I am thinking about the 'text' that arises from these different communities. Specifically, there is a kind of writing that arises from institutional communities like schools. Are these authentic? What does that word even signify? Does the school agenda, well-intentioned as it might be, define what is authentic for its students. Does it become an authentic school activity first and whatever it will be, a distant carbon copy second? There is a reason children reject adult worlds and their 'authenticities'. They need their own identity. Kids need to draw their own boundaries if the learning is to be their own. I suppose that is what I mean by authentic. Outside and in their own realms, there is not even a slight question about the authenticity of texting or their texts.
I. River Otters Have a Home
So is this project that uses "V-O-I-C-E" and uses outside sources and uses school sponsored tools and sharing spaces an authentic one? For some reason when I saw the otter in the video I thought it might be. Mostly, however, I think we are on a continuum of authentic here. Most people consider the term 'authentic' to be an absolute one, but in learning (like politics), we deal in the art of the possible. There is a realpolitik in which it is of necessity true that there is an institutional authenticity. And sometimes it imperfectly and happily bleeds over into the personally authentic. In fact the more the element of decision enters into student hands, the more authentic the project becomes. Any institutional processes, policies, and procedures that foster the possibility that 'bottom-up' doors are opened should be regarded as authentic.
I think that the way they came up with their group project on pollution is an authentic learning connection. It narrows the focus in the classroom while keeping personal choice open.
II. Romeo and Juliet as Cultural Artifact
The Romeo and Juliet project is on its face a bit personally inauthentic to me. It mostly seems to satisfy intitutional imperatives both longstanding (Romeo and Juliet as a ninth grade piece of content) and recent (using technology to address curricular demands). I don't necessarily consider this to be a bad thing as the teacher here begins almost immediately to move toward personal authenticity: moving from teacher generated tools of analysis to analyzing student generated ghetto versions on the web toward creating their own versions or reacting in their own ways to the disturbing realities of stereotyping.
My question here is whether we can make sure that as teachers we add a mechanism whereby students can opt away from the school authentic and toward the student authentic? Even the best intended projects can become closed loops.
III. Literacy Videos and Identity
The resource "Literacy in Our Lives" springs from the assumption that reading is about who we are and about all the 'texts' that are out there and about where those texts takes us.
It is about the personal transformation that occurs when you create a community that is focused in its own way about its own concerns for its own people.
I love how this project is almost a primer on community organizing. I am convinced after watching this that teaching could and should be way more political than it is. This project does this. It reminds me of what the famous Highlander School founder and community organizer, Myles Horton, once said about how to get communities together:
"What you must do is go back, get a simple place, move in and you are there. The situation is there. You start with this and let it grow. You knowyour goal. It will build its own structure and take its own form. You can go to school all your life, you'll never figure it out because your are trying to get an answer that can only come from the people in the life situation."
IV. VoiceThreads (VT)
Learners are presented with a question. They are confronted with the reality of internment camps and asked to respond as human beings by drawing and writing further. They imagine themselves into the world of their question by playing the role of a child in the internment camp.
Their fictional voice gets spoken on VT and the whole world can hear it and see the background of their art at the same time. They can see it, too. More people come in and they begin to realize how writing and art (their own writing and art) are worthy of response by an adult who went through the ordeal. It is a whole thing and that is rare in school. A complete thought and project.
But it is the teacher's complete thought and project it seems to me. I would like for it take the next step and have student voices rise up to decide where to go next. That would make it a an open instead of a closed loop project. I am not against closed loops, I just think we need to understand their limitations.
There were over thirty separate items to consider in answering this task.Thanks for the chance to think out loud and ramble. Here was a bit of my process in doing so. I do this in an attempt to make transparent the literacy connections especially the digital ones I made. I used a tool called OutWit Hub to pull all the links off the page. This tool allows you to get rid of the extraneous links and then save to an Excel file. After I did that I uploaded it to Google Docs and worked from there. I created a columns for my responses and then started exploring the four suggested sites. If I had it to do over, I would not create this separate column, I would just use the comment function in Google Docs to make notes. It was an inelegant process, but it did allow me to bump up against a lot of text, talk, and video. Grand, but it takes time to work this way so while I take responsibility for any foolishness I also think we need to be careful about the volume of material that an assignment can imply. I really did love that river otter.
One aspect that is missing from almost all of the projects is discussion. I owe it to them to return and make more comments. As one of my favorite writers, Venkatesh Rao writes, "The comments section of any half-decent blog is a meaning factory."
I want more meaning from the comment factory in these discussion boards.