Archive | March, 2015

On the Archive

The Internet Archive in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, mirror of the Internet Archive in San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I got to hangout with the #DMLCommons folks in the blog garage (complete with tools) to talk about our views on blogging.

In that conversation, we talked a little bit about control and how driving your own online space, and caring for your online presence is so important to your career (and life) pathway. I mentioned (a few times) how important it is to me that I create an archive of my thoughts, ideas, processes and Jim expanded with the fact that it isn’t just an archive, it’s an open, searchable, interactive archive.

Lee followed up with a point about how blogging doesn’t always need to be open. I internally agreed because I have another one, you know. Another archive. One that isn’t open, searchable or interactive. I have my personal pathways in a mess of journals, files, floppy disks (yes, truly), CDs and external hard drives. My closed archive is personal, but Lee’s point was that some topics can’t be explored in the open because it’s just not safe. Sad, isn’t it, that we haven’t come far enough as a species to truly transcend judgement and practice unconditional empathy?

Anyway, I was just thinking about this mess of me, and it makes me happy to know that someday I get to organize it. Then, I read this article about the Internet Archive, a brilliant, important non-profit organization that is working to archive human knowledge, and I became even more excited that I will be able to look back not only at my personal and professional pathways, but also the cultural pathways the web allows us to document.

Just another reason I love the web.


Ever since I entered the university,  introductions has been a major part of interpersonal interaction.  I remember my first whole-class introduction occurred when I was in an upper-division undergraduate summer school course and the professor asked each and every student (all 150 pupils)  to share his/her name, major, home institution, and areas of interest.  Now that I am currently a new doctorate student,  class introductions are a given.  After all the practice, I even have several versions of introductions that I weave together.

Name: Lilly Lew
Occupation: Ph.D. student (1st year)
Areas of Interest: Literacy in classroom and alternative spaces, STEM education, Environmental education, community-based learning, learning sciences, cross-age mentoring, and everything else 
Dreams and Wishes:  To become an education researcher and foster university-community partnerships.  
In addition to being a researcher: I love playing frisbee with my big dog Vicky.  I enjoy visiting museums and traveling.  I am also an undercover foodie who wants to share the simple things in life with others. 

Blogging secrets – it’s the wind

(2 min read) Yesterday was the second webinar of those helpful Blog Brothers, and they were visited by some helpful Blog Sisters. I could only tune in to the second half as I am away at a conference and although the formal programme finished about halfway into the webinar, forgetting my headphones meant that being inconspicuous while listening was a bit tricky. Nice thing was a few others came over to see what I was listening to.

I am going to cobble a few of the lovely things that people said because they reminded me of a story- There was a discussion about how you just have to be you in your blog, and then some comments about the audience and who was listening.

I woke up this morning and thought of those things and how it feels sometimes to blog, and the audience (or lack of one) and the possibilities- so I was reminded of this story/folktale (and forgive me if I get it wrong or miss a bit – folk tales are like that when passed around folk!)

There was once a man who had a secret. He couldn’t tell anyone his secret, but he desperately wanted to tell the secret. He worried about what to do and finally came up with a solution. (I think this is the abridged version of the story – I am sure there is a longer one out there) He walked far away from his friends and family, far away from his house, walked until there was nothing around him. There, there was the place he felt he could tell his secret and finally get it out. He began to dig a hole, and he dug a very deep hole. He dug and he dug, and then when he thought it was a good enough hole to hold his secret, he told his secret into the hole and then he buried it. Safe within the Earth’s belly he left his secret and then he went home and felt better. …Now some time had passed and the seasons changed and the winter came and went, and it was springtime- just like now- and in that place where there was nothing, the grasses sprung up and when they did they went to seed- and as they swayed in the wind they sang. They sang the song of that man’s secret and it was heard all over the land, and it didn’t stay buried in that hole, but thousands of seeds carried the secret and wherever they landed, that song was passed on and sung out to be heard.

I always liked that story- not because the man had a secret he couldn’t deal with, but because of the magic of the song on the wind and how it could be shared. I think the story was originally about a lie, but I like to look for the positive, and it reminded me about blogging. Sometimes it feels like talking into a hole, and there may or may not be an audience, but whatever it is, there is that possibility that it will be picked up on the wind and shared, or somehow reach someone else. And for me life is all about connection, so that is reason enough to write. I’m not always good at academically informing or technologically advancing whizz-pop posts, but sometimes I am. Mostly I write about the little things that I have learned from others and how those happen and impact my own learning and teaching and living.

Photo CC licensed by-nc-nd here:

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Breaking Barriers of #ConnectedLearning- Reflections on Maisha Winn

Barriers do arise in schools. Many students live behind walls, both real and imagined, dictated by the needs that survival necessitates.

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Mike Kniec

Words and meaning have power,  and this makes learning a political act. School should never be done to students rather students should do their learning on to the world.

I truly believe we have education backwards. We strive for college and career readiness hoping to grow GDP with a flow of technical workers as means for civic contribution. Instead we should worry first about community and civic readiness. Then, and only then, will college and career follow for those who have been robbed of their agency and culture.

