Literacies not Content

Note: This post is part of the LCC Literacy and Education Faculty Learning Community discussions.

A lightbulb going on to represent an

I just had an A-HA! moment.  We’ve been talking about literacies – plural, vernacular and formal, and learning.  Leslie’s been telling me “literacy IS learning” and that’s been stuck in my brain for a couple of weeks now and I’m beginning to see how indeed, it is.  There’s an HVAC literacy that some of our tech careers students acquire. When they learn their tech field they become HVAC-literate.  So now I’m trying to think in terms of my students becoming economics-literate and what does that mean, and what other literacies do they need to know to become economics-literate?  Algebra literacy? Rational choice literacy? ??

That then lead me to ask “do we acquire literacy or do we become literate?”  Which is when a light  bulb went off:  a huge, huge problem in teaching and higher ed is the prevalence of “content transfer thinking”.  We think and talk about courses and learning with this embedded notion of transferring knowledge to the student. The teacher knows and transfers that knowledge to the student. We think the materials and layout in the LMS or textbook *is* the course. It’s not. The course is an activity and experience. The  course is an act of learning which means it’s a becoming for the student. If we think of learning not as “acquiring knowledge” but rather think of all learning as “becoming literate in/at something” then it becomes apparent how stupid the transfer model is.  You can’t “transfer a literacy”.  You can only facilitate ” becoming literate”.

Feedback on Feedback

Note: This post is my reactions to the assigned readings in the LCC Literacy and Education Faculty Learning Community this week.

I’ve got more I’ll write and probably post tomorrow that’s been triggered by this week’s batch of readings. But in the meantime, I discovered this great tweet and thread by Kera Lovell (a history professor).  It’s the whole thread with the images that’s the magic so be sure to click on the link in the tweet.

It’s got a lot of what we’re reading. Fast and slow rhetorics. Teaching composition. Giving feedback. Different media for composing.  I love it.  And it gives me some ideas I just might try in class.

Orality, Literacy, and the Education Commons

Note: This post is my reactions to the assigned readings in the LCC Literacy and Education Faculty Learning Community this week.

I’ve always felt myself a stranger in a strange land academically. I’ve been intimidated by the thought of academic writing. Writing is so, so central to academia and I’ve thought or seen myself as writer. I never had a college-level comp course unless you count “Business Writing”. I placed out of college comp and I largely skipped all my senior year English classes in high school.   The Econ Masters thesis was 6 years in gestation. The dissertation? Started 3 of them and, well, we’re still waiting.

The irony is I have a BA in Speech & Rhetoric. I won a prize in grad school for best economic writing (yes, I realize that can be considered an oxymoron). The key here is that I wasn’t writing. Not in my mind. I was speaking. Years of college speech & debate and decades of presentations & meetings taught me to make speeches. My rhetoric studies were in a Speech department, not an English or Composition department. Everything I’ve written is largely a speech  I hear myself making. It’s all oral rhetoric. I can talk. Podiums, meetings, seminars, and the TV camera are my comfort zone.  Keyboard or pen? Not so much.

animated minions clapping excitedlySo when I saw that our first two readings in this “literacy” FLC were both about orality, I got excited – fist-pumping excited. Speaking. Listening. Oral. Now we’re talking. Literally.

Barton and Hamilton refer to the tyranny of writing over orality in the academy. They recount how the study of rhetoric, dating back to ancient Greece,  started with the oral tradition but the necessity for written artifacts (texts) to facilitate the study of rhetorics led to a domination of the written text over the oral:

The impression grew that, apart from the oration (governed by written rhetorical rules), oral art forms were essentially unskillful and not worth serious study.

Reading this, I was reminded of the story of the growth and emergence of higher education I read earlier this summer. Lowe and Yasuhara document extensively how in multiple ancient civilizations, the library, a massive collection of written texts, was the seed around which centers of higher learning grew. These library collections of texts attracted scholars. The scholars taught and learned from each other using the texts. Eventually, centuries later these collections of scholars centered by the library of texts became universities and colleges.

