Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Everybody is a Public School Expert is it a Null Set? Take the Test.

The list of experts about public education seems to include almost everyone.   How about you?
See if you can pass this easy test that measures if you are an Educational Expert. You only need to get one right.

1. Are you a national or state level politician hoping to get re-elected or elected in November? You're an expert.
2. Have you ever visited a school to pose for a photo op? You're an expert (and perhaps you got # 1 right too). 
3. Did you make your first million (legally or not) by the age of 30? You're an expert (and perhaps you got numbers 1 and 2 correct).
4. Do you or have you ever hosted a TV show (any will really do)? You're an expert.
5. Are you a mayor or perhaps want to be a major of a town, hamlet, village, or city and think you'd like a crack at running the public schools? You're an expert.
6. Are you a news, TV, or Hollywood celebrity? You're an expert.
7. Are you or have you ever been a CEO of anything or perhaps married to one? You're an expert.
8. Do you have $100,000,000 to give away to a school district or perhaps your favorite charter school? You're an expert.
9. Do you have a degree in education that is honorary only? You're an expert.
10. Have you been teaching for under a year in a charter school somewhere in USA? You're an expert.
11. Did you play school when you were a child and then resist actually teaching as an adult? You're an expert.
12. Have you read a newspaper article about "the crisis in public schooling" in the last month? You're an expert.
13. Do you watch NBC? You're an expert.
14. Do you like to drink tea? You're an expert and could perhaps make a break into politics (see Tea Party. Remember, the education crisis could be your platform).
15. Are you a parent and not an actual public school educator? You're an expert.
16. Are you an educational consultant or technology whiz kid who has never actually taught or did so long ago for a brief amount of time? You're an expert.
17. Have you taken a quick route to the classroom via a summer teaching immersion course and have landed your first teaching job only to find yourself being interviewed about education? You're an expert.
18. Are you a commissioner of education who is formally a lawyer, a politician, and/or a CEO of something? You're an expert.
19. Do you offer commentary on crisis situations on TV (any crisis will do) or in a newspaper column? You're an expert.
20. Are you a columnist, TV Pundit, comic, or super hero? You're an expert.
21. Do you like to use words or phrases like pedagogy, standards-based, or 21st century skills or acronyms like NAEP, RTI, or NCLB, but can't really say what each means in practice? You're an expert.
22. Do you spend a lot of time talking to anyone about the crisis in "public" education, bad teachers &  administrators, and everything going to hell at dinner parties, your corner bar, soccer practice, or at the school bus stop? You're an expert.
23. Is your opinion about public education based on TV shows? You're an expert.
24. Have you never read or participated in any actual educational research? You're an expert.
25. Are you making or hoping to make your first (or second...) million selling your scientifically based research program to a school in need of improvement? You're an expert. 

Bonus Question: Even if you got none of the above correct, you can become an instant expert if you answer yes to the following:

Do you sometimes dream that a superhero (of your choice) is coming to rescue you and your community, and perhaps your country from the evil clutches of public school educators in order for all of you to race, race, race to some elusive top that only the superhero knows? 

Wow, move over Arne Duncan. You could be the next Secretary of Education.

No Lemming Left Behind. Image by Mary Ann Reilly (2009).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Removing Boots, Peering into Hats: Waiting for Superman, I Mean Godot, All Over Again

I expect that I, like many other public school educators, will make my way to a theater sometime soon to view Waiting for Superman.  I have only viewed the trailers and found Geoffrey Canada's story about learning there was no Superman to be most revealing. The story suggest much about the power of myth and its limitations, especially myths we use in order to distance ourselves from our actual civic and moral responsibilities in lieu of waiting for some "other" to save us. Canada says he lamented after his mother told him there was no Superman. He explained the source of his tears was, "There was no one coming with enough power to save us."  Cue the melancholy piano music and the images of burned-out projects.  It's clever. Perhaps even artful to a degree.  But we would be foolish to think it offers anything beyond a melancholy echo of a Reagan-like message from the 80s. Remember it was Ronald Reagan who said:
"You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice." (1.31.84, Good Morning America)
No sacrifice is needed to equalize health, education, and quality of life for the poor. To make a difference we only need to"take the pledge" to see the film.  Once again market values will save us.


In Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, the play follows two days in the live of Vladimir and Estragon, who remove boots, peer into hats all the time waiting for someone, they admit they cannot recognize,  to arrive. As Canada posits the idea of waiting for a power greater than oneself to save you, so too do Vladimir and Gogo endlessly wait for Godot.  The trailers and the hype I have read suggests that the film sets up public education in the role of  Lex Luthor, the "obvious" supervillian. Once again, I am reminded of Godot when early in the play, Vladimir remarks to Estragon: "There's man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet."  

The root challenges of public education in a capitalist society, driven by "market" values, is that the  inequity of the system must be maintained in its public schools in order for society's privileged to maintain their status. The gross characterization that public education is failing all of its students is hyperbolic for sure, but more importantly, it redirects our gaze from the stinky feet to the boots.  How much easier to blame public school teachers (not to be confused with charter school teachers) than address the societal and economic inequities that underlie learning.  Redistributing wealth and power is not offered as a solution, perhaps since 'wealth and power' are financing the charter school "movement" and not so surprisingly, the film. 

Waiting for Superman posits that the choice for salvation will be found in charter schools. This is a promise that is every bit as empty as the lives of Vladimir and Estragon who can't even summon the courage to put an end to their suffering.  We simply cannot afford to be fooled by this empty promise. Unfortunately, this "solution" is no better than Vladimir offering Estragon the choice between the turnip and the radish. Estragon selects the radish only to have to return it having found it to be blackened. 

As in the case of charter schools and radishes: Both deals are rotten.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hoboken: Venture into a Landscape without Expectations

On Wednesday (9.15.10) I wrote: My exercise for myself this week is to find some darkness--an absence and reclaim my voice; to be truthful, and to stand against the certainty that is likely to doom us.  

Although I was writing both about education and art, I found myself waking early on Saturday morning and venturing out without a destination in mind.  I ended up in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Crossing over the bridge, I immediately felt that connection that Minor White proposed in his Zen exercise:
Venture into a landscape without expectations. Let your subject find you. When you approach it, you will feel resonance, a sense of recognition. If, when you move away, the resonance fades, or it gets stronger as you approach, you'll know you have found your subject. Sit with your subject and wait for your presence to be acknowledged. Don't try to make a photograph, but let your intuition indicate the right moment to release the shutter. If, after you've made an exposure, you feel a sense of completion, bow and let go of the subject and your connection to it. Otherwise, continue photographing until you feel the process is complete.

4 images from Hoboken.

I Will Walk and I Will Pray. Image by M.A. Reilly (9.18.10)

Hoboken I. Image by M.A. Reilly (9.18.10)

Waiting Room. Image by M.A. Reilly (9.18.10)
Hoboken II. Image by M.A. Reilly (9.18.10)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Guest Blog: John Linton - Confessions of a Failed Boy Scout: Or Wedding Photo Faux Pas, Partie Deux (I think that’s “Party Dudes!” in French)

Self-portrait. Image by John Linton
People come into our lives through all sorts of means.  I've lost track of how long ago I first started to see John's images and comment or when it was I first started to look forward to reading John's comments about images I had posted to jpgmag or RedBubble, but know this: John's comments are legendary, nearly as much as his images.  Anyone who has had a "prop" or "comment" made by John remembers them for two reasons: his wit and his insight. It is with much pleasure then that this week's guest blog post should be authored by John. The story, self portrait, and collages just knocked me out.

Bio: John Linton spent his childhood developing his skills as a military brat while the family moved from one place to another. He attended Gorham State College to avoid the draft and somehow graduated with a teaching degree. He was hired by the Westerly School Department in 1970 and has lived in Westerly, RI ever since. He retired in 2002, much to the relief of the administration. When people ask him what he does he loves to tell them “Nothing.” He does dabble in photography every now and then.

