did you say who you’ve come for?”: Books Read in 2020

Untitled

I’m halfway into Steve Hyden’s This Isn’t Happening and a few dozen pages into Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future. So, as usual, here’s my breakdown of my reading for the year of hindsight:

Books read in 2020: 141
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 28
Books of poetry included in reading total: 11
Books reread included in reading total: 3
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 17
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 9

Some thoughts (as usual, here are my posts on books read in 2019201820172016201520142013201220112010, and 2009):

The pandemic hit me as a reader. I didn’t feel as into the reading that I did. I didn’t have the same reading highs as I have had in previous years. I chalk that up to the damping effect of sheltering in place with low-key high levels of anxiety for the majority of the year. Maybe I made some poor reading selections, but reading wasn’t the respite I could have used this year. Sure, I read fewer books, too. That’s not really the point; I do think I might have read a few more books in a non-pandemic year, but I think this is close to my reading capacity while still trying to be a present dad that no longer has weekends/afternoons for selfish page-turning right now. (Side note: Ally pointed out that we read a ton of board books everyday with the kids. If Besos for Baby was included on this list, my reading count would be straight-up astronomical.)

I almost hit my goal of averaging a book of poetry a month. The books I did read were great. The Danez Smith collection (mentioned here) and Hanif Abdurraqib’s most recent collection were easy highlights.

I read two books by Olivia Laing this year, The Lonely City and Funny Weather. They were both wonderful and sent me down a spiral reading about a handful of artists I didn’t know much about like Chantal Joffe and Louise Bourgeois. The Lonely City also got me to listen to a bunch of Klaus Nomi this year.

I flew through all Martha Wells’ Murderbot series. As quick, fun sci-fi, it was my ideal semi-conscious, falling-asleep series of books for a chunk of the year. Likewise, Susanna Clarke’s long awaited follow-up novel, Piranesi, was short, engaging, and made me hope she’ll put out more work more frequently.

Charlie Kaufman’s debut novel, Antkind, is the most Kaufman-y thing he’s made and the funniest book I read all year. Also the most tedious. It’s not worth trying to summarize the plot about a film critic trying to write an academic book about the greatest film ever made of which only one person has seen and of which only a single frame still exists and so this critic uses hypnosis (and other methods) to attempt to recreate the reclusive filmmaker’s opus in his mind. It’s that kind of book. There’s a tangential plot line around a U.S. president named Donald Trunk who falls in love with a robot of himself. There’s nerdy film humor that made me enthused about rewatching Symbiopsychotaxiplasm. There’s a bunch of complaining about the films of Charlie Kaufman. You get it.

A Third University Is Possible was such an inspiring read at the beginning of the year that I ended up folding it into a class I was teaching, inviting K. Wayne Yang to close the Speculative Education Colloquium, and riffing on it in my own writing for future publications. I also really enjoyed Alex Rosenblat’s Uberland as representative of the possibilities of ethnography in the era of social infatuation with “algorithms” (ahem).

Comic books: I really liked Carmen Maria Machado’s horror story, The Low Low Woods. Tillie Walden continues to be one of my favorite comic creators and Are You Listening was no exception. Ines Estrada’s Alienation was confounding and I hope others read it so we can talk about it.

Finally, earlier this month a colleague recommended Maria Konnikova’s The Biggest Bluff, a book I missed in the middle of **all of this.** I flew through it. It made me miss poker, think about how I assess professional risk, and consider how limited information occludes some of my decision making.

The last concert that I attended was seeing Destroyer in San Francisco at the end of February. I consistently listened to his most recent album (contributing to this post’s title) throughout the year.

Early in the year, I picked up a copy of Cory Daye’s 1979 record, Cory and Me. The album isn’t on the major streaming platforms and disco dancing with the family to this record has been one of the real highlights during our sheltering in place.

Aside from this record, I played a lot of the new Fiona AppleBlack DressesPhoebe Bridgers, Haim, and Hayley Williams albums for my kids.

A good chunk of my time in quarantine was spent listening to 75 Dollar Bill, Moor Mother, Boris, Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood, and PJ Harvey’s smattering of demos. I spent a bunch of money supporting these bands and smaller artists on Bandcamp throughout the year.

Three other quick thoughts from this year’s listening:

  • The Man Man album that came out this year was their best/most melodic and it feels like absolutely no one picked it up or reviewed it.

  • Jimi Hendrix’s role as a central figure in how we conceptualize Afrofuturism is probably not given enough due. I think poor marketing and over saturation of bad reissues through the ‘90s and 2000s diminished his legacy. (This Buddy Miles song has been a highlight from my wider listening of Hendrix live recordings.)
  • The Sign O’ The Times boxset is absolutely incredible.

Finally, Mac Miller’s posthumously released Circles haunted my 2020. Thematically, “Good News” is the song that feels 2020 to me.

Coffee Spoons 2020: What I Worked on This Year and Why

Untitled
It’s a strange feeling to account for my time in a year that was anything but ordinary. Like everyone, this was a disruptive year and that fact is not represented by my scholarly output this year. Academic work takes a lot of time and so my 2020 appears to be business as normal when all of us know that wasn’t the case. That preamble aside, below are the main themes of the work I produced this year. (My roundup of work from previous years can be found here: 2019, 2018.)

Sprinkled throughout 2020, several books that I co-authored or edited were published. These have the distinction of making me look tremendously productive in a year when all of us were juggling way too many things that were more important than “work.” Books are multi-year affairs and the brunt of the writing on these books was done pre-pandemic. That being said, I’m proud of the work my colleagues and friends have led:

And out in the early months of 2021 (but the page proofs have been reviewed at this point, so I’m chalking them up here):

As lengthy projects, these books represent key areas of my work, particularly focused on English Language Arts and expansive forms of literacies. I am overdue to write up lengthier posts on a couple of these projects and I will be playing catch up in 2021. The other main projects I worked on are below.

