Take 2

Take 2 is a JoLLE feature in which a current editorial board member selects an article from the archives and re-introduces it to the field. The article authors are invited to prepare a new commentary on their original article.

February 2022 

Introduction by Saurabh Anand, Communications Editor

While Dr. Rubinstein-Avila revisiting her 2009 article: Reflecting on the Challenges of Conducting Research across National and Linguistic Borders: Lessons from the Field, with her current advisee, Gabrielle Yocupicio, one receives their latest inputs on some best cross-linguistic and cross-demographic to conduct qualitative research. Both contributors discuss various situations and suggestions that might be especially helpful for researchers while collecting data at fieldwork. 

A Second Conversational Look Between the Author, Dr. Rubinstein-Avila, and Her Advisee, Gabrielle Yocupicio.

Prof. R-A: I won’t lie. These last two years (Feb. 2020 to present) life has been a blur. I not only lost the sense of time, but the pandemic seemed to have wrapped up events, lived experiences, memories, and even fantasies in a gauze with gaps between its delicate threads. So, once I reread my article, published in Jolle 2009, I began to wonder if it was indeed … still relevant. Who best to help shed light on this question than a doctoral candidate who is currently composing her dissertation? Therefore, I asked Gabrielle Yocupicio, one of my advisees, to read the article and tell me if she thought the article may still be relevant to today’s qualitative researchers, and if so, in what ways. Gabi is not only a very competent PhD candidate, but Gabi is also bilingual, bicultural, a border-crosser in many senses, an expert in heritage language issues, and an extremely perceptive individual.

Gabi: As I revised my dissertation proposal, in the Fall 2020, I grappled with the notion of having to radically change my data collection procedures to adjust to the world’s new reality. As I searched for Spanish heritage language instructors’ language ideologies, the classroom observations I had planned were out of the question. Zoom interviews were also likely to differ from the F2F interviews I had expected to conduct. Although I had been devouring qualitative methods books and articles, I remembered an article my advisor suggested I read years ago, Rubinstein-Avila (2009), when I took the qualitative methods course. I hoped that going back to the article on the need to be vigilant, agile, and agentic about adapting one’s study to the context at hand, would provide guidance. The three suggestions that most resonated with me personally were: 1) embracing the iterative and non-linear nature of the qualitative research process; 2) willingness to modify/adjust data collection instruments and procedures; and 3) continuous reflection on the ways in which changes are likely to impact the findings and their interpretations.

The article motivated me to make the modifications needed to adjust to the pandemic realities we all had to live with. As I began thinking about the changes I would make and how I would rationalize them in my methods section, one question that I kept coming back to was: why aren’t more scholars engaging frankly in an unabridged discussion of the realities of “on-the-ground” research? Why do descriptions of data collection, analysis, and findings in many cross-cultural and cross-linguistic research articles continue to be presented as “predictable, perfunctory and uncomplicated” (Rubinstein-Ávila, 2009, p. 1)? I wondered if it was only a question of word/page limits. Perhaps it is simply one of those academic axioms to which the academy still tends to cling.

Prof. R-A:  Yes; after we both searched for recent articles focusing on the potential mishaps in conducting research in the field, we were surprised not to find much, even if most of us are well aware that when ‘the rubber hits the pavement,’ fieldwork almost always does not go as planned. In fact, how often does life goes exactly as planed? Why so few researchers reflect on the mishaps they encounter in the field, and explain the adjustments they may have engaged in? Do we ‘bury our head in the sand,’ when that is an option? Why do researchers mostly present their findings (or results) as if the data collection and analysis went smoothly, when we all know it most likely did not? In my 2009 article, I addressed issues of assumed cultural competences, language barriers (even when the language might be “the same”), assumptions we are likely to make about our participants (given their ages), but what other points of friction or contention may one encounter as one tries to accomplish what one has was laid-out in the detailed in research proposal? 

Gabi: In one instance while interviewing a Latinx, Spanish heritage learner of color–like myself—I used the phrase “language subordination.”  The participant’s demeanor changed immediately: “What do you mean? I’ve never experienced any of that.”  This moment made me realize that we cannot assume a common cultural and lived language experiences—even in domestic research contexts with participants or our “own groups.” What assumptions had I made about the language experience of participants whom I perceived to be like me? As Prof. Rubinstein-Ávila (2009) reminded readers, regardless of seemingly using the same language or assumed common culture, we must learn to anticipate, be attentive to, and attempt to repair/resolve—sometimes on the spot—the challenges we are likely to encounter during fieldwork. Thus, a more transparent, and frank, explanations of the actual ‘nuts and bolts’ of the way our research is managed (behind the scenes) and conducted in the field, is still being strongly advocated for in more recent publications (e.g., Cheereni, Sliuzas and Flacke, 2020).

Prof. R-A:  Although their article, and most of their implications, are directed more specifically to research teams, conducting multilingual, multisite, across international contexts, Cheereni, Sliuzas and Flacke (2020), identified four dimensions of research where the process are likely to hit some snags and would benefit from enhanced attention. They call it the 4Ps: “Paradigm [view about the nature of truth (Kuhn, 1970)], Person/People (the principal researcher, assistants, and respondents’ background, frames of understanding and skills), Process (flow of research activities), and Presentation (documentation of research process)” (p. 661). We are glad that the need for the careful attention to the process of research and greater transparency, while not as common as we would like, is being called for; one day it may become the norm—and not only among qualitative researchers. Although the research proposal is an indispensable map, it is not “written in stone.”


Cheereni, S., Sliuzas, R. V., & Flacke, J. (2020). An extended briefing and debriefing technique to enhance data quality in cross-national/language mixed-method research, International Research of Social Research Methodology 23(6), 661- 675.   https://doi.org/10.1080/13645579.2020.1731992

October 2021

Introduction by Jennifer Ervin, Managing Editor

The term literacy, highlighted in the title of our own journal, is nebulous. It may be defined differently as it shifts between different contexts and is explained through different perspectives, and it extends into all fields of study in different ways. Also, what it means to be literate in one context may not translate to  another context. This article by Perry, published in JoLLE in 2012, attempts to bring some clarity to some of the different sociocultural perspectives on literacy that graduate students in our field may find illuminating. She answers the question “what is literacy” from three different perspectives: (1) literacy as social practice, (2) multiliteracies, and (3) critical literacy. She also argues that “conceptualizing literacy as something one does, as opposed to a skill or ability one has, helps us understand the real-world ways in which real people actually engage with real texts, which ultimately could help educators make formal literacy instruction more meaningful and relevant for learners” (p. 62). 

A Second Look from Author Kristen H. Perry

The first draft of “What is Literacy?” originated as a portion of my doctoral comprehensive exam, when Vicki Purcell-Gates tasked me with comparing and synthesizing the theoretical perspectives of literacy as social practice, multiliteracies, and critical literacy.  A few years later, I dusted off that comps exam response and updated it for a research symposium on various perspectives on adult literacy, before considering publication.  It is a constant amazement to me that a piece that began its life during the stress of a two-day comprehensive exam should go on to be so well-received in the field; it is, by far, my most-cited publication, including citations by scholars and in journals around the globe.  Graduate students often approach me at conferences to say how influential and helpful the piece has been for their work.  What is especially astonishing is that this piece almost never got published – if I remember correctly, this manuscript had been rejected by no fewer than five journals!  I was on the verge of just giving up on it when a colleague (a graduate of the University of Georgia’s literacy program) suggested that JoLLE was looking for submissions and that it might have a shot here.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Now, when students or colleagues bring up their frustrations at repeated manuscript rejections, I tell the story of “What is Literacy?” to show the importance of sticking with a piece you truly believe in, because that repeatedly-rejected manuscript might just go on to be your most influential publication.

Although the sociocultural perspectives described in this manuscript are now several decades old, it is clear that they still hold currency in literacy and educational research.  As we strive to prepare learners for active participation in college, career, civics, and community, focusing on cognitive skills alone is insufficient.  Rather, we must help learners understand the myriad genres they will encounter in life, the various meaningful purposes for engaging with text, and the ways in which contexts shape the ways we read and write, talk, and think about texts.  Current events – a global pandemic, political strife at home and abroad, and ongoing struggles for racial justice, to name but a few – show how imperative it is for learners to develop the ability to understand and critique the social, cultural, and political contexts surrounding a Facebook post, a YouTube video, or even the ways in which different “mainstream” news outlets might cover the same issue.  The ability to “read the world” as well as read the word, as Paolo Freire taught us, is just as essential as ever.

September 2021

Introduction by Yixuan Wang, Principal Editor

In their 2013 article, The Transformative Power of Youth Action Coalition’s Multimodal Arts-for-Change programming, K. C. Nat Turner, Kate Way, and Robin R. R. Gray demonstrated the power and voices of youth through multimodal artmaking as critical multiliteracies. As schools gradually shift back to in-person instructions under the continuing COVID-19 impact, this article speaks to educators, parents, and community leaders on the importance of youth envisioning their future/possible selves and developing a sense of identity and self-confidence during difficult times and spaces.

This article also highlights that the central values of Arts-for-Change (AfC) programs are the development of community involvement and critical engagement with issues of social injustice. These values and possibilities of AfC and critical multiliteracies are much needed as we start imagining a post-pandemic future for education. This article inspires educators, scholars, and community leaders to reconsider approaches, pedagogies, and methodologies in the future for artistic and justice-oriented work.


Turner, K. C. N., Way, K., & Gray, R. R. R. (2013). The transformative power of youth action coalition’s multimodal arts-for-change programming. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 9(1). Available at http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Transformative-Power.pdf.

March 2021

Introduction by LaTasha Hutcherson Price, Poetry, Fiction, and Visual Arts Editor

As we continue to manage the COVID pandemic, standardized classroom modalities have been upended and renegotiated. Structural rules, managed by subjective interpretations, have largely contributed to the school to prison pipeline for Black and Brown students.  Funds of artistic knowledge gained from hip hop culture, including dance, art, rap, and music mixing are often suppressed. This hegemony of stillness is highlighted in Niki Tulk’s poem, The Yellow Crayon.  The poem highlights the inner tension of a young child as she negotiates the hegemony of stillness with her own physiological needs.

This poem was also chosen to push back on reductive perspectives of art as research.  As a research methodology of the heart, this poem highlights the unspoken and felt internalization of kind words of standardization that are intoned with contempt for listening or understanding lapse.  The first ever re-introduction of an art-work in place of a standardized research article will hopefully inspire us to revisit pedagogies, research methodologies, and student products of the heart as necessary components of successful literacy progression in Education.

A Second Look from author Niki Tulk

In many ways, for a five -year-old, their classroom is a total institution, to borrow from Erving Goffman. A small child exists in a perpetual present—words like “soon” or “later” hold, frustratingly, no concrete meaning. While this child is enclosed in the four walls from early in the morning until late afternoon, the reality of her schoolroom is literally all there is. The teacher is parent, guard, guide and judge. The child knows no other reality to this while she is there. If the teacher is wise and kind, the classroom designed to center the student’s comfort and curiosity, all well and good. To a point. The teacher is awarded absolute power in this situation, whereby she must continually challenge her own assumptions, privileges, approach because whatever she does reverberates with an authority more encompassing than many other situations this child will face. The teacher, in short, is a type of god to a small child.

In The Yellow Crayon, this child’s teacher is a human version of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon, the hovering center, swiveling on one heel, able to sweep their gaze around the walls of the room that for small children, where the present is all there is, feel that they are hidden for eternity. There is no easy escape. Entrances and exits are by one door, guarded by that teacher, and time away strictly monitored. Nobody can go in or out, move across the room, whisper or shuffle a paper without the searchlight beam of the teacher’s eye catching their activity and making it clear to the child: you are watched. Even more sinister, you are watched for your own good. In many cases, often with good intentions, complicity in the social mastering of the small human body is begun, frequently assured.

My grandmother had a saying about this, as she did about many things. In short, good intentions are no guard against harm.

The child in this poem stands in for many children. I am this child. I am also a teacher. In my classrooms, secondary and in higher education, I discover many who have been this child, terrified to ask a question, to sing, to color outside the lines. My work as an educator is largely working with my students to restore a damaged belief in their own genius, their own innate power to choose what is beautiful, perfect, important—for them. This is difficult work in a system whose power dynamic stems from subduing the working classes, colonizing those whose background, culture or gender/s have been marked in some way as deviant.

Einstein had a messy desk—because somewhere along the line he was allowed to. The small girl writing this poem did not.

Does this poem describe an art class? A test of complicity? An embodied surveillance of the small, child body? Where, in fact, are our bodies allowed to move, what are they allowed to touch, how is the world around them curated, re-curated? Where are our bodies allowed to sing, and of what?

When I walk into a classroom as a teacher, I am immediately faced with ethical choices. The system I work in positions me as ultimate authority in that space. I must reject, challenge, dismantle that position, and co-create with my students a different world than that which my institution marks out for all of us. It is difficult work. It is essential work.

I do it, armed with a yellow crayon.


Tulk, N. (2015). “The yellow crayon: A kindergarten fable.” The Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 11(1). Available at http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/The-Yellow-Crayon.pdf.

February 2021

Introduction by Yixuan Wang,Conference Co-Chair

In her 2013 article, Language, Literacy, and Culture: Aha! Moments in Personal and Sociopolitical Understanding, through her powerful and moving autoethnography, Sonia Nieto reminds teachers and teacher educators of the injustice in language and literacy education that has existed for decades. In chronological order, Nieto tells the stories of her own as a Spanish-English speaking student whose home language, literacy practices, and culture were not recognized and valued at school. With all the turmoil going on during the pandemic, this article, once again, reminds educators of the danger of only valuing and prioritizing certain kinds of literacy, which further disadvantages students who do not have the same access to traditional literacy and resources. Although published eight years ago, the truth of overly prioritizing reading and writing is still true and prevalent nowadays. Many students who speak a language other than English at home as a heritage language or first language can still resonate with Nieto’s Aha moments. Nieto gives more thought-provoking insights for educators in the article, especially in the part discussing what makes teachers memorable to students. Nieto explicitly points out that understanding and valuing students and their family cultures are the foundation of building a trust relationship with students and the community rather than simplistically focusing on the content. 

After a year of online learning, this message becomes even more important to all teachers and teacher educators. It is never too late to take action in physical and virtual learning spaces to appreciate students’ home cultures and languages. Since most online learning takes place at home now, it should give teachers more opportunities to see and bring the students’ homes, families, languages, and artworks in language and literacy classes. The pandemic and online learning are not ideal for educators and students, but it may also be an opportunity for positive changes. The pandemic also poses a pause for the field to think about what “normal” mean to different communities. If “normal” means the long-existence of neglecting students’ home cultures, languages, and knowledge in classrooms as Nieto depicts, then we must think twice before we say going back to “normal”. 

January 2021

Introduction by Saurabh Anand, Communications Editor

This past year has taken its toll on virtually all sectors of society, but the experiences of Black and Brown people, immigrants, and other marginalized groups have drawn notable attention to the systemic racism that many face daily and for ages, inside and outside academic and non-academic spaces. In her 2011 article, Responses of One First Grade Class to the Representation of AAVE in Picture Books, Jennifer McCreight talked about systemic racism being the social virus institutionalized in the society in manners such as unequal funding for schools, perpetual scarcity of resources, and legitimizing the standard English language via curriculum.

After almost a decade, she reflects on her experience of teaching a similarly diverse community at the higher education level. She tells how her students understand oppression in the daily life context, can critically examine those, and feel prepared to voice out against discrimination by sharing their experiences and demanding their well-deserved recognition based on merit.”

A Second Look from Author Jennifer McCreight

I sit in front of a group of students, diverse in their multifaceted identities and backgrounds, and I read a picture book. This time it’s Stella’s Starliner (Wells, 2014). Last week, it was A Kids Book About Systemic Racism (Thierry, 2020). After I read, my students make connections to and disconnections from the text, acknowledging how the lives depicted in each either mirrors or contrasts with their own. They think/pair/share, learning from and with one another, before we bring our conversation back to the whole class.

This act feels very familiar, and much like those I discussed and shared in the article, Responses of One First Grade Class to the Representation of AAVE in Picture Books (McCreight, 2011).  

At the same time, though, the space I am now occupying is quite different.

Instead of first graders, I am reading to and conversing with socioeconomically and racially diverse undergraduates, in my tenth year as a college professor at a small, liberal arts college.

Instead of them being perched on a multicolored rug, I am reading to a Zoom screen, in which their faces are checker-boarded in front of me.

And yet, what we are doing together is just as important – it’s just as critical – as the work done ten years ago in my elementary classroom.

