Archive for October, 2009

Links Galore

Public Universities: Less for More


NCLB=Lower Standards?


Arne Duncan Closes Failing Schools


American TV as Brain Thief


We Are All Authors

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Draft (Alex Gonzalez, Callen Mortensen, Heather Knoblach, Nannesha West & Claudia Lamas):

Final (Alex Gonzalez, Callen Mortensen, Heather Knoblach, Nannesha West & Claudia Lamas):


Collaborative Blog

Idealism vs. Realism in the Classroom (by Paula Nowak, Nicole Burke, Wendy Inman & Rob Michaels)


An example of my digital scholarship:

My Modernisms (blog & video)

Avatar Video (xtranormal.com):

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Paulo Freire, ruminating on today's teaching in Eng. 101

I want to start by saying that, as a group, today’s class session far exceeded my expectations for this part of the project. I understood that the limitations imposed on each group were strict and imposing (10 min. to teach 20-35 pages of challenging material). On Thursday, I panicked somewhat after the workshop because I felt like I did not encourage enough experimentation or risk-taking in the group projects (which is something I value in this class), although I felt like Thursday’s workshop was helpful in getting some ideas out for what we all valued in teaching (from a student-centered perspective).

And I felt like the presentations today delivered on the assignment. The presentations blended delivering the material from the chapters each group was responsible for with interactive, multisensory activities that encouraged us to do some reflective thinking to make connections between Freire’s theoretical ideas and real situations.

Now that you’ve completed this part of the project, I would like you to do two things:

Summarize (y)our “reading” of the book in a blog post (200-300 words). In other words, what will you take away from Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed from today’s activities?

In a second blog post, respond to the different acts of teaching this assignment required, considering any of the following or going in your own direction:

  • What do you value as a teacher? (Think about last Thursday’s workshop discussion.)
  • Were you able to stay true to what you value in this project and still cover the material? If yes, how? If no, what parts of the assignment impeded your ability to teach how you would like (the difficulty of the material, taking a section of the book out of context, the group dynamic, time constraints, etc.)?
  • What did other groups do in their presentation, positive or negative, that stood out? Did you have any “a-ha moments” where another group did something you wish you would have thought of? In what ways could groups have improved? Did you have enough to base your “reading” of the book on?
  • Would you ever consider doing a read-group-share assignment like this one in your classes? Compare and contrast collaborative reading with your experience of reading texts independently.

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“At Columbia, Arne Duncan Calls Teacher Training ‘Mediocre'”

I actually agree with a great deal of what this article states. When I was teaching high school, the principal (who observed me once in four years, might I add) said that, since I was not certified to teach, I would need methods courses to improve my teaching. Most teachers I talked with, however, told me that methods courses are generally not effective in preparing teachers to be in the classroom.

I got plenty of practice teaching in different situations and venues during my time as a high school teacher, and I think my teaching improved tremendously because I took my job seriously and worked at developing my teaching style through a system of trial and error, self-reflection, self-analysis, and mentorship from teachers in the school I admired.

Unfortunately, the high school I taught at had neither a formal system of teacher mentoring in house nor a sustained system of qualitative analysis of a teacher’s work. Teachers themselves had to maintain professional development by doing tasks the school deemed appropriate, but many teachers viewed this as a hindrance rather than a sincere way to improve their teaching practice.

It always bothered me that the principal never observed me after my first year when I barely knew what I should do let alone why it would work. The principal was of the opinion that I would not be able to handle a classroom until I had undergone the certification process.

Since coming to ISU, I feel like I have a much better command of what I want to do in the classroom, how I want to do it, and why it is effective. Much of the information comes from five years of on-the-job training (more if you consider coaching to be teaching, which I do) measured against lots of pedagogical theory and scholarship. My road to becoming a teacher was a bit atypical, but like many people, I have been motivated by naysayers and nurturers alike to become an effective teacher.  I’m proud that I haven’t had to compromise my values or personality to teach.

Even though our class is not a methods class, I try to be cognizant that many of you will be educators, and the more space I can offer for each person to think about how they might go about teaching and practice composition-related tasks that will get you all there, the more successful this class will be, in my perspective. Is our class helping to prove Arne Duncan wrong? I hope so.

How do teachers learn best to be teachers?

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The goal of this assignment is to read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as a group and share what you learned with the class. Since this is a difficult book, it will be easier to read and discuss a portion of the book with your group, devise a plan to summarize and teach the key points and then deliver your lesson on October 27 in class.

This assignment gives you a chance to:

  • read a pivotal work of pedagogical theory that defined a movement: critical pedagogy
  • practice collaboratively devising a lesson plan
  • execute the lesson plan for an audience of your peers (using our classroom space efficiently: technology, whiteboard, handouts, etc.)
  • balance reading this book with other research tasks you will undertake for project four

Remember when creating a lesson, it is best to involve your audience with as many senses as possible to account for a diversity of learning styles. It may be best to create a blog or PowerPoint slide show to reveal the key points for your section of the book. Be creative and don’t be afraid to take risks.

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Please respond to any or all of the following on your blog or write your own response to project three:

  • What do you think are the greatest strengths of the project?
  • What are its weaknesses?
  • If you had more time, how would you change your project?
  • What did you learn about analyzing texts?
  • What did you learn about reading visual texts?
  • Did you learn anything new about the process of composing and revising texts? What did you learn?
  • Do you think this project will be helpful or valuable to you in the future? Why and how?

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Many people have asked me whether or not sources need to be cited for this project, now that we have gotten into the phase of the course where we are doing more research and using more sources.

As a rule of thumb or heuristic, when in doubt, cite.

