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.

Leave a Reply