I’ve been thinking about growth and learning and the value of reading widely and I’m on vacation this week so I’m not completely exhausted by the process.
I’ve been thinking about arrivals – how we get to places, how we navigate routes, select paths, decide which destination comes first. Learning involves movement in one form or another, right? Whether a shift, an expansion, a step, climb or drop – as educators we are on the lookout for signs of movement – evidence of a change in location, appearance, behavior in something, anything that will tell us she moved, he changed, they got it.
I ran across a pertinent thread on Twitter, thanks to my no-fail network. A college-level instructor of composition reminds us and herself that her one semester course will not suddenly transform students into adept, critical academic research writers. @k8simply writes:
…critical literacy happens/should happen over time, in non-writing classes or writing-intensive classes in other subjects
writing isn’t something that you just learn and check that box and hey, look, you’re done as a writer
the skill of even just academic writing (excluding other types for now) unfolds as the writer learns, grows, and is challenged in life
I appreciate the point she makes about how learning unfolds. It’s a process for which ‘one and done’ can never be an adequate metaphor. This is as true for writing as it is for any type of skill or capability we will likely practice throughout our lives.
We become adults and perhaps know some things about writing, reading and the way the world works but we are so very unfinished. So much development takes place during the years we consider ourselves “grown” and this fact seems widely ignored in the popular discourse. We can find tons of books on childhood and adolescent development, yet it is rare to find comparable literature on the features of adult development – physical, mental, emotional. (If you have some good resources in this area, please help me out!) Adulthood seems to happen to us as we take on various responsibilities in our families, institutions and communities. We get busy and busy is at least something that everybody seems to understand.
So when I consider some of my own arrivals, particularly into online spaces, into communities of interest and practice, I like to step back and consider how it came to pass.
“And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
This means thinking more about my own travels as a reader. I’ve covered quite a bit of ground over the last few years and part of that experience has involved reading up, challenging myself not simply to read but to work with the text, to make more of it, to ‘write back’ as I have described elsewhere. I’ve become a more ambitious reader which in turn has allowed me to become a braver writer.
I wish there were an easy way for me to map the connections here. I thought of trying to create a nifty infographic, a sort of reading map to illustrate how connections have emerged.
Let me try to write a story.
Once upon a time there was a eager non-fiction reader new to the Twitterverse. She was keen to dig into education circles and started a blog called edifiedlistener. Although Twitter was overwhelming at first, through following a few big names in edutwitter she soon discovered folks who were writing about more than lesson planning and classroom management.
She came across ed tech critic Audrey Watters. Initially she had a hard time following the thread. It took a number of false starts before she landed on one post that changed everything.
On Twitter she noticed that Audrey was friends with Tressie McMillan Cottom and that they both often had spicy words for current intellectual events. The eager reader was enthralled with the way these women handled detractors and maintained a humor that was at once fierce and well,
Quickly, she encountered other folks who were equally critical and also as witty. Over time they became like her personal crew of tech and society critics: Chris Gilliard, Paul Prinsloo, Bill Fitzgerald, Kris Schaffer, Mike Caulfield. They kept her up to date on all manner of platform shenanigans aimed at eroding privacy and increasing surveillance.
In fact, it was Bill who recommended ‘Black Box Society’ by Frank Pasquale to edifiedlistener – a fascinating book about the implications of opaque algorithms in our day to day dealings; a reading adventure which sparked two separate blog posts.
Meanwhile, another group of educator-writers appeared on this reader’s radar. Maha Bali and Kate Bowles were two writers in particular who spoke of the professional and personal in compelling and authentic ways, role modeling what was possible for an edu-writer looking to mix and match themes and topics in new ways. Maha and Kate also introduced edifiedlistener to the richness of the hybrid pedagogy network and before long, posts by Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris became staples in her digital reading diet…
There’s no end to this story but I’m tired of speaking in the 3rd person. You get the gist.
So it goes. I am always discovering and engaging with more voices, different perspectives but the people in my story have felt like guides and yes, teachers. Beyond reading their articles and links, I have been studying them – paying attention to their cues, engaging them in dialogue, commenting on their contributions. With their support I have learned to identify and carve out my own writing path.
I still want to think about other ways to do this: How to share a reading resume or an intellectual timeline. In the meantime, I keep moving, reading, developing and occasionally, I arrive.