Friday, January 29, 2016

Annotation as action---> what about civic action?

T-Mobile annotates Verizon ad to introduce a counter-narrative 

With cell phone commercials everywhere and TVs now DVR enabled to allow us to fast forward through commercials, it is possible that a recent spate of ads for Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile might not have captured the attention of educators the way it captured mine. Amidst the noise coming from disinteresting carrier wars came a visually stimulating ad meant to illustrate Verizon wireless' superiority over the competition. The response from their competitor T-Mobile, which published on YouTube just under a month later struck me as a unique model of advertising remix, meant to challenge the claims of the Verizon ad and perhaps provoke a critical "reread" of Verizon's add. The two ads together tell a story about the potential for annotation as action and also the power of the web as a medium for pushing back on dominant media narratives.

Verizon's ad

T-Mobile's mark up

Three things I took away from my quick comparison: 

1. The simplicity of Verizon's ad allowed space for pop ups. Since Verizon's ad is everywhere, interested consumers have enough familiarity with the content of the original ad to understand T-Mobile's critical markup. 

2. T-Mobile's add prompts viewers to reread the Verizon ad. The best example of this is the text and arrow that exclaim, "Holy small print, Batman!" Interesting how they reference the history of the pop-up quotation bubble. 

3. There is a crude joke that runs through the T-Mobile ad, repeatedly referring to Verizon Wireless' balls. The over-the-top snark of this double entendre attempts to bring a form of Internet flaming mainstream.

T-mobile's attempt to undercut Verizon's narrative is noteworthy because it shows how informal media channels and participatory culture have opened a door for using effective remix and digital annotation as an action campaign. 

Cenk Uygur annotates a CNN interview to introduce a critical narrative about CNN's journalism

Actress Susan Sarandon has begun stumping for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and recently sat down with both CNN and the progressive YouTube news channel The Young Turks. The video below is Cenk Uygur's critical contrast of the two interviews. Instead of delving deeper into Sarandon's answers or her known liberal politics, he introduces a counter narrative about the CNN interview, claiming that the questions reveal the biases of wealthy CNN journalists. He argues that the groupthink in the CNN newsroom makes them dismissive of Sanders' progressive message and colors their approach to covering Sarandon's endorsement. 

Three parallel things I noticed

1. Like the Verizon ad above, CNN's format lends itself to a critical markup. Interviews are short and dominated by the questioner who is trying to create a low-substance one minute debate with the hopes of conveying lite controversy just before the next commercial break. 

2. Uygur's commentary introduces a critical lens for rereading CNN's Sarandon interview and, going forward, for watching CNN's journalists critically as they conduct interviews throughout the election season. 

3. He closes the segment by leveraging the informal language of internet flaming to question why anyone goes on CNN to "deal with this crap" and boasting "I guess that's why we're beating CNN all over the Internet."

Like T-mobile's attempt to undercut Verizon's narrative,  this critique shows how informal media channels and participatory culture have opened a door for using effective remix and digital annotation as an action campaign. 

These models, and the parallels between them, suggest a powerful intersection at the corners of critical media literacy, digital remix and social annotation. How might those intersections engage youth and help them discover their voices and agency in a new media landscape? How might this intersection inform reading instruction in schools? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Annotation, too, might change; My reflection on a recent Annotation Flash Mob

It wasn't until I became a teacher that I began to annotate texts with real purpose. The pressure of being prepared for class after class of energetic 12 year olds drove me to read professional literature and young adult literature with a new focus and purpose. At the same time I was learning about how annotation helped me develop my professional practice, I also learned how annotation could support my students in making meaning in the texts they encountered in my class. In teaching I learned the authentic value of talking back to a text with annotations.

My copy of Peter Johnston's Choice Words. I must've been thinking about lit circles this day.

Still, though we shared our annotations in discussion, the act of annotating was an independent act that we did alone, while we read silently. Even in guided reading settings, we'd annotate segments of text individually before talking through those texts one segment at a time. The Internet, with its interactive opportunities and Web 2.0 applications, suggests a more social approach, and presents opportunities for teachers and students alike to consider the possibilities for annotating together. In pairs, in interest-powered groups and yes, oh yes, in crowds.

My copy of The Literature Workshop, by Sheridan Blau

With those as yet undiscovered possibilities in mind, some colleagues and I convened online for an experimental "annotation flash mob." Using the tool, we marked up the text "Skills and Strategies | Annotating to Engage, Analyze, Connect and Create," by Jeremy Dean and Katherine Schulten.

