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Free excerpt of With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy

Today, University Press of Mississippi has released a substantial excerpt of my recent, co-edited volume on comics pedagogy (I blogged about the book here). This free PDF is nearly half of the entire volume and my co-editors and I encourage you to read, share, and discuss the included chapters in this time of sheltering and social distancing.

As I noted on Twitter the other night, I have been reaching out to publishers to open up access to various books I’ve worked on that might be of interest for teachers and researchers as we shelter in place across the globe. This is the first project that responded back. I’m encouraging other authors and publishers to do the same.

Happy reading!

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#05)

If
If you
If you could
If you could only
If you could only stop
It you could only stop your
If you could only stop your heart
If you could only stop your heartbeat
If you could only stop your heartbeat for
If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heart
If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat

 

  • Sometime you might need solace through song. This one has served that role for me, for a long time now.

Join Our (Online) NCTE Gathering

This Tuesday (and I *think* for Tuesdays for the foreseeable future), NCTE is hosting an online gathering for its members. It’s an evolving thing; its structure will match the needs of our members. I’m facilitating this first one and–if you are interested–you’ll need to RSVP at this link.

NCTE-Gathering

The format will be a Zoom call, the goal being to function as a  disciplinary hub for English teachers to check-in with one another and share some social presence in this moment of physical distancing. I am honored that Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz has agreed to open this first gathering with some poetry from her recent collection.

It’s been hard to work in light of a world changing hour by hour around us. I am hoping these kinds of digital nodes can help ground us in each others’ presence as well as become touchstones for designing for the new. See you all soon.

Cancel all Classes Right Now: Kids are Scared, Teachers are Stressed, Our Country is Sick

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Tonight I did a 10 p.m. run to the grocery store and the empty shelves here—and that so many friends are posting online—make it very clear: we are a nation in the midst of coping with a major crisis. This is a scary time and (finally) our government, major businesses, and public services are taking it seriously. Schools, too, are moving to online settings and to ensuring that students do not meet in physical spaces for the foreseeable future.

I get that teachers are scrambling to figure out the best ways to transition our work. I get that preservice teachers need a certain number of hours in order to receive state-based teaching licenses. I get that there has been a Herculean effort to get many students access to instructional materials in order to participate in virtual learning. But I also get that—both literally and metaphorically—our country is sick.

You don’t do school when you are sick. You heal.

When a school community is rocked by a natural disaster—an earthquake, a wildfire, a tornado–we don’t send students to Google classroom and we don’t ask teachers to prepare for distance education models. We heal.

By most estimates, a lot of people will get sick in the U.S. in the next few weeks. Many people will die due to complications from COVID-19 or perhaps from the lack of hospital-based care avaoilable for everyone. Businesses will close. Effects of this disease will be most heavily felt by vulnerable members our society; members of the gig economy that cannot take time off will suffer financially and in terms of their health. Depending on spread and our response, it is entirely possible that many of us will know people in our schools who lost family members as a result of this pandemic.

We can pretend to “do” school online for the coming weeks and months. We can force teachers to do this work in ways we have not adequately prepared them for. We can make students go through the rote exercises of pretending to engage in tasks that are not central to their current well-being. Or, we can call the charade off for a little while. Like we would in any other catastrophic scenario.

To be clear, I am not saying that students need to be sitting aimlessly as we weather this difficult time. I think informal learning that addresses students affectively is necessary. I think teachers need strategies to cope and to heal for themselves—including opportunities for reflection, for venting, and for reaching out to students as phone and zoom calls. I am also particularly grateful that districts made the difficult decisions to close schools while also ensuring plans for providing meals and other essential supports for kids right now.

While I am planning to do everything I can to help teachers who feel the double-bind of stress in new work settings and in a moment of peril, I am silently furious. A sense of mandated accountability undergirds the need for keeping students at pace in a world that is fully ruptured from any sense of normality right now. Look at the literal changes happening around us–this is not a normal situation and that, in and of itself, is important for students to see, process, and reflect upon as civic agents. As our country works to flatten curves and create social distance from one another, we continue to expect student academic performance to inch forward as if it is business as usual.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#04)