I’ve presented and written about how this academic, scholarly tradition is effectively a commons.  What’s relevant for this discussion about higher education as a commons is that the core activity of higher ed, teaching and learning, is primarily oral.  We prefer oral. We teach face-to-face. Seminars and conferences are built on dialogue, the oral. Even when we teach online, we add video orality and discussion forums.  As academics, we love the oral back-and-forth. We naturally gravitate to the oral tradition for teaching and learning.

Yet we also write and read. The necessity of producing the “artifacts” of learning, the texts, articles, and books that document our learning for future generations, perpetuates the “library”, the corpus of scholarly texts.  There is, or should be, a virtuous spiral here. We engage the texts by discussing, talking, presenting, and arguing. Then we write what we learn, adding to the corpus for future learners. We pad the shoulders of giants with writings for future learners to see further.

Barton and Hamilton cast written literacy as a tyrant. Ong observes

socially powerful institutions, such as education, tend to support dominant literary practices. These dominant practices can be seen as part of …institutionalized configurations of power…

I see this happening in higher education today. The curriculum is no longer what is taught and learned, the course of learning. It is a document, a written text, a “master syllabus”, a set of standardized “learning outcomes” to be measured and recorded. The “course” is no longer what a professor does in class, or what students do, or what activities they perform. The “course” is now a set of files and documents contained in a “Learning Management System”. Pedagogy, of course, being the dialectic between teacher and student is primarily oral. The literacy practice of written curriculum and textbooks ascends and pedagogy recedes

This domination of the written in the curriculum serves the purposes of the capitalist and the market. The market and the capitalist in particular is the enemy of the commons. The logic of the market commoditizes and standardizes everything. It is about things, goods and resources, not doings, like people and activities. Texts can be commoditized. Oral tradition less so.

I am excited to see where this faculty learning community takes not only me, but us. After all, it’s all about the dialogue to me.

References

Barton, David and Mary Hamilton (2000). Chapter 1:Literacy Practices. In Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context (pp 7-15) Available at: http://e503.weebly.com/uploads/8/6/2/3/8623935/situated_literacies_-_ch._1.pdf

Lowe, Roy and Yoshihito Yasuhara, (2017) The Origins of Higher Learning Routledge: Taylor and Francis. https://www.routledge.com/The-Origins-of-Higher-Learning-Knowledge-networks-and-the-early-development/Lowe-Yasuhara/p/book/9781138844834

Ong, W. J. (2002). Chapter 1: The Orality of Language. In Orality and literacy(pp. 5–15). Retrieved from https://lcc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=lfh&AN=17442153&site=ehost-live

Goals, A Non-News Announcement, and Preview of 2019

So this is just a self-indulgent note to my readers as to what to expect this year. Looking over the stats I see I didn’t achieve last year’s Don’t Call It A Resolution.  Twenty-some posts is way more than I thought I had done last year. A few were good ones of which I’m proud. But many were just posting slides from presentations and there were way too many good-topic posts started and then left to whither in the drafts folder.

Goals:  Write More, duh

So this year, I’m attempting to write more – again.  Only this time I’m making some in-person group commitments that should force the issue.  One implication is that I’m likely to jump around from topic to topic a lot more this year.  It may be economics of money creation one day and critical pedagogy the next, all followed by ramblings about the commons or accessibility and out-of-league mumblings about literacy.

The Announcement: Open Learning Faculty Fellow

It’s really kind of non-news event since I’ve already let many of my friends know, but as of last fall I’m now the “Open Learning Faculty Fellow” in my school’s Center for Teaching Excellence. It’s a 1/2 time appointment, so I’ll still be teaching a 1/2 load. Basically, I’ll be continuing the Open Learning Lab, our name for our Domains of One’s Own effort.  I’ve been doing this for 3 years but it’s all been “experimental” and tentative – meaning semester-to-semester. The school I teach at has finally committed to “institutionalize” this experimental effort and locate it in our Center for Teaching Excellence.  Doing a DoOO at a community college has been a, um, “learning experience”.  In some ways, it’s been chaos for 3 years, but I think we’re finally breaking the code on how to do it in a 2 year school with limited funds and over-loaded faculty.  I’m really excited about this new position and the opportunities it provides.  It’s going to bring additional work, though. Not only do I have the Open Learning & DoOO stuff now, but I’m also getting involved in redesign of what amounts to critical pedagogy/inclusion development efforts and our UDL/accessibility initiatives. Good stuff, but lots of work. I hope writing about it will help me and maybe I can help somebody else by documenting my mistakes (how else do we learn?).

