Category Archives: education

Make Your Own Gathering: Lessons Learned from Co-Organizing the #SpeculativeEd Colloquium

The Speculative Education Colloquium took place last week. Across two days of breakouts, featured speakers, and engaged online dialogue we expected a couple dozen people to join us for this event. We had several hundred sign up instead. In terms of our original hope of furthering a space for imagining critical pathways forward in education and educational research, the event feels like a successful one, though there are some areas we learned from that I think we can share with others here.

While the substance of the convening will hopefully yield breakout groups, offshoot gatherings, and classroom practices that may funnel into the public in the future, I wanted to reflect on the process of putting this event together and some of the lessons that Nicole and I learned. We announced the event three weeks before it took place and–including selecting dates, format, and inviting speakers–the entire project was a month long from start to finish. This design post-mortem is intended to help others plan for similarly-scaled events utilizing online virtual platforms.

Make it Happen

The biggest piece of advice that I think we can convey is that–if you are at all interested in bringing folks together, to sustain community and to engage in collective dreaming–do it. There are a lot of us sitting in physical distance from one another who are ready for something (virtually) tangible for us to work toward or learn from. To be honest, my own scholarship has suffered over the past two months. Stringing together academic writing, engaging in sustained data analysis, doing the hard work of substantial paper revisions: these are things that, cognitively and emotionally, I am having a hard time attending to right now. I imagine that’s the case for a lot of us. However, bursts of energy (ahem, maybe blog post-length): I can do that. And so, whether it’s hosting gatherings, writing shorter, accessible essays, or reviewing academic manuscripts, things that take discrete sets of time to complete are at least conveying the feeling of productivity (for myself) during a time when it’s okay for us to not actually be productive; this labor/market tension–particularly in the academy right now is a slippery one–I’ll probably ramble about this elsewhere. The convergence of this anxious energy with the willingness and creativity of an academic collaborator I’ve been lucky enough to learn alongside meant making space to create this event feel rejuvenating and personally useful. If any of this resonates with you and having a community to engage around your thing would be useful, do it. While somewhat labor intensive, this was a fun event that I feel nourished by. You can do this too. 

Lower the Stakes and Under Promise

As mentioned above, Nicole and I (really) expected a handful of people to join us. We expected this to be a low-stakes event for sustained conversation for a couple days. For us, we had time open on our calendar because AERA was cancelled and–worst case scenario–the two of us would use the time to talk about a topic we were interested in. Even if no one else came, this event’s space and time would have been useful for us: it was a no-lose situation

Once we sent out a general invitation to speakers and to the general public, we didn’t make any grand promises: come gather for a bit and we’ll see what happens. It’s free and so if you don’t like it or you can’t make it anymore, no harm done. We did ask participants what they were interested in (and saw a wide range of responses). That feedback shaped our breakout rooms and hopefully led to smaller, independent activities that could emerge from the event’s collaborative document. 

Be Flexible

Once 100 people signed up for the event–two days after it was announced–we figured about half of those people would show up and the event was now larger than what we originally envisioned. We were in a tricky situation: we were too big for a collective dialogue (or at least we thought we were) and we were lucky enough to have all of our speakers confirm that they would participate. This made our schedule tighter than we expected–instead of having a few dozen people in close conversation with Megan Bang, for example, we could all listen to her, have limited time for Q&A, and have two breakout sessions. This wasn’t what we planned, but we went with it. If you are doing an event like this, consider how you might scale the context to accommodate larger and smaller groups. Further, how can you do this scaling in the moment? For example, we had a large number of breakout rooms prepared to be facilitated by friends; if we had much fewer attendees, we would just cancel a few of these rooms to make the others create fuller spaces (this didn’t quite work out and I’ll talk about that below).