Contact Information: John's sites on JPGMAG,

Confessions of a Failed Boy Scout: Or Wedding Photo Faux Pas, Partie Deux (I think that’s “Party Dudes!” in French)

Once upon a time I had a brief stint as a Boy Scout, just long enough to learn that I was always supposed to be prepared, but apparently not long enough to actually have that idea sink in. So, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that I showed up to the wedding with my Canon DSLR in such sad shape that the flash refused to work. Nor should it surprise anyone that the Sony point and click that I brought along just in case my Canon might be having “issues” didn’t work either. It’s kind of hard to get a camera to work when you leave the battery still in the charger back at the hotel. It looked like I was going to once again have a love affair with blur and grain.

I was just taking photos for fun so it wasn’t like I was actually worried about any of this. You see, I took up photography because: a) I finally figured out that if I carried the camera I wouldn’t have to worry about having my picture taken, b) when I went to weddings and such I wouldn’t have to actually sit through services and receptions because having a DSLR with a larger than normal lens gave people the idea that it was OK for me to circulate around clicking left and right, and c) when I was traveling it gave me something to do besides listen to tour guides.

This particular occasion was a Full Mass wedding. I’m not Catholic, but Full Mass sounded far longer than my normal two-minute attention span usually permits me to stay seated. Imagine the smile I had on my face when someone at the church said there would be no problem taking a few photos during the service. I wandered all over the place as the wedding morphed into communion, spending just enough time in the balcony to miss out on all the standing, sitting, and the whole body of Christ thing.

I was still having my problems with blur and grain at the reception and they became more pronounced with every beer I consumed. I’m not sure it’s a good thing to try and take photographs at a function that has an open bar.

Anyway, I’ve put together two four-photo collages of my latest Wedding Photo Faux Pas for your perusal. I hope you enjoy them.

The Wedding. Image Collage by John Linton.
The Reception. Image Collage by John Linton.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Shallow Breath of Standards: Seeing Beyond Things

My friend, Ethel's husband, Mark, loaned me a book today: The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life (John Daido Loori).  I started reading it and could not put it down. Early in the text, Loori describes an exercise he did that legendary photographer and teacher Minor White  provided.
Venture into a landscape without expectations. Let your subject find you. When you approach it, you will feel resonance, a sense of recognition. If, when you move away, the resonance fades, or it gets stronger as you approach, you'll know you have found your subject. Sit with your subject and wait for your presence to be acknowledged. Don't try to make a photograph, but let your intuition indicate the right moment to release the shutter. If, after you've made an exposure, you feel a sense of completion, bow and let go of the subject and your connection to it. Otherwise, continue photographing until you feel the process is complete.
Well, now that exercise is pretty clear to me as a photographer and one I anticipate trying this weekend.  I have experienced that odd exchange of energy between myself and my subject when I am in such a zone. It's as if my finger on the shutter and my eye in the viewfinder are no longer limited to my body, but somehow are deeply connected to the subject, located, if you will, outside of time and space.  What is central to these moments out of time, is the state of not knowing that defines how I see.  Certainty has no voice in these dramas. It is pure spirit.

This zen reading and thinking about art, reminds me a lot of what it means to be a teacher and how critical it is to not know, perhaps more so in this time of false certainty. Like my finger on the shutter and eye in the view finder, the space that is made in a classroom with students is not defined by the physical realities of walls, floor, or ceiling.  Something far grander is composed in these learning landscapes--something akin to what Maxine Greene labels as wide-awakeness.

