Category Archives: education

Overdue updates: La Cuenta, Speculative Education, and More!

It might not look like it around here, but this has been my most consistent year of blogging. This space has been dormant but I’ve been curating La Cuenta. Every week, I work with a growing editorial team to highlight the experiences and expertise of individuals who are labeled as undocumented in the U.S. It is some of the most rewarding writing I’ve been involved with and, in our first year alone, we documented more than 90 financial, physical, social, and cultural costs experienced by the undocumented community. Take a look and subscribe if you haven’t visited La Cuenta.

Additionally, La Cuenta co-founder, Alix Dick, and I are knee-deep in writing as we finish our book, The Cost of Convenience: Accounting for Undocumented American Life, forthcoming from Beacon Press. We’re excited to share more updates on our book here and at La Cuenta in the coming months.

I’ve also been busy publishing a couple of other projects over the year. This isn’t my annual recap (that’s next month!), but check out All Through the Town: The School Bus as Educational Technology (you can read the whole thing for free here).

Over the past couple months, Nicole Mirra and I released two books: Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom and Speculative Pedagogies: Designing Equitable Educational Futures. They are complimentary books focused on speculative education from practitioner and researcher perspectives.

Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom  Speculative Pedagogies 9780807768860

Furthering the work on speculative education, we know that we are not the only ones doing this work! We have officially launched the Speculative Education Approaches series (SEAs) with Teachers College Press. We are excited to curate speculative education book projects in the coming years. Please get in touch if you have book-publishing aspirations related to the speculative.

Additionally, Nicole and I are guest editing a future issue of Research in the Teaching of English. Our theme is “Freedom Is a Strong Seed: Transforming Civics through English Language Arts.” You can read more here. We are accepting abstracts for this issue for the next week and a half.

As I write this, I am en route back to California after a week at the 2023 NCTE Annual Convention. Just hours ago, I officially became the NCTE Vice President. I am honored to work with an incredible team of leaders for our profession in these precarious times.

Coffee Spoons 2022: What I Worked on This Year and Why


Each year, I try to take a stab at describing, as simply as possible, the major projects that I have been working on for the year. The nature of academic publishing means I often work on projects months and years before they ever see the light of day, and that is very much the case this year. While I’ll link to some related publications below, most of the work here is related to books and projects that will come out in 2023 and beyond.*

I described my work in 2021 as “transitional” and I feel similarly about my work this year. I focused my time on methodological experimentation, speculative education, and public-facing approaches to research (have you subscribed to La Cuenta yet?). These all feel like the areas I am trying to better understand and my work is navigating into territories I’ve not yet traversed around these themes.

(My roundup of work from previous years can be found here: 2021202020192018.)

Our research methods do not reflect the humanity and expertise of those around us. How we tally and understand the costs of immigration in the U.S. must extend beyond traditional quantitative metrics, centering personal identities and experiences.

Two relevant questions:

Much of this past year, I spent time collaborating with Alix Dick to understand the perspectives of individuals labeled as undocumented in the U.S. This work is intentionally public-facing. We’ve made a conscious attempt at making our writing live in public. We collaborated earlier this year with the artist Hope Amico to create postcards exploring the “costs” of undocumented survival. Likewise, you can follow our explorations weekly at La Cuenta. (If I’ve been relatively quiet on this blog lately, that is partly due to the fact that I’ve been editing, writing, and collaborating with La Cuenta contributors weekly.) Finally, we’ve been describing some of our preliminary work in op-eds like this article in Salon and this commentary for the Mercury News.

Although ongoing work about immigration policy and undocumented experiences in the U.S. may seem like a shift from the educational research I primarily focus on, my work here pushes methodologically and pedagogically. What does it mean to collaborate directly with individuals too often pushed to the margins of U.S. society? How might our research shift when it is held, intentionally, in the public eye?

Civic education is the most important responsibility of every classroom teacher.

Nicole Mirra and I spent part of 2022 writing, editing, proofing, and arguing about the details for our upcoming book, Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom. Here’s the cover and here’s a brief description:

Years of political violence and protests against injustice have revived interest in teaching civics in schools. The problem? Civic education—as it currently exists—privileges systems, not students. It promotes incremental change within a broken democracy rather than responding to the youth-led movements that call for the abolition of inequitable social structures. What will it take to prepare young people for the just future they are fighting for?