A quick note on sign ups: before the event started just over 400 people signed up. We circulated this invitation only via tweets and Facebook posts and hoped it reached people who were interested via word of mouth. Of the people signed up, we had a peak of 220 (or so) people during the colloquium and the number dipped as it got closer to each day’s conclusion. We expected about half of the people signed up to join and that seems like a decent rule of thumb for online, free events in general. 

Find Synergies

We knew most of our speakers would likely have attended AERA and so the ask for their participation was an easier one. This event intentionally moved alongside similar scholarly interests–our framing for the event was based on the invitation by Drs. Na’ilah Nasir and Megan Bang and clearly aligned with the scholarship of each of our speakers. Though these speakers were clearly making innovative leaps in the new work they presented, the request to share within the context of this colloquium wasn’t exactly out of left field. I do want to note that, as a free event that was not affiliated with either of our institutions, we did not have funding to compensate the donated labor and energy of our six speakers. That is something I think we would try to address differently in the future, if we were to do one of these events again. 

Screenshot 2020-04-25 19.00.07

Be Vigilant

The things that Nicole and I were most worried about were chat spamming, zoom-bombing, and other forms of online harassment that might have occurred. Two days before the event, the AERA online Presidential Presentation had to turn off chat functionality during Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker’s powerful address because of comments made in the chat. Particularly considering that all of our speakers were presenting from and addressing scholarly and personal commitments to historically marginalized communities, making sure that online harassment did not occur was our fundamental concern and point of stress for the event. We know that the forms of harassment that we are concerned about disproportionately affect BIPOC, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

To our knowledge, we did not have any issues with trolling or harassment during the event. While we cannot account for private messages that may have been exchanged or communication after the event, I feel proud of the work we did trying to ensure this space was a safe one.

We spent substantial time prior to the event testing out and confirming security functionality for the Zoom. We only sent links to the password-protected Zoom the night before the event, to minimize interlopers. We had a waiting room and let people into the event by first trying to confirm their names based on our sign up. We had multiple co-hosts of the Zoom and we were all in communication on a Slack channel identifying potential usernames we did not recognize or comments that raised any flags for us. We all had practiced the processes for turning off chat, ensuring participants could not share their screens, and–if need be–kicking people out of the event. When speakers were presenting, we also disabled participants’ ability to unmute themselves, ensuring the speakers would not be interrupted. These sound draconian, but we would rather a vigilant enforcement of safety than an unsafe space for our participants and speakers.

Most importantly, we wrote–and announced each day–a code of conduct for the colloquium. This was substantially adapted from a policy written by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE

While I don’t love the need for such rigorous moderating of the event or the fact that so much of this insecurity is based on our over reliance on proprietary software that governs so much of our online interactions, it was the choice we made. We could have spent substantial time at the beginning of the event establishing collective norms with our participants–if we were a smaller group we probably would have. However, given that we wanted to prioritize the content of this colloquium, we went with the decisions noted above. I would be curious what strategies others are employing right now.

Ask for Patience

There are a lot of ways this event could go wrong. At the beginning of both days and in our email communication with participants, we asked everyone for patience as we collectively figured this out. Maybe it helped (?) that the first email I sent out about this was unintentionally formatted wonkily, immediately lowering people’s expectations (fortunately, Nicole took over emailing participants for the event moving forward!). Again, because this event was free, if things didn’t quite work out–like when the Zoom meeting abruptly ended for everyone at the end of Day 1–we could all smile and let the learning and convening continue. 

Some Pain Points

There are a few areas we know we could have improved in this event and I share these below.


We could have been better when it came to accessibility for this event. Yes, that’s the case broadly in schooling and particularly for forms of distance learning right now, but for our event, this could have been better. Three weeks prior to the event we started looking into captioning options. We made weekly progress getting the right APIs to talk with one another to enable automated captioning; while we didn’t have funding to hire someone to type captions for the event, we were planning to pay for the cheaper and still less ideal automated captions. Up to 24 hours before the event took place, we expected this to be functional. However, with various security levels to fiddle with Zoom, we were not able to get this option set up in time. We are aware that this likely affected some participants’ engagement. To be clear, this isn’t the only form of accessibility we needed to consider and this event had shortcomings among multiple lines in this regard. Early on, we acknowledged that a virtual convening like this one privileged folks with access to strong internet connections, for example. 


