Summer Thoughts and An Urgency

A remarkable summer has passed its midpoint. And yet there’s still so much yet to come: excitement, thrills, reunions and first meetings; a publishing and presenting, adventure and lots of the unknown. It’s been almost 9 months since Sean Michael Morris approached me about joining the faculty of the Digital Pedagogy Lab at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It’s now July 2019 and we’re less than 2 weeks away from Day 1 of the Lab.

On the one hand, I can hardly wait! So many wonderful personalities gathered together for a whole week of reading, thinking, collaborating and creating. My mind becomes a flurry of enthusiasms at the thought: I get to be there! And not only that, I get to lead a track on Digital Identity!

On the other hand, I am also nervous. All of my insecurities come calling whenever I sit down to rethink my plans. I’m perfectly confident until I’m not and then I distract myself with Twitter and the downfall of liberal democracies everywhere and then I sit down to prepare and the cycle begins anew.

The good news is that as part of my prep I’ve been dipping into Sean Michael Morris’s and Jesse Stommel’s collected essays: An Urgency of Teachers, the Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy and wow, I described it in my journal thus:

“like arriving in the harbor,

like finding a lost volume you missed on your shelves,

like arriving at a favorite but seldom visited restaurant and finding a bunch of friends thrilled to see you,

like being in a bar where they’re playing all your favorite songs, especially the ones you forgot were your favorites.”

Above all, reading their words helped me recognize how my thinking aligns with critical digital pedagogy. They also show me where I can find and create space in the field.

In one essay near the end, Sean describes how nervous he becomes before public speaking. The physiological symptoms sound both challenging and familiar.

I bring this up because nervousness – shaking, quavering, nauseated nervousness – is exactly what critical digital pedagogy feels like. Maxine Greene says that “experiences of shock are necessary if the limits or the horizons are to be breached.” It is therefore unwise to sit in our comfort when what we hope to do is unseat, to shrink when what we want is to grow. (From “Wide-Awakeness and Critical Imagination”, p. 271

Yes, exactly, I want to grow. I want to challenge what has been done before. I want to experiment and risk failure. So, heck yeah I’m nervous! And alive with all kinds of possibility. That’s the beauty. That is the frightening joy.

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image: ©Spelic

 

Travelogue #3: Water Stories

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Water

falls, runs, rushes, gushes, gathers, laps, trickles, carves, digs, advances, retreats, holds, shapes, reflects, destroys, moves, wanders, travels, covers, reveals, smooths, softens, breaks, bursts, begins, ends.

Water

will have/make/work

its way

without asking.

 

 

*These photographs are part of a series, all taken in Iceland, June 2019. ©edifiedlistener

Travelogue #1: At Your Own Risk

 

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Seeing danger, they fled.

Fleeing danger, they saw.

Feeling danger, seeing flight, fleeing feeling

Their imaginations were too powerful for their own good.

 

 

(Deadly sneaker waves…imagine!)

 

 

 

*Photographs in this series, all taken in Iceland, June 2019. ©edifiedlistener

 

 

 

The automated post about robot labor that published itself.

Whenever I see an automated lawn mower my first is often: lonely. it’s as if I want to ascribe feelings to this free range device which performs this sisyphean service by only cutting millimetres of grass at a time. The device is in nearly constant motion except when it stops to recharge itself. It’s an interesting and peculiar thing to want to have such a visible convenience. How nice to have the lawn in a consistently manicured state without the bother of physical effort. To maintain a mowed lawn becomes a task we can leave to this single device that requires nothing of us beyond it’s charging station and grass to cut.

The device cannot be lonely. It is created to neither feel nor emote. It has its task, its energy source, a program of operation and not more. That is both the point and the dream.

One thought I have about the rise of robots and AI powered service devices is how they are marketed to us as harbingers of freedom and ease. We receive the impression that all we will need to have our wishes fulfilled will be the sound of our voices and an ever receptive personal assistant named Alexa or Siri that will then set the logistical wheels in motion to trigger the necessary steps of wish fulfillment. In this way, we are told, we shall be freed.

It dawned on me, however, that perhaps the fascination of having an Alexa at hand or being able to bark commands at Siri may have less to do with actual freedom and much more to do with the joys of a sleek and modernized subjugation; the satisfaction of the command and control of our surroundings through machines that we appear to boss around.

Slavery is out(dated), automation is our present and future.

Think about who most ardently supports increased automation and the necessary 24/7 surveillance that feeds its learning database.