Civics for the World to Come offers educators a framework for designing the critical civic education that our students deserve. Synthesizing perspectives on democratic life from critical race theory, ethnic studies, Afrofuturism, and critical literacy, the book presents key practices for cultivating youth civic agency grounded in equity and justice.

The school bus is the greatest form of educational technology impacting students’ lives.

Speaking of books, I have another one–about school buses(!?)–coming out in a month. Half of it is co-written with some amazing doctoral students and it has a title inspired by the out-of-key singing of my kids:

Everyone knows the yellow school bus. It’s been invisible and also omnipresent for a century. Antero Garcia shows how the U.S. school bus, its form unaltered for decades, is the most substantial piece of educational technology to ever shape how schools operate. As it noisily moves young people across the country every day, the bus offers the opportunity for a necessary reexamination of what “counts” as educational technology. Particularly in light of these buses being idled in pandemic times, All through the Town questions what we take for granted and what we overlook in public schooling in America, pushing for liberatory approaches to education that extend beyond notions of school equity.

Current research and teaching practices have only made worse the social ills we face daily. It is time to shift our horizons and embrace a speculative approach.

Speculative educational research and pedagogy have been a central part of what I’ve been thinking about and advocating for throughout the pandemic. Nicole Mirra and I have been convening annual Speculative Education Colloquia (stay tuned for info about 2023) and have been prodding at what speculative approaches to education research look like. Our recent article in the American Educational Research Journal is one attempt at centering speculative research and pedagogy in our work.

Nicole and I are also thrilled to have recently wrapped preliminary editing for a 2023 special issue of Journal of Learning Sciences focused on speculative education and an edited volume for Teachers College Press tentatively titled Speculative Pedagogies: Designing Equitable Educational Futures. I can’t wait for you to see the kinds of transformative work our friends and colleagues contributed to these projects.

 Platforms have radically transformed how schools operate and how students are treated

Continuing from last year, Phil Nichols and I have been exploring how platforms redefine learning and educational research. We recently curated a symposium for Harvard Educational Review and have a forthcoming volume on Platform Literacies due out in Routledge sometime soon(ish).

How we define, interpret, and design with data in educational settings shapes our opportunities to develop justice-oriented teaching and learning practices.

Finally, Matthew Berland and I have spent the past year writing about new approaches to data and design in educational research. We are wrapping up our revisions of a book rife with Star Trek references, hands-on coding examples, a framework we are calling AnSpec, and (possibly) a working title referencing an Ursula Le Guin’s story.


*Seeing that there are between two and six books that will be published next year and beyond (depending on production schedules), it feels strange to try to wrap-up work on an annual basis that lives in multi-year increments. A quick note about productivity and writing: sure, I have a lot of stuff coming out. Nearly all of it is collaborative–it is how I thrive and learn as a professor. Likewise, I’ve been feeling a certain way about the state of music publishing… much like I feel like a dinosaur that still prefers music consumed as “albums,” I’ve found that, professionally, I like writing and articulating work in book-length chunks.

Introducing La Cuenta

Along with a research collaborator, Alix Dick, I am launching a (free) newsletter called La Cuenta.

We want you to subscribe:

We’ll be launching things regularly starting in October. For now, here’s a bit more about what we’re aiming to do:

Everyday, approximately 11 million individuals labeled undocumented in the United States provide the essential services that keep this country afloat.

Through this simple process of surviving, these individuals incur myriad costs that are largely invisible to the majority of Americans. From financial expenses like out-of-pocket health care to the emotional costs of constant fear of deportation to the spiritual costs of perpetual separation from friends and family, these are costs with compounded, long term implications.

La Cuenta begins the arduous process of accounting for these myriad costs, one expense at a time. Each week, we will explore one item added to the metaphorical bill of what undocumented American living costs. Our bill includes a sum of dollars, hours, tears, scars, goodbyes, and discarded opportunities. It is both incomplete and overwhelming.

I’m excited about pushing the boundaries of who does research, what counts as scholarship, and toward what ends this work travels. If you are interested in contributing to La Cuenta, get in touch. In the meantime, please subscribe!

