Small, Dazzling Moment

I am not a fan of 4:00 a.m. Not even Ted Rives’ brilliant performance poem of that title can persuade me that there’s anything magical about that time.

Last week I found myself wide awake at precisely 4:00 a.m., wrestling with my pedagogy and the life of my current class.

I’m teaching Literacies & Technologies in the S"just trust me on this" by opacityecondary English Classroom, AKA Literacies. This could be a breeze to teach, I know– just do a bunch of cool, web-based stuff and have students write some lesson plans. I call this  the technology-as-gimmick approach. This  is also known as the integrating technology approach, which David Warlick implores us to stop.

This semester, I took, what for me, was a big risk. Even though I knew it would be wildly unpopular, I scaffolded key theoretical readings about literacy, New Literacies, web 2.0, for the first 6 weeks. Yes, we also dove into using cool tools– blogging, RSS, social bookmarking– but comments about how much they valued practical applications  began to appear in class discussion and blogs.

I promised we would soon get even more hands on. They listened politely but I knew they were not pleased. That’s some of what I what I wrestling with at 4:00 a.m.

We’ve done a few practical things of late. Last night we finished discussing a book of strategies for integrating technology. I wanted to know what they thought about it. Oh, good they mostly agreed. Their but lingered in the air. “Should I use it next year?” I asked. Their answer came quickly: yes. Why?

“Even though I wouldn’t do most things the way they’re described in this book, reading the ideas sparks a million of my own.”

“The resources are fabulous!” said one woman, holding up the text to show page after page of URLs highlighted in pink.

“It’s refreshing to read a book that doesn’t push a professor’s point of view,” said another.

“How do you know that it doesn’t?” I said.


“I’ve set up this course deliberately,” I  said. ” I may not be demanding that you drink the Kool-Aid (a reference to the method of mass suicide that followers of a cult leader used at his behest, & the class joke about what their fears of what  I’d expect) but I am certainly asking you to do more than admire its pretty color.”


A slow response. “It’s just…well, if we hadn’t read all that stuff before we got to this, I think I might have been like, ‘Oh, cool! This is how to do it.’ But I realize how much more there is to this technology thing than….”

“Gimmicks?” I interrupted. (Note to self: I must stop that.)

Nods all around the room. A little more discussion of the value of a less-than-perfect text. Then we moved on.

A risk, a reward. Maybe not such a small moment, after all. But dazzling? Oh, yes.

“just trust me on this”  by opacity / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Holiday Punch” Stock photo by laurie, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

2 responses to “Small, Dazzling Moment”

  1. @JenAnsbach says:

    Wow. I can see why that would keep you up at night. It sounds like they aren’t used to having their ideas challenged at this level–like they think they have it all figured out already and they just need the tools to do the job. Dangerous thinking, indeed.

    I might talk with them about what they think teaching is, and point out that if they were mistaken on this one thing, maybe they need to reconsider a lot of their beliefs on “good teaching.” In the end, they may find they still believe them, but grad school is for examining WHY we hold beliefs, challenging them, not just accepting them.

    I wish I had been in your class. 🙂

  2. Karen says:

    Ah, but that is theirs to grapple with, in their blogs (via our class Ning) and in class as they share their latest discoveries from their RSS feeds or Diigo bookmarks.

    Their final paper/project for the course is to articulate what their vision of “English” is and the role web-based tools plays or does not play in it, and to argue for their point of view based on readings from the course (they can refute the readings or use them as justification for their points of view).

    We’ll continue to read and explore tools over the next weeks, but their job is to be gathering & sharing resources that help them develop and articulate their persona views .

    Of course, we’ll be entering the pedagogical territory of My Personal Hero, Michael Wesch and hearing from one of my former students about how she used Wesch’s ideas to reshape her ELA curriculum.

    I am having so much fun….!

    And, thanks for the wish. I would have loved it.


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