Greene (2008) writes:
To open spaces for learning is to give learners a sense of absence, of open questions lacking answers, of darkness unexplained. If people respond to all of this with a blank disinterest, they are, often without realizing it, acquiescing in the “given,” the fixed, the unchangeable. (LEARNing Landscapes, 1, 3, p. 18).
Formal educational standards are the "given, the fixed, the unchangeable."   I have always been graced with students willing to wander into that unexplained darkness and a deep desire to venture along.  Perhaps that is why I find the standards movement to be at best a shallow breath, and at worse an impediment to all breath.  The use of educational standards assumes a decontextualized world where there is something called "the student" and a separate something called "the teacher".  The sad truth though is that this student can never be your subject, nor one whose presence resonates. Likewise,  "the teacher" can never venture into a landscape without expectations.  Such exercises are folly or in these days, perhaps even seen as sinister.

The given. The fixed. The unchangeable.

My exercise for myself this week is to find some darkness--an absence and reclaim my voice; to be truthful, and to stand against the certainty that is likely to doom us.  

What is Written. Image by M.A. Reilly. Tuscany, 2009.
I wish you, dear reader, an educational landscape sans expectations.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upcoming Art Show: Personal Projects @ Paper Mill Playhouse

Three works of mine are part of photography show at the Paper Mill Playhouse (Upper Gallery) in Millburn, NJ. The show opened with a reception on September 21, 2010 (5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and will run through November 1, 2010. 

I caught the show on Sunday night and WOW it is impressive. 
This show features works by photographers who have had the pleasure to learn with and from Don Polzo, a photographer who teaches at Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit. I am honored to have work included in the show.

Paper Mill Playhouse
22 Brookside Drive
Millburn, NJ 07041

The works of mine included in the show are:

Dreaming of David Hockney (Mountainville, NY, 2009)

Be for Me, Like Rain. (Wall Street, NYC, 2009).

Bridge in Fog (George Washington Bridge, NYC, 2009)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Good Apples, Bad Metaphors, and Why NBC is Wrong

At the end of this month, NBC's two-day "Education Summit" will take place in New York City.  One of the "confirmed" sessions at "Education Nation" is: Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession? I am not joking. This is actually true.

This is what I sent to NBC:

I was disheartened to read of your summit that is designed to "fix" schooling and includes the"confirmed" session titled: Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession?

This is disgraceful, insulting, counter productive, and ignorant. The disdain of actual educators--not policy makers, CEOs, mayors, chancellors, commissioners, and so on--but rather, people who actually teach and lead in schools is clearly present in the Discourse NBC has produced. 

In what other profession would a national summit be convened that would find it allowable to exclude representatives of that profession as you have done in this summit? Can you imagine a national summit about law that did not include lawyers? Or a medical summit, sans doctors?

This is a disgrace.

NBC says, "It's time to reinvent America as an Education Nation."  Imagine thinking America could truly be reinvented without privileging the voices of teachers, administrators, and students.  If I watched any TV,  I'd boycott NBC. I am curious as to what you think.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


In a post-9/11 world, can we:

"...Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace..."
 - John Lennon

Central Park, NYC.

Enuf said.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why I Tweet (Unlearning and Unfixing Beliefs)

It seems somewhat surreal that I (one with little faith about Twitter) should be authoring a post about tweeting. I  mean a mere month ago I was highly skeptical about Twitter and posed the question in a blog: Where would Emerson find his (wo)man thinker on Twitter? For the last month I have followed and 'unfollowed,' and in doing so have begun to make sense of how tweeting helps to (in)form my practice as an educator by nudging me to unlearn and unfix tenets of learning I have privileged. I had the pleasure to listen to and interact with Will Richardson this last week when he helped the school district I work for open its year.  He talked about his children and through them his hopes for education and educators, inviting us to embrace a goal of guiding students to become global citizens. It was a thoughtful, unhyped, commentary. Poetic.

He then met with administrators for 90 minutes to discuss what we are privileging with regard to learning. He was largely quiet, occasionally interjecting to refocus the conversation. I admitted that day that I initially found Twitter to be a rather foreign landscape with lots of irrelevant commentary and I heard Will say, Ouch.  I've been hearing that ouch over and over again and wanted to expand.