  • The entire video is such a weird time-capsule of a time that doesn’t feel that far off. The design of YouTube as a platform, less than a decade ago, is pretty different from what it is today and suggests an evolving relationship between us as viewers and consumers of new media spaces. And while the mash-up thing isn’t new/hasn’t gone away, this feels, for me, like a moment that converged with a lot of my own writing around participatory culture and fandom.
  • This LCD Soundsystem album, too, was one that I listened to constantly (so much so that a different song on the album was played at our wedding, by our friend Peter).
  • The anticipation at around 0:36-38 when the cursor hovers over the play button.
  • Often, when I’m writing in my office at home, I have a film playing on silent while I listen to something loud. The key is to get a movie just slow enough to grab your attention for a sec before you dip back into the words in front of you. Tarkovsky’s films, Wong Kar-Wai’s, Fassbinder’s -OR- mid-’90s movies like Empire Records, Hackers, Josie and the Pussycats, etc. Elevator to the Gallows is definitely a film that’s been on rotation in the past. AND, aside from an unhealthy collection of albums from the Acid Mothers Temple groups, I probably possess more Miles Davis albums, live recordings, bootlegs, etc. than any other artist. Of course I dig his soundtrack work for Malle’s film. And yet, because of how I tend to work, I’ve probably only actually heard this soundtrack in the context of the film once or twice. Seeing this YouTube clip as a reminder of Davis watching a screen as he blows magic is something else.
  • I’ve listened to “New York, I Love You” dozens of times, seen the band play it live a couple of times, watch the faux final concert doc once in a while, and play the whole damn thing on our record player when I have the time (i.e. not often). This version–with Miles, with the french discussion, with the simple tweaks a la adjusting volume nobs, with the slightly obnoxious zooming in–is my preferred version of this song.

Three wishes for a virtual #AERA20  

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With AERA’s announcement that this year’s annual meeting is now a virtual one, there is a real opportunity for this conference to shift how thousands of educational researchers engage, interact, and view online learning opportunities. I have a sinking feeling we will collectively fail at this, based on every single other online conference I have participated in. They are terrible. Always.

At the same time, I spend a lot of time watching gamers and musicians perform live and interact with an audience. These are thriving communities and they are clearly getting it right. AERA probably needs to look closer to what a Twitch stream looks like for a charity event like Awesome Games Done Quick, for example (a bi-annual video game marathon that gets tens of thousands of viewers consistently during its weeklong duration).

Based on what I think will fail, here are my three hopes that I think would make this conference a successful one:

1. 1-Click participation

This is the thing I am most concerned about. If you’ve ever participated in an online conference, it usually requires registering for a system, downloading some proprietary software, and potentially waiting in a limbo-like screen until a session begins. It’s a confusing mess and nothing will turn off an audience faster than an experience that isn’t intuitive and seamless. It needs to be as simple as clicking a YouTube link and you are in. Literally that. Click, you are in. I am not necessarily a fan of YouTube as a platform, but if it means every AERA member can click a link and see a session at any given time (and it is later archived as an easily accessible YouTube video), I am all for it. More than any other aspect, this will be the thing that makes or breaks this conference.

1.a It’s not gonna be a regular conference

Okay, kind of cheating, but this is a continuation of my thoughts above. It’s no longer a face to face conference. That’s a given. So Do. Not. Try. To. Replicate. Traditional. Conference. Practices. For example, there is an intuitive chat feature on YouTube live videos – this would be an ideal space for a moderator to pull questions. However, I could imagine that a smaller group of viewers might want to actually talk after a particular presentation. Rather than resort to muddying an intuitive conference space for everyone, offer drop-in Zoom rooms (that can be recorded for later viewing if so interested) for further interaction and affinity-focused networking. For example, my amazing advisee is part of a 40-minute panel on the role of YA literature and equity in civic literacy contexts. The three panelists and discussant share slides to a live YouTube audience that gets 50-100 viewers (more than they’d probably get in a room at the SF-based conference!). At the end of the session, the presenter shares a link to a separate videoconferencing/Zoom room where they will be further discussing their research for the next 20 minutes. Maybe 6-7 other people join that conversation and the rest of the audience moves on to the next panel of presenters. It is a win-win: a more rewarding, smaller conversation, and an easily clickable YouTube link that works for all AERA members regardless of proxies, paywalls, or regions of the world. Let’s make this simple.

2. Ditch the names

With the exception of getting notable discussants and chairs to help contextualize new work, let’s use this space as an opportunity to highlight the voices that most benefit from being heard in these conferences. Doctoral students, post-docs, new faculty, practitioners—that’s who I would want to hear from. It should go without saying, but we need to specifically center Black, indigenous, and people of color in these presentations… but I probably need to say it anyways.

I am imagining each division and SIG is going to prune their program to a handful of sessions and I could see the inclination is to get the biggest names to ensure people tune in. They are not the people who need to be heard from. We need to put trust in the conference chairs for each section and the work they put forward, but I hope it isn’t just big name scholars. I can read their work already. I want sessions that challenge my thinking and introduce me to a new set of scholars I’ll be excited to meet in face-to-face contexts in the future.