As we entered learning spaces this fall, some in-person and some remote, my college-aged students and I found ourselves in a world that had been turned upside down, ripped open in some ways, by the tragic trajectory of COVID-19, the critically important protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the growing recognition as a nation that we have not made it nearly as far as we thought in moving beyond systemic discrimination. The reality of the inequalities not only present in but perpetuated by institutions across America has been exacerbated and sped up by the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.

Each class I’ve taught this year has felt different, in light of all we are discussing more openly and all we are muddling through together, and just like my first graders ten years ago, the adults with whom I learn and teach are reminding me that it is all too often those with authority and power in the education system who are the gatekeepers of difficult conversations. In trying to create a “polite, respectful” classroom environment, we are sometimes guilty of turning away from opportunities to lay bare the structural inequality within our education systems and the world at large, afraid that we might be unable to reign things back in, or that someone might be made too uncomfortable. The “What ifs?” I lay out in my 2011 article resonate in this space – not just in terms of linguistic diversity, but also the rich differences found in my current students’ socioeconomic status, racial backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations – in that while all of these critical components need to be recognized and brought to the forefront, I admit that opening dialogue to students’ sometimes raw or unpredictable responses can cause my heart to beat more quickly and my palms to sweat. What if…?

But what I found this fall, and what I found with my first graders years ago, is that my students are craving this opportunity, and they will rise to the occasion. I heard over and over in my class, “We need more space to discuss these issues,” and “I’ve never realized the inequity present in schools across the nation.” One student said, “I’ve always been accused of being simply an angry black woman, and no one really stopped to ask why – here, with my peers, I feel heard.”

And crazily enough, we did this over Zoom, in Breakout Rooms where I clumsily moved from one digital space to another, and in discussion forums where we read about and commented on one another’s experiences.

They were ready – ready to confront their own biases, ready to acknowledge the vast work ahead of the education system and beyond, and ready to share painful but formative experiences in their own lives. And I had to be ready to join them, just as I did in 2010, even though I felt sometimes awkward and not ready and didn’t always know what to add.

Because it’s not really about me, is it? It’s about them.

To once again quote Lewison et al. (2002), “Put simply – there is a remarkable vitality, an aliveness, a level of intellectual engagement that occurs when kids [and adults!] have the opportunity to read about and discuss important, controversial topics that intersect their lives” (p. 216).

It is these conversations that bring vitality and offer opportunities for a “third space” (Willis et al., 2008) of learning, and while they may feel difficult, or dangerous, or uncertain – isn’t that what pushes us as learners, to become more when we leave a classroom than when we entered it?

And it’s with this in mind that I read and discuss and contemplate the work that lies ahead – from the perspective of our youngest K-12 learners to our post-high school scholars – and recommit to the difficult conversations, like those spotlighted in this re-publication as well as those my current students continue to bravely and vulnerably share in their college courses.

There is so much work left to be done.


Lewison, M., Leland, C., Flint, A.S., & Miller, K. (2002). Dangerous discourses: Using controversial books to support engagement, diversity, and democracy. The New Advocate, 15(3), 215-226.

McCreight, J. (2011). The importance of being heard: Responses of one first grade class to the representation of AAVE in picture books. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 7(1), 35-48. 

Thierry, J. (2020). A kids book about systemic racism. Portland, OR: A Kids Book About.

Wells, R. (2014). Stella’s starliner. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Willis, A.I., Montavon, M., Hall, H., Hunter, C., Burke, L., & Herrera, A. (2008). On critically conscious research: Approaches to language and literacy research. New York: Teachers College Press.

Bio: Dr. Jennifer McCreight is an Associate Professor of Education at Hiram University. Her work centers on building family/school partnerships, validating the diverse linguistic backgrounds of students, and incorporating technology.

December 2020

Introduction by Shuang Fu, Conference Co-Chair

The year of 2020 has been a profoundly difficult and stressful time for all of us. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, most schools across the nation have been temporarily closed since March, marking a historic moment that none of us has imagined before. Today, millions of students from kindergarten through graduate school are learning virtually. Though we’re deeply grateful that the digital world makes learning continuation possible despite the global pandemic, we know online learning can be frustrating and exhausting. That’s why I’d like to re-introduce the article Ready Learner One: Creating an Oasis for Virtual/Online Education by Csaba Osvath to our readers in this special time.

In the article, Osvath (2018) reflects on and explores virtual/online education prompted by a personal reading experience of Ernest Cline’s science fiction novel, Ready Player One. Through reading and engaging with Cline’s story, Osvath argues that reflective reading combined with embodied creative acts can lead us to a more tangible and innovative version of online education. I hope the re-introduction of this article can shine light in reimagining a more engaging online education and bring hope to our fatiguing Zoom life that has been overwhelmingly occupied by meetings, readings, and gradings.

A Second Look from Author Csaba Osvath

I teleport in front of an oval-shaped, floating mirror in my virtual apartment to take a closer look at my holiday-themed attire. My head-mounted display (HMD) can detect not only the slightest movements of my head and eyes, but it also tracks the movement of my lips. It still amazes me to see my avatar smiling back at me from a virtual mirror.

In real life, I am standing on an old, worn carpet in a concrete-blocked, chipped painted, damp basement. However, that reality is completely replaced by a computer-generated virtual penthouse. I am surrounded by high-end furniture and artworks, overlooking a city of steampunk aesthetics. Life is good.

Another avatar, a friend from Canada, materializes near my 80s style, coin-operated entertainment machines. She admires my recently acquired holiday decorations before we head to the virtual gym. In FIT XR we attend our daily guided cardio class.

Followed by the workout session we both login to Altspace VR and head to a virtual outdoor theatre where a mutual friend from South Africa is performing at an open-mic event.

After the event, the three of us teleport to the Altspace campfire, joining a group of avatars from all over the world. We talk mostly about COVID-19 related stories, discussing the pandemic, how our countries are responding to the situation, and how it is affecting our lives, especially outside of VR.

I watch a few avatars roasting virtual marshmallows and I wonder if in a few years olfactory stimulation might allow us to smell and taste in VR. After the conversation, I say goodbye to my friends and teleport back to my virtual apartment. Then, I select a guided meditation session, using the VR app TRIPP. I am instantly transported into a calming interstellar environment, where I am surrounded by colorful nebulae and pulsating stars, practicing box-breathing. (Box-breathing is a controlled technique employed by Navy Seals.)

Inspired by Cline’s (2011) VR-themed science fiction novel, I concluded my essay, Ready Learner One (2018) with a fictional story, describing my vision for virtual education. Never would I have imagined that just a few years later in 2020, I would be reintroducing that essay by offering a glimpse of my daily, real-life experiences in VR.

Virtual Reality is no longer an unaffordable, futuristic technology. It is no longer aimed to serve only gamers, specialized industries, or a small group of enthusiasts. Stand-alone headsets, like the Oculus Quest, no longer require a powerful PC to provide an immersive, quality experience, allowing users to explore and interact with virtual objects and environments without the discomfort and motion sickness which was a hallmark of VR in previous decades.

There are already several freely accessible, functioning virtual worlds with integrated technology infrastructure, (e.g., Altspace VR and Engage) where students can attend classes, watch their teachers presenting lessons via PowerPoint or using a virtual blackboard, go on virtual field trips, and do everything and more than a traditional classroom can offer – especially during this pandemic. And unlike Zoom, Teams, or other screen-bound engagements, VR allows embodied participation in volumetric spaces where avatars can move, interact with objects, talk in groups, make eye-contact, and also create virtual objects/worlds by using their virtual hands and versatile virtual tools.

Cline’s (2011) vision of an immersive virtual education where students can ride the moon buggy and take pictures of the surface, or witness historic events unfolding from a first-person perspective is an actualized, available, and also affordable technology. Since the publication of Ready Learner One, I have been actively pursuing and engaging with Extended Reality (VR, AR, and MR) technologies because immersive technology will impact every aspect of our lives from entertainment to education, and I believe this is the opportune time for educators to immerse ourselves into this field and become both early adopters and active shapers of what VR can offer and what it will become.

Ready Player One is not only a novel about the wonders and perils of virtual reality, but it is also a story about the powers of close, deep reading. As the book’s protagonists apply advanced literacy skills to explore and investigate cultural artifacts (games, books, movies, music, etc.) to overcome challenges and survive a dangerous and complex quest, educators and learners should similarly engage and explore this technology, shaping its use and development.

Like in Cline’s fictional scenario, the future of VR will be guided by the visions and agendas of its stakeholders, especially tech companies and developers. If educators dismiss this medium as it happened with videogames, the educational potentials of VR will be diminished and overshadowed by other uses of VR such as entertainment.

My virtual apartment is always open to visitors, and I will be delighted to meet inside or outside of VR to work together and to actualize the educational potentials of VR. Let’s begin, let’s continue this exploration of immersive technologies.


Cline, E. (2011). Ready Player One. New York: Crown.

Osvath, Cs. (2018). Ready Learner One: Creating An Oasis For Virtual/Online Education. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, (14)1. 

November 2020

Introduction by Tamara N. Moten, Scholars Speak Out Editor

In their 2018 article, Engaging Preservice Teachers with Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Three Model Lessons for Teacher Educators, Christy Howard, Mikkaka Overstreet, and Anne Swenson Ticknor, worked with preservice teachers (PST) to intentionally expand their knowledge of culturally responsive teaching in each of their university level literacy courses. This article speaks to teacher educators on how to understand and engage with culturally responsive teaching as an instructional tool and resource for PSTs to go beyond “surface level thinking” of diversity and justice. In their article, the authors individually provide examples of their own lessons that focus on modeling culturally responsive teaching to PSTs.

A Second Look from Authors Howard, Overstreet, and Ticknor (East Carolina University, ECU)

In our article, Engaging Preservice Teachers with Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Three Model Lessons for Teacher Educators, we shared example lessons that focused on helping preservice teachers expand their thinking related to diversity and inclusion in literacy instruction. These lessons offered preservice teachers tools and resources to combat popular myths of diverse families, access language and literature for teaching social justice, and use facilitative texts to scaffold affirming and accurate language in their own teaching contexts. 

Since the original publication of this article we have conducted research using these lessons (and others) with different classes. Through this research over the last two years, we examined preservice teachers’ perceptions and attitudes about teaching through the lens of culturally responsive instruction after a series of these modeled lessons. Our recent research revealed that after engaging in these lessons, preservice teachers fell into one of three categories. They either continued to focus on barriers related to equitable teaching, began to discuss new possibilities for teaching, or were ready to enact the practices they had learned (Ticknor, Overstreet, & Howard, 2020). When we consider the outcomes of this study, we understand that people progress through their learning at different paces. This confirms our stance that we must continue this work beyond one course and beyond one series of lessons. 

As we reviewed the data from this study, it was important to us to highlight that while these lessons worked for some students, they were not “one-size-fits all.” With this in mind, in our upcoming book we share some guiding principles that can help to guide this thinking. Our guiding principles that have come from this research can be found below: 

  • Culturally responsive instruction is not one-size-fits-all. By definition, this type of instruction is contingent on context. You cannot and should not pick up the lesson examples in these articles and deliver them directly to your students. You must make considerations for the unique contexts in which you teach and learn and instead take up the principles guiding this work. 
  • Culturally responsive instruction is not activities. One cannot simply do our suggested activities and consider their instruction to be culturally responsive. You must also “do the work.” This means changing your ways of thinking about teaching and students/mindset, engaging in deep reflection, and committing to a lifelong learning process of staying current on appropriate and affirming language choices, issues of equity, and societal trends. 
  • Culturally responsive instruction is not just for “those” kids. This is for everyone. All of our students deserve to be properly prepared to live in a diverse world. Affirming their cultures does not mean that you only teach this way if you have “diverse” kids in your classroom. This has to be done in ALL classrooms so that ALL children can see themselves and others as a valid and valued part of the curriculum. 
  • Culturally responsive instruction is not “one more thing.” This isn’t an add-on or one more entry on teachers’ already long to-do lists. Culturally responsive teaching is a method, a lens, a frame through which all of your teaching passes.

It is our hope that with the reissue of this article you examine the lessons with these guiding principles in mind, and it is our hope that you begin to think about how these principles might guide your work with your students as well.


Ticknor, A.S., Overstreet, M., & Howard, C.M. (2020). Disruptive teaching: Centering equity and diversity in literacy pedagogical practices. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 59(1). Retrieved from https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol59/iss1/2. 


October 2020

Introduction by Jennifer Ervin, Production Editor

Youth have always lacked autonomy and agency over their lives, but that lack of agency is felt more clearly today as decisions are being made for and around them, not with them, about where and how they will participate in school during the Covid-19 crisis. Furthermore, BIPOC youth who are tuned in to current events are as aware as ever of the dangers they face by simply existing in their skin in our society. They are speaking out and speaking against the systemic racism that threatens their lives and their communities, pushing for essential changes which will allow them to inherit a more safely diverse world.

In this article, “…And a Child Shall Lead Them…,” Dr. Eurydice Stanley links the Little Rock 9’s act of courage and resistance to the Parkland, FL youth-led protests after the school shooting in 2018. The author’s direct advice to teachers in this article is as important and timely today as it has ever been, particularly her points about listening to student voices. Teachers and adults need to support and uplift youth as they advocate for themselves, as they have done throughout history.

A Second Look from Author Eurydice Stanley

As I look back on two years ago when “…And a Child Shall Lead Them…” was written, I am dumbfounded by change. The world is currently gripped by a pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, causing us all to seek refuge in the safety in our homes. The Covid-19 virus has uncovered racial inequalities in healthcare due to structural and systemic disparities, resulting in racial and ethnic minorities being impacted by the virus at a greater rate than any other population. Additionally, the virus has intensified disparities in access to educational support, limiting resources for children of color. Hopefully, educators and administrators are actively seeking and implementing innovative, culturally competent strategies to bridge the gap.

The student-led nationwide protests against gun violence of 2018 have given way to 2020’s youth-led protests against the unwarranted murder of African Americans. These protests provide the opportunity for educators to have candid discussions with students regarding the underlying systemic issues that led to the murders of innocent African Americans and help them filter the feelings or fears those losses may have generated. Ask candid questions. Do students see any differences in current protests from civil rights movement marches? What led to the murder of George Floyd? Are they encouraged by the diversity shown in current protest participants? What groups are engaging in violence? What do they recommend as necessary elements of justice reform?

Unfortunately, disparities in youth justice can still be found since the original article was written, even during a pandemic. For example, in May a 15-year-old African American girl named Grace was sentenced to juvenile detention in Michigan for not getting out of bed for virtual school or doing her schoolwork. She was on probation for prior offenses but had no additional violations. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan called Grace a “threat to the community” and sent her to the Children’s Village juvenile detention center during a life-threatening time when adult inmates were being released from prison sentences due to Covid-19. After two months of public outrage, Grace was released. By incorporating current examples of racial injustice in student discussions, educators can serve as youth advocates and encourage critical thought.  

American history, including civil rights history, includes truths that many would prefer to overlook.  Recently, President Trump threatened to “investigate” and remove federal funding from schools that integrated the New York Times 1619 Project, a report about the origins of slavery in America, into the curriculum. The overreach is unprecedented. It is yet to be determined if the Department of Education can enforce his edict. Historical truths are necessary to understand disparities that continue to impact racial and minority groups to this day. Additionally, the White House called for an end to diversity training in federal agencies, referring to it as “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” Such characterizations undermine concerted efforts to unify culturally diverse groups through multicultural training and education. Teach history’s “hard truths.” They are often not included in history books.   

One thing that did not change since this article was written is students’ dependence on educators. As civil rights icon Elizabeth Eckford shared in our book, The Worst First Day: Bullied While Desegregating Central High, she considered her speech class to be a haven because it was the only class where her teacher would not allow students to attack her. Her teacher served as Elizabeth’s frontline of protection. Assess whether your classrooms provide an environment of safety and encouragement, either in person or virtually.

We wrote The Worst First Day to teach civil rights history, combat bullying in schools, promote personal resilience, and denounce student suicide. Due to today’s challenging times, students need resilience now more than ever. As they search for stability, empathetic educators can serve as anchors.

As I revisit “…And a Child Shall Lead Them…,” the importance of encouraging youth remains. As Elizabeth and the Little Rock Nine proved, significant change can come from the effort of a child. The Little Rock Nine endured daily physical, emotional, and psychological attacks because they knew future generations depended on their persistence. Recognize that today’s trailblazers for justice are in your respective classrooms. Continue to provide them with the educational foundation necessary for their success. With your support, they might even make history.  


