Category Archives: clips

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!

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.

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.

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

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: 


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.


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.

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.

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!

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.


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?:


(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.