Twitter is helping me to understand that a different concept of learning (and teaching) is required in 2010. Whereas, I have read numerous accounts that students from the class of 20xx would need to be continuous learners, would need to be able to make x number of career changes, and so on, there was a comfortable distance between these fictitious students and me.  In some ways these predictions helped to distance me from a far more intimate discovery: I, at the half-century mark, would also need to adopt new ways of learning and given the economic uncertainty of these times, might also need to change careers. 

I don't think I'm alone in this discovery: The very comfortable ways I have been learning no longer represent the totality of methods I need to use in order to continue to learn and teach.  The landscape is moving at such a rate that it is difficult to discern foreground from background.

Now to be clear, I deeply believe that the theorizing I was privileged to do en route to a doctorate is extremely valuable.  My professors (especially Ruth Vinz) and fellow students at Columbia helped me to turn a sharp eye at flashy educational trends, understand and apply Dewey, Bakhtin, and Deleuze to educational matters, and in doing so conceptualize progressive schooling.  My 25+ years as a public educator has helped me to actualize these theories into local practice.

I still believe it would be better for students if we read more Bakhtin and less Ed Leadership, but here's the rub: it is not a question of get on board with Twitter and its equivalents or tread water.   There is no water to tread as that metaphor has dried up.  The real dynamic is:  breathe or become irrelevant. 

Tweeting is random breathing, an embodiment of self and other represented in the "tweets" that sound.  A few minutes ago on my "TweetDeck" a tweet about Yoshitomo Nara's White Ghost sounded, sandwiched between a link about an abducted journalist tweeting from the captor's phone and a link that took me to an article about Mozilla's plug to play games via its browser that ended with these questions: Are native apps really where it's at? What do you see in the browser's future, and do you think Web games are a good way to get there?

13 years ago I composed a theory about learning and randomness in the guise of a dissertation, and titled it Courting (In)Stability.  Tweeting is all about instability, stability and the movable spaces between where learning happens and I want to suggest here, where teaching needs to be situated.  I am reminded here that at the end of Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the narrator says that happiness is the longing for repetition.  I have thought about that phrase for a long time and composed a piece (see below) where I attempted to (re)present that idea:

Happiness is the Longing for Repetition. Image by M.A. Reilly (2009).  

Kundera is clever. He knows happiness is not repetition, but rather the longing for repetition.  I had forgotten how it feels to be unsettled and how necessary such imbalance is, as is the longing for repetition.  Tweeting has reminded me that everything is really in flux and that there is something oddly soothing about the repetition of tweets twittering.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Between the By-Road and the Main Road: Leave No Trace

Between the By-Road and the Main Road: Leave No Trace: "Waning Moon. M.A. Reilly, 9.4.10 On Saturday I went shooting (cameras, of course) with a woman, Kathleen, who had emailed me earlier in t..."

Leave No Trace

Waning Moon. M.A. Reilly, 9.4.10

On Saturday I went shooting (cameras, of course) with a woman, Kathleen, who had emailed me earlier in the week and asked if we might shoot together.  She had indicated that she had followed work I had posted on my art site and thought we might go out and photograph.  She realized we both live in New Jersey.  We would find out that not only did we live in neighboring towns, but we each worked in Morristown, NJ.  We decided to meet at Monksville Reservoir in Ringwood at 6:30 a.m.   It was still twilight when we arrived, the waning moon the main source of light. Gradually the sun's light edged over the mountain, lighting the trees.  No matter how often I visit Monksville Reservoir, the line of light on the water never fails to amaze me. There we made some images as the sun lit the barren trees at the western end of the reservoir.

Line of Light. Ringwood, NJ. Image by M.A. Reilly. 9.4.10
The water that feeds the reservoir comes from Greenwood Lake and flows through the Long Pond Ironworks State Park, located in West Milford, NJ.  Kathleen made mentioned of a waterfall that cascades into an abandoned mine shaft and we set out to find it.  She learned of the waterfalls from some teenagers she had met at a local pool that summer.  They raved about diving from the top of the rocks into the mine shaft.