Platforms, Book Bans, and Speculative Action: A Call for Design

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This past week, I’ve been watching robotic dogs that can hunt immigrants on our border, the ceding of a fight about book banning, and debates about Joe Rogan that limit perspectives of civic engagement to if someone should move from one platform to another.

I’m wondering why we’re not doing more for teachers and students.

We’re not doing more for teachers and students because we’re all. so. goddamn. tired.

And so, I’m thinking about the limitations of discourse: The ways the ongoing trauma of a pandemic has left us flat-footed when it comes to responding to censorship and attacks on the possibilities of classroom ingenuity right now.

We are losing in a moment of indelible grief.

That word–“indelible”–has been showing up kind of serendipitously in my life lately – in books, films, conversations.

Each time, the word is punctuated with the memory of Christine Blasey Ford using it, her voice quivering as she describes the memory of her assault by Brett Kavanaugh: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two. They’re having fun at my expense.”

A lot of us have spent time dreaming and arguing for social change. But arguments are simply screeds when they’re in an online vacuum. Speculative imagination is only as good as the change it might instantiate.

So, here’s a query: if we were to convene virtually in the next few weeks to take on the current contexts book banning and educational responsibility, what would you want to design, to develop, to dream together? (“we” is you, and me, and whoever is willing to participate.)

Academics are good at talk for talk’s sake. What might we do? Who might we become? Are you willing to mutate in dialogue for the sake of tomorrow?

Coffee Spoons 2021: What I Worked on This Year and Why

Nearly a decade into full time professing, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that my work revolves around familiar themes year in and year out. The writing I published in 2021 speaks to an emphasis on civic innovation, youth ingenuity, and political outrage that have been fueling my career since before starting grad school. And so, my time working this year felt somewhat transitional. Much of my work this year was spillover from research projects that have been rolling forward for several years and a few projects emerged with a publication or two this year with much more to come in 2022 (and beyond).

In any case, below are the key themes on which I published in 2021. Rather than generic headers, I’ve organized these around institutional changes this work calls for. (There are a handful of publications this year that don’t fit easily in these categories – feel free to peruse the obnoxious Google Scholar page for a more mundane, chronological rundown of my work.) As should go without saying, none of this work happens in a vacuum. I rely heavily on collaboration—usually with other researchers, with teachers, and with students—and this work reflects my ongoing partnerships with some of the people I am most lucky to get to work with. (My roundup of work from previous years can be found here: 202020192018.)*

Our research and teaching practices are often complicit in the harm experienced in schooling systems today.

Much of my writing this year—including this op-ed with Nicole Mirra and this English Journal essay—focus on the ways our work as educators and educational researchers is hampering healing and growth in light of an ongoing pandemic and the multiple forms of violence students and teachers witness daily.

It does not fit within the traditional boundaries of typical peer reviewed scholarship, but the article I learned the most through writing was this Teachers College Record commentary about sense-making during the pandemic. It summarizes some of my research about school buses (which I hope to talk about much more in 2022) as well as the contexts of empathy, fatherhood, and racial politics today. It’s a messy confluence of ideas that doesn’t quite work on the page but, genuinely, has more heart in it than what passes muster for Reviewer 2 these days. Honestly, if you’re not much of an academic reader (e.g. you weren’t assigned any of these articles for a graduate class), that commentary and this blog post about tamales are probably the two most interesting things I wrote this year.

Related, that TCR article references this work on school buses. Because this work had to halt as a result of the pandemic, my research team and I have continued to work with these families and partnering school districts in order to understand what learning opportunities have looked like for various school stakeholders throughout the nearly two years of the pandemic. Research from this work will be available soon.

Our approaches to teaching and educational research must (continue to) turn toward the speculative.

One of the main ideas that Nicole Mirra and I have focused on over the past couple years has been the idea that the “speculative” must orient how we go about teaching and researching. We’ve written about this in literacy and civic-focused contexts, including this 2021 article (co-written with a group of amazing classroom teachers). Broadly, this is work about moving our field, our research methods, and our pedagogies closer toward the kind of radical hope and imagination necessary for collective joy and liberation.