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, July 24). Health equity considerations and racial and ethnic minority groups. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/race-ethnicity.html

Lee, A. (2020, July 15). Girl, 15, sentenced to juvenile lockup for not doing schoolwork. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. https://www.ajc.com/news/black-girl-15-sentenced-to-juvenile-lockup-for-not-doing-schoolwork/HN2QCJ43VFEE5CBOWU3XGRX5OI/#:~:text=For%20the%20homework%20infraction%2C%20Judge,had%20not%20committed%20another%20crime

Liptak, K. (2020, September 6). Trump says department of education will investigate use of 1619 project in schools. CNN Politics. https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/06/politics/trump-education-department-1619-project/index.html

Slay, B. (2020, May 20). Covid-19 will intensify education inequities for black students. Diverse Issues in Higher Education. https://diverseeducation.com/article/177796/

The White House. (2020, September 4). Training in the federal government. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/M-20-34.pdf

September 2020

Introduction by Sarah Stice, Digital Content Editor

Colleges and universities around the world, including the College of Education at the University of Georgia, are moving toward antiracist pedagogies, which call Americans and particularly teachers to think bigger than diversity, equality, and equity, to consider a pedagogy of justice. The starting point of justice is to see and understand one another, to move beyond our assumptions and hastily drawn conclusions. Jacqueline B. Koonce’s 2012 article, “‘Oh, Those Loud Black Girls!’: A Phenomenological Study of Black Girls Talking with an Attitude,” gives educators a glimpse into the lived experiences of two Black girls who Talk with an Attitude in response to their feelings of oppression and disrespect in school. The phenomenological approach that Koonce employs draws attention to the truth of personal experience as detailed by the research participants. Her honest look at how Talking with an Attitude can be misconstrued as a deficit and a problem behavior, not only by White educators but also by Black peers like herself, breaks down possible barriers of assumptions and helps the reader to understand the function and intentional purpose of these students’ words.

A Second Look from Author Jacqueline B. Koonce (University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley)

The article “ ‘Oh, Those Loud Black Girls!’: A Phenomenological Study of Black Girls Talking with an Attitude” revealed that two Black adolescent female participants reappropriated a speech practice in the African American Women’s Speech Community (AAWSC), Talking with an Attitude (TWA; Troutman, 2010), as a defense mechanism against uncaring, hostile teachers. Currently, as Black female adolescents develop and watch crises impacting Black people, including Black females, it makes navigating multiple identities even more precarious. I say precarious because in navigating one’s triple identity (Cooper 1892/1998), we learn that by virtue of our race, gender, and American identity we are vulnerable to police brutality and murder by some rogue officers.

In addition to the prevalence of these racist atrocities, Black girls are suspended and expelled at higher rates than their female counterparts (Hines-Datiri & Carter Andrews, 2017). As we begin a new academic year wrought with stress from the racial divide in the United States and the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is critical that educators appropriate culturally relevant care with all of their students, but particularly Black students as it specifically relates to my article on Black adolescent females. Like participants stated in Battle-Walters (2004) study, being a Black woman in America is hard! It is even more so for our younger counterparts, who are developing not only their triple identity but other identities as well.

Elsewhere, I talk about how culturally relevant care has helped me to transcend boundaries with my current predominantly Latinx students (Koonce, 2018; Koonce & Lewis, 2020). This culturally relevant care has implications for educators at all levels to adopt and practice with students who differ from them in race (including Black students), culture, language, socioeconomic status, and other areas of diversity. However, this only works for teachers who care enough to learn about their students’ cultural norms and to do the introspective work needed to truly enact culturally relevant care.

The problem is not all teachers care enough to do this necessary work to transcend boundaries with their students, so more accountability is needed in education on the treatment of marginalized students like Black adolescent females. Often, we focus on accountability in terms of student test scores instead of teacher dispositions. If we critically care for students, most likely the test scores will take care of themselves. But the motive should not be test scores. Ultimately, the goal should be to help marginalized students acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to infiltrate and disrupt the culture of power (Delpit, 1995). Consequently, Black females are provided with the tools they need to advocate for social justice.


Battle-Walters, K. (2004). Sheila’s shop: Working-class African American women talk about life, love, race, and hair. MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Cooper, A.J. (1892/1998). The status of woman in America. In C. Lemert & E. Bhan (Eds.), The voice of Anna Julia Cooper: Including a voice from the South and other important essays, papers, and letters (pp. 109-117). MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Delpit, L. (1995). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. NY: The New Press.

Hines-Datiri, D., & Carter Andrews, D. (2017). The Effects of Zero Tolerance Policies on Black Girls: Using Critical Race Feminism and Figured Worlds to Examine School Discipline. Urban Education55(10), 1419–1440. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085917690204

Koonce, J. (2018). Critical race theory and caring as channels for transcending borders between an African American professor and her Latina/o students. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 20(2), 101–116. http://dx.doi.org/10.18251/ijme.v20i2.1432

Koonce, J. B., & Lewis, K. A. (2020). Culturally relevant care through the lens of duoethnography. The Qualitative Report, 25(6), 1721-1735. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol25/iss6/19

Troutman, D. (2010). Attitude and its situatedness in linguistic politeness. Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, 46(1), 85-109.

August 2020

Introduction by Merida Lang, Principal Editor

As we gear up to begin the 2020-2021 academic year, many of us find ourselves raw and emotionally exhausted. But, we are also, in many ways, and perhaps as a byproduct of our emotionality, open to new modes of thinking and existing in the world. This is unavoidable as we plan to teach remotely (or are at least prepared to pivot), and enter the new year in the wake of the most recent iteration of the Black Lives Matter Movement that rose up in response to the killings of Black men and women. This academic year is undeniably different than years prior. And despite being tired, the opportunity for change, for contributing to the development of more equitable and radical spaces, is available for us to take.

S. R. Toliver’s piece, “Breaking Binaries: #BlackGirlMagic and the Black Ratchet Imagination,” is a reminder to examine our approach to Black resistance and rage, giving Black girls and people of color the respect, space, and platform to reimagine and reshape our current world, in whatever way is needed.

A Second Look from Author Stephanie R. Toliver (University of Colorado Boulder)

On June 12, 2020, Rayshard Brooks was murdered by Atlanta Police officer Garrett Rolfe. On June 1, 2020, David McAtee was murdered by a member of the Kentucky National Guard. On May 27, 2020, Tony McDade was murdered by a member of the Tallahassee Police Department. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin. On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered by Louisville police officers Johnathan Mattingly, Brett Hankinson, and Myles Cosgrove. These are a few of the “newsworthy” murders of Black people that have occurred within the last 6 months, but there are numerous others that will never make it to our television screens. These murders, along with the many others that have come before them, sparked a series of protests across the world. Some were peaceful, as activists marched to their respective capitols and spoke out against police brutality to anyone who would listen. Others were more violent, with advocates tearing down the structures of death that populate our cities and burning down capitalist edifices that stand in the way of progress. Still, the positioning of certain protests as acceptable and others as improper is reminiscent of conversations about ratchetness and respectability, for marching, writing, and speaking are considered respectable forms of protest, but burning, destroying, and abolishing oppressive structures is ratchet.

As I ruminate on these aspects of our current social moment, I’m reminded of my article, Breaking Binaries: #BlackGirlMagic and the Black Ratchet Imagination. In the article, I argue that the tension between respectability and ratchetness must be further explored, as it is an essential component in discussions of Black girl identities. I first ground my argument in a discussion of respectability politics (Higginbotham, 1993), noting how although it has historically been used as a means to avoid white rage, it can place strict parameters on Black individuality. I then move toward the Black Ratchet Imagination (Love, 2017; McEachern, 2017; Stallings, 2012), highlighting how it is a liberatory and authentic space that hinges on the failure to be respectable to white norms. I combine these ideas with Afrofuturism because the aesthetic is ratchet – it refuses restrictions on Blackness and is imbued with agency and creativity. Rather than argue for the uplifting of ratchetness or respectability, however, I use three of Nnedi Okorafor’s young adult novels to show that Black girls often call upon both ratchetness and/or respectability as tools of resistance whenever they deem necessary. Ultimately, I contend that the Black Ratchet Imagination (Love, 2017) provides a lens to map the emotional flexibility and creativity needed to survive various oppressions and offers an imaginative place for youth to embrace identity fluidity and challenge normativity.

As readers revisit this article and learn about the Black girl characters in Nnedi Okorafor’s books, it’s important to put our current world into the conversation. What reactions do we deem acceptable when our students respond to the oppression they face in our classrooms and schools? Do we consider fighting back against oppression to be worse than writing a letter to an official? Do we criminalize any response to injustice that does not align with our ideas of respectable activist practice? Which protesting form do we consider appropriate? Are marches more palatable to us than riots and the tearing down of racist monuments? These are all questions that we must consider when racial violence runs rampant in the country. We have to acknowledge how our own implicit biases position some protestors as respectable for protesting the right way and others as ratchet for protesting incorrectly. We have to acknowledge that our ways of thinking inhibit how Black girls, specifically, and people of color, in general, express their ire against oppression. It is my hope that in reissuing this article, readers think about peaceful and violent protesting as a representation of Afrofuturist thought, uninhibited by white norms of respectability. It is my hope that we acknowledge the Black Ratchet Imagination and Afrofuturism as key to any movement toward justice.


Higginbotham, E. B. (1993). Righteous discontent: The women’s movement in the Black Baptist church, 1880–1920. Harvard University Press.

Love, B. (2017). A ratchet lens: Black queer youth, agency, hip hop, and the Black ratchet imagination. Educational Researcher 46(9), 539-547.

McEachern, M. D. (2017). Respect my ratchet: The liberatory consciousness of  ratchetness. Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, 6(3), 78-89.

Stallings, L. H. (2013). Hip hop and the Black ratchet imagination. Palimpsest: Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, 2(2), 135-139.

July 2020

Introduction by Merida Lang, Principal Editor

As we begin to conceptualize how to move forward in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and dozens of other Black men and women by police, a prime concern for educators and researchers is how to combat antiblackness, in the classroom and in academia. Justin Coles’ piece, “The Black Literacies of Urban High School Youth Countering Antiblackness in the Context of Neoliberal Multiculturalism”, serves as a vital reminder of how neoliberalism, the influence of which many would argue is pervasive in our schools, renders invisible the structures of antiblackness and, subsequently, the experiences of our Black students.

Dr. Coles’ 2019 piece calls attention to the insidious effect of neoliberalism, but also to the ways in which Black youth resist and advocate. As we enter into the 2020 school year (in-person, online, or both), it is vital that the reality of antiblackness and our roles in the perpetuation of it, both on institutional and individual levels, be at the forefront of our work.

A Second Look from Author Justin A. Coles (Fordham University, GSE)

In my article, The Black Literacies of Urban High School Youth Countering Antiblackness in the Context of Neoliberal Multiculturalism, the key argument I communicate is how neoliberal multiculturalism, along with intersecting systems and ideologies, works to obscure the specific realities of antiblackness that structure the social and educational lives of all people, Black youth specifically. Directly inspired by Dumas & ross (2016), I argued that such neoliberalism must be and can be disrupted by leveraging the literacies of Black urban youth who witness and experience the varied technologies of antiblackness daily, which all stem from the U.S.’ institutionalized history of Black subjugation that concretized through the structure of chattel slavery. For educators striving for educational justice that understands that Black “languages, literacies, histories, and cultural ways of being as people and communities” (Paris & Alim, 2017, p. 2) do not represent a pathological social positioning, it is imperative that we confront the ways our Black students are imagined through anti-Black logics of racial inferiority and how our teaching and learning practices work to sustain such violent and deficit rhetoric. 

In revisiting the article, I want to more explicitly underscore that antiblackness is not something in the abyss that Black youth may occasionally come in contact with, but that antiblackness is something with which Black youth are intimately familiar. Additionally, antiblackness is something that all non-Black people are deeply familiar with, and, as Sharpe (2016) explains, at stake for us all is not recognizing antiblackness as the total climate. Thus, continuing to obscure antiblackness in the perpetuation of neoliberal multiculturalism will not be of service, but rather be of grave disservice, furthering the marginalization of Black youth in both society and our schools. 

In our current Black racial civil rights moment/movement, characterized by the disproportionate ways Black people are getting and dying of COVID-19 and the recent, yet historic, ways the police have been weaponized against Black people often ending in murder, we have the opportunity and responsibility to reconcile with anti-Black racism being the fulcrum of white supremacy (Nakagawa, 2019), which dictates the U.S. social milieu. In a society where one can log on to a social media platform and encounter a video of a Black person being murdered by police auto-playing or readily access data documenting the disproportionate number of Black people who have died from COVID-19, educators cannot continuously engage in colorblind and color evasive logics that work to discount such happenings from the realities of the children they serve. 

Throughout the month of June 2020, across the world, people of all races and ethnicities have been protesting the ways the U.S. operationalizes as a global signifier for antiblackness. As educators and researchers engage with the literacies of the Black urban youth I present in the article, I invite them to think about what protesting with and for Black lives means in their practice and scholarship. I invite us all to understand that time is up on ignoring antiblackness as an embedded structural regime in U.S. society that dehumanizes Black and non-Black people. It is my hope that the reissue of my article provides educators with an Black youth-informed text to read alongside everything they are currently witnessing in the nation as it relates to the larger movement toward justice for Black lives.


Alim, H. S., & Paris, D. (2017). What is culturally sustaining pedagogy and why does it matter? In D. Paris & H. S. Alim (Eds.), Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world (pp. 1–25). Teachers College Press.

Dumas, M. J., & ross, K. M. (2016). “Be real black for me”: Imagining BlackCrit in education. Urban Education, 51(4), 415-442.

Nakagawa, S. (2019, August 20). Blackness is the fulcrum. Race Files. https://www.racefiles.com/2012/05/04/blackness-is-the-fulcrum/

Sharpe, C. (2016). In the wake: On blackness and being. Duke University Press.

June 2020

Introduction by Andressa Molinari, Scholars Speak Out Editor

With the current diversity in North American schools, and a growing number of bilingual students in this setting, there has also been an increase of studies who portray the adversities young bilingual children have in exhibiting their comprehension skills on a second language. In “Viewing as a Cultural Tool in the Construction of Meaning with Expository Texts for Young Bilinguals”, Lindsey Moses documents the construction of meaning in young bilinguals (Spanish and English-speakers) first graders with expository texts. Drawing on the work of Vygotsky, the author studied the developmental changes and the “appropriation of the Viewing literacy practice as a cultural tool” (Moses, 2013, p. 75).

The author establishes that the use of viewing as a major literacy practice assists in the construction of meaning making irrespective to how proficient the 5 and 6 year old students were. In the finding section, Lindsey summarizes that with the use of viewing, students were able to situate themselves as knowledgeable members of the classroom, building knowledge together, using ways of interacting that recognized their literacy practices as valid. 

We invite our readers to take a second look at Dr. Moses article and engage on how she has expanded her work in multimodal literacies in this Take 2 piece. Also, my sincere thanks to Dr Moses for the kind response and the opportunity to rethink bilingual practices in school settings.

A Second look from Author Lindsey Moses

Since the publication of “Viewing as a Cultural Tool in the Construction of Meaning with Expository Texts for Young Bilinguals” in 2013, I have continued to explore ­meaning making experiences with elementary-aged readers and writers. This initial study sparked my interest in further examining ways in which multimodal viewing and composition could be supported in classroom contexts. Research on multimodality is expanding rapidly, and I have been working in collaboration with other scholars to explore constraints and affordances of instructional opportunities focused on supporting ways children navigate and construct multimodal texts.

I find that multimodal considerations related to literacy, or Viewing as I referred to in the original piece, are often overlooked in classroom instruction. Working closely with a first-grade teacher, we explored instructional possibilities for supporting navigating and meaning making with multimodal text. My colleagues and I then studied which semiotic resources children relied on when making meaning with picturebooks and how they articulated their meaning making. The manuscript based on this study, “Meaning Making With Picturebooks: Young Children’s Use of Semiotic Resources” (Kachorsky, Moses, Serafini, & Hoelting, 2017), received the 2019 ILA Dina Feitelson Research Award. This prompted us to think about ways we might be able to better assess and support the many semiotic resources readers use while engaging with multimodal text. We designed a multimodal observational tool for teachers to gain additional knowledge about how students navigate and make meaning beyond text-level accuracy and retelling.

In addition to reading and meaning making, I have been working with colleagues to support instruction and research related to multimodal composing for elementary-aged students (both bilingual and monolingual). We have found affordances and expanded opportunities in composing similar to what I found in the original study related to reading. We have seen students with wide ranges of language and literacy proficiency be able to take up and appropriate multimodal composing techniques that demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the genre and composing process (Reid & Moses, 2019). The world is multimodal, and I think we need to continue to explore and research ways in which we can support the navigation and creation of multimodal texts.