Of the small mob that convened online, some talked in a Google Hangout (about 7 of us) and shared their screens to show us how they worked. Others (about 7 more), joined from points around the globe to mark up the text but didn't join the webinar. They dove into the article itself, jotting notes and responding to other annotation mobsters.

My favorite annotation from the flash mob

In my favorite "annotation discussion thread" that resulted from our flash mob a teacher- kschmidt39- asked how she might use a group feature to engage her class in some private, class-level collaborative annotation. Another participant, my brother Jason annotating live from Salvador, Brazil, chimed in with a classroom application for collaborative annotation. kschmidt39, rather than sticking on her technical questions, engaged in back-and-forth about pedagogy. At the end of this organically developing thread, Terry Elliott popped in to solve the technical question.

Screenshot from the margins of Dean and Schulten's post

The blend of tech talk and teaching talk suggests the promise of having educator readers mark up text together, mediated by social tools like

But I still don't know what it means

In the hours before the annotation flash mob started, I looked at my bookshelf for the books I had marked up most in order to reflect on the annotation I do for authentic purposes. I found Sheridan Blau's The Literature Workshop and Peter Johnston's Choice Words and tried to get some workable photographs of how I annotated them. Not pictured above are the giant, expensive sticky notes I used to annotate Blau's book at the end of each chapter. They're big and pink and covered with my excited ideas about teaching. In Johnston's case, my aforementioned brother recently borrowed this to take to a conference where he was presenting and wanted to share it as a resource text. He rolled his eyes when I refused to let him clean up my copy by taking out the sticky notes that are now slightly mangled and torn where they stick out of the book. I assured him that his participants would appreciate my personal process when they turned the well-worn pages. 

My crappy photography of these two heavily annotated books revealed something else to me: I prized these texts because they contain thoughtful insights that fed my appetite for professional learning and because they each transcribed learning interactions. The transcriptions made perfectly concrete what powerful classroom discourse- learning discourse- looks and sounds like. 

Snap of transcript from Blau's Literature Workshop
Snap of a transcript from Johnston's Choice Words

Skimming through these familiar texts I thought about the potential for social annotation. One important possibility I see for collaborative annotation is the opportunity to structure learning conversations about texts that produce transcripts of written discourse that we can see, study and learn from. In the same ways Johnston and Blau think we ought to be able to learn from knowing exactly what discourse sounds like in the classrooms that inhabit their books, I think there is something to learn by engaging in text-centered discourse and then looking back at the digital footprint that results. 

Instead of drawing conclusions at this early juncture in the history of annotation flash mobs, I'll stick to naming and noticing, a practice for which Johnston would advocate. I did a little of this above and I can also do this with screencasts on YouTube. In that way, even in this state of sense-making, I can model for others how I'm seeking to identify the potential of what we're doing in the margins when we gather as a mob to annotate together. 

Live Blogging at Equity Professional Learning

What are the possibilities for blogs and live blogging in schools? 

One of the ways we can discover these possibilities is by practicing with blogging in different settings and for different purposes. Blogging is not just for putting newspapers out of business, after all.

Dr Yemi Stembridge (Yemi) opened by sharing a personal story explaining that he ran into Ed Pinkney, a famous basketball player who hails from the Bronx, at Starbucks this morning. In short, Yemi was pumped to meet Pinkney and converse with him.

Yemi moved from Ed Pinkney, basketball star, to Margaret Beal Spencer, pedagogy star, and directed our attention to this article (screenshot below). This reference gave us a little optional homework and research frame for our shared work over the next 3 hours.

1:45 PM

We lined up from one end of the room to the other, rating ourselves on how well we liked school and when we felt successful. We discussed our risk factors and protective factors. I heard from an ECE coach who saw school as an escape from a troubled homelife. My friend Jacki shared how she used to wonder how socially acceptable her academic inclinations were even as she won Business Student of the Year as a junior. In her small town, athletes were prized, business students of the year wondered about their social capital.

After those conversations, we shared out the stories that emerged in our line. The first to share was A---, a colleague who taught down the hall from me in my first year teaching. A--- explained that graduating from college was a successful moment in her educational past but she had a risk factor to overcome. Her family members hadn't supporter her. In fact, they doubted that she was even attending class during the years she toiled to pay for school, play sports and study into the evening. A---'s story reminds me that when learners come from families that don't have successful experiences in school, or perhaps didn't attend or finish college, they go into schools without a significant advantage that many of us take for granted.