3. Embrace Different Time Zones and Formats

The beauty of an organization like AERA is how many time zones our research spans. Since we are not confined to the whims of traditional working hours or hotel ballroom timeframes, why not shift to ensure that the conference is sharing work at all hours? It would be kind of amazing to get to click on a conference link at 3 a.m. in a given time zone and be whisked into somebody’s research from another part of the country (and if I am sleeping when the next great presentation occurs, it will be archived for me to catch up on anyway!). I’m writing this at 10:40ish p.m. on a Saturday as I watch my daughters sleep noisily on the baby monitor next to my desk. My working hours have not looked anything remotely like a normal 9-5 since becoming a professor and the 8 months of being a dad of twins has blown away any semblance of a regular schedule. I would love to feel engaged with a conference that lets me somehow plug in based on the time I have available.

 

Again, I think there is a real opportunity that comes with this necessary shift for this conference (and the many others that are being moved online for health and safety reasons). The more we put this conference behind log-ins and force it to adhere to traditional, physical conference rules, the more it will be an abysmal failure. Let’s not let that happen.

Upstate New York Folks! – SUNY Buffalo talk – Friday, March 6, 2020

In case any readers are in the area, I’ll be speaking in the Graduate School of Education at Buffalo on Friday. My talk, “Analog Literacies and Digital Platforms: Hope, Fear, and Healing in a Climate of Rising Nationalism,” is part of the Dean’s Lecture Series. The talk is at 2:30 and location/info can be found here. Hope to see some of you there!

Why a Book on Comics Pedagogy?

With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy - Teaching, Learning, and Comics

I am so thrilled to share the release of my most recent co-edited volume. With Great Power Comes Great Pedagogy: Teaching, Learning, and Comics is the kind of book that my two co-editors and I have been wanting to draw upon for quite a while. And so we worked—in collaboration with our contributors—to make this particular dialogue about comics and teaching happen.

Taking seriously a comics pedagogy, this volume brings together a pretty amazing list of folks from across very different kinds of contexts. However, what we intentionally wanted to do in this book was to put teachers (from K-12 settings to higher ed), comics studies researchers, and comic book creators in dialogue with one another. Some of these are literally conversations—like the interviews conducted with comic book luminaries like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, and Lynda Barry. Some of these are discussions across the histories of comics studies. And some of these are analytical and empirical analyses of teaching with, through, and about comics in various schooling contexts.

While there is an abundance of interdisciplinary scholarship on the use of comics in learning settings, too often it feels like the knowledge shared in one corner of academia is too distant from the other dimensions of what I find makes comics—and the field of comic studies—so vibrant. We intentionally weave together various styles, approaches, and topics in this book to center the diversity of what comics pedagogy means and what is it for.  The table of contents for this book is amazing.

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And shout out to contributor, Ebony Flowers Kalir—her amazing artwork graces our cover. For real, if you haven’t read Hot Comb yet, get. on. that.

I guess if you’re not convinced, maybe the words of Henry Jenkins might help?:

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(And there’s a review by Lee Skallerup Bessette recently published here.)

Finally, it this book was an honor to work on with my co-editors Susan Kirtley and Peter Carlson. Our editorship, too, is an intentional reflection of the interdisciplinary approach to this project. While I share a teaching history with Peter, he represents, here, the role of K-12 educators weighing in on comic pedagogy. Susan, is an Eisner Award-winning scholar and director of the comics studies program at Portland State University. And I approached this work indebted to the educational scholarship that has shaped my thinking about comics, literacies, criticality, and multimodality.

We’ll be hosting talks and workshops related to this book’s release at various comic cons throughout the year. Please consider checking out the book! We hope to get to geek out with you soon.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#03)

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  • From the poem “what was said at the bus stop” by Danez Smith.
  • The poem is in their most recent book.
  • The book’s cover says the book is called Homie and the book’s “note on the title” is one the most satisfying revelations I’ve encountered.
  • I don’t think I sat as fully in the wondering of the word “solidarity” until this stanza and I think the links to history and to lineage and to empathy have had me on tilt in the weeks since I first read it.
  • I couldn’t choose an excerpt from the book’s opening poem, “my president.” That poem–like the entire collection–sings and swings from one line to the next, unrelenting and unremorseful (just moresful?).

SoCal Folks! – UC Irvine Presentation – Friday, February 21, 2020

A quick note:

I am presenting findings from my tabletop roleplaying ethnographic work as part of the UCI Informatics Seminar Series this Friday. I am using this as an excuse to finally finish the fourth paper related to this fieldwork.

The talk is open to the public and I’ll be loafing around campus if anyone wants to grab a coffee. Information here.