Kachorsky, D., Moses, L., Serafini, F., & *Hoelting, M. (2017). Meaning making with picturebooks: Young children’s use of semiotic resources. Literacy Research and Instruction, 56(3), 231-249). doi: 10.1080/19388071.2017.1304595

Reid, S., & Moses, L. (2019). Composing with words and images in a fourth-grade comics writer’s workshop. Reading Teacher, 73 (4), 461-472. doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1864.

May 2020

Introduction by Yixuan Wang, Academic Book Review Editor

With the development of technology and social media, both students and educators are exploring and expanding our understanding of space in physical and virtual settings. Published in 2015, “Spacing Stories with Nomadic Narrators: Affect, Snapchat, and Feeling Embodiment in Youth Mobile Composing” by Dr. Wargo invites readers to understand multimodal youth composing on social media. The article presents the rich opportunities and nuanced processes of composing via social media and apps. When youth interact with mobile devices and write on social media, they inquire not only the social and digital spaces but also the elastic stretches of “day-to-day moments of sensations and movements” (p.15). Although published five years ago, the article is still relevant and powerful today as more and more mobile applications emerge and influence younger users. The participant in this study, like many other youths today, used Snapchat to embody writing, map daily experience, and curate personal history. The composing process enabled him to become a narrative time traveler and spatial storyteller.

In a time that mobile devices, technology, and social media keep offering more affordances in daily life in and out of classrooms, as the author suggests, researchers and educators alike should potentially co-opt the media applications for pedagogical purposes and narrative analyses of the ongoing stories of everyday life in youth multimodal composition.

April 2020

Introduction Maverick Y. Zhang, Communications Editor

Engaging and reflective, Simon and Campano’s (2013) piece, Activist Literacies: Teacher Research as Resistance to the “Normal Curve,” explores the possible ways in which literacy educators can take direct action to interrogate and resist “normal curve ideologies” (p. 22) that have long been socially constructed, reinforced, and reproduced both in literacy education and in our everyday lives. Through the lens of critical theories and disability studies, the authors view this normal curve as a social practice that often put historically disenfranchised youth in subordinate or deficit positions, which also aligns with current research focusing on culturally sustaining pedagogy, youth participatory action research, and racialinguistics. A second visit to this article is well worth readers’ time.

A Second Look from Authors Rob Simon (OISE, University of Toronto) and Gerald Campano (GSE, University of Pennsylvania)

Reflecting back on the article, and the original chapter from which it derived (Campano & Simon, 2010), we wonder if we did not go far enough in imagining a world beyond the normal curve, beyond even counter-practices of resistance, to an aspirational educational ontology premised on understandings human interdependence (e.g., Ghiso, 2016), radical egalitarianism, and collective flourishing. The normal curve, and the hallucinations of independence and competitive individualism on which it is based, is indeed a myth, but one that continues to structure the realities of educational policies and practices that reproduce inequity. Yet we can no longer take these “realities” as an inevitable given, hoping only for pockets of resistance.

Rob and Gerald revisited the article over zoom, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is serving as a painful reminder of our common human precarity (Butler, 2020), albeit a precarity that has always been unevenly concentrated due to ongoing histories of imperialism, colonialism, racism, heteronormativity, classicism, and xenophobia, including in schools (e.g., Campano, Ghiso, & Welch, 2016). As we write, school districts in our local contexts of Philadelphia and Toronto, and across North America, have been forced to make radical revisions to inequitable practices in response to the pandemic. In Toronto, public schools have shifted away from a focus on measurement, ranking, and assessment, to “prioritize the health and well-being of everyone… maintain relationships and connection to one another… [and] engage all students, especially those who have been historically underserved” (Malloy, 2020). A moment of shared crisis has highlighted human precarity and social inequities that have always been present. It remains to be seen how, if at all, these conditions may prompt lasting changes to school structures that reproduce inequality.

Educational Scholars in critical disability studies have long reminded us that physical, psychological, and cognitive vulnerability is constitutive of what it means to be human—that we all will be in various ways disabled across our life-spans—and that individual success is less a matter of “ability” than relative power and privilege. Feminist educators (e.g., Player, 2018; Sealey-Ruiz, 2007) have argued for a robust ethics of care to govern our educational endeavors. Indigenous intellectuals (e.g., Yazzie-Mintz, 2018) have long modeled educational arrangements premised on an ethos of interdependence and reciprocity. We in the field already have the knowledge to (re)create educational worlds where collective relational bonds take precedence over where individuals are mapped onto a “bell-curve”, worlds where no one flourishes unless we all flourish. This is the kind of education needed to address climate change, mass human migration and dislocation, nuclear annihilation, profound inequality, and pandemics. It is required for our survival.


Butler, J. (2020). The force of nonviolence: An ethico-political bind. New York, NY: Verso.

Campano, G., Ghiso, M. P., & Welch, B. (2016). Partnering with immigrant communities: Action through literacy. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Campano, G., & Simon, R. (2010). Practitioner research as resistance to the normal curve. In Dudley-Marling, C., & Gurn, A. (Eds.), The myth of the normal curve (Disability studies in education) (pp. 221-239). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Ghiso, M. P. (2016). The laundromat as the transnational local: Young children’s literacies of interdependence.  Teachers College Record, 118(1), 1-46.

Malloy, J. (2020). Update: Information for parents/guardians. Toronto, ON: Toronto District School Board. 

Player, G.D. (2018).  Unnormal sisterhood: Girls of Color writing, reading, resisting, and being together. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/3018/

Sealey-Ruiz, Y. (2007). Wrapping the curriculum around their lives: Using a culturally responsive curriculum with African American adult women. Adult Education Quarterly, 58(1), 44-60.

Yazzie-Mintz, T., Aziz-Parson, N., Lansing, D., Manyakina Y., Pyatskowit, R. C. Collective work and inquiry: Transforming early childhood education from within Native communities. Research in the Teaching of English, 53(2), 179-183.

March 2020

Introduction by Bhairvi Trivedi, Production Editor

In their 2009 article, Building an Effective Classroom Library, Susan Catapano, Jane Fleming, and Martille Elias worked with a group of new teachers to help them establish and use their classroom library as part of their literacy program. This article was practitioner-oriented and aimed to teach educators on how to use the classroom library as an instructional tool for literacy and classroom community, instead of being neglected.

In their article, the authors provided suggestions to new teachers on how to build and organize a classroom library, including approaches that were developed and tried with classroom teachers.

A Second Look from Author Susan Catapano

Since the publication of Building an Effective Classroom Library in 2009, I have come to realize the importance the classroom library plays in the support of literacy and reading instruction in the preschool and elementary classroom. My authors and I published a book in 2016, More Mirrors in the Classroom, to discuss the importance of culturally relevant literature available for diverse learners. More Mirrors highlights the activation of schema for readers when they see themselves in the literature. These books are located in the classroom library and processes to make the library accessible to all learners supports learning to read.

For 2020, we are editing a new book, The Classroom Library: A Catalyst for Literacy Instruction, Littlefield and Rowman, the follow up to More Mirrors and an expansion on Building an Effective Classroom Library. This new book focuses on using the classroom library as the center of the classroom and connecting it to reading instruction. The book is both a guide to establishing the classroom library and examples of how the classroom library is used as the catalyst for literacy.

February 2020

Introduction by Tamara Moten, Conference Co-Chair

Published in 2014’s Volume 10(1), “We Gotta Change First”: Racial Literacy in a High School English Classroom by Amy Vetter and Hungerford Kresser, examines how student-led small groups engage in dialogue about issues of race in an eleventh-grade Language Arts assignment. Using a racial literacy perspective, the authors highlight a critical need for teachers and students to engage in opportunities to talk about issues of race. The authors promote the following:

More opportunities for dialogue about issues of race, and about how to talk about issues of race, would help teachers and students engage in racial literacy, disrupt hierarchies of power and privilege, and prepare children to participate in U.S. democracy and a global society—all goals of a social justice curriculum, and all important for our students (p.96).

Although published six years ago, this article continues to hold importance for teachers to create spaces for themselves and students to have difficult conversations, engage in a plan of action, and break down oppressive systems. Moving forward, I challenge teachers and educators to create space for dialogue about issues of race, racism, and antiracism.

January 2020

Introduction by William T. Wright, Poetry, Fiction, and Visual Arts Editor

Nearly five years ago, Christine Woodcock and Phyllis Hakeem set out to provide insights to incoming teachers regarding the “coaching side” of literacy coaching. Their article, “The Power of Our Words and Flesh”: An Experienced Literacy Coach’s Love Letter to Incoming Educators about the Transformational Roles of Relationships and the Body in Learning, reflects in heartfelts ways on the transformative roles that language, relationships, and the body all play in how people learn and why teachers teach.

The authors assert, powerfully, that “Affective and relational dimensions should not just be emphasized in the education of young children, but should instead be considered in the education of each individual, regardless of age” (p. 14). In a time in which education, as a broad sociopolitical discourse, faces many existential questions regarding the means, purposes, benefits, and tolls of its ongoing democratic project, the narrative, voice-centered themes explored in this article offer confident assurance in the human underpinnings that, ultimately, sustain it all in the first place. It is a nourishing read, and well worth a second take.

December 2019

Introduction by Merida Lang, Managing Editor

Zeller, Griffith, Zhang, and Klenke, in their piece, From Stranger to Friend: The Effect of Service Learning on Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Diverse Populations, published in Volume 6(2), in 2010, considers the way that service learning, which they describe as a learning experience that integrates community service to strengthen community ties, can help preservice teachers to develop a more complex and empathetic understanding of communities different from their own. Specifically, the authors are concerned with how preservice teachers, a group that is mostly middle class, develop attitudes towards poverty.

The authors were careful in their data collection and analysis, including codes and analysis rationale. Their study was framed around Alan Peshkin’s study of Riverview and its high school and his notions of friends versus strangers to examine the relationship between their preservice teachers and their students, and the effect that service learning has upon this. It is a piece that is deserving of revisiting, especially as educators continue to plan for the best ways to prepare preservice teachers to educate diverse students.

November 2019

Introduction by Wisnu Agung Pradana, Children’s and Young Adult Literature Editor

Published in 2013, Discussing Picturebooks Across Perceptual, Structural, and Ideological Perspectives by Suzette Youngs and Frank Serafini invited us to unravel ideologies of picturebooks holistically using a multimodal approach. This study is one of JoLLE’s classic pieces that addresses the importance of equipping students with the skill to interpret the visual systems and representations in texts. The skill to interpret, the researchers argued, becomes a useful foundation that supports reading and critical thinking.

The participants in this study were from one classroom (26 students and one female classroom teacher) in an elementary school located in the western portion of the United States. The study was centered around 10 historical fiction picturebooks that were read aloud by the researchers as well as lessons on genre, visual literacy, and history. In this study, Youngs and Serafini aimed to understand the visual, textual, and design resources that the students attend to, type of student responses, and the variations of the responses towards the structural and ideological perspective in the given picturebooks.

Some interesting results emerged from the study. The researchers found that the students “focused on the perceptual perspective to initiate their interpretive processes and offered literal responses before transitioning across structural and ideological perspectives” (p. 192). Students were found to both connect the linguistic resources in the narrative and the visual design elements throughout the book in order to interpret the perceptual, structural, and ideological aspects. Youngs and Serafini, however, noted the importance of providing sufficient time and support for the students during the process of the skill development. Some supports that they found useful include providing engaging critical questions on the visual illustrations and creating a safe and supportive environment for the students to express opinions.

This study offers a great pathway for more research in the realm of children’s and young adult literature.

October 2019

Introduction by Stacia L. Long, Conference Co-Chair

I didn’t go back very far in the JoLLE archives to find Multimodal Play and Adolescents: Notes on Noticing Laughter by Dr. Dr. Lalitha Vasudevan, an associate professor at Teachers College published in 2015. I settled on this article quickly because I was drawn in by the title. Play and laughter are often things I think of in early childhood or elementary settings, but not as often with adolescent students. As an English educator, I was excited by the possibilities this article presented and thrilled when the manuscript began with laughter of young people collaborating in community centers.

Vasudevan carefully crafts an argument asserting that in spite of the restrictions, scrutiny, and violence that affects young people, teachers and researchers attend to the lives and practices of young people from a stance that appreciates their agency. In this article, she studies the multimodal play that engages secondary students in literacy spaces within and outside schools. The phrase “multimodal play,” according to Vasudevan, “calls attention to the spontaneous, ¬-unscripted, undirected, and often unpredictable interactions young people have” (2015, p. 3).
The data for this research report comes from more than a year of ethnographic fieldwork with “five, African American, middle school aged boys” outside of school in places like the community park and library. In the stories shared by Vasudevan, these youth engage in creative, joyful, play. Woven throughout the data, analysis, and discussion is the importance of creating “conditions to notice the practices of youth broadly and deeply” with a commitment to paying attention to the “those practices that hold meaning for young people themselves” (p. 10). Following Vasudevan’s lead offers up a way to refocus both theoretically and methodologically on the beautiful play and work of young people.

I hope you, too, enjoy this beautifully crafted article that revels in the pleasures adolescents have when engaging in shared and spontaneous literacy practices

September 2019

Introduction by Alexandra Lampp Berglund, Principal Editor

Published in 2013, following the very first JoLLE@UGA Winter Conference, Dr. Jenn Graff’s piece, Children’s Literature as Tools of and for Activism: Reflections of JoLLE’s Inaugural Activist Literacies Conference,simultaneously reflects on the now annual event and presents the ways that children’s literature can be both tools for and of activist thought and action. Beginning with a brief summarization of the conference that includes the theme, Activist Literacies: Inspire, Engage, Create and Transform, location, and keynote speakers, Graff’s piece immediately immerses readers in the event’s undeniable energy and passion, as attendees gathered to combat “the continual marginalization of people, culture, and ideas” (2013, p. 137). Further, as Graff shares, children’s literature implicitly and explicitly acted as a conduit for attendees of the conference to explore this marginalization and the factors that contribute to its perpetuation. To engage in this work specifically and to adopt an activist stance with children’s literature, as conference attendees did, Graff implores that readers must “consider not only who tells the story but also how the story is told and who the idealized reader is” (p. 138).

Graff then provides readers with exemplary texts that feature youth activists and activist storylines crafted by activist authors, additional narratives and works of art that work to build necessary community, and picturebooks that push against the traditional boundaries of a story. Collectively, these representations of literacy speak to the goal of “improving the lives of our communities and the world” (Graff, 2013, p. 141). As educators and students alike, the readers of JoLLE continue to work toward this objective. With the theme of Doing the Work: Moving Past What We Already Know to Enact Change in Language and Literacy Education, this year’s JoLLE@UGA Winter Conference seeks to carry on the legacy of the inaugural JoLLE@UGA Conference and its activist aims by challenging students, scholars, and teachers alike to band together to learn of the challenges found in and surrounding Pre-K-16 education and to create change in these educational spaces. Join us on January 31, 2020 through February 2, 2020, in Athens, Georgia, as we “do the work” to “inspire, engage, create, and transform” through research, dialogue, and activism.

August 2019

Introduction by Tairan Qiu, Conference Chair

Published in 2014, Students with Learning Disabilities in an Inclusive Writing Classroom presents a case study on two fourth-grade students who were classified students with learning disabilities. The article showcases the writing behaviors, processes, and growth of the two students, Julia and Tyrone. Through specific examples of the students’ writing, the authors advocate for valuing the students’ family literacies and “out-of-school multiple literacy practices” (Jacobs & Du, 2014, p. 110) to sustain what sustains them, under the pressure of standardized test preparation.

As I am preparing to teach a writing methods course for preservice teachers, I can see this article being a useful resource for my students. It not only showcases Julia and Tyrone’s work, but it also presents a variety of specific strategies for writing instructors to foster students’ out-of-school literacies. Preservice teachers could use the pedagogies presented in this article to think about what could work in their contexts to empower their students with diverse backgrounds.

July 2019

Introduction by William T. Wright, Poetry, Fiction, and Visual Arts Editor

Dr. Cole’s (2009) Mapping a Rhizomatic Ecology of Reading is now a decade old. And yet her advocacy to more meaningfully reckon with the “unpredictable and seemingly tangential” energies that readers, texts, and readings produce as they encounter one another–those which “educators might find undesirable and difficult to control” (p. 32)–is every bit as pertinent now as it was then. In our heightened era of standardization alongside recent efforts to commodify learning in privatized settings, Dr. Cole’s emphasis on the descriptive, rather than the prescriptive, elements of readerly experience serves as a refreshing testament to how and why the act of reading becomes so meaningful in the first place. Recognition of these messy, sometimes cathartic, often beautiful, forever unaccountable traces that affect us, take us up, and fundamentally alter our being and becoming in the world is something we should embrace as educators, Dr. Cole argues, not run from.