This year, Nicole and I were privileged to host the second Speculative Education Colloquium and to convene the first half of a smaller gathering of scholars through work funded by the Spencer Foundation. We plan to disseminate this work (as well as related editing work) in 2022 and 2023. A date for the third annual Speculative Education Colloquium will be announced soon.

Youth civic ingenuity must be acknowledged and embraced.

Continuing from research related to the Letters to the Next President project, I’ve continued to explore youth civic writing practices. Research on youth perspectives of climate change led by Lynne Zummo and Emma Gargroetzi came out here and Emma and I have focused on public dissemination of the findings from our work. Particularly during the first half of 2021, Emma and I were able to convene some amazing ELA and math educators to explore what civic reasoning could look like across these two subject areas. We released a guide for educators on quantitative civic reasoning and I encourage educators to take a look and share it with their colleagues.

Remi Kalir and I have also continued to explore the possibilities of annotation and civic literacies (e.g. this book that came out at the beginning of the year). This post on #SharpieActivism and this iAnnotate keynote are extensions of this ongoing work.

Platforms are drastically changing where and how education transpires today.

I’ve talked a bit about platforms in some of my previous research. However, this article with Roberto Santiago de Roock and this article with Philip Nichols point to a larger, ongoing focus on the ways we must center platform studies in educational research. This is something I’ll be talking about much more in work arriving in the coming months. (Somewhat related, I still spend a bit of time thinking about analog gaming literacies, such as this TCR yearbook chapter on race and gender in D&D and this article with Jon Wargo on escape rooms and literacies.)

*I confess it feels strange to tally the work I do in journals that take too long to publish during a period where–even in the midst of a pandemic–we averaged nearly two mass shootings in this country every day. The ongoing rise of gun violence, of anti-immigrant racism, of anti-Black oppression, and the many other daily atrocities we bear witness to are devastating. My focus on the speculative and on participatory research methodologies are an intentional stance to engage in research that is solely and actively working toward freedom.

Associate Liner Notes

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As I recently posted to various social media accounts – I’ve earned tenure and promotion to associate professor here in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford.

I’m humbled, relieved, and grateful to get to continue the work that I do. This process is often one of summing up the various ways one’s labor deserves merit from peers and elders in the academic community; it’s egalitarian and not always fair. I recognize how much privilege I am afforded in this position and I don’t take the resources here for granted.

As I noted on my statement I submitted for tenure, the work I’ve been doing has always been about acknowledging the brilliance of young people and about supporting a teaching profession beleaguered in an era of high stakes accountability:

By engaging the brilliance of historically marginalized youth of color, I outline the fundamental role of play, civics, and literacies in ensuring young people are prepared to contribute meaningfully to society. Through this research, I am simultaneously concerned with both honoring young people’s ingenuity and creativity in different civic spaces and in supporting teacher classroom practice to do the same.

I submitted my materials about half a year into a global pandemic. I felt, like many of you, like my social world shrank during this period. There was a smaller number of people I leaned on throughout this pandemic/tenure process and I realize I asked a lot from you all. I want to recognize a handful of folks who helped lift up the work that I do during this period (there are many, many more people who I will be reaching out to, but these are folks who helped me get through the past year and a half of pandemic tenure-ing):

Ernest Morrell and Kris Gutierrez have been constant mentors for me throughout my career and their guidance and wisdom continued to be essential, even as I sheltered in place miles away from both of them.

Nicole Mirra has been a writing and thinking partner who continually pushes my thinking. Her willingness to push with me on the fussy boundaries of various academic disciplines has been some of the most exciting work I’ve gotten to do lately. Particularly as I’ve been figuring out dad-ing over the past two years, my time has been uneven to say the least. Nicole’s been supportive and collaborative even when I have fumbled parts of our projects.

The constant prattling of a never-to-be-named GSE group chat and the non-stop shit-talking of Dehanza Rogers and Chris Gutierrez also helped lift me up during this period.

There are a lot of labels that get associated with advisees here at Stanford and I couldn’t care less about them. Primary, secondary, unofficial, at a different institution: if you have been an advisee that I’ve worked with, I am so grateful for getting as much if not more out of learning alongside you in the seemingly labyrinthine world of academia. Thanks for being patient with my follow-up sometimes and for letting me continually try to inject silly metaphors and wordplay into our manuscripts.