This is less a pain point for us than for people who want the content from speakers. Even before the event was concluded, we were getting requests to share the videos of the speakers from the colloquium. Honestly, every speaker was amazing. And while we will share some of these talks very soon, we also were explicit with our underpromise in this regard. We only recorded the speakers’ presentations, cut off the recording once public Q&A began, and conveyed to everyone that we were uncertain if these recordings would be made available publicly. Again, our intention wasn’t to amass and collect others’ knowledge. After the colloquium, we emailed each speaker a link to download their own video recording. It is their work and their file to decide what to do with. We wanted to shift responsibility around this work to give back to speakers–particularly scholars that data suggests are often less cited or recognized for their contributions–to ensure that knowledge is both preserved and moved forward in ways that are responsive to individuals. Depending on your event, we could imagine you choose to record or not record in different ways, but think intentionally about what that recording light on Zoom calls does for participation. Speaking of …


We collected comments and questions from the chat, asked participants to “raise their hands” through Zoom’s functionality, and had a robust hashtag on Twitter as inputs for participation. There was also a powerful social annotation effort happening alongside the event. However, the size of the event meant that these structures did not ensure that everyone’s voices were heard. It also meant that it sometimes felt like there was a disconnect or lack of engagement from the large group if questions didn’t flow for speakers at some points. It also didn’t help that Stanford’s Zoom settings disable copying text or clicking on links. 

Some strategies we used to mitigate these limitations—that might be helpful for you—included abundant use of customized tinyurls and an open google doc. The tinyurls were easy to share on a screen and, even when participants couldn’t click them, weren’t too difficult to type into a browser. In general, all of our information was distilled to a single, read-only google doc that we updated frequently. On this doc, we would post the agenda, links to all breakouts, links to related information, and things like a concluding evaluation form and the aforementioned google doc. In essence, if participants could access this document they could get to any other materials for the convening pretty easily.

The open google doc functioned as a sign-in page so that participants could share contact information, converge around interests, and offer any relevant resources. There was a “sandbox” that we encouraged individuals to use to cluster around projects and topics–revisiting it now, there are several pages of potential projects that were born out of this event. This was an unorganized space and—again setting lowered expectations—we were not building a listserv or database to share later. Rather, we hoped people would use this space in the moment. At the beginning of the first day, we hit the limit of how many participants could be on this doc at any given time, so this may not be a feasible space for events of this size or larger. 
Screenshot 2020-04-25 19.02.03


Our breakouts were named based thematically on the interests people listed when they signed up for the colloquium. Participation in them varied widely. Some breakouts had 30-50 people in them and some had 2 people in them (though facilitators noted that these smaller groups had robust and personal conversation as a result). Because we didn’t want to sort people manually into groups or to assign people to random rooms, we solicited the help of friends that we knew signed up for the event. Since most of us have institutional Zoom accounts, Nicole organized rooms using multiple folks’ accounts:

Screenshot 2020-04-25 19.00.51

Again, the read-only google doc served as the hub for finding these sessions. In addition to a host for each room that served as the space’s facilitator, Nicole also created a note-taking generic document. This page was shared with breakout rooms individually. All of these spaces, links, and organization took time in advance to make the day of the event flow somewhat seamlessly. 

Returning back to the main meeting space from Zoom—like reconvening from group activities in a class or like a broader conference session—took time and we should have given ourselves more of it for this. We also saw some drop-off of attendees (who likely chose not to participate in the smaller breakouts); this didn’t surprise us, but I note it here for your own planning considerations. 