Describing her own, often deeply personal, encounters with the novel The Mermaid Chair during a graduate reading club, Dr. Cole models for readers the potential of engaging the reading experience in a rhizomatic way–that is, as an act of fluid “variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots…[one] that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 21). Such possibilities, she asserts, create the conditions necessary for new, less sanctioned forms of meaning-making to occur. While the heady philosophical strands of affect, posthumanism, and new materialism may be in vogue, Dr. Cole’s now-decade-old article nevertheless engages these ideas in accessible, heartfelt, and practical ways that JoLLE readers will find worth their while to return to, or to encounter for the first time.


Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). Introduction: Rhizome. In a thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. (Brian Massumi, Trans.). (pp. 3-25). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published 1980)

June 2019

Introduction by Maverick Y. Zhang, Communications Editor

Montero, Bice-Zaugg, Marsh, and Cummins’ (2013) piece, Activist Literacies: Validating Aboriginality Through Visual and Literary Identity Texts, documents how university researchers and high school students worked collaboratively to support Aboriginal students in making sense of their own identities and cultural heritage by constructing “identity texts” with “symbols, stories, colors and cadence with acrylic paints on canvas” (Montero, et al., 2013, p. 81). Engaging and reflective, the article also explores the possible ways in which we, as teachers and researchers, position Aboriginal students’ identities at the center of our curriculum and, in turn, reconstruct the discourses and power dynamics in traditional high school classrooms.

It is not difficult to see that this article, though published in 2013, is still very much relevant to recent cutting-edge research in critical literacy (e.g. Chun, 2019), culturally sustaining pedagogy (e.g. Harman, 2018; Paris & Alim, 2017) and multimodality (e.g. Cimasko & Shin, 2017; Siffrinn & Harman, in press) conducted at different institutions across the world. In addition, given that the research extends “the arms of research” (Montero, et al, 2013, p. 77) to interact with the public beyond the university and to engage with practical problems in communities, it also aligns with recent design-based research (Reinking & Bradley, 2008; Sandoval, 2013) studies where scholars work closely with pre-service and in-service teachers to address real-world problems both in and outside of the classroom (e.g. Moore, Schleppegrell & Palincsar, 2018). A second visit to this article is well worth readers’ time.


Chun, C. W. (2019). EAP students co-constructing alternative narratives. Classroom discursive representations of Islam and democracy. TESOL Quarterly, 53(1), 158-179.

Cimasko, T., & Shin, D. (2017). Multimodal resemiotization and authorial agency in an L2 writing classroom. Written Communication, 3(4), 387-413.

Harman, R. (2018). Critical take(s) on systemic functional linguistics: Academic literacy development, multilingualism and social equity. London, UK: Springer.

Moore, J., Schleppegrell, M., & Palinscar, A. (2018). Discovering disciplinary linguistic knowledge with English learners and their teachers: Applying systemic functional linguistics concepts through designed-based research. TESOL Quarterly, 52(4), 1022-1049.

Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Reinking, D., & Bradley, B. A. (2008). Formative and design experiments. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Sandoval, W. (2013). Conjecture mapping: An approach to systemic education design research. Journal of Learning Sciences, 19(1), 1-19.

Siffrinn, N., & Harman, R. (In press). Toward an embodied SFL pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly. 

May 2019

Introduction by Tairan Qiu, Conference Chair

As a teacher educator who teaches content area literacies to pre-service teachers, I am constantly seeking materials, activities, and opportunities to expose my students to pluralist perspectives in their teaching endeavors. I want their comfort zones and perceived boundaries to be challenged, and I want them to continually consider how to sustain the myriad cultural, linguistic, social, racial, ability, and gender backgrounds of their students.

The article, Learning In/Through Collaborative Poetry Translation: Documenting the Impact of Poetry Inside Out with High School-Aged English Language Learners, by Jie Park (2015) showcases ways pre-service teachers can use collaborative poetry translation and discussions to engage their emergent bilingual students in literacies learning. It also provides a framework for (pre-service) teachers to become involved in professional learning opportunities to meet the “challenges of standards-based reforms and accountability mandates” (Park, 2015, p. 145). This article is definitely worth a second visit!

April 2019

Introduction by Alexandra Lampp Berglund, Managing Editor

Originally published in 2009, Elizabeth’s Swaggerty’s piece, “That Just Really Knocks Me Out”: Fourth Grade Students Navigate Postmodern Picture Books, explores a then emerging nontraditional print genre, postmodern picture books, and urges JoLLE readers to think deeply about reader engagement with traditional print texts. Ten years later, Swaggerty revisits her work to reflect on the progression of postmodern picture books and speak to the possibilities associated with the medium’s use in the classroom. This Take 2 ends in a call to both educators and policy makers, as Swaggerty addresses the importance of prioritizing student-led discussions about text and the development of students’ positive reading identities through critical skills and provides ways that postmodern picture books can assist in meeting the evolving needs of our students.

A Second Look from Author Elizabeth Swaggerty
Frank Serafini’s (2005) work, Voices in the Park, Voices in the Classroom: Readers Responding to Postmodern Picture Books” inspired a focus on postmodern picture books for my dissertation research. I was intrigued by the complexities and affordances of this nontraditional picture book genre and Serafini’s success teaching intermediate grade children to read them. I wondered what would happen if successful readers navigated these books without explicit instruction or the guidance of a teacher. I spent six weeks watching eight fourth grade students navigate five postmodern picture books individually through think alouds and together in group discussions. My observations revealed the power of this genre to elicit emotional responses and catalyze critical thinking and problem solving when encountering nontraditional text elements. I learned that some students had low toleration of ambiguity and indeterminacy, a common characteristic of postmodern picture books. It was clear that they felt uncomfortable when the text did not fit into what they already knew. On the other hand, I also watched students delight in the unexpected, laugh at the absurdity, and get so excited when they problem-solved “weird things” in the stories together. The discussions about these texts were non-linear and messy, but students emerged from them with increased comprehension. In the paragraphs that follow, I revisit some of the key ideas in my original study and share my thoughts about the continued relevance of these findings.

The alternative literary and illustrative devices in postmodern picture books push the boundaries of readers’ expectations and offer unique opportunities for readers to be challenged as critical thinkers and problems solvers. Postmodern picture books’ deviation from traditional narrative structure and elements require an open and critical approach to the text and a degree of reading perseverance that helps readers push through the hard parts and not give up when the text does not fit with existing conceptions of text. Some of the students in my original study (Swaggerty, 2009) had negative reactions to the “strange things” they encountered in the texts and were turned off by them, especially upon their initial read. This brings to mind the trend in educational research related to growth mindsets (Dweck, 2006) and, in particular, grit, which Duckworth and colleagues (2007) describe as the ability to persist after setbacks. While this research is not without criticism, it can be helpful for thinking about how teachers can support students’ reactions to texts and help students understand that encountering confusing and strange things in text and problem solving when reading is part of the reading process. In other words, this is what good readers do. As texts continue to change, this message of being a curious critical thinker and problem solver when reading maintains importance.

Another important finding from my 2009 study was that students furthered their appreciation for and understanding of postmodern picture books through student-led discussion. Their conversations showed evidence of critical thinking, problem solving, analysis, and engagement. These conversations seemed to increase both understanding and enjoyment (or at least appreciation). Although there is a long track record and research base that supports student talk about text to increase comprehension (Cazden, 1988), in my observations of K-12 classrooms, this kind of authentic talk about text (not recall and retell) is not occurring regularly enough in classroom practice. Text discussions deserve significant air time in classroom instruction and non-traditional texts such as postmodern picture books are well-suited for discussion.

It was common for the students in my study to laugh, giggle, and get excited when they figured something out in these strange books they were reading. Discussions were dynamic and interactive and, at times, they were so “into” the discussion that they forgot I was there. Similarly, Harville and Franks (2015) found that sixth grade student engagement was high when they were provided the opportunity to write their own postmodern picture books: “Alisa was so anxious to get her book her leg bounced and she bit her nails until her name was called.”

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that this kind of engagement with text is being prioritized in classrooms, jeopardizing motivation to read. Students are encountering a steady stream of messages about reading that situate the activity as a chore: “You have to read for 20 minutes every night.” and “You have to take a test on it.” These messages position reading among things to dread such as taking out the trash, brushing your teeth, and picking up your room. Acknowledging the research that shows the relationship between practice and achievement, it is also important to develop lifelong readers, by fostering positive reading identities (Jones, Clarke, & Enriquez, 2010) and intrinsically motivated readers. Allowing reading motivation and engagement to take a back seat in terms of classroom instruction, despite the robust research base that supports it (e.g., Schiefele, Schaffner, Moller, & Wigfield, 2012), is a mistake we will pay dearly for as students progress through school. To develop competent readers, we must focus on reading motivation and engagement as a way to catalyze and sustain reading volume (Allington, 2014). Teachers must continue to provide interesting texts and position reading as a positive and intriguing activity.

Since publication of my article in 2009, it seems that researchers and teachers have embraced the possibilities of these non-traditional picture books in classrooms. Authors like Harville and Franks (2015) and Daugaard and Johansen (2014) conducted research with students and postmodern picture books and several other scholars contributed essays extending analysis of the postmodern picture book genre (e.g., Turner, 2014; Wu, 2014). Further research should focus on analysis of children’s responses to nontraditional texts, teachers’ implementation of the texts in their teaching, and research related to preservice teacher preparation.
There is evidence that there is increased general awareness of the genre and popularity among the public. For example, there is a postmodern picture book “shelf” with almost 100 titles on the popular social networking site for readers, GoodReads. A Google search reveals several high quality postmodern picture book lists on public library websites (e.g., Seattle Public Library) and several blog articles related to postmodern picture books (e.g., Serafini, 2014; Swaggerty, 2016).

Much of what I learned from my 2009 study is still relevant 10 years later, perhaps even more so. It is with some urgency that I type these concluding paragraphs because of my observations in both K-12 classrooms and in my preservice teacher education classrooms. With a shift toward focusing on close reading instruction (Hinchman & Moore, 2013) and an emphasis on reading for the purpose of test-taking (Schaefer, 2017), educators and policymakers are making the mistake of investing in short term reading achievement goals. On the other hand, prioritizing engaging, student-led discussions about text and the development of students’ positive reading identities will pay dividends in supporting life successful long readers.
The interactive and nonlinear nature of digital media coupled with novel print text conventions highlight the need to broaden conceptions of text and prepare children to make meaning with them. The postmodern picture book genre, in particular, continues to produce new and interesting texts and thus warrants the attention of educators and parents for its potential to encourage critical thinking, toleration of ambiguity, and generation of multiple meanings. We cannot predict what lies ahead in terms of texts, but we can model a willingness to entertain ambiguity and try something new when it comes to texts and reading. Educators must be willing to give students non-traditional texts along with the space and tools to explore them.


Allington, R. L. (2014). How reading volume affects both reading fluency and reading achievement. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(1), 95-104.

Cazden, C. B. (1988). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Daugaard, L. M., & Johansen, M. B. (2014). Multilingual children’s interaction with metafiction in a postmodern picture book. Language and Education, 28(2), 120-140. doi:10.1080/09500782.2013.786085

Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087- 1101.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House Publishing.

Harville, M., & Franks, M. (2015). Postmodern picture books: “The best thing I’ve ever done in English class”. Voices from the Middle, 23(2), 62-68. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/docview/1749281482?accountid=10639

Hinchman, K., & Moore, D. (2013). Close reading: A cautionary interpretation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(6), 441-450. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41827875

Jones, S., Clarke, L. W., & Enriquez, G. (2010). The reading turn-around. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Schaefer, M. B. (2017). Middle‐Grades students’ understandings of what it means to Read in a High‐Stakes environment. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 61(3), 247-256. doi:10.1002/jaal.689

Schiefele, U., Schaffner, E., Moller, J., & Wigfield, A. (2012). Dimensions of reading motivation and their relation to reading behavior and competence. Reading Research Quarterly, 47(4), 427-463. doi:10.1002/RRQ.030

Serafini, F. (2005). Voices in the park, voices in the classroom: Readers responding to postmodern picture books. Reading Research and Instruction, 44(3), 47-64.

Serafini, F. (2014). Top ten list: Favorite postmodern picture books. Retrieved from https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/top-ten-list-favorite-postmodern-picture-books-by-frank-serafini/

Swaggerty, E. A. (2016). Seven reasons postmodern picture books are awesome. Retrieved from http://elizabethswaggerty.com/7-reasons-postmodern-picture-books-are-awesome/

Turner, C. (2014). Opening the portal: An exploration of the use of postmodern picture books to develop critical literacy and contribute to learning in the Australian curriculum: English. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 22(1), 52-61.

Wu, S. (2014). Negotiation of narratives in postmodern picture book. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(4), 806-810. doi:10.4304/tpls.4.4.806-810

March 2019

Introduction by Eun Young Yeom, Children’s and Young Adult Literature Editor

In this self-reflective paper, Creating Connections in Foreign Language Education: A Teacher’s Perspective, Judson Bridges (2008) critically examines the role of teaching and learning a foreign language in this globalized society in which the concept of distinctive citizenship continues to blur. As a former EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher in Korea, many of the problems the author pointed out and the suggestions she made actually spoke to me in many aspects: Korean EFL classrooms have been also plagued with reductive views on language teaching and learning – emphasizing scores and grammar lessons without considering real-life contexts. Although teaching and learning a foreign language is supposed to foster global aspects of the world and to nurture so-called global awareness within students, foreign language learning and teaching often ends up pursuing utilitarian purposes – generating positive consequences such as higher scores and a certificate that is prerequisite for college entrance exam. However, it must be taken into consideration that a language itself carries ideologies and cultures of a particular country in which the target language is spoken. Based on her empirical experiences as a Spanish teacher in the U.S., the author also reasserts that foreign language teaching/learning can reap further benefits if teaching practices are geared toward improving cultural and global awareness by incorporating authentic cultural aspects of the target culture. In this way, foreign language teaching and learning can meet teenagers’ wider educational needs in addition to functional language learning needs.

February 2019

Introduction by Stacia L. Long, Principal Editor

As an English teacher who loves picturebooks and incorporated them into my lessons, units, and classroom library, I understand how the seemingly simple act of reading aloud can be a complex act that leads to generative thinking for both the reader and the listeners. Teachers, however, need to be strategic about how they present picturebooks and use a variety of questioning strategies to invite conversations around these texts. This month for the Take 2 feature, we encourage readers to revisit an article that inspires readers to sit longer with books and to reread texts for deeper reading experiences and richer understandings.

In their 2008 article The Challenge of Moving Beyond the Literal in Literature Discussions, Frank Serafini and Sophie M. Ladd explore the ways that elementary school students respond to picturebooks as multimodal texts and read alouds as textual experiences. This article builds on data from a third-grade classroom that explores students’ responses to three different read alouds and offers up possibilities for what may move read alouds into inferential, interpretive, and imaginative terrain.

January 2019

Introduction by Kate C. Batson, Scholars Speak Out Editor

In Literacy and Second Language Intervention for Adult Hebrew Second Language (HSL) Learners, Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein (2011) posits that the various factors that affect second language acquisition, such as motivation, age, cognitive abilities, and cultural differences, must be taken into account when developing curriculum for learners with different backgrounds. When second language institutions do not address these factors and target group needs as they develop curriculum, the author argues that students enrolled in these institutions will have little success in their language acquisition endeavors. As an example of this issue, the author presents to the reader the Ulpan institute in Israel, a Hebrew language teaching institution that offered intensive HSL courses—focused on Israeli history and culture instead of basic skills needed to function in society—to Ethiopian immigrants, many of whom were semi-literate or non-literate students. The students were not successful in acquiring Hebrew, and the author argues that the above described mismatch, “may be one obstacle explaining why they could not acquire the language: they were engaged in survival activities, and the teachers were busy instilling the values of the Israeli culture” (p. 80). Thus, Fanta-Vagenshtein provides an alternative model for teaching Hebrew as a second language, in which all course materials, class meeting hours, and designated class location were developed in collaboration with Ethiopian immigrants. Implementing the course model with 60 participants—all Ethiopian immigrants—the author found that students made significant progress, not only in terms of first and second language proficiency, but also in the areas of self-worth, motivation, and self-confidence.

Examining the intersection between immigration and education is still very much relevant today, especially considering the recent emphasis placed on immigration within larger national debates. The revisiting of Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein’s piece provides a timely reminder of how educators can adjust their teaching approaches to meet the various needs of immigrants attempting to integrate into a new society.