Preview: The Topics for 2019

One of the barriers to my writing more in the past has been my insistence that a post be some kind of fully thought out argument – conclusions, not in-process thinking. That usually led to loooong posts, few and far between. I’m going to see in 2019 if this old dog can learn a new trick. I’m going to try to write my thoughts in shorter pieces. They’ll be less complete. They’ll be more a window into what I’m wondering – more wonderings than conclusions. We’ll see if this works.

So among the topics you can expect mixed up in the coming year:

  • Economics – especially macro posts. I’m teaching a face-to-face class again for first time in 4+ years. I want to shake up my previous lecture- and theory-heavy format and spend more time on the rhetoric of economics. That means I’ll need to post current stuff and help students critique it.
  • Literacy and Education – Leslie Johnson (@mtflamingo on the Twitter thing) has organized a hybrid Faculty Learning Community group at LCC this semester. I’m not only supporting the online portion through our Open Learning Lab, but I’ve decided to participate. That means reacting to a lot of readings.  You’ll know those posts from the category /hashtag #literacyflc.
  • Commons and Higher Ed Governance/Policy – I’ve really got the bit in my mouth for researching & studying the concept of higher ed as a  commons.  I talked more about this back in my Shelter post.  The OpenEd18 post on Commons  was only the start. I’ve got a big stack of notes now and Lord willing, I’ll get it in writing this year. My spouse insists it’s the beginning of a book. We’ll see. I know I’ll be updating it at OER19. It’s the passion right now.
  • Accessibility and Critical Pedagogy – These are the high priority initiatives in the CTE, so I’ll be sharing my thoughts as learn. So far, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I just don’t know.

Conference Hopes:

The conferences I’m planning on attending/presenting – not including the ones we present on campus as part of the CTE:

  • LAND – Michigan Liberal Arts Network for Development for MI community college folks, Feb 6-8. I’ll just be listening.
  • OER19 – Ireland and Galway here we come! Accepted to speak about the Commons and the connections to pedagogy and open.
  • Domains19 – Reclaimhosting is getting the gang together again.  I’ll be there, god willing in June.
  • WPCampus – always a worthwhile WordPress conference in July.  Not sure yet where or when exactly, but I really hope to make it again. It’s become my go-to “wordcamp”.
  • Digital Pedagogy Lab – UMW in August, of course.  I went last year.  I really hope I can repeat, but depends on some issues at the school.

The rest are all just aspirational at the moment. We’ll see.

  • Michigan OER Summit – usually in September at some Michigan CC.
  • Lilly Teaching Conference – Traverse City in October
  • OpenEd19 – Phoenix at end of October. Can’t believe this will be my fifth year. As David Wiley says, I’m old-timer now.
  • OE Global – Milan around Thanksgiving time.  Gee, if I’m really good, maybe Santa comes early and finds a way for me to go to OE Global.  We’ll see….

Response to Mike Caulfield Question

Mike Caulfield on Twitter asks a question today:

There’s more to it. It’s a whole thread.  Rather than respond in what would inevitably be a  long thread myself, I’ll just post my reactions & poorly formed thoughts here. Disclaimer: I haven’t read Simons in decade(s) and all economic “facts” I mention here are really stylized facts or trends.  Enter at your own risk.