Reflection. 9.4.10
I have visited Long Pond many times in the last few years and have made many images, however I had not visited the falls before.  As we trekked through woods trying to follow paths we kept finding ones that dead-ended at rocks. Eventually we began to hear water and followed the sound. The woods here are lovely, still green with summer and early morning light. The narrow paths are reddened by the decay of pine needles.  We walked alongside the stream that feeds the Monksville Reservoir and then climbed higher to the rocks that frame the falls. 

As we got closer to the falls, the presence of others became more and more evident.  At first, it was the occasional wrapper or broken glass.  By the time we made it to the hill and rocks that frame the top of the falls, human "traces" abounded. Underwear, socks, t-shirts, beer bottles, beer cans, Gatorade bottles, paper plates, plastic bags, were littered across the ground and in the water. Trees had been chopped and cans that might have been heated in a campfire left discarded on the ground.  Broken glass crunched underfoot. Two garbage bags had been left and were partially filled.

Neither Kathleen nor I could speak. Somehow, shooting the falls seemed misplaced given the severity of the littering and utter disregard for nature.  I stood there for awhile just taking it in and then began to document, thinking about the Leave No Trace Center.

Leave  No Trace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that humans do not destroy the earth.  The Center accepts nominations of "hot spots" that need to reclaimed.  

According to the website, The Center intends to do the following:

    1. Accept nominations from individuals, groups, non-profits, partners, members and governmental agencies for areas – Leave No Trace Hot Spots – that have recreation-related impacts that could be successfully mitigated through effective Leave No Trace programming.
    2. Nominations will be accepted on a quarterly basis, with one Hot Spot being chosen per quarter.
    3. For chosen Hot Spots, the Center will work with the nominator to determine the scope of the impact, the relevant partners for collaboration, and effective and creative solutions for reducing the impacts occurring in the area.
    4. Chosen Hot Spots will receive some or all of the following: expert consultation on solutions and program implementation, training, educational materials, visits from the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers, creation of locally-tailored programs to meet site-specific needs, volunteer support and overall assistance in putting the Leave No Trace program into action.
    Long Pond State Park, 9.4.10.
I nominated the Long Pond State Park as a hot spot on 9.6.10.  I'll let you know what I hear.  In the mean time, anyone want to volunteer to go clean up some woods and streams?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Social Collaboration: New Literacies

These days there's a lot of talk about what students need to be able to do with regard to something named, literacy.  The Common Core State Standards sets out to represent this and promises in the mix that adoption and application of these standards will result in "high quality education".  The framers write:
The standards establish a “staircase” of increasing complexity in what students must be able to read so that all students are ready for the demands of college- and career-level reading no later than the end of high school. The standards also require the progressive development of reading comprehension so that students advancing through the grades are able to gain more from whatever they read.
Given these standards, one might think that a single, uniform understanding of literacy existed— an autonomous model of literacy (Street, 1995). Brian Street defined this type of understanding of 'literacy" as an autonomous model as it situates literacy as a neutral entity, stripped from social, cultural, gendered, and historical contexts.

In contrast, Shirley Brice Heath’s (1983) situates “literacy events” as people’s ways with spoken and written words.  I would urge that a sociocultural perspective be used to inform what we mean by new literacies, or we will continue to understand “literacy” as reading and writing whether it is on paper or the net. A sociocultural perspective understands that a person’s primary and secondary Discourse groups will influence his or her ways with words. As educators, understanding that our students may have different ways with words than is privileged in school allows us the opportunity to build associational bridges between the child’s primary Discourse and school-based practices.