December 2018

Introduction by Merida Lang, Production Editor

The primary assertion of Dr. Amy Vetter and Dr. Hungerford Kresser’s 2014 piece, We Gotta Change First’: Racial Literacy in a High School English Classroom, is as relevant today as it was four years ago: classroom teachers must engage in discussions concerning race and racism. In order to learn how to facilitate conversations with students that are helpful and not harmful, the authors suggest learning from the youth by, “examining peer group conversations could provide insight into how high school students engage in racial literacy practices independent from adult supervision” (p. 83). Their goal is to help develop students and teachers who “[address] race in ways that recognize race as a structural rather than individual problem, views debates with a democratic context, understands that racial identities are learned, and facilitates problem-solving within the community” (p. 84). Through a study of a group of students engaging in racial literacy discussions in an 11th grade honors English class, the authors examined the powerful role that students play in creating community and impactful dialogue around issues of race and racism.

November 2018

Introduction by Alexandra Lampp Berglund, Managing Editor

Calling upon both theorists and practitioners, Sally L. Humphrey invites readers to “attend to the literacy practices and counter-practices of those seeking to bring about social change, including social activists within our own schools and communities” (2013, p. 115). Although written in 2013, Empowering Adolescents for Activist Literacies presents pedagogical strategies that are meaningful in classrooms today where students are speaking out to make change in their own communities through protests, marches, and walkouts. Through the analyses of texts and contexts to develop a repertoire of semiotic resources, Humphrey shares how together students and teachers can “challenge dominant images of adolescents as problematic and disengaged and their literacies as superficial” (p. 130).

October 2018

Introduction by Lacy D. Brice, Academic Book Review Editor

In Courageous Conversations: Inviting Valued Texts into the Classroom, Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak (2011) share their action research with preservice teachers engaging in a developmental reading class for adolescents. Framed around the notion that intrinsic motivation is a foundation for engaged reading, the authors encourage “teachers to invite students to make visible what they value through both texts and topics” (p. 2). They remind teachers to find what is meaningful to their students in order to encourage courageous conversations and autonomous learning in a multimodal world.

A second look from authors Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak

Revisiting “Courageous Conversations: Inviting Valued Texts into the Classroom” illuminates for us–again–questions that preservice teachers continue to ask in our current methods courses. We notice that our thinking about these questions has evolved. Therefore, we affirm that we encourage our preservice teachers to trust their future students and build in opportunities to explore texts that go beyond those within the packaged curriculum programs. In the years since this article, we explicitly advocate for students’ choice of texts brought into classroom communities.

To do so, we must articulate that preservice teachers wear two hats: they are students and classroom teachers (while they are in the field placements).  Our preservice teachers pose questions similar to that in the article: “Is it more important for teachers to find texts that students will like or is it more important for teachers to select literature that will broaden students’ ways of thinking and challenge them to make connections?” (p. 1).  In the article, we asked: “How do we, as educators, peek into the issues and topics about which our students are passionate? How do we arrange reading experiences using valued texts?”  But now, we urge preservice teachers to unpack–both deliberately and publicly–their own experiences as students while completing the thematic project and to forecast what these could look like in their future classrooms.

Shanetia and Barb have adapted this project and exploration of values and valued texts with early, elementary, and secondary preservice teachers.  Our courageous conversations are anchored in texts.  We challenge our preservice to expand the definitions of valued texts in their future classrooms. At this time, Shanetia teaches elementary creative arts and literacy methods courses and Barb teaches secondary content area reading methods course.  Shanetia’s students are preparing to teach grades PreK-6. In the following sections, we share how “Courageous Conversations: Inviting Valued Texts into the Classroom” has impacted our current work with preservice teachers.

Shanetia. The first set of literacy methods courses in the early and elementary education program includes “Integrating Aesthetic Experiences Into Teaching And Learning.” This course is grounded in theory of aesthetic education and seeks to authentically integrated the creative arts—drama, music, visual arts, and dance—into the classroom. The students and I use aesthetic experiences to create and demonstrate meaning. Fundamentally, I urge my students to go beyond paper and pencil tests for their future students. Yet, the same tensions exist. They attempt to “[retreat] to what they had experienced in the past[;] some expressed doubt that they could or should include various forms of texts in their future classrooms” (p. 4).  These preservice teachers expressed anger that their mentor teachers were forced to read books which are included in pedagogically insufficient curriculum packages and were “usually boring.” They know that young people are capable of engaging with texts and topics in meaningful ways, and once they experience this project, they realize the potential of their future students.

Just as the project described in the original article, the preservice teachers had to articulate why they sequenced the studied texts, how were they sequenced, and what reading strategies and activities were selected to teach.  In this current iteration of the cumulative theme project deliberately pushes preservice teachers to move beyond print-based texts and illuminate the aesthetic texts.  The first two of the six to eight anchor texts must be a piece of visual art, a dramatic arts, music, or dance.  The rest may come other types of texts.

Barb. Like my partner, Dr. Clark, I require (yes, require) my secondary education students to think and explore beyond all things paper and pencil—tests, quizzes, worksheets, etc. “Courageous Conversations: Inviting Valued Texts into the Classroom” lives on at Mount St. Mary’s University in my “Literacy in the Content Area” course. I average 20-25 secondary  MAT students every fall. The students are from a wide variety of disciplines including mathematics, English, special studies, business, art, music and world languages. Throughout the semester, we discuss topics such as the socio-cultural underpinnings of literacy in secondary classrooms, culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP), new/digital literacies, strategic literacy instruction, and note taking. Text for this unit includes videos, peer-reviewed research, and podcasts from the Race Card Project (Race Card Project, National Public Radio, 2018).

All of these requirements prepare the students to work in collaborative, interdisciplinary groups. This semester-long collaboration invites students to select a topic, explore it from a variety if perspectives, and then prepare and present a mini-unit for adolescents. This unit is theirs to own with only two “rules” from me. The groups must be interdisciplinary (i.e.–all the history teachers cannot put themselves in the same group) and they must define text broadly to include traditional forms (books, periodicals, etc.) as well as web resources, podcasts, video, and images.

I afford the groups time to collaborate face to face every week. As they negotiate the mini-unit, the students are invited  to respond to a wide variety of texts using evidence-based methods. We do question writing, I-Searches, text impressions, mind mapping, and response heuristics. But without a doubt, for years, the most courageous conversations have occurred around  six-word essays penned during our discussion of this newly created units. The six-word essays conclude this topic. The essays are recorded on a whiteboard wall. We do a gallery walk, ponder and talk. This reflection is often marked by long periods of silence, quiet whispers, and sometimes tears. The discussion is always insightful, heartfelt, and transformational. I will continue to include valued texts in my “Literacy in the Content Area” course because, without them, courageous conversations are impossible.

Final Thoughts

We wrote “Courageous Conversations: Inviting Valued Texts into the Classroom” with the intention of opening pathways for ways teachers and students to build community.  This article focused on how our preservice teachers engaged with texts–novels, short stories, poetry, music, films, art, etc.–that centered around an important theme. What we realize and seek to name is the fact our past and current preservice teachers share with us, their professors and with each other, themes and ideas that are, in fact, important to them.  This exploration enables all of us to gain an important peek into our students’ lives.

September 2018

Introduction by Stacia L. Long, Principal Editor

The roles that graduate students take on in their Ph.D. programs as a part of their assistantships are vital to their departments. This is seen in Ph.D. students’ work with undergraduate teacher education and teacher preparation programs. In the article T.A. as Text, Cheryl McLean (2006) writes about her experience as a teaching assistant and the identity, teaching, and learning work that she engaged in as a T.A. Written thoughtfully and reflexively, McLean walks the reader through a question from a preservice teacher that led her to think critically about the role of a teaching assistant. She explores how being a T.A. positions her to “bridge the gap” between students and teachers in ways that will benefit the learning community. As we become immersed in the new semester, we invite readers (particularly graduate students) to revisit Cheryl McLean’s article as a part of our Take 2 feature.

July 2018

Introduction by Caroline Bedingfield, Communications Editor

Andrea Pinatone Neher discusses literacy coaches and their importance in her 2007 article Wading Through It: Balancing Opposing Tensions Via Effective Literacy Coaching. She reflects on how her work with her school’s reading coach in 2007 impacted her pedagogy and how one can guide their professional learning to reflect on the standards and create a curriculum that is best for the educators and students of the school. Adapting to policy change in education may not be easy, but literacy coaches are paramount in leading their fellow educators to overcome the centripetal tensions that surface in the face of “unexpected shifts over which teachers [have] little control” when they spark dialogue between educators and guide professional development (Neher, 2007, p. 65).

May 2018

Introduction by Caroline Bedingfield, Communications Editor

Roberta Gardner’s 2008 article titled Providing Windows for Minority Readers dives into the pool of literature available to young non-minoritized readers and the visibility of diverse people in the literature they read. She examines children’s literature and how one can introduce the diversity of society in a library curriculum she creates as the Early Learning Librarian of an “independent progressive school” where only 20% of its students are people of color. She discusses strategies like role-play, discussion, and other expression-based activities where her students are able to address concepts regarding diversity, like justice, culture, and equality. Dr. Gardner even discusses using anthropomorphic literature for her younger students to teach tolerance when her students face someone difference than themselves. With its rich examples of literature to teach and strategies to use in the classroom, this article is our featured Take 2 article because its themes are just as important today as they were ten years ago. As we continue to research diversity in education and strive to create better systems to have equality in education, research like Dr. Gardner’s is essential reading for educators who strive to incorporate a more inclusive curriculum into their school.

April 2018

Introduction by T. Hunter Strickland, Conference Chair

In Cynthia Anne McCleod’s 2008 Voices from the Field article, Class Discussions: Locating Social Class in Novels for Children and Young Adults, the author examines the role of social class in the literature given to her students in both her language arts class and through their school media center. Using a critical lens to examine how the role of class is often left out of discussions on children’s literature, McCleod examines a gap in the research that she found that she felt needed to be attended to in scholarship while sharing practical texts for teachers to use to address class with their students. This article is deserving of this month’s Take 2 because it gives us a chance to examine how far we have come in both the literature given to children and young adults, but also the types of research that we are continuing to do in our field to address social class ten years later. It also allows students and researchers new to children’s literature to examine texts that they can bring into their classrooms or use as foundational pieces as they study more. The hope of this article was to show how children’s and young adult literature provide a perfect space for dialogue with students and teachers about social class in their schools and in their lives.

March 2018

Introduction by Sharon M. Nuruddin, Poetry, Fiction, and Visual Arts Editor

As a teaching assistant and university supervisor of world language pre-service teachers, I am inspired by my students’ eagerness to share their passion for language learning, and they strive to implement culturally relevant pedagogy that will motivate their students to become both competent in the language, and aware of social and political issues that affect the L1 speakers of those languages. Over the years, my classroom has been filled with teachers who represent Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Latin, and ESoL language education. In addition to learning from their instructors, it is vital that they learn from the experiences of teachers in the field, and each is paired with a seasoned cooperating teacher who mentors them during the certification process. As learning from in-service teachers is a vital component for aspiring language educators, this Voices from the Field piece can foster rich discussion on the successes, challenges, and hopes of language educators. Here, Judson Bridges, 2003 Gwinnett County (Georgia) Teacher of the Year, shares his insight into how student-centered K-12 language programs can inspire life-long study, and support the acquiring of other subject matter—such as social studies. His “main focus…is to hook [his] students with the idea that language learning is fun, possible, useful, and necessary,” and affirms that it “create[s] students, or citizens, who are tolerant of others, able to compete on the world stage, and represent our country with a less ethnocentric view of the world” (Bridges, 2008, p. 93). I invite you to revisit this piece, Creating Connections in Foreign Language Education: A Teacher’s Perspective, published in Volume 4, Issue 1.

February 2018

Introduction by Alexandra Lampp Berglund, Production Editor

Storytime is an integral part of every preschool classroom. This portion of each school day is an opportunity for everyone in class to come together, sit down at a communal area, and immerse themselves in a book. Shared reading creates lasting impacts in students’ reading lives, as children learn, grow, and imagine with every turn of the page. Karen Kindle’s (2011) piece Same Book, Different Experience: A Comparison of Shared Reading in Preschool Classrooms demonstrates the influence this experience has on students and how this time is largely shaped by teachers’ beliefs and instructional decisions.

Kindle highlights the boundless benefits of shared reading, and notes that, while the advantages are many, there is no one agreed upon method of this practice. With endless variations of teaching style, the outcome experienced by students also differs. Kindle’s work investigates the shared reading practices in four classrooms and unearths the key for shared reading success. Teachers must read to their students with both intentionality and purpose.

The International Literacy Association annually publishes a “What’s Hot in Literacy Report,” and this year’s record shows that early literacy is currently the most important topic in literacy debates around the world. Today, educators across the globe understand and acknowledge the importance of early literacy. While research concerning early literacy and the knowledge of its impact continue to expand, the issues regarding shared reading practices addressed in Kindle’s work, published seven years ago, still remain relevant.


International Literacy Association. (2018). What’s hot in literacy report. Newark, DE.

January 2018

Introduction by Mariah Copeland Parker, Academic Book Review Editor

In 2012, we published Jacqueline B. Koonce’s “Oh, Those Loud Black Girls!”: A Phenomenological Study of Black Girls Talking with an Attitude. Koonce’s sophisticated examination of the experience of Talking with Attitude in school settings shines a light upon a particular kind of student-teacher disconnect but as well evidences the phenomenology’s power to help us close such gaps. Her exploration begins with a journey through her own African American adolescence; Koonce teases apart the nuances of class and gender that heat interactions between young black women, and along the way, Koonce herself notes how a lack of understanding of attitude’s uses among young Black girls  may be a deterrent to reaching them, even for educators like herself who identify with such students in race and gender but not in age.

I bring us back to this piece now for two reasons. First, it’s been a wild year for Black America, a year in which white supremacists drive cars into crowds of protesters, on the one hand, and films like Get Out masterfully humanize the struggle to be young, Black and well-understood, on the other. I think phenomenology has a special power to hold up into the light what this is like, not just what it seems, and this is critical for bridging divides in a time where our society feels ever more polarized. Thus Koonce’s piece is a profound mentor text for those not simply interested in dissecting or categorizing but sitting with and absorbing the experiences of students of color–or any group of students, for that matter–and one that demands attention even six years later.

December 2017

Introduction by Alexandra Lampp Berglund, Production Editor

“Can’t we all just be humans?” asks a student.

A classmate immediately responds, “No, we can’t. Because when I walk into a store, people will treat me differently than when your son goes in. The owner will watch me as if I’m going to steal something. The guards sometimes even follow me around. The white women will hold on to their purses as if I were going to snatch them. And what have I done? Nothing. Just because I’m black, that’s all.”

Pamela Pan’s Integrating Diversity and Cultural Education into Literacy, originally published in 2006, begins with a powerful vignette featuring a heated debate on race had by the students in her writing class. Her students raise the same concerns on racial and cultural issues that are still voiced today, eleven years later. In her piece, Pan explores ways to incorporate diversity into her teaching by using literacy as a means to explore issues similar to those posed in the opening discussion. She shares these steps with the readers of JoLLE.

By first determining a teacher’s integral role in the navigation of multiculturalism in the classroom, Pan presents ways that teachers have handled diversity in the past, ranging from hands-off approaches and lack of attention to the gradual incorporation we see today. Next, recognizing and becoming familiar with students’ different cultural backgrounds is key, as is revising school curriculum to incorporate these cultures. Pan cites that including diverse texts in your classroom library is a way to start this revision of content, and she suggests favorite titles such as House on Mango Street, Black Boy, and Goodbye Vietnam.

These steps are a guide for teachers to begin to integrate diversity into their literacy and writing instruction. This incorporation of multiculturalism into literacy can, in turn, make literacy a path to empowerment. How can we continue to foster transformative discussions on race and culture, like the one featured in Pan’s piece? What are other ways to make the changes needed to empower our students?

November 2017

Introduction by Stacia Long, Children’s and Young Adult Literature Editor

I read Patrick Shannon’s Broken Promises: Reading Instruction in Twentieth-Century America (1988) in my first semester as a master’s student, and it was a book that I returned to often. Broken Promises offered up a model of how to be deeply and powerfully critical of problems in education, while also offering up a vision of resistance and change that feels possible. Reading through the JoLLE archives, I was excited for the opportunity to read Shannon’s 2005 article Wondering about NCLB.

In his article, Shannon unpacked what the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) meant from the context of his son’s high achieving school district, and then moved to critique the way the reform act would heavily affect instruction throughout the country. In addition to addressing key concerns about this policy, Shannon also examined the beliefs, values, and goals that went into its creation. Shannon ended the article by proposing the idea that NCLB was not the problem, but “rather it is the political ideologies being realized through the law that is the threat. It is neoliberal and conservative conceptions of the world and our places in it that must be defeated” (p. 30).