Mike asks for example:

No. I don’t think so.  The idea of  industrial production –> scarcity of capital & scarcity of markets doesn’t fit.  Rather, I’d characterize the broad swath as surplus of savings amongst elite –> supply of finance for capital –> capital investment –> industrial production –> greater surplus of savings amongst rich elite –> rinse and repeat.  If anything, we suffer in recent decades from a surplus, not scarcity of capital. Indeed there’s been a fair literature about that in recent times.  Somewhere in that cycle, the supply of finance for capital creates a demand for markets (both capital & final production). I don’t see much evidence that there’s been a shortage of markets, though.  Indeed, the supply of markets seems to be rather elastic and responsive to finance capital’s demand for markets.

I agree with Simons observation but I think it helps to understand the mechanism. Scarcity issues are often driven by either physical constraints (real scarcity) or changes in opportunity costs (relative scarcity).  In the information – attention context he’s talking about it’s both real and relative scarcity.  There’s a real, fixed, unchangeable constraint on attention. Attention necessarily requires time (also other inputs such as cognition, etc). Each human is at maximum only capable of 24 hrs of attention per day. Information, all information, requires some degree of time to process (i.e. “pay attention”), ergo, more information bumps up against fixed constraint. Result: increasing real scarcity.

We can also consider the opportunity cost of paying attention to a piece of information.  Notice we use the term “pay attention” – we’re implicitly doing the trade-off.  As more information exists, the value of our attention rises. When I pay 10 minutes of attention to a particular chunk of info in order to gain the benefit of knowing that info, the opportunity cost is the not-knowing-other-stuff.  When there’s more info, that means there’s a lot more other-stuff–to-not-know.  It gets expensive opportunity cost-wise to learn something in particular.

I’m not sure where your’e going with this, Mike, but one econ phenomenon that might be relevant is the entry of married (middle+upper class) women into the workforce in the mid60’s to mid-80’s. In that period, the rise of feminism and feminist attitudes led to a cultural and values change in the middle and upper classes (in U.S.).  Workforce participation among married women rose from 1 in 4 married women working outside the house for pay to 3 of 4.  That was a big shift. It was a huge increase in supply of married women to labor markets.

That in turn led to much larger numbers of employed women. The opportunity costs of time changed a lot. Their time was now worth a lot more since it could be traded for substantial $ in labor market and previously social/cultural constraints prevented that.  At the time, social/cultural constaints on married men cooking meals for their households hadn’t changed yet (that’s been pretty laggy), so the “responsibility” for meal production in households still largely resided with the married women.  A home cooked, largely from scratch dinner now became very, very expensive opportunity cost wise.  Goodbye home-cooked from scratch meatloaf or fried chicken, and hello McDonalds, KFC, or microwaved factory-prepared food.  Ultimately, this translates into a what appears to be a relative scarcity of home-cooked food from fresh ingredients.

Don’t know if I helped. I fear I only muddied things. But then, that’s what I do. I’m an economist.

 

What We Never Know

We never really know.  It just happens.

I lost my sister this past week. Well, I guess people would call her my sister-in-law, but really she was like both my second sister and a brother I never had. 41 years. That’s a long time. We take it for granted. It seems like our most loved ones will always be there, especially those that have been there for us when we struggled or floundered. We call them our rocks. We never know when the rock slides come.

I’ve had some rocks slide away from me slowly. My dad 23 years ago defied the docs and took a year-and-a-half to move on. Mother was the same. My father-in-law was quicker, taking only a few days. Truth was, though, we knew for weeks ahead but we just denied it.

But Nancy? This was a sudden landslide. An earthquake. The rock is there and then it’s gone.  Bam. She’s gone. Pulmonary embolism outside a store while running a quick errand.  She didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect it. Lord knows my sister didn’t expect it.  We never really know.

Tell your loved ones you love them. Do it often. Because we never know.

So today is Saturday. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but some unstructured time. I’m trying to figure out how to move forward in a landscape that’s missing one big rock.

The news isn’t helpful. Two black men killed by a white supremacist outside a grocery store in Kentucky. An anti-semite shoots up a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Bombs mailed to reporters, former Presidents & cabinet officers, and others by a hate-filled, paranoid right-winger in Florida.  All of these men, and sadly they are all white men, chose to escalate from throwing verbal stones to throwing rocks to shooting bullets and throwing bombs. Why? Because they thought they knew. They thought they knew that their targets weren’t fully human. They thought they knew they were in the right. But their facts were wrong. They didn’t understand. Their own traumas and fears painted a false landscape of hate and an isolated world.  But they didn’t really know. We never really know.