The Internet does not alter this dynamic.  Rather, digital literacies represent new Discourses (Gee, 1996).  Whereas the Common Core Standards reify this older and flawed version of literacy as a singular matter,  NCTE's Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment captures the complexity of multiple literacies that is always embedded in cultural and communicative practices.  From NCTE:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities, and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally 
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
The Common Core State Standards situates Internet-based literacies as being merely electronic texts that are to be consumed and produced by students just as paper-based texts might be.  This is a colossal mistake. Absent from this viewpoint is understanding Internet-based literacies as communicative, collaborative, and cross-cultural.  As such, it is critical to help students develop and manage global learning-relationships.

Global learning is here. I know this to be true as an artist and as an educator. Below is an image I composed with Bradley Nichol, an artist from Canada.  We discovered that we each had an affinity for U2 music and decided to illustrate a few U2 songs from The Joshua Tree album.  Red Hill Mining Town was created without meeting Bradley in person or working on the image in the same place and time.  Bradley and I got to know one another via our participation in two social networks for artists and decided to collaborate.  We began when Brad sent me an image and I then remixed his image with some of mine and a public domain image to create the final work.  Since posting the work, 2200+ people from various places in the world have viewed the image and many have left comments.

Red Hill Mining Town. Image by Bradley Nichol and Mary Ann Reilly. 2009.

Empowering students in this century requires us to understand that the definition of classroom as a geographic space within a school building has been modified.  The classroom need no longer be limited to a pre-Internet world, just as our definition of being literate need not reside in that old world too.  We need to shake off these misunderstandings, not embed them within our curricula. The  standards offered by the Common Core initiative anchor us to a world no longer existing.

Works Cited

Gee, James. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: ideology in Discourses. NY: Routledge/Falmer Press.
Heath, Shirley Brice. (1983). Ways with words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
Street, Brian. (1995). Social literacies: critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography, and education. New York: Longman.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Contours: Guest Blog by Nelson Campbell

Friend and fellow artist and writer, Nelson Campbell, is the author of today's blog post.  Nelson is an exquisite thinker and artist. Although we have never actually met (in person), I number her on a short list, as friend. It gives me pause to consider how the Internet connects us, displaces us, re-imagines what it means to be friend, artist and in doing so perhaps, resituates one's sense of geography.  Similarly in this post, contemplating one's geography is in part the subject Nelson considers.  Her post is a bold, thoughtful and thought provoking work.  I am so pleased to be able to feature Nelson's words and images. 

If you are traveling to Vermont (or perhaps live there) this fall, you have the opportunity to see work by Nelson at the Shelburne Farms 23rd Art at the Coach Barn. The show runs from 9.23.10 - 10.24.10.  On Wednesday, Sept. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. there will be a reception.
Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, Vermont  

If you cannot see her work in person, please make time to visit her work on the Internet. 
Links to Nelson Campbell's Art: 

Big, Big Shadows. Image created by Nelson Campbell.
I have been displaced a number of times in my life - voluntarily and involuntarily. Sometimes I was excited - sometimes afraid, sometimes indifferent - sometimes shattered.

During these periods of transition, I notice that I start looking for touchstones - anchors - old friends -trees I recognize, flowers, mushrooms - birds.

In the process of searching for the "old," I unavoidably come into contact with the new. New flowers, new trees, new sounds...new contours, curves, peaks, and paths.

I have discovered tiny expatriates that have traveled with me from my old life...an old t-shirt revealed a clump of small burrs clustered near the hem. How is it that tiny burrs stuck to an old shirt can reduce me to tears just because they traveled with me from fields of a life now gone? 

Horses have always represented both grounding and transition. My love of horses is as old as I am. My first purchase for my new space was a sculpture of a horse made of driftwood from Lake Champlain.
Parabol. Image by Nelson Campbell.

This beautiful work of art represents a beginning synthesis between the past and present, the old and new.

We all seek to fill a space and make it our own. We seek to live beyond merely existing. To affirm beyond merely tolerating. An excerpt from Langston Hughes expresses the struggle and determination required to uproot and then replant:

...So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love —
But for livin' I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry —
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

from Life is Fine, by Langston Hughes

Summer Porches. Image created by Nelson Campbell.