Drinking from the Fire Hose: Year Two


I’m back from my early summer travels and I’m wrapping up my (hopefully) only Maymester course I’ll have for my doc studies. What that means, however, is that it is time to get thrown right back into the fire with my three summer courses. (I take solace that the fire hose I’m trying to drink from is starting to depressurize a bit!) The light at the end of the tunnel is the specialist degree that I’ll achieve at the end of July, but that also means there is yet another tunnel (maze?!) to navigate afterward. I’m excited, though. A year into my studies and my ideologies and pedagogical philosophies are coming into sharper focus while my particular interest in research are finally starting to marry itself with gaps I’m noticing in current literature. Inside today’s post are reflections to consider since classes started yesterday, including an interesting look at sociocultural meaning-making through the re-imaging of media. (You’ll have to trust me on this one that there are cool questions to consider for your own classroom inside!)

The image associated with today’s post is from yesterday’s Digital Media English Ed. class. I suppose there is some irony to doing an analog activity in a digital media class, but Dr. Rish was establishing some interesting conversations about storytelling and interpretation with a focus on moving beyond the products students create to the impact the product creates and the power of reflection of that impact afterward. The activity he challenged us with used a mash-up of frames taken from Persepolis, which we were to use to tell our own, remixed (re-imagined/new) story. I had never read the graphic novel before, so I carried no preconceived understandings of the story I could/should tell; some of my classmates, however, had read it before, which I think might have poised an interesting challenge to them (discussion on this for our students on a later day!). There were no limitations really placed on the storytelling–we could add words, remix images, and design the images spatially however we’d like. Once created, we had others look at and interpret the products while the creator simply listened and took in everyone’s thoughts. We finished by allowing the creator to reflect on everyone else’s comments as well as explain his or her intentions with their products. Did the remixed images make the impact you expected? What would you take away from other’s interpretations? Good questions. Think of the metacognition that takes place for such an activity and honestly how it still lends itself towards what it’s like to remix, re-imagine, redefine, or invent digital media. What it comes down to is how these types of remixes of any semiotic text (language, images, video, etc.) make meaning and become socioculturally relevant to a student.

Here is a diagram Dr. Rish drew up in class:


I don’t know how good of a job I’ve done relating Dr. Rish’s model, but my mock up here should still serve the purpose of discussion. Our discussion in class yesterday centered around how writing and literacy in our classrooms often times stays in the realm of a community of practice where our students go from intent to design to a product, but rarely do we enter the interpretive community where we discuss the impact of the product and reflect on that impact, hence the line drawn just after ‘product.’ The diagram is meant to show how fluid the process could be, however. Particularly the arrows pointing back and forth between ‘communities of practice’ and ‘interpretive communities’ indicates one is not necessarily separate from the other. In fact, now that I’m rethinking the model I drew up above, I might need to go back and make that solid line after product into a dotted line as well.

Anyway, the point I believe I’m making  here is the same as the conclusions Behizadeh (2014) posits: “Writing instruction that fails to connect to students’ funds of knowledge is not only conceptually unsound but pedagogically impotent…. In order for students to write in the dominate discourse, students need to see how their out-of-school literate practices connect to in-school practices” (pp. 133-134).

While I had never read Persepolis, I could still make meaning of the images given to me to tell my own story through my own lens and through my own funds of knowledge (what I know constructed from where I come from culturally). And that same story grows and connects deeper with me the moment my peers begin to interpret the story being told for themselves, and I get the opportunity to reflect on those interpretations. Did my new story impact my audience how I intended it to? As I reflect on my own discourse, I must go back to the start; I must go back to the intent of my creation. I can then use this reflection to better understand my creation, but I can also use it to better understand how to make meaning out of Persepolis if I were to read it.

In practical terms my fellow English teachers and teachers of all literacy, we are dealing with revision and a personal connection here. Can revision take place without reflection? Can reflection take place outside of a interpretive community? Is the product simply enough, or are we looking at its impact? How does that impact help us make meaning of what we read, write, and create in the future?

Really good questions, aren’t they?

Behizadeh, N. (2014). Mitigating the dangers of a single story: Creating large-scale writing assessments aligned with sociocultural theory. Educational Researcher, 43(3), 125-136. doi:10.3102/0013189X14529604


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