When students leave schools wanting to make communities a better place they engage in literacy practices steeped in academic discourse. When kids see how they can “get theres” by being an agent in the world many realize life requires learning beyond high school.

Community, as a thread, permeates Maisha Winn’s retrospective on her research. In Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth Across Time and Space Winn described a series of ethnographic studies that draw heavily on the socio-cultural work of Heath and the literacy as action found in the work of Cole, Gutierrez, Lunsford,  Smagorinsky, Street, and many more. Winn first described out of school spaces for learning and then either found similar spaces or  applied these lessons to more formal learning spaces.

African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities

Winn describes African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities to encapsulate the poet cafes and bookstores she studies:

ADPLCs, as literacy or literary-centered events outside of school and work communities that combined oral, aural, and written traditions through an exchange of words, sounds, and movements that privileged a Black aesthetic

She then describe many of the tenants of learning found in socio-cultural views of learning. Lately, and I think too often removed (or maybe all inclusiveO from their theoretical base, this framework has been labeled connected learning. It is interesting to see Winn draw on many of the same principles.

Winn’s  description of learning matches Gee’s adaptation of Community into Affinity Spaces.

Like other open mics, POSA, is an invitation to both novice and seasoned poets to share their writing in a space that promotes reading, writing, thinking, and activism, as well as collabo- ration among elders and children. V.S. Chochezi and Staajabu, the mother daughter poetry duo also known as Straight Out Scribes (SOS), begin with saying “hello,” in several languages punctuated with a decidedly urbanized “What’s up!”

She draws Gutierrez’s ( 2008 ):

concept of “sociocritical literacy”—that is a “historicizing literacy” that privileges the lived experiences and legacies of participants—provided the much needed space to analyze the activities of both classes against the backdrop of a history of Black poets and writers.

This notion of learning as a sense of community around a shared purpose was traced back to The Black Arts Movement which

unapologetically sought to incorporate a Black aesthetic into visual and performing arts along side the Black Power Movement, which advocated self-determination and self-definition among Black Americans

What is interesting is this Black aesthetic, as of all  American History greatly influences our cultures. You see this in the rise of hip hop culture. I actually stumbled into a similar space for learning in Cambridge, MA.

What made the ADPLC a space where learning thrived was community and a shared purpose.

Poppa Joe and Mamma C

Winn then described a few formal learning places that drew from the same history and values of the out of school places. Once again community came first.

When describing one classroom Winn wrote:

These student poets used the Power Writing circle to build community while reading original compositions aloud in an open mic format, much like the venues I observed in Northern California, and engaging in giving and receiving feedback. In the context of these literacy communities, Poppa Joe and his guest teachers taught by modeling.

Culturally responsive classrooms were also central to the Winn’s thesis. Yet she noted these were often hardest for classrooms. Winn and Latrise P. Johnson explored culturally relevant pedagogy. They describe how it means much more then reading a book with a black kid on the cover.In fact Winn notes that the most successful spaces drew on student lives:

used the material of students’ lived experiences, such as disproportionate contact with law enforcement and police brutality, as resources for rich dialogue and their struggle to translate the dialogue into writing

As Peter Samgorinsky pointed out recently on the XMCA listserv this work reflects recent scholarship by David Kirkland who detailed the many powerful ways black youth challenge dominant narratives.

Winn points out that it is the arts that are the dominant path to having students write their own story on to the world. She noted:

I also learned how theater arts builds community and supports marginalized youth as they build and sustain literate identities.

Learning from Winn

Literacy instruction is identity work. It is political. The question was posed on the XMCA listserv about recreating these experiences in the classroom.

Anna Aguilar noted a memory of a teacher creating a Zine. Smagorinsky stressed the role of coaches. I couldn’t agree more. We need to realign schools so that students are empowered by designing the community. I was intrigued by this idea in the listserv:

 For Ilyenkov, language is not the ideal, but its ‘objectified being’, its material form. The ideal does not exist in language for Ilyenkov, or in other material phenomena, but in forms of human activity.

In many ways writing instruction must be attached to a human activity. Technically it already is an activity but it is one students are forced into and motivated by exploring new identities in memes or engaging in coaching relationships such as in Soccer.

In fact Michael Cole posed these questions after reading Winn’s work:

[How do we] better understand how the special teachers, those who were involved in
local community literacy practices/values/histories, managed to include
them in their public high school classrooms with all of the rules,
regulations, standardized testing, etc. that is involved.

Does such boundary shattering require exceptional people?
or perhaps

What are the boundaries to such boundary shattering??

Community Matters

These efforts do take exceptional people. They also require us to challenge the boundaries, such as limited views of literacy.

Our fascination with accountability reform is at the heart of ripping away what Winn values. Kirkland, as Peter points out, notes how limited assessments of what counts help to dissuade youth as school is done to the them.

Winn wants learning done onto the world. As Michael Glassman (again on the XMCA listerv) noted Papa Joe and Mamma C did more than teach language arts. We must recognize community where ever it exists.

Another barrier arose around accountability based reform and that is the removal of the arts from schools. Content rich instruction and arts that allow students to do the identity work necessary to be civic and community ready.

Can these exceptional teachers exist. Yes. Are they rare. Yes, that is the definition of exceptional. Are they only found in school? No.