*Note: this untitled post was in my files unpublished. Until June 21, 2019, that is. I got updates on my phone that 3 such posts were released. I have no explanation. I trashed the other two. I drafted it some time last Fall I think.

What The Elementary Students Said About Art

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Our school celebrated the opening of the Elementary Art Show for grades 1 – 5 on Friday. Positioned along a main corridor of the school, students and their families were able to feast their eyes on over 300 distinct pieces of artwork, selected by each student to be included in the display. Because I travel this hallway several times a day on my way to and from the gyms, I had multiple opportunities to glance at a few pieces each time through. What really caught my attention, though, were the artists’ statements. Alongside each artwork, my colleague, Sabina Trombetta, posted the artist’s name with a statement. I was struck by these honest testaments to students’ relationships to their effort, their craft, their enjoyment and their understanding. Here’s a sample of what some of them said: (The number refers to the grade level of the student)

Art makes me feel happy. 1

I am an artist because my teacher taught me how to be an artist. I like to do different things. 1

I am an artist because I can turn everything into art. 1

I am an artist because it is my thing. 1

I have learned that not all artworks have to be perfect and how you want. 2

I like art because it’s fun seeing new stuff, looking in a different way, and exploring. 2

I love art so much. It is my favorite subject. Art makes me feel happy and loved. I love art so much I even drew with my left hand when I had a broken arm. 2

I have learned feelings in color. 2

Art is very calm. It makes me smile. 2

Art can be a dream.  You can fly or visit outer space.   But most of all art is from the heart. 3

Art can be a great inspiration. I have learned art takes time. 3

Art can be good and normal. Everybody does different art. 3

Art is good. But it’s challenging. 3

Art is so fun even if it’s boring. I always find some way to make it fun. 3

I love art. Art is my life. On the first day of school I was like “Is there art?” 3

To me, art is anything you want it to be. 4

This artwork is a musical country. My inspiration came from Motown.  I ran wild with my imagination making it. 3

Art is something everyone can do. 4

When I create art it makes me feel relief. 4

When I create art I think that I’m in the picture. 4

I have learned that if you want something to go your way you have to work for it. 3

I have learned that art is everywhere. 4

Without art I wouldn’t have done this beautiful piece. I would have some boring blank spots. 4

Art makes me feel free. My inspiration for this artwork is reality. 5

I think art is important for me because you can be creative. 5

The experience draws the art. 5

I have learned many things, but art is a gift granted on all. Some big, some small, art is everywhere waiting to be found. 5

My inspiration comes from the things around me. 4

I love art because when I’m mad at my brother or I’m sad, art always calms me down. 3

I wish I could share more of their insights and ideas. Reading each one gave me a fresh view of each child. Again, I am humbled by what children will tell us if we would simply listen.

IDK

I Don’t Know

everything about everything or

All

about the things I choose to study.

I Do Know that I’m curious and

I wonder.

A girl who likes to propose

a good workshop for learners she’s never met;

A girl who thinks the topics on her mind

will make for a good conversation

among self-selecting walk-ins.

I Don’t Know

All

About the things I choose to write on.

I Do Know that I feel a certain kinda way

About some things

and that my health will thank me

if I assault the page

rather than a passing human.

Because I’ve realized that my writing, studying, presenting

Is less about KNOWING

and more about LEARNING.

My writing, studying, presenting  – all that’s about

moving somewhere,

changing my perspective (and maybe yours, too),

opening up spaces dark and silent

developing eyes and ears for connections.

What I know is

how to gather and marshal resources.

I know how to welcome what you know

and feel

into the room.

I know how to encourage

movement, spontaneous or otherwise

because we’re going places.

We’ll take our flashlights and hard hats

to investigate ruins and

sites of construction.

We’ll build stuff ourselves: relationships,

bodies of work, archives of resources,

towers of knowledge.

I know how to

raise questions

raise eyebrows

raise the bar

raise the roof.

Knowledge becomes a thing we

unpack

take apart

remix

re-imagine

reinvent

discover

refine

relate

recover

reassemble

.

It’s a dangerous, risky thing

to say

I Don’t Know.

Which is why I say, too

I Do Know

how to listen

for what the situation requires;

how to face the discomfort

of waiting to find out

what happens next.

I am a teacher.

This is my calling.

I know.

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Photo: © Alexandra Thompson

 

 

Written in great anticipation of a 5-day learning experience in Digital Pedagogy Lab, August 5-9, 2019 at University Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

I will lead the #DigitalIdentity Course.

Please come and make it what it fully needs to be.