Tag Archives: teaching

The Naysayers…

Why is it that the people who seem to get the spotlight when it comes to talking about new literacies, technology, and how kids learn are the naysayers? I’ve just finished reading “The Dumbest Generation” by Mark Bauerlein – another in what feels like a long string of books with the thesis that young adults/teens/children are becoming less and less “smart” given the kinds and uses of technologies made available to them. Sigh. My gut reaction to these kinds of books is usually to get heated, write something passionate for a teaching journal, and hope that a teacher’s thinking gets moved. That said, this, and the others like it (i.e., Oppenheimer) end up on the NY Times best sellers list and significantly impact readers across the globe. These writers aren’t teachers. These writers don’t do more than step into carefully chosen classrooms (usually non-representative or even generalizable) for a limited period of time, place their gaze typically on what they pre-determined they wanted to see, and then publish conclusions that have impact on parents’ and the “popular” view on the topic.  I think they miss a big point – technology is disruptive – and sometimes that is a VERY good thing.  I’m all for critically examining practice and new technologies – but this (and others like it) swings too far to the other extreme.

Maybe this is part of the reason that I want you to be thinking about the power of your voice (in creating a counter-story of sorts)… Maybe it is part of the reason I’ve been thinking so critically about the kinds of schema that teachers (and those in the popular media) need to have in order to create the classrooms that will actually move students’ thinking… Or, maybe, I’m just venting… This is a disappointing read – and one that makes our work harder. (And, I’m now wondering – what is the counter-text? And, could it have the same “punch” and impact? What if we tell the stories of kids and teachers who are doing really important, engaging work? Does that “sell” as well? Or, is there something “bigger” in our culture that we want to buy into the vision of technology as destructive as opposed to engaging/empowering/necessary… etc.?) I’m fired up. I want to write “The Smartest Generation.”



One of the blogs I read most often is written by Ewan McIntosh, a teacher, thinker and new literacies theorist in the UK. He included this image in a recent post , and I was really struck by how it played into the words and ideas of Murray, Rief, Newkirk and other thinkers in the field of composition rattling around my head. Any reading is a re-writing, in part through the process of connecting and combining of that text in dialogue with all of the other things we think, and read, and know. Murray talks about the “new composition teachers” who don’t have all the answers but DO have an inventory of pedagogical strategies ready to deploy. He explains “all we see or hear connects with something else, passing through out unconscious and conscious until it ripens into a subject that is ready to write” (11). So, that leads me to wonder – we’ve all had those brilliant, compelling teachers who captivate our thinking and inspire us to work harder. Do those teachers have the largest treasure trove or collection of texts and ideas to draw from – or is it the way in which they interweave and connect those texts and ideas (and, perhaps, tools) that they do have?