1:46 PM

Engineer successful experiences

A strategy- Engineer successful experiences for struggling students and narrate those back to the kiddos. Take a picture when an often-off-task student engages, then show it to them. Later you can bring that shared memory back up when that student struggles to engage, saying,  "I need my engaged _______ (student name) back."

1:49 PM

"Can we name a student's assets? When I work with a teacher who cannot name a student's assets, I know where the problem starts." - Yemi

1:53 PM 

"Where I come from, I was suspicious of someone who offered me trust too soon." - Yemi

1:56 PM

I want to understand "Differential Vulnerability" in order to get better at my work but I also want to learn about it in order to say it comfortably in conversation to educator audiences. "It calls to mind Differential vulnerability..." I'll say. Those are the two reasons I'll read this.

2:02 PM

In his new book, Dr Pedro Noguera writes about how, for boys of color, their relationship with their math teacher is predictive of success in math. (See how the reading list gets longer... I appreciate the connection to resources and learning opportunities.)

2:04 PM

Equity Professional learning: A new hope

How might identifying the risk factors and protective factors (see powerful matrix below) for students who struggle move us beyond surface conversations about bothersome student behaviors that those students often exhibit as a cry for help or show of disengagement?

2:10 PM

The mother who comes into school cussing everybody out is a stakeholder we can understand on the diagram above. She is a high protective factor for a child whose family has likely had negative experiences with school. She might also help us understand what the risk factor level is if we can connect with her and get past unproductive swearing. I'm all for productive swearing.

2:18 PM

A student other teachers might see as a "non-writer," Yemi sees as a "great visualizer." 

Yemi tells the story of J---, a boy whose behavior used to disrupt class and shares how J--- is making progress because he increasingly sees himself as a writer. Also, Yemi has learned that J--- is great at visualizing. Yemi aims to connect J----'s strengths with writing to help build J----'s self concept as a writer. 

It strikes me that the most important think about Yemi in this scenario is that Yemi sees J----- as a writer even when the boy won't put pen to paper in the classroom. Also, he starts his work knowing that if he gets to know J---- better, he'll uncover the assets that get J----- on a productive path in class and school. How do we build the capacity in all our teachers to see their students this way and trust their abilities to uncover the assets that will be levers to success in the classroom?

2:26 PM

Also, #blacklivesmatter in our work especially when we struggle to get our students out of a path to dropping out and all that comes with that. 

Yemi was reminded of Tamir Rice when he saw one student doing another student's homework in the hall. The connection: Instead of pulling out his referral pad and writing up a student for "cheating" based on a bunch of assumptions, Yemi de-escalated a problematic situation in the school context by investigating, talking to the would-be offender. Where others would punish, Yemi found a teachable moment. 

Note to self: When you live blog you are sure to jack up verb tenses, and transitions, and everything. Keep calm and blog on. 


A "Birds of a Feather" conversation

We broke into groups based on the 6 strategies below. 

My group talked a great deal about the importance of building relationships with students as a key component of developing academic, emotional, and social skills. 


Yemi promises to capture our action plans via photo and post them to a Google folder. For my part, I appreciated Yemi's push for us to move to interest-based groups and work in a production-centered way. Also, I recognized the the rough action plans we created against the clock were prototypes of sorts, that we can refine based on stakeholder feedback even as we move to enact them. 

Looking at the time gap between my live posts, I make a final 

Note to self: Production-centered professional learning can stifle the flow of the live blogger but it also gets action plans written. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Best of 2015's digital photos

One of the neat tricks that digital tools do behind the scenes for me is back up the photographs I take with my phone. Every picture I snap, whether it includes the edge of my finger or a blurry ghost where one of my daughters was just a second ago, uploads to Google photos shortly after I take it. The result is a huge digital scrapbook organized by date that I end up scrolling through every week or so, for one reason or another.

For the last few years, I've appreciated this cloud-enabled ready access to all my snapshots because scrolling through the photo archive brings back memories. Sure, the archive is handy for work, where I use my camera to augment my haphazard note taking, but my photographs really serve a more personal purpose because most of them, and certainly the best of them, record my daughters who are always a little smaller the farther down the page I scroll. 

In response to this reflective prompt from Kim Douillard, I returned to my Google photos to find my best pictures of 2015. I never find expert photographs in my collection, so my selections are generally my pretty girls in pretty scenery. Oddly, when I scroll through the volumes, instead of lamenting that I am no photographer, I end up grateful that I'm a persistent, if novice, one. 

Madison at Maui's North Shore
The girls playing on the banks of the Blue River in Breckenridge

In search of a playground in Salida
Hailey gives me tetherball lessons in Salida

Sizing up a Maui tide pool