Those men never met my sister. They probably would have hated her too. I don’t know for sure.  But she wouldn’t have hated them. She would have seen the hurt child in each of them.  She knew that’s something most of us share. It’s where we can start healing. That’s where she did work. Work on the healing now to prevent the hate later is the best way to stop the hurt.

This week is the 56th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis.  There’s a great read here by Jon Schwarz in the Intercept, What Trump and Bolton Don’t Understand About Nuclear War. Take some time and read it. It’s about what we didn’t know. It’s about what most of us haven’t known or known wrongly.

I was in first grade during the October Cuban missile crisis. It’s still my strongest memory of first grade. I remember hiding under my desk during an a-bomb drill. That’s not just an Internet meme. It was real. We did it. I remember my anxiety about trying to remember the difference between the fire drill alarm and the a-bomb alarm. I mean, you run outside for a fire but you really don’t want to run outside into the a-bombs, right?  You never know when the a-bombs will come.  I was lucky. I had an older sister who helped calm me and figure out the alarms. We knew in Dayton, Ohio we’d be among the first to go – unless we could stay under our school desk. We never knew how close we came.

Like the rest of the U.S. we were sold a story about how President Kennedy stood up to Khrushchev and made those Russians back down. We weren’t told about the missiles we agreed to tear down too in the deal. We weren’t told how we had erected the many missiles threatening Moscow first.  No, we were told the Russians (excuse me, the Soviets) were just evil. They wanted to destroy us – just because. But we had to stand up to them and be willing to destroy them first.  Just like how this week’s bomber, synagogue shooter, and Kentucky shooter all were told that the blacks, the Jews, the Democrats, the liberals were all evil and out to destroy us, just, just  because. But they didn’t know. They didn’t know that their information was incomplete and often wrong.

The leaders in the Cuban missile crisis didn’t know either. They made assumptions about the others. Assumptions that were wrong. They saw each other as, well, “others”, not humans.  56 years ago, we were saved because one out of three Soviet submarine commanders wouldn’t/couldn’t agree to kill or hate despite the peer pressure of his  two fellow commanders.  One person was aware that he might not know.  Instead of acting on what he felt he “just knew”, he acted on the possibility that he just might not know. If you’re too young to remember the Cuban missile crisis, think about this. If that one Russian sub officer hadn’t dissented, you likely wouldn’t be here. Period. You’d never have been born.

We don’t know. The only way to for us to know more, to move forward, to keep this human race and planet alive and thriving is to talk, listen, and consider that maybe we don’t know it all right now. That means learning. And being open.

I don’t have Nancy’s ability to work with kids and adults about their traumas. But I’m going to keep working on open learning and being open to the possibility that we just don’t know it all.  It’s the only way we move forward.

Peace folks.  And tell each other you love them. Be a rock for another and let us build a peaceful world together.

jim

Shelter in the Open

This is the second of my two reflections on last week’s OpenEd18 conference. This one is personal. I’m stepping outside my normal economist persona and sharing my personal experience. Actually, it’s less a reflection on the conference than reflection on what I learned about myself at the conference.

Open conferences like OpenEd, OER, and OEGlobal should come with warning labels. I’d throw Digital Pedagogy Lab and Domains conferences in there, too, but it would ruin my alliteration around “open”. At good conferences you learn lots of useful things. You think differently afterward. At great conferences  you connect with people. You work differently afterward. But the open conferences can change you. You may be different afterward. I am.  I first wrote about this experience a couple years ago after OpenEd16. It happened last spring at OER18 and OEGlobal. And it happened again last week at OpenEd18. I wasn’t ready for it. They really need a warning label.

