2.8.13

I am meeting with students in my office, and it is SO cold that my voice is quavering . . . I am sure I sound like I am souped-up on caffeine–sitting here, rubbing my hands together like a lunatic. Meetings are going pretty well. It’s so much mental work. My brain is sweating. And I think almost all my students are going to write about how we compensate college athletes–don’t get me wrong, this topic isn’t unintresting, but if I have to read 15 papers about it, I will be bummed.

But this isn’t really why I am writing. I am writing because in a little over an hour I meeting with my cohort to talk about first year exam ideas. And I need some ideas (or at least I need a coherent way to express some ideas). So potential question #1: How do we teach functional/technical literacy skills? How do we talk about it? How do we justify it? What does the research say about how useful it actually is? I am interested in this because I had to spend several weeks every year teaching students how to read remote control manuals and ipod warranties and now I am in a class called computers and writing, and I feel the winds-a-blowing–it’s not going to be long until English teachers have to teach the conventions of web writing. And maybe that’s all okay. I don’t know–I’ve heard it said that this sort of instruction is more useful, more practical, more (yawwwn.).  I would be interested in taking a more careful look at the common core standards. I would be interested in seeing research about the transferability of this type of instruction. But perhaps what I am most interested in is when and where the functional literacy movement began–I have a hunch that it was in the early 1900s–with social efficiency efforts. It would be fascinating to read those early discussions. There is a belief out-there that teaching students to read recipes is  a good use of time for teachers and students. My grandmother claims never to have been taught to read a recipe–would research prove that this idea is unique to schools in this moment?

Potential question #2:  I am interested in authority, generally. How authority / power relations impact speaking and writing. So, for example, one way I think about this is the way in which students perform intelligence through writing. What styles do they adopt? What linguistic features do the rely on? What does “smart” sound like? But, more importantly, how do the ‘gatekeepers’ conceptualize “smart” in writing and speech? What forms / styles / syntax (etc.) is praised? What is marked as “fake” or “performance”? I am also interested in the way in which expertise is established outside traditional learning spaces–for example, how does a blogger gain ‘expert’ status? How, in conversations between peers, is expert / novice power negotiated? I think this is an interested question because I would guess that with the advent of the internet, and the greater possibility that more people (with fewer or with ‘different’ credentials) rise in status as ‘authorities’ that this has implications for the classroom. In a classroom full of internet users–is it less likely that a teacher will be perceived as an authority figure? Is that a good thing?

Potential question #3: Governor Snyder has unveiled a new plan for restructuring Michigan’s education system. The most radical piece of the proposal is the “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” learning model where students are allotted a certain amount of money and they get to spend it as they choose (free market education, I suppose you could call it). There is a lot to ask about this–from an economics standpoint, a historical standpoint, an ethical standpoint–but I think that what I would most like to investigate the ‘realities’ of the online classroom. What are the limitations of this model? The advantages? Who would/does this model work for? What does it overlook? I would especially be interested to looking at how digital classrooms effectively (or ineffectively) promote literacy learning. And what would these digital classrooms have to include if they were going to provide adequate learning environments?

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