For this project, you do not need to include citations within the visual text you make, but they can accompany it if need be. Also, if you haven’t kept great track of where you gathered source, don’t do tons of extra work to find them. Cite what you can easily find for now, and we’ll learn some more about citations in project four (Believe it or not, there is an amazing add-on for Mozilla Firefox called Zotero that does a lot of the record keeping for you. I’ll show it to you in class: it rocks!).

Most of what you all are doing when using images to create your visual text would be considered fair use. Fair use is an area within copyright law that allows for copyrighted items to be reused for a specific group of purposes. In most instances, the owner of a copyrighted work reserves the right to reproduce that work, grant permission for other to do so, and possibly, to charge fees for using it.

I would advise all of you to read over the fair use link from the US Copyright office. Notice that since creating your visual texts includes research and scholarly work, it will (in most cases) be deemed fair use.

But, when in doubt, cite and give credit.

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After seeing Nate’s visual text on school violence today and learning of the recent murder of honors student Derrion Albert of Chicago’s Fenger High School, I thought I would include some articles and a link the video of the melee. Be forewarned, the video is not easy to watch: awful, chaotic and horrifying.

Here are other articles pertaining to this incident:

These articles state that 34 Chicago students were killed last year. That’s more students than are in our class.

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As I said in class, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a difficult book, a work of pedagogical theory central to critical pedagogy or the “teaching for change” in the subtitle of Gregory Michie’s See You When We Get There. All of the teachers in that book, whether or not they’ve read Freire’s work, practice his ideas in some way.

To make the urban educational content of this course more meaningful, it is important to me that this course strike a balance between idealism and reality, between myth and fact. An work of theory is, in a sense, a work of idealism that offers new concepts and provides the groundwork for people to move in directions they may not have considered. Having read See You When We Get There, which narrates the way teachers practice a pedagogy of change, it makes good sense to me to also study the theory as a necessary corollary; we need to know why teaching for change is a necessary and vital practice in urban education, both in the United States and the greater world.

That said, Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed might also be considered a work of Postcolonial Marxism, a way of critiquing the power structures of the status quo in so-called “third world” countries after their colonial parent countries left out. In Freire’s case, he is writing out of his experience in Post-colonial Brazil, but also about all of America proper (North and South), as the book was published in Portuguese in 1968 with translations in Spanish and English following in 1970.

At this point, I imagine many of you, good citizens that you are, might be uncomfortable with reading a Marxist text, associating, possibly, the Marxism of critical theory and philosophy with the problematic embodiments of Communism in the USSR, China, and Cuba.

This is actually a difficulty I myself have had in the past, but I spent some time learning about what Marxist thought is actually about, as opposed to how it is instantiated in Communist regimes, and now find it to provide a rich vocabulary for speaking about what ought to be changed in the way things are right now.

A friend of mine and fellow instructor at ISU, Melanie Goss, prepared a concise guide to key terms from Marxist thought, and I feel it might be worth it to reprint some of these here:

Means of Production

The tools and raw materials needed to create a product, regardless of whether it is a physical artifact, service, or idea.


The key religious, political, and legal systems that exist within a society. This is the way the means of production is maintained. Since the ruling class owns the means of production, they also must supply the justification for how the means of production is used. The status quo is established as the natural way of things, and the potential for rebellion or uprising is quashed before it begins because it seems unnatural or undesirable.


Classes are defined by their relationship to the means of production. The most well-known classes include the proletariat (those who do not control the means of production and must therefore sell their labor) and the bourgeoisie (those who control the means of production and buy labor from the proletariat). Also, the petit bourgeoisie (such as small-business owners who both buy labor from others and sell their own), the lumpenproletariat (social outcasts like criminals who don’t have much stake in the economy and so sell themselves to the highest bidder), and landlords.

Exploitation (correlation to Oppression)

Since the worker does not own the means of production, they must knowingly enter into an exploitative scenario in order to earn a living. Since the worker must either agree to established conditions or not get paid, the exploitation is inevitable.


History is created through a series of conflicts between opposing ideas and conflicting needs of different social classes. Hegel defines the funtion of the dialectic as the process by which thesis (an idea) and antithesis (its opposite) breed synthesis (a hybrid of the two ideas) and ultimately social change.

Ideological State Apparatus (ISA)

Theorized by Louis Althusser, the state apparatus is a tool of the ruling class to maintain the existing social structure. Ideological State Apparatuses include churches, schools, and media. The ISA is a source of indocrination rather than violence, and it works to convince people that the way things are is the natural way of things. Freire critiques schools as instantiations of this.


The process through which existing capitalist power structures maintain their dominance over the masses. The goal of interpellation is to make the existing power structure appear to be the only possible power structure and to make the general population believe they have chose (or have the power to choose) for things to be the way they are.


Literally: “leadership.” The processes by which dominant culture maintains its dominant position: for example, the use of institutions to formalize power; the employment of a bureaucracy to make power seem abstract (and, therefore, not attached to any one individual); the inculcation of the populace in the ideals of the hegomonic group through education, advertising, publication, etc.; the mobilization of a police force as well as military personnel to subdue opposition.

If you want to investigate Marxist thought and thinkers further, information can be found here.

As I’ve said, these terms provide a language for critique, nothing more. You are not an evil commie pinko if you are conversant in Marxist terminology. In some respects, it is not much different from learning rhetorical situations as a vocabulary for critiquing writing. The terms are useful, but whether you are an official, card-carrying rhetorician or Marxist is another matter entirely.

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I just watched this great video over at TED. It’s a presentation by Daniel Fink on The Surprising Science of Motivation. If you think you’ll ever be in a situation where you need to motivate people or want to know about how different kinds of incentives affect your own motivation, you should check it out. The vid is 18:40 long.

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