At an evening get together with some friends I finally confessed. I’ve never karaoke’ed. Reasons. Many reasons. Some include an utter lack of singing ability. Another is age. I’m from a different generation. I’m a boomer. Karaoke seems like it’s more a Gen X/Millenial thing. An 80’s-90’s thing. I’m a boomer. Grew up in 60’s. Came of age in 70’s. We had radio. Lots of radio. So I don’t sing in public. Instead, there’s a constant rock’n’roll soundtrack in my head. The Who. Stones. Doors. Dylan. Pink Floyd.

This past summer has been brutal. Heck, the last two years have been brutal at the news and macro level. Trump. More war. More hate. At work, it’s been just as stressful. No home or certainty for the open learning project I started. Political infighting. Overwork and no appreciation. Stress. A valued personal friendship hitting the rocks as collateral damage.  That 60’s soundtrack has been turned up to 11, maybe even 12.

The stress culminated in some serious health issues this summer.  Doc says slow down, take care of yourself first.

Ooh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Ooh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children
It’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away

I needed shelter.  A home.
The physical issues have me feeling my age.  People my age, including many colleagues, are thinking retirement. But my soundtrack keeps screaming. There’s work to do. I’m not done yet.

Ooh, see the fire is sweeping
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost your way
Rape, murder.
It’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away

Work to do. But I’ve been lost about how I can help. The Open conferences the past few years have been fantastic. They feel like a home. But I’ve not been clear what I can do. I’m not really an expert in pedagogy. I’m an economist, not ed psychologist or sociologist. I understand tech systems. I can even design some innovative ones. But I don’t actually code. At the school, the semester starts with me feeling ghosted.

Mmm, the floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m going to fade away

Gimme, gimme shelter.

OpenEd18 answered.  Last year’s OpenEd17 pointed me towards the commons and education.  It led to this blog post last spring. Conversations with David Wiley (and my scholarly spirit animal, Chris Gilliard) inspired me to rejuvenate my scholarly work and do a deep dive on the economics of commons and education. That led to my OpenEd18 presentation and it’s blog post. Conversations and the reaction to it have me fired up to do more on the topic.  And  while they weren’t at this year’s conference, I was reading Sean Morris and Jesse Stommel’s new book at the conference An Urgency of Teachers.  They describe critical pedagogy. One aspect is:

“How can critical pedagogy help to examine, dismantle, or rebuild the structures, hierarchies, institutions, and technologies of education?”

Bingo. I can do that. I know that work. I’ve 40+ years of work leading up to this. I can contribute here.  Thank you to David Wiley, Paul Stacey, Lisa Petrides, Doug Levin, Sean Morris, Jesse Stommel, Robin DeRosa, Rolin Moe, and others for helping see my niche to contribute. I know a lot of you saw this before me, but when it’s about the self, I’m a little slow. Thanks to a comment Rolin Moe made I understand I need to take care of myself precisely so I can continue to contribute for a long time. It’s a long haul.

I had hoped to see my friends at OpenEd18 and I did. But I didn’t expect the love. I know I should have, but I didn’t.  Friends like Ken Bauer, Bonnie Stewart, and Amy Collier not only understood but made sure I took care of myself.

The list of of other people I want to thank is so long I fear I’ll leave too many out. But thanks to Ken, Rolin, David, Bonnie, my new friend Jess Mitchell, Amy, Lisa, Doug. Also Daniel Lynds, Terry Greene, Sundi Luella, James GlapaGrossklag, Shawna Brandle, Bryan Ollendyke, Hugh McGuire, Billy Meinke, Steele Wagstaff,  Autumm Caines, Joe Murphy, Nate Angell, Christina Hendricks, and many many others.

I tell you love, sister
It’s just a kiss away, it’s just a kiss away

I’m not instantly cured. I still need to pace myself. But with friends and kindred souls like these, I will.

In true boomer tradition, the first song on the “radio” (Pandora counts as “radio” right?) in the car on the way home from OpenEd18 was, you guessed it, Gimme Shelter.

I got shelter. I got love. In the open.


Lyrics excerpts in block quotes quoted are from Gimmer Shelter by The Rolling Stones as found at Genius.com. Copyrights apply. Excerpts used under U.S. fair use.