Competing Activities

The same week that we announced this colloquium, Nicole and I also shared an adjacent (but different) idea, called #RogueAERA. Our attention to this colloquium meant we didn’t spend as much time on #RogueAERA, though there were some amazing contributions to the hashtag. However, because we had two different (but kinda related) hashtags floating around at the same time, we saw a lot of overlap between the uses of these spaces. Both #SpeculativeEd and #RogueAERA served as back-channeling spaces for the event, even if that wasn’t our intended outcome. I note this here to consider how you might make clear the boundaries of your space and the need to be flexible when participation begins to seep beyond those boundaries. 

What’s Next

We aren’t sure! There are so many different things that could emerge from this colloquium. None of them have to be organized by Nicole or by me. This is an open invitation for others to lead the what’s next. I know this event is helping shape some of my own thinking and it is helping me ease back into the scholarly writing I had been adrift from.

Finally, about three weeks prior to the event, we did receive–via the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching–the support of Stanford doctoral student Kelly Boles; she played a substantial role organizing and working on the logistics with us. We really appreciate getting to learn with Kelly on this project. Alongside her, we are also grateful for the support of friends and colleagues that hosted breakout rooms, Joe Dillon and Remi Kalir’s work facilitating the social annotation for this project, and the many participants that tweeted or contributed resources throughout the event.

Free Access to Good Reception

Related to what I wrote on this post, my book, Good Reception: Teens, Teachers, and Mobile Media in a Los Angeles High School can be read (and I think downloaded) for free here for the foreseeable future.

The book is a part of a larger collection of titles that MIT Press has made accessible as a resource in response to COVID-19.

If you end up using this book as part of a teacher study group or in a course, please get in touch! I am happy to answer questions or join a discussion.

Paying the Piper: It’s Time for your #rogueAERA Scholarship


Here’s the quick and dirty invitation: if you are adding a line to your CV about work accepted at this year’s cancelled AERA (or other academic conference), consider making an accessible—perhaps even multimodal—representation of your work to disseminate to the general public.

Last month, Nicole Mirra and I offered an invitation for folks to share the scholarship that would have been presented at AERA (originally scheduled to be happening right now). We’re encouraging something simple: share what your work is about on your preferred social networks and include the hashtag #rogueAERA (obviously, still adhering to the the privacy expectations of any pertinent IRBs).

Nicole contributed to an ongoing Tik Tok meme:

I remixed a pictured book to talk about some of our collaborative civic literacies research:

I also made a quick and messy zine:


Yes, these are kind of silly. But I also think we need to affirm—particularly right now—how and why our research matters. I am reminded of a post Nicole wrote a few years ago. Essentially, academic journalist, Rick Hess, would regularly go through the AERA program and mock the jargon-filled titles of papers and sessions. It’s easy, initially, to smirk at the lengthy titles of some of these sessions … except that it is also clear that such titles are often most frequently leveraged by BIPOC scholars and particularly for critical purposes. Those jargon-heavy titles illustrate that complex language is needed to contest the simple truths of structural inequalities. We must be post-X or anti-Y or push against neo-Z instantiations of ___. As Nicole wrote in her blog:

In my courses for pre-service and in-service teachers, I remind my students that theory and research are inextricably linked to practice — that all decisions made in public education, from how we organize our lessons and assess student learning to how we structure school financing and school choice, flow from theories we have about the purpose of public education, the abilities of our students, and the kind of society we want to create. Naming these theories produces productive debate about the future directions of public education and helps us clarify our practice and policy.

That’s why I quickly stopped laughing at Dr. Hess’ derisive ridicule of educational research in The National Review and turned downright angry at his subsequent lofty dismissal of the entire AERA community of 25,000 education researchers in an EdWeek blog post. He does not simply mock academic jargon. He consistently singles out for abuse scholarly research that forefronts considerations of inequality, whether by race, class, or gender.