NCLB has been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is in full effect for the 2017-2018 school year. Shannon has written an update to his article from 2005 for this, which reflects on what has happened in his own life, the country, and education since the publication of his article in 2005. The article ends with a call to action that I hope you find meaningful as you work towards more socially just education policies.

A second look from author Patrick Shannon, Ph.D., Penn State University

Much has changed since 2005. I don’t receive the local school district’s bulletin any longer because our son works in Michigan as a digital games producer for Trendy Entertainment in Gainesville FL. Diane Ravitch has apparently changed her mind from when she wrote, “Americans must recognize that we need national standards, national tests, and a national curriculum” (2005). And Donald Trump has a different job, but possesses the same mindset he expressed in a conversation with Billy Bush about gender and power on the set of “Days of Our Lives” (Fahrenthold, 2016). Unfortunately, the values encoded in federal education policy have not changed very much, nor have its outcomes (Mathis & Trujillo, 2016).

In 2005, I attempted to demonstrate how federal education policy influenced the daily practices and outcomes around reading education by analyzing the bulletin from a local, very successful, school district. I showed how failure was preordained, and I identified early tactics of exclusion and tracking that administrators were using to defend themselves against the policy consequences for “failure.” I worked from Prunty’s (1985) notion that policy is the “authoritative allocation of values” requiring an understanding of how power works. Cuban (2010) later paraphrased that notion: “A policy is both a hypothesis and an argument that a particular action should be taken to solve a problem. That action however has to be politically acceptable and economically feasible.”

Despite politicians’, businessmen’s and pundits’ rhetoric that school reform was/is necessary to sustain (regain?) US economic hegemony in the world, I argued that NCLB cobbled together an explicit combination of neo-conservative (discipline for students and teachers through world class standards and testing), neoliberal (emphasis on market competition to bring efficiency and results) and liberal (equity of opportunity) values in order to achieve implicit conservative goals (local control of social hierarchies). That is, through NCLB, schools would “scientifically” identify groups that could not benefit from continued schooling, and thereby, justify existing political, economic and social hierarchies.

Accordingly, schools were to devise curricula to meet federally approved state standards using scientifically based pedagogies, ensuring “adequate yearly progress” toward all students being measured as proficient by 2014. The public could evaluate local, regional, and national performance through cost/benefit analyses using students’ academic test scores disaggregated by race, income, ability, and language. I take no pleasure in noting that the argument held throughout the last thirteen years. Mathius & Trujillo (2016) confirm as much when writing about the reauthorization of NCLB as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.

From a teacher’s point of view, the new law continues the basic operations and principles of the previous law. It is fundamentally a test driven, top-down, remediate and penalize law. However, the ‘assistance’ and sanctions will depend on the state. (pg. 667)

Between 2005 and ESSA, reading education experienced:

-Scandal concerning reading education materials (Grunwald, 2006);

-Widespread, systemic cheating on reading tests (Guisbond, 2012);

-Collapse of the Reading First Initiative (Gamse et al., 2008);

-Large variation in definitions of “proficiency” among states (Loveless, 2012);f

-Larger variation in school outcomes within states (Loveless, 2012);

-Race To The Top incentives for states to adopt common standards, to tie teacher and administrator evaluations to student test scores, and to expand competition through charter schools (Shannon, 2014); and

-Common Core Standards promises to restate authority of text meaning, to articulate pathways to proficiency, and to bring innovation through a national school market (Coleman, 2010; Gates, 2009; Obama, 2010; Shannon, 2017a).

But we did not witness a significant increase in students’ reading test scores at any level (Education Trust, 2015), changes in the US ranking of global education systems (Carnoy & Rothstein, 2013), or the closing of achievement gaps among demographic groups for reading education in the United States (Reardon, 2011).

It should be clear that the hypothesized solution and argument of NCLB/ESSA cannot address, let alone solve, the politically chosen problem of producing higher levels of reading proficiency among all American K-12 students (in order to sustain the position of the US in the global economy). Yet we persist. Prunty and Cuban would argue that it is the relative power of conservative, neoconservative, and neoliberal political values that impair our abilities to frame the reading education problem confronting us. Using income inequality as their example, Berliner (2009) and Carnoy and Rothstein have demonstrated that the fundamental problem with our schools is that we have two American systems – one for the upper income students and another for students from low income families (but now reaching up into middle classes). Ironically, they use international test score data to support their conclusion – American students of all economic classes score higher than their international counterparts; however, our international ranking remains in the middle of the pack because we tolerate higher levels of child and youth poverty than any other developed nation. That is, our public schooling, reading education policies, and official reading education practices (re)produce historical inequalities.

If these theorists and researchers are correct, and I think they are (Shannon, 2014), then we must reorient our policies and work in and out of schools around political values that accept and act on the radical democratic interpretation of the equal moral worth of all people. Justice requires social arrangements that permit all to participate as peers in social life (Fraser, 2009). That means school and reading education reform must dismantle the institutionalized barriers that prevent some groups from participating as full partners. We have 130 years of examples of American teachers engaging in such struggles (Shannon, 2017b). Three ways we might join their efforts are:  1) to democratize the negotiations surrounding the constructs of readings’ definition, development, and indicators (Calfee, 2014; Eppley & Shannon, 2017), 2) to challenge the scaling up of evidence-based practices with inside out flows of practice-based evidence (Bryk, 2015; Erickson, 2014), and 3) to join with radical democratic activist groups working to dismantle institutional barriers to participatory parity outside of schools.


Berliner, D. (2009). Poverty and potential:  Out of school factors and school success. Boulder, CO:  National Education Policy Center. Retrieved 10/17  http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/poverty-and-potential

Bryk, A. (2015). Accelerating how we learn to improve. Education Researcher, 44, 467-477.

Calfee, R. (2014). Knowledge, evidence and faith:  How the federal government used science to take over public schools. In K. Goodman, R. Calfee & Y. Goodman (Eds.)  Whose Knowledge Counts in Government Literacy Policies?  New York, NY:  Routledge.

Carnoy, M. & Rothstein, R. (2013, January 28). What do international tests really show about U. S. student performance?  Education Policy Institute. Retrieved 10/17 http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/

Coleman, D. (2010, August 4). ELA standards of the Common Core State Standards. Retrieved 10/17  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2irErT8VN0

Cuban, L. (2010, July 25). Common core standards:  Hardly an evidence based policy. Larry Cuban on school reform and classroom practice. Retrieved 10/17 https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/common-core-standards-hardly-an-evidence-based-policy/

Education Trust. (2015, October 28). The nation’s report card 2015:  NAEP results ‘sobering.”  The Education Trust. Retrieved 10/17 https://edtrust.org/news/the-nations-report-card-2015/

Eppley, K. & Shannon, P. (2017). Practice-based evidence:  Intelligent action inquiry for complex problems. Literacy Research  Theory, Methods & Practice, 66. Retrieved 10/17 http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2381336917719685

Erickson, F. (2014, Februry 17). Scaling down:  A modest proposal for practice based policy research in teaching. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22. Retrieved 10/17  http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1473

Fahrenthold, D. (2016, October 8). Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005. Washington Post. Retrieved 10/17  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?utm_term=.4e3dc3c12d9a

Fraser, N. (2009). Scales of Justice: Reimagining political space in a globalized world. New York: Polity.

Gamse, B. et al. (2008). Reading first impact study:  Final report. US Department of Education. Retrieved 10/17  https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pdf/20094038.pdf

Gates, B. (2009, September 21).. Address to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved 10/17  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtTK_6VKpf4

Grunwald,  (2006, October 1). Billions for an inside game on reading. Washington Post. Retrieved 10/17  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/29/AR2006092901333.html

Guisbond, L. (2012, January). NCLB’s lost decade of educational progress. Boston, MA:  FairTest. Retrieved 10/17  http://fairtest.org/sites/default/files/NCLB_Report_Final_Layout.pdf

Loveless, T. (2012, February 16). Brown center report on American education. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution). Retrieved 10/17  https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-2012-brown-center-report-on-american-education/

Mathius, W. & Trujillo, T.. (Eds).. (2016).. Learning from the federal market-based reforms.. Charlotte, NC:. Information Age Publishing.

Obama, B. (2010, February 22). Address to National Governors Association. Washington DC. Retrieved  10/17  https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/22/remarks-president-national-governors-association-reception

Prunty, J. (1985). Signpost for a critical educational policy analysis. Australian Journal of Education, 29. Retrieved 10/17  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/000494418502900205?journalCode=aeda

Ravitch, D. (2005, November 7). Every state left behind. New York Times. Retrieved 10/17  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/07/opinion/every-state-left-behind.html?_r=0

Reardon, S. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between rich and poor. In G. Duncan & R. Murnane  (Eds.)  Whither opportunity?  Rising inequality, schools, and children’s life chances. New York:  Russell Sage Foundation.

Shannon, P. (2014). Reading Poverty in America. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Shannon, P. (2017). Progressive Reading Instruction in America. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Shannon, P. (2017). Common Core Standards. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Retrieved 10/17 http://education.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190264093.001.0001/acrefore-9780190264093-e-316

October 2017

Introduction by Tairan Qiu, Scholars Speak Out Editor

In 2008, Dr. Jason Goulah wrote an article titled Transforming world language learning: An approach for environmental and cultural sustainability and economic and political security in response to the Modern Language Association’s report, “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World” (2007). In that article, he advocated for transformative language teaching and learning to meet the desperate needs of preserving environment and culture sustainability, and economic and political security. We invite JoLLE readers to take a second look at Dr. Goulah’s article and to read his discussion on how his opinions have shifted or remained the same over the past nine years. With vast changes in the natural and political environment in our world nowadays, it is even more important for not just language teachers, but every citizen to consider how and where language education stands as it moves into the Anthropocene.

A second look from author Jason Goulah, Ph.D., DePaul University

My sincere thanks to Tairan Qiu for the kind invitation to write a Take Two for my article “Transformative World Language Learning: An Approach for Environmental and Cultural Sustainability and Economic and Political Security,” published in Journal of Literacy and Language Education in 2008. In the article, I responded to the Modern Language Association’s report, “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World” (2007) by arguing for an explicit and interdisciplinary transformative world language learning approach toward environmental and cultural sustainability and economic and political security. I drew on Edmund O’Sullivan’s (1999) perspective of transformative learning, which seeks to foster a new cosmology (or worldview), ecological selfhood, understanding of quality of life issues, and spirituality as key curricular content objectives to foster transformed attitudes and actions from those currently developed by a national language “policy” promulgated by militarism, monetarism, and materialism. I also offered recommendations for higher education to take a leadership role in effecting a transformative world language learning approach.

Nine years after the JoLLE article, I’m conflicted. On one hand, I’m dismayed by the worsening conditions—what I then called the “nexus of destruction”—that prompted my article. I’m also concerned that the field of world language education, including ACTFL’s 2016 World Readiness Standards, continues largely to ignore these conditions. On the other hand, I’m encouraged by developments in various other language-related fields that resonate with my article, if not explicitly informed by it.

Worsening Conditions Since 2008

On the first point, the conditions that informed my article are the intersecting forces of extreme climate volatility, accelerated species and biodiversity loss, resource conflicts, health and energy insecurity, environmental migration and ethno-racism, global monoculturalism and linguicide, and a profound transformation of land use. These conditions are characteristic of what is increasingly called the Anthropocene, or the “age of Man.” The Anthropocene is the proposed name for a new geological epoch signifying the period when human activities began to significantly impact Earth’s geology and ecosystems (Steffen, Grinevald, Crutzen, & McNeill, 2011). The significance is that this epoch redefines human beings as a geological force shaping Earth’s future. Indeed, this is a “changed world.”

As I write this, at the end of September 2017, the past 30 days alone have witnessed three record-breaking—“apocalyptic”—Atlantic hurricanes, Harvey, Irma, and María. Harvey rained 64” on Jefferson County, breaking the world record, and Irma was the longest sustained category 5 hurricane on record. María’s 150-mph winds and tens of inches of rain bore down on Puerto Rico (and other islands) mere days after Hurricane Irma left the island with at least 16 dead and thousands without homes. After María, nearly half the population lacks drinking water, food, and power; people are sick with diarrhea and have no medicine. Millions of residents struggle to rebuild as FEMA assistance and a broader federal response are slow going.

While these hurricanes and “freak” floods in Japan and Italy in the summer of 2017 garnered extensive media coverage, other instances of “natural” disasters from extreme climate volatility in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and India have largely been ignored. We’ve witnessed increased heat waves, increased wild fires, increased droughts, and increased numbers of increasingly severe earthquakes, such as the three that recently hit Mexico with magnitudes of 6.1, 7.1, and 8.1 (followed by volcanic eruption).

My JoLLE article used Japanese language and culture as an object lesson in curriculum theorizing and practice through a transformative lens. Two years after the article, the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 brought a trifecta of a 9.1 undersea megathrust earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, resulting in 15,894 deaths, 6,152 injured, and 2,562 people missing across twenty prefectures. Over a million buildings were completely destroyed, partially collapsed, or damaged. Roughly 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water.

In all of these occurrences, hundreds of thousands were displaced, forced to live away from their homes in temporary housing or permanent relocation. This dislocation is the growing phenomenon of so-called “climate refugees.” It warrants noting, however, that while “refugee” is a legally delimited term affording political rights and regulations, “climate refugee” does not fall within this category, so the environmentally displaced have no legally or politically binding recourse for relocation or resettlement. Miller’s (2017) book Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security brings this intersection of extreme climate instability and displacement together with the intersection of undocumented border crossing and the government’s environmentally sustainable practices used in the “lethality” of homeland security.

But what does all of this have to do with language education?

Developments in the Field

The above conditions and intersections—what Latour (2017) calls the “New Climate Regime”—are the type of nodal points my article encourages us to identify in reconceptualizing culture and language education as we careen into the Anthropocene. At such a radical turn in the histories of Earth and humanity, we must reckon with our own socio-cultural and socio-ecological perspectives, practices, and products, as well as those of the Other. The Anthropocene thus compels the field of language education to examine how such events are implicated in language and culture, and to reconsider not just what and how we teach in world language (and ESL and bilingual) classrooms, but why. Put differently, what are the evident, transforming, and emerging literacies and semiotics of the changing biosphere? What is the impact on “culture” in language classrooms as the Anthropocene collapses the boundaries between Human and Nature and between Culture and Nature? And how must global citizenship be conceptualized now at the dawn of the Anthropocene? These are the questions my article continues to ask us to consider.

The current U.S. President withdrew the nation from the Paris Climate Accord. His appointee to head the Environmental Protection Agency is a climate change denier who called for eliminating the agency and sued it 13 times as Oklahoma’s attorney general. We cannot wait for such an administration to issue policies to effectively address the new climate regime; the necessity for bottom-up transformative approaches across the curriculum is even clearer now than in 2008. Fortunately, developments in language-related fields suggest a movement in this this direction, including in language education (Küchler, 2017), ecolinguistics (Fill & Penz, 2017), applied linguistics (Pennycook, 2016, 2017), communications (Fløttum, 2017), and translation theory (Cronin, 2016), among others. Using different frameworks from posthumanism to critical ecofeminism, from Marx to Foucault, this emerging body of literature echoes themes and theorizing present in my JoLLE article—and in the many related others I published before and since (e.g., Goulah, 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c, 2010a, 2010b, 2011, 2012, 2017). My recent work in this area explores the role of Eastern philosophies and pedagogies, particularly those of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871 – 1944) and Daisaku Ikeda (b. 1928), as a font for exploration and creative coexistence as language education moves into the Anthropocene. The world has changed, so should our thinking about what language education must become.


Cronin, M. (2016). Eco-translation: Translation and ecology in the age of the Anthropocene. London, UK: Routledge.

Fill, A. F., & Penz, H. (Eds.). (2017). The Routledge handbook of ecolinguistics. New York, NY: Routledge.

Fløttum, K. (Ed.). (2017). The role of language in the climate change debate. New York: Routledge.

Goulah, J. (2017; early view 2015). Climate change and TESOL: Language, literacies, and the creation of eco-ethical consciousness. TESOL Quarterly, 51(1), 90-114. doi: 10.1002/tesq.277.

Goulah, J. (2012). Environmental displacement, English learners, identity and value creation: Considering Daisaku Ikeda in the east-west ecology of education. In J. Lin & R. Oxford (Eds.), Transformative eco-education for human and planetary survival (pp. 41-58). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Goulah, J. (2011). Ecospirituality in public foreign language education: A critical discourse analysis of a transformative world language learning approach. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies: An International Journal, 8(1), 27-52.

Goulah, J. (2010a). Conceptualizing environmental refugees in education: A transformative language learning framework. Diaspora, Minority, and Indigenous Education: An International Journal, 4(3), 192-207.