(Speculative) Civic Literacy Practices

It should come as no surprise that civic literacy practices—for teachers and students—continue to be a central focus of the work that I do. Particularly in work with Nicole Mirra, we have been exploring speculative (ahem) dimensions of civic literacies to push our field forward. Recent work in the Harvard Educational Review, Urban Education, and other forthcoming pieces illuminate new directions that civics-focused scholarship must explore. Likewise, work analyzing the 2016 Letters to the Next President project still continues and I’ve been supporting the work led by Lynne Zummo and Emma Gargroetzi specifically looking at youth perspectives on climate change and quantitative civic reasoning.

Methods and Definitions

Slightly less easy to categorize, a couple of the articles I worked on this year focus on challenging base assumptions in critical educational research. Nicole and I spent a bunch of time pre-2020 reading and analyzing classroom-based studies that describe “21st Century” learning to see what our field actually means by this term, two decades into the period being described. Our findings suggest folks are all over the map when it comes to this label and I encourage researchers, educators, and policy makers to take a step back from a label that doesn’t really mean much.

Earlier this month, an essay based on my 2019 Jan Hawkins address was published in Equity and Excellence in Education. The article is a broad argument about how our approaches to critical research can fall short across three different dimensions. I weave together a handful of personal experiences from my work and biographical information about Prince. It was a fun piece to write and I think it feels even more relevant as we look toward 2021 in light of a terrible year. Here’s an illuminative figure from the article: 

Untitled

Healing and Care

I continue to think about and push for an emphasis on how educators address healing needs in schools and classrooms. With Mandie Dunn, I wrote a bit about how teachers’ grieving shaped ELA teaching practices. And Aaron Guggenheim, Kristina Stamatis, Bridget Dalton, and I explored how care is tied to everyday, political contexts that are always present in today’s classrooms.

Digital

Finally, it is not a surprise that I spent a bunch of time this year pushing on our conceptions of the role of digital technology. Like civics, this is a central aspect of my literacies-focused work and articles like these two chapters and this classroom-focused study continue my exploration of how our assumptions of technology sell short the analog needs and ingenuity of teachers and students.

 

While much of the writing above didn’t shift as a result of Covid-19 or with the upswell in overdue attention toward legacies of anti-blackness in the U.S., the themes of much of my work are well-suited for guiding practice right now. Nicole and I have written a couple OpEds this year with increasingly obvious directions that schools need to move toward:

I should also note that, just as much of this output began pre-2020, this year has seen substantial pivots in the research I am focusing on. Essentially, my active research pivoted to understanding and supporting teachers, students, and school systems in light of the multiple catastrophes shaping student learning right now. Unsurprisingly, this work will show up in another year’s post. Finally, most of the published work I’ve contributed to this field can be found on Google Scholar. If you are ever unable to access something I’ve worked on, please reach out. See you in 2021.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#08)

  • An editor of a magazine I used to write for posted this song to Facebook or Twitter seven or eight years ago. I am pretty confident I’ve played it at least monthly ever since.
  • The song is something of a personal lodestone, pulling together three different musical threads I’ve come to better understand in the almost-decade since hearing the song.
  • Simply put, other than hearing their names, I didn’t know the music of Neneh Cherry or of Suicide and this track was the entry point into two discographies that continue to be rewarding for me. The Thing was entirely new to me and they have kept the skronky free jazz flame burning.
  • There was a quarter or two when I was an undergrad at UCLA that were largely soundtracked by the two newish Radiohead albums, Kid A and Amnesiac, as well as Albert Ayler’s Love Cry. I’d play that album on repeat (and almost always on headphones). It opened me up. The Thing get close but there’s always a back-of-the-head itch to just put Love Cry, or Spiritual Unity, or Bells on instead. Or even just briefly revisit Ayler’s cleansing eulogy at Coltrane’s funeral.
  • That is to say, I can’t do much else when I’m listening to Ayler. The music’s too everything everywhere. In contrast, The Thing, older classics from Sun Ra, Sanders, Coleman – I find those really good for writing. My prose gets to drift on that cacophony.
  • And a word about Suicide. Like with free jazz, reams have been written while afloat the sheer, terrifying racket of the first two Suicide records.
  • And another word about Suicide. It was inevitable that “Dream Baby Dream” became the closest thing to a hit for the duo and the thing most people will know them for. It’s a shame considering what else is there. But the song is too goddamn catchy, in its original form, for folks not to consistently cover or evoke. I remember being aghast that Springsteen was covering the song… and then appreciating that it becomes the Springsteen-iest song in his hands. I remember the band Priests vamping on the track during an opening set at Red Rocks shortly after Alan Vega’s death. And I guess the cover/homage/thing that is this LCD Soundsystem song works nearly entirely because it’s Suicide living in the circuits of that track’s wiring.
  • Back to Cherry and The Thing: At about 4:40 when the song just … goes. It feels like Neneh Cherry relinquishes control or—perhaps—gives permission to The Thing’s saxophonist, Mats Gustafsson, to blast off before she re-reigns the galloping mass a minute or so later.
  • The final seconds of plodding, plucked bass. The band has moved elsewhere as the bassist says adieu.
  • The album this song comes from is a pretty beautiful product to think about as a whole: Cherry’s first in more than a decade and a half, jamming and setting versions of other people’s songs free alongside The Thing.
    • And the moment of obvious serendipity: Cherry, the stepdaughter of free jazz pioneer Don Cherry, playing alongside The Thing, a band named after the third track on Don Cherry’s 1966 album Where is Brooklyn? A merging of lineage, homage, and spirit. Dreams being dreamt out loud.