While he considers a study exploring Common Core reading strategies to be “reassuringly scholarly,” he lambasts a study exploring racial inequities in college admissions as “politically correct navel-gazing.” He then accuses the entire AERA membership of “groupthink,” proposing that all of its researchers are “fixated on questions of race, class, and privilege.”

Oh wait, but not all of the researchers. Hess excuses the “economists and evaluators” and finds a few words to praise the two sessions in which he himself participated. It sounds to me like Hess has his own privileged assumptions about what real research is.

And so, particularly for those of us committed to scholarship that dismantles racist, capitalist, heteronormative, able-bodied, gender-normative (and so on) forms of education practice, policy, and research. Our work must go rogue.

For most of us, we found our way into academic research because of commitments to justice, to knowledge, to the possibility of bettering the lives of teachers and students. If you are going to participate in the academic systems in which you profit professionally by adding lines to your CV, consider at least offering some broad insights from what your work illuminates for the world.

At the same time, I recognize that—alongside social, personal, financial, and other forms of anxiety, including the added stress for many of working from home in isolation or while also attending to the needs of children—not everyone is in a place to meaningfully contribute to something like #rogueAERA. That is totally okay. However, if you—like me—have been itching for bursts of intellectual engagement but have also struggled to kludge together more than a paragraph of academic writing in the past month, maybe give this a shot.

As a final note, I went down a real internet rabbit hole looking up the phrase “paying the piper.” There are contested understandings of threat, choice, and value dependent on if you think the phrase’s origin comes from a classic fable or a related Browning poem. Either way, pay up and share your scholarship!

The Pencils Are Sharp Enough: Moving Past the Hows of Teaching in an Era of Coronavirus

As part of preparing for the new quarter that starts this week, I’ve received several memos from my university with a couple of specific asks:

  1. Have a plan in place for how the class will continue in the event that I get sick.
  2. Communicate such a plan to my students at the beginning of the class.

That’s some heavy stuff to throw on students on the first day.

Considering the state of things, it is also necessary.

What’s worse, we’ll need to have this conversation across a digital interface. My connection might lag as I have my students consider my mortality. A student very well may be attending to the needs of a child. They could be distracted by the same beeps and notifications that were present before this current setting. And, frankly, students likely have other, more important people and issues on their mind than this one instructor and this particular class they are somehow enrolled in.

To be clear, the fundamental demands that will transform teaching and learning moving forward are not about if our digital pencils are sharp enough. Zoom does what Zoom does, for better or worse. Your school’s LMS will manage in the ways it was intended. Etc. In short, tech companies have made a lot of money for us to click and give away our autonomy for the sake of online learning.

This past month’s rapid, nationwide shift to distance-based approaches to instruction have shown our schooling systems transfixed by the “how” of teaching students online. But we haven’t talked about the “whom” or the “how” in any meaningful way. While I still strongly believe we should be cancelling classes right now, since we’re not, I want to at least support students and teachers in the best ways possible.

We have an abundance of well-intentioned coaches, colleagues, and educational leaders helping teachers translate a classroom-based set of lessons for the web. I guess we’re really just going to pantomime this whole operation across digital screens for the foreseeable future, aren’t we?

The thing is, what we actually need to teach must be inextricably transformed. As I mentioned in a couple of tweets that led to this post, the “new normal” of teaching and learning in this COVID19 moment is focusing on the tools of learning but not on the actual substance of what’s at the core of a classroom: the relationships and the content itself.

Coronavirus Pedagogy

A savvy use of digital breakout rooms and the proper vigilance for muting students as they enter the “classroom” do not a community make. If we’re really serious about what kids will make of their time in this present moment, let us all turn inwardly and reflect and grieve and imagine in these days. Good use of digital tools and good relationship-building do not need to be mutually opposed, but our school systems have invested heavily in the former and—I would argue—willfully neglected the latter for far too long. Teachers are already painted over with the same stress and anxiety we all feel right now. I am disappointed that we’ve added a second coating of morose grey by making teachers “convert” to online tools a pedagogy that was never meant to address the basic needs of kids today.