Finally, I am still trying to process the ways the pandemic has impacted me. At the very least, I know it’s challenged how I think about what family means and how I understand the stakes of the work I try to do. I have not always brought my fullest self to all parts of family life in this messy time of social distancing and I’m grateful to family and friends that supported us when it was safe to do so.

I am particularly grateful for A.’s support for our family. A tempo of regularity, consistency, and love could be felt throughout our household during this period and my kids are only the better for it. Thank you.

Absolutely none of my work would have been possible without my partner, Ally, and her continuous questioning, cheerleading, and unwavering support for what I get to do. There is an immense amount of privilege in getting to be selfish with my work time and I am only too aware of how much Ally has gone out of her way to let me sit deeply in weird projects and hard problems. She challenges my thinking and reminds me of the aspects of the world that are far bigger than the demons of peer review and academic publishing. She’s also an amazing, amazing mother and the person I learn the most from on a daily (if not hourly!) basis. I love you.

All of my research moving forward is dedicated to making schooling and society a freer and safer world for my daughters, Joey and Stella. They are the greatest inspiration for the work that I do (and my harshest critics). My work demands nothing less than the construction of a world that allows them to live in complete happiness. Thank you for instigating the questions I am studying.

We Could be Quetzals: Dreaming as Refusal


A confession: I’ve been searching for new metaphors to describe a freer tomorrow. They pile up as text messages to myself. Nouns and verbs and gerunds and false starts seeking what’s not right in front of us.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the quetzal. The mayan bird that refused capture. Wikipedia will tell you that the quetzal will simply die in captivity. However, the version that I was told was that, when the quetzal was caged, it would put itself to sleep and refuse to awaken. [I think the Guatemala national anthem speaks to this history: “que tu pueblo con ánima fiera/antes muerto que esclavo será.”]

What does the quetzal dream of?

Walking around a high school in Southern California recently, I was reminded that—regardless of how permanent school structures and policies may seem—everything is temporary. There are literal cracks in the pavement and spaces for pushing up the stones of positivism that drive knowledge acquisition in U.S. schools. The time for forceful dreaming is now.


Earlier this year, when discussing the second Speculative Education Colloquium, I offered a list of reasons why these events needed to continue. The first three reasons that I wrote were:

  • Because things aren’t better.
  • Because “better” isn’t good enough when the purpose is freedom.
  • Because education still isn’t about dreaming.

Refusing capture and snoozing through captivity: that feels like a promising way to live in service of liberation. What more can we ask of each other than to dream in refusal of a life lived in subordination?

#HomesteadEd: Six Notes on Schooling, Home, and Homesteading


“Awareness of the past is an important element in the love of place” (Tuan, 1990).

1. Schools in the U.S. operate on land maintained by settler colonial violence. Too, curriculum and the “grammar of schooling” reinforces the logic that makes this violence permissible (Tyack & Cuban, 1997).

2. Other kinds of relationships to land and to life (human and otherwise) are not only possible but have thrived in alternate contexts.

3. Playing in the park with my daughters, I am reminded of the ways collective space is shared, re-used, and re-interpreted. The lessons of taking turns on the slide, the informal pick-up soccer game, the organized martial arts class, the canoodling teens: this space flexes to the whims and demands of a fluctuating populace.

4. I’ve been thinking a lot about “home” lately. What is it, how does it feel, and for whom? If feeling free and safe might be associated with home, how might we move the practices of schooling closer to the sensemaking of “home”?

5. “Homesteading” is a centuries-old concept. It conveys notions of “back-to-the-land,” self-sufficiency, and collective action for a shared, common good. In the U.S., I think homesteading is usually seen as a new-age-y, off-the-grid movement. Importantly, this movement might be seen as overtly dismissive of the ways land and our purposed agency upon it are deeply intwined with race and power.

6. As a starting place for learning alongside young people, how might we re-center our relationship with the land? The carapace of American democracy is shedding at an alarming rate. Rather than relying on centralized forms of governance and control, perhaps localized forms of living and learning–a critical homesteading–might function as the central nodes for pollinating a freer approach to schooling.

Invitation: The 2021 Speculative Education Colloquium

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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.