Further, the actual content at the heart of classes must be transformed–we will learn this in hindsight, but the “what” of learning will be altered forever. What better time to learn about metaphors, for example, than to consider how a digital button allows you to “raise hand” in a zoom? Or that we get “sent” to different digital spaces while firmly staying rooted in a fixed location?

When we talk of science, of math, of history in core classes in the future, will we teach about this present moment and the ways that viruses work on a schedule unfathomable to human narratives? Will we “do the math” of capitalism vs. human life? Will we consider the legions dead in multiples of “9/11s” as current news reporters already do? Will we cover this moment’s losses in the sober light of how many deaths might have been prevented by different, federal and state-based governing decisions? Cynically, I guess these might be the learning opportunities of this “new normal” pondered abstractly today.

And so, when I meet with my doctoral students next week, I’ll need to assure them that our class will proceed as normal even in the event that I get sick or die. We’ll reflect together on the fact that even our procedural work in class can be fundamentally triggering for students. The privilege of teaching this class, with a syllabus I have ownership over, means I can do what a lot of my teacher friends cannot; my students and I will spend a large portion of our class reflecting and listening to one another, trying to understand—together—what we can of this world. Across age groups and content areas, anything else is largely a disservice to our students (and teachers) today.

Visualizing Tomorrow: Looking at Responses to the Speculative Education Colloquium

Two nights ago, 115 of you signed up to join us for the Speculative Education Colloquium. (And we welcome more – please see info here to register for the free event.)

As part of signing up, folks have the option of responding to the following prompt:

Screenshot 2020-04-02 02.05.45

Most of you jotted a sentence or two. Some of you left it blank. Some of you went to town.

I took the responses from these first two days of inviting folks to this gathering and threw them in an old-school word-cloud. It looks like this:

wordcloud (2)

While there are some pretty obvious—if still exciting — words that pop out here, it’s the language that creeps in the nooks and crannies around these bigger words that are revitalizing for me. (The Thomas’ English Muffins of ideas, if you will.)

Let’s take a brief, zoomed-in tour of the cloud, shall we?


I appreciate the words that sneak into the polysyllabic corners of “community” – ethics, arts, worlding, planet, rpgs. Those feel like words that can transform schooling practices.

“Political One-Shot”

Screenshot 2020-04-02 02.08.38

I appreciate the found poetry that is found in something like a word-cloud. If there is an aspect of “the algorithm”™ that I like (a real maybe) it is its capacity for happenstance and previously unseen possibility. In general, this bottom left area of the cloud maps kinds of actions and adjectives that feel enticing.


Partnership (and its permutations) sneaks throughout the cloud. We are wondering together and while this event is academic-facing, the sense of with whom lurks in many of these responses.

Might (Re-)Imagine

Screenshot 2020-04-02 02.10.27

By the time I got around to writing this post, a couple dozen more folks had signed up. This word cloud is out of date and we’ll share a newer version at the actual event. Like the world, our ideas are shifting, adapting, and moving quickly. I believe the original image of the cloud above is the high definition version; I encourage you to click around and explore the words and sentiments of these participants. Finally, if these are words that comport with the conversation you’d like to be a part of, join us!

Invitation: Announcing the Speculative Education Colloquium, April 21-22, 2020

“We found love in a hopeless place” – Rihanna

The world feels bleak too often today. Amidst global peril, many systems of education are re-entrenched in back-to-basics packets and regressive forms of online instruction. What’s worse, our sheltering within such ramshackle education solutions is being positioned as a temporary stopgap until students and teachers are returned to the weathered and stratifying systems of schooling from before. COVID-19 is redefining life for students and teachers globally and its dictates for physical distancing have reinforced standardized and isolating models of schooling across the U.S. 

But we know this doesn’t have to be the case. We know that, in the words of Rihanna, we can find the possibilities for designing for love in this often hopeless-seeming moment.

Teachers, students, researchers, parents, community members: we can imagine new systems of learning and new ways of interacting. Packets and online learning management systems are not the future of education we were promised nor the one that our students deserve. 

To this extent, we invite anyone interested to join us on April 21 from 11am-2pm (PST)/2-5pm (EST) and April 22nd from 9am-1pm (PST)/12-4pm (EST) to participate in an organic colloquium centered on reimagining schooling and educational research in an era of global pandemic, anxiety, and systemic rupture. We are building on the invitation extended by Drs. Na’ilah Nasir and Megan Bang of the Spencer Foundation to “reach for what might be possible that wasn’t visible before” in this present moment. With the cancellation of AERA, we are working on a very short timeline to find space for as many of us as possible to gather during days that would have been otherwise spent closing physical distance and learning from within each others’ presence. 

Though we are still developing the agenda (and we welcome your ideas!), several innovative scholars who have inspired our thinking will facilitate aspects of this colloquium. These speakers include:

  • Megan Bang
  • Angela Booker
  • Jonathan Rosa
  • Stephanie Toliver
  • Shirin Vossoughi
  • K. Wayne Yang

To be clear, this is an interactive gathering. Design–and specifically design for new possibilities in the work that we do–is central to what we expect to come out of these two days. Our hope is that we can collectively share diverse, interdisciplinary perspectives to spark imagination around new modes of education and research. We also recognize that participation in this colloquium will unintentionally privilege scholars with stable, consistent internet access–as much of schooling in this era of Coronavirus does. 

Participation is free. However, in light of increased Zoom bombings, we are asking folks to indicate their interest using this form. Links to join the discussion will be emailed on April 20th. 

We hope you will join us.

Nicole Mirra & Antero Garcia

#rogueAERA: An Invitation 

Many across the education research community are experiencing the cancellation of the 2020 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) through the lens of loss. This loss encompasses the hard work that President Siddle-Walker, Executive Director Levine, and so many staff members and volunteers committed to curating the program and organizing logistics, the efforts that thousands of educators made to prepare proposals and papers, and the ache that comes with losing an opportunity for in-person fellowship with dear friends and colleagues in a time of anxiety and uncertainty.

We feel the loss, too.

But what if we could simultaneously interpret this cancellation as an invitation?

Perhaps we could embrace this moment as an opportunity to expand the bounds of our community, re-imagine how we talk about education research, policy, and practice, and dream about the future of education together.

go rogue: to begin to behave in an independent or uncontrolled way that is not authorized, normal, or expected

  Merriam-Webster dictionary

What if we created a #rogueAERA?

Freed from the conventions of papers or posters or symposia, let’s consider how we could express the nature, goals, and findings of our work (and play) in education. Photos. Poetry. Songs. Tweets. Games. Illustrations. Videos. Stories. Dialogues. TikToks. And more. Go rogue.*

To be clear, we use the term ‘rogue’ in the spirit of embracing the experimental, not the negative or confrontational. We love our AERA community and while this effort is in no way affiliated with the organization, we humbly propose it as a friendly innovation.

Allowing ourselves to express what we do beyond the bounds of traditional academic forms can potentially create space for new innovations in our thinking and welcome more voices into conversation. Our families can participate in #rogueAERA. Our young people can participate in #rogueAERA. Let’s demystify it and throw open the doors.

And so, if you have the bandwidth right now (in every sense of the word), we invite you to experiment with us. During what would have been the dates of AERA 2020 (April 17-21), use the hashtag #rogueAERA on all social media platforms from wherever and whenever you are to share what you would have liked to talk about in person. Let’s start a new conversation.

–Nicole Mirra & Antero Garcia 


*Disclaimer: We of course have to give the reminder that whatever you share on social media must respect the privacy of any research participants and cannot violate the protections upheld by institutional review boards and bonds of trust and respect. You know the drill. 

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!

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.


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


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.