Goulah, J. (2010b). Dialogic resistance in education: Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Daisaku Ikeda and transformative language learning. In T. A. Osborn & D. M. Moss (Eds.), Critical essays on resistance in education (counterpoints: studies in the postmodern theory of education) (pp. 83-104). New York: Peter Lang.

Goulah, J. (2009a). Considering Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Lev Vygotsky in the concept of space. Sōka kyōiku, 2, 84-92.

Goulah, J. (2009b). Makiguchi in the ‘fractured future’: Value-creating and transformative world language learning. Educational Studies, 45(2), 193-213.

Goulah, J. (2009c). Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Mikhail Bakhtin in dialogue: Pedagogy for ecological selfhood and spatial literacy. Asian-Pacific Journal of Education, 29(2), 265-279.

Goulah, J. (2007a). Toward pax terra-humana: Cultural transformative learning and a planetary literacy in the foreign language classroom. Journal of Transformative Education, 5(2), 163-176.

Goulah, J. (2007b). Village voices, global visions: Digital video as a transformative foreign language learning tool. Foreign Language Annals, 40(1), 62-78.

Goulah, J. (2006). Transformative second and foreign language learning for the 21st century. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies: An International Journal, 3(4), 201-221.

Küchler, U. (2017). Signs, images, and narratives: Climate change across languages and cultures. In S. Siperstein, S. Hall, & S. LeMenager (Eds.), Teaching climate change in the humanities (pp. 153-160). London and New York: Routledge.

Latour, B. (2017). Facing Gaia: Eight lectures on the new climate regime. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Pennycook, A. (2017). Posthumanist applied linguistics. London, UK: Routledge.

Pennycook, A. (2016). Posthumanist applied linguistics. Applied Linguistics, 1-18: doi: 10.1093/applin/amw016.

Steffen, W., Grinevald, J., Crutzen, P., McNeill, J. (2011). The Anthropocene: Conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 369, 842–867. doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0327.

September 2017

Introduction by Heidi Lyn Hadley, Principal Editor

The education and training of literacy teachers is often complex, involving field observations, classwork, and hands-on experience. As someone who supervises future teachers in their fieldwork placements, I often wonder about the efficacy of university instruction for teachers—what theoretical stances are they adopting in their own teaching? What practices are they learning from their university coursework and what practices are they adopting from the experienced mentor teachers with whom they are placed? How do they decide what to take forward into their own teaching?  Janet E. McIntosh wrestles with similar questions in this month’s Take Two, an article that was originally published in 2010, titled Reader Response Journals: Novice Teachers Reflect on their Implementation Process. We invite JoLLE readers to take a second look at McIntosh’s article which focuses on how and why novice teachers implement what they learned about reader response journals in their University.

Summer 2017

Introduction by Sharon Nuruddin, Poetry & Arts Editor

Everyone has a story, and as educators, we are often too busy to hear the stories of our students and their concerns about our programs. In Pamela F. Marcott’s Pursuing a Foreign Language Education: A Current Student’s Perspective, the author provides an autoethnographic snapshot of her foreign language education, highlighting positive and negative experiences during her years of Spanish study, from high school through her sophomore year at Wake Forest University. Marcott connects her studies with the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) push for more culturally relevant pedagogy, as reflected in its 2007 report, “Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World.” Though she went on to study physiology and biophysics at the PhD level, Marcott shows us how foreign language at the high school level, when it equips students with a multicultural lens, can better prepare students for college level study, and motivate them to pursue higher level language studies. Supporting the MLA’s suggestion that “interdisciplinary courses” that combine the language with other fields, like business and medicine, could help students “draw a connection between classes required for a student and classes that are interesting to a student” (p. 87). Understanding language programs from a student’s perspective allows language educators to gain a deeper understanding of how our programs benefit our students, while at the same time, inspire us to strengthen these programs, both at the high school and college levels. I invite you to revisit Pamela F. Marcott’s enlightening journey, first published as a Voices from the Field piece, Volume 4(1), 2008.

April 2017

Introduction by T. Hunter Strickland, Children & Young Adult Literature Editor

In Ian Altman’s Spring 2013 article, Undocumented Students and Classroom Advocacy: Be Not Afraid, the author shows a real look at what it is like having undocumented students in his high school classroom, and what it means to advocate for and with them in that context. The author’s voice is clear as he tells his readers what is at stake in standing up for undocumented students in their classrooms, and he also connects such work to the context of the Common Core state standards. In this month’s Take 2, Ian looks back at that article and addresses the relevancy of advocacy during the Trump presidency, but also the implications for furthering that student advocacy on subjects such as sexuality and gender identity. He gives practical advice in this Take 2 on how to prepare safe spaces for students to have difficult conversations about such topics as immigration and gender, and he does so in a way that shows the importance of the subject as it was in 2013, and how it is even more important today.

A second look from author Ian Altman, Clarke Central High School, Athens, GA

Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 7:30 a.m.: It is the morning after the election and I’m feeling like someone just whupped my ass with a length of steel pipe.

My student Shahrzad walks in, and without greeting or delay, says, “So, can he just kick me out?”

I respond, “No, you have a green card.  You have rights.  He’s not just going to round up millions of people all at once and kick them out.  And you have no criminal record or anything like that, so you wouldn’t be targeted

“Yeah, but my passport is Iranian, and it says ‘Muslim’ on it.”

I am lost for a response.  We lock eyes for just a moment during which we both recognize that I am unsure whether my reassurance is legitimate.  Finally I tell her, “Look.  If it comes down to the very worst happening, I’ll hide you in my house like Anne Frank.  That is who we have to be in this moment and for the next few years.  And I am not the only person around here who sees things that way.  That I can promise you.”

The next day in her AP English Language class, in the course of an open forum for students to discuss the results of the election, Shahrzad said something to her classmates that I’ll never forget:

“At first I said, ‘I don’t care.  I don’t want to be here with Trump as president.  He can send me back to Iran and I’ll be better off.’  But then at breakfast in the cafeteria today I sat and listened to all my friends talking about it, and they were so angry and afraid, and scared for their families getting kicked out and scared about stop-and-frisk [police tactics] and about all these things, and so I decided ‘No.  I have to stay here and fight this, because I’ve lived in Iran with a madman as president, and I know what it’s like, and I love my friends and I want to help my friends fight this for their dignity as people.’  So I’m staying here.”

I could not have been prouder of my self-identified Proud Persian student, or of the others in their class for the ways they responded to the election, the thoughtfulness and empathy for each other they demonstrated, their openness to people different from themselves such as Shahrzad, who remains a kind of outsider no matter how well she is accepted and appreciated by her classroom peers.  Teachers live for moments like that.  Then, of course, other moments supervene.

A few weeks ago, another student in the same class, Lizbeth, who is a U.S. citizen, asked to speak to me after class.  As we stood in the hallway with other students walking by, before she had said anything she began to cry, and I suspected what was wrong.  Her parents and older brother, whom I also taught some years ago, are undocumented immigrants from Mexico.  My suspicion was confirmed: ICE had come to their house looking for her brother.  He had just finished a year of probation for a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, something of which I would bet nearly a third of adults in the U.S. could have been found guilty of at some point in their lives.  He is no one’s idea of a violent or dangerous criminal, but he is now in hiding, literally living in the shadows.  Lizbeth recently heard her mother voice the question to her father, “What will we do with the kids if we are taken away?”

Stories like that have multiplied, and the trauma inflicted by the stress and the sheer fear of what looks far too much like impending ethnic cleansing in the wake of the 2016 campaign season and election have changed the tenor of things for those of us teachers who notice these things.  The fear was always there, but the intensity of it is new.  President Obama at least nominally wanted to make the U.S. a more welcoming place for immigrants, especially young immigrants.  The reality of his record is far more complicated and troubling than that, and there is a good reason immigration activists call him the “Deportation President”: Obama’s administration deported more immigrants, and far more than the criminals he said he was targeting, than any president before him, more than twice as many as George W. Bush.  Obama’s unfortunate appellation seems likely to pass on to President Trump.

When I wrote “Be Not Afraid,” I tried to connect these problems to other issues in the implementation of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, and I stand by the assertions I made there.  The standards reflect a fundamentally, and fundamentally unacknowledged, conservative worldview.  To teach them impartially is therefore to advocate, however subtly, a form of conservative political thinking.  To teach them critically, that is, to make the standards themselves rhetorical objects in the curriculum of study, is one way to mitigate that flaw in their originative theory, and that approach remains an important part of what I do with my American Literature and AP English Language courses.

I wish here to expand on that theme.  Our school district has adopted the Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) curriculum, and this year it has been taught through English courses.  I am not among the few teachers in the building who are certified to teach the FLASH curriculum, so another teacher was scheduled to join us to lead those sessions.  Over two days we were to cover the 11th grade part of the curriculum, which involves distinguishing biological sex from gender identity, and sexual orientation from sexual behavior.  It further involves lessons on understanding and undoing gender stereotypes, and identifying and speaking out against bullying based on gender stereotypes and sexual orientation.  Gender theorists may of course quibble with the simplicity of the curriculum and the occasional binary thinking it involves, and I would agree with those critiques, but for students who have never been exposed to those concepts before in an academic, critical setting, there is nothing especially objectionable in it.

For the most part, the lessons went well, but there were a couple of moments that became a very difficult exercise in meeting students where they are without judgment or condescension.  I would say that about 90% of students were receptive to the discussions about distinguishing biological sex from gender identity, and sexual orientation from sexual behavior.  Furthermore, most students seem sympathetic to the problems of bullying and the damage that can cause to LGBTQ students.  However, the outliers, the other 10%, presented some issues that are pertinent to these reflections.

Obviously, without question, we have to honor all students’ legal and religious rights to their opinions.  I think what the difficulties really involved, though, was the subtlety of their critical thinking skills.

For example, in the discussion of bullying and respectful behavior, a student said that he doesn’t like to surround himself with gay men because if one of them were to express interest in him, he would have to “get violent” with that person.  Several other students (not all of them boys) agreed with him.

The other teacher responded first that he shouldn’t assume that every or any gay person he meets will be attracted to him or express such attraction, just as with all the straight, cisgender girls around him.  I added that the obvious response if he receives unwanted attention, just as if it were from a girl, is “No, thanks.”  He insisted that it is not the same thing at all, and requires a different, violent response.

Pause for a minute.  Underneath this, it seems obvious to me, is a very deep-seated male insecurity, but that is not the sort of thing we can tell students, at least not in a public classroom setting.  The crucial question, then, is this: How do we help that student understand that the difference between the two situations is in his mind, and not really in the situations?  Or, even if we grant that the two situations are intrinsically different, that his responses to them should be the same, non-aggressive “No, thanks”?

Continuing, I added that regardless of how he feels about the situation and the legitimacy of his opinions and feelings, it is a fact that “getting violent” would likely lead to a felony assault charge and possibly also a federal hate crime charge under the 2010 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  The other teacher added that it would be no different from someone beating up a person for being Black.

By that point, in a large and unusually challenging class, any real critical thinking about these things had hit a brick wall.  Students were insisting that they didn’t care whether they are charged with a hate crime.  Of course, we knew that wasn’t really true, and they were simply being defensive because they were not distinguishing between having their learned ideas and behaviors legitimately challenged (which is part of our job) and having their intrinsic, immutable, inalienable-right-holding selves devalued or disrespected.

There was even a further difficulty.  Prejudices being the blinding attitudes that they are, a couple of these students believed they could legally justify “getting violent” on self-defense grounds, evidently seeing no difference between an unwanted expression of attraction and a sexual assault.

Again, despite the symptoms on the surface, I think all of this comes down to a basic lack (or at least a situational lack of application) of critical thinking skills.  That problem was apparent in a more obvious way when another student insisted that if a man is bisexual, he is “really just gay.”  “Once you go there, you can’t go back,” the student added.  On the surface, this means merely that the student didn’t master the parts of the lesson on sexual orientation and on distinguishing sexual orientation from sexual behavior.  But underneath that, there is the prejudice, or willful blindness, in the belief that a person’s behavior somehow taints her or his intrinsic essence, where if anything, it is the inner characteristics that affect outward behavior, although that too is far too simplistic and involves a different set of problematic assumptions.

In the wake of this experience, four possibilities occurred to me to ameliorate the situation.  First, we should break up some of these larger classes for differentiated instruction based on students’ attitudes and prior understandings.  That would go a long way to ensuring the necessary safe classroom space for students to deal with these very sensitive issues.

Second, we need a few specific, thought-experiment scenarios that are accessible and designed for students to see and understand their own prejudgments as prejudgments about gender, sexual orientation, and behavior.  Creating those will be part of my work this summer.

Third, part of what we do in 11th grade American Literature involves questions of identity generally (including gender and sexual orientation, but also ethnic and racial, religious, and economic class) as part of the larger thematic question of whether there is or can be any such thing as an American identity, and how that question is reflected in our rhetoric and in the history of our literature.  We can do more, and more explicitly, with gender and sexual orientation issues in fiction and in non-fiction texts, depending on the more general suitability of available texts.

Fourth, we English teachers tend to be pretty good about teaching the kinds of thinking necessary to write persuasive essays, but that usually involves showing them simply how to come up with reasons to support what they already believe – what I called in “Be Not Afraid” critical thinking with a prophylactic, taking no real risks with one’s own thoughts.  It is far more difficult and much more important in the big picture to teach the real critical thinking that goes into making the sorts of distinctions that elude some students in their views of gender and sexual orientation (not to mention other issues).  I should emphasize that while this might seem an excellent opportunity for inquiry-driven learning, I believe that in this and in some other contexts, such an approach often leads nowhere worth going, and would be or at least could be a willful evasion of the necessary and more difficult work.  We need to be able to teach students explicitly how to see the structures of these issues and how to see where and why comparative analogies either work or break down.

At the end of the day it is not our job to moralize with students about sexuality.  What I am describing here, though, is not moralizing about anything, but situating these issues in the larger context of careful, self-aware, and conscientious thinking, which really is far more difficult.All of this depends on how one conceives of free thought and freedom generally.  We are good at invoking those terms, often with a kind of messianic fervor, but we are not good at dealing with them, demarcating what they mean and what their practice involves.  It is a risky and challenging thing to tell students that it is acceptable to have an utterly free mind, unencumbered and unpestered by

All of this depends on how one conceives of free thought and freedom generally.  We are good at invoking those terms, often with a kind of messianic fervor, but we are not good at dealing with them, demarcating what they mean and what their practice involves.  It is a risky and challenging thing to tell students that it is acceptable to have an utterly free mind, unencumbered and unpestered by any expectation of belief, free-floating and happy over an absolute, existential void.

When I hear educators and policy makers talking about the importance of learning critical thinking skills, I know they are really talking about solving puzzles.  Not problems, because real problems can’t be solved, but just puzzles.  Aristotle called real problems άπορία (aporia), something impassable, meaning in this context tears or missing places in the fabric of intelligible reality itself, and philosophy then is the thinking of those fundamental problems.  Solving mere puzzles is important work, too, of course.  I want my vaccinations to be effective, and I want to know that the oil I put into my car’s engine really will last for 5000 miles.  But that sort of thing is not really critical thinking, which has nothing to do the kind of hard-nosed exhortations associated with the Republican Party about learning for the sake of gainful employment in 21st century factories and banks, or with the kind of chickenshit, milquetoast emancipatory proclamations associated with the Democratic Party about learning for the sake of finding meaningful work – in 21st century factories and banks.  Critical thinking doesn’t mean solving puzzles, or even solving real problems.  It means creating real problems where there were none before, tearing holes in the fabric of intelligible reality, pointing out that the clear path is really a dank and endless rabbit hole, that the emperor has no clothes and neither does anyone else.

How does all this relate to the discussion of immigrant students during the presidency of Donald Trump?  By tearing apart, not “deconstructing” but destroying, the notion and even the question of an American identity, so that at some point, finally, it may be possible to come face to face with the young woman or young man standing right in front of you without presuming to think of who she is or where she belongs without hearing her on her own terms first.  This is not what is called social justice pedagogy, although it can look like that and have similar effects.  I do not engage in social justice pedagogy because I do not believe in justice.  That is, I believe justice is a φάρμακον (pharmakon), a medicinal lie to mitigate the consequences of knowing that justice is impossible.  But the lie is in plain sight, exposed if we and our students simply have eyes to see it, and in doing so see each other in something like Martin Buber’s sheer, open, unmitigated confrontation between I and You.  That is heady, difficult work, but high school by definition ain’t the JV, right?

March 2017

Introduction by S.R. Toliver, Editorial Board Member

In an era where questionable facts are taken at face value, it is important that literacy researchers revisit how we think about various aspects of our world. In the article, Indigenizing Children’s Literature, Debbie Reese challenges writers, educators, publishers, and all who read multicultural literature to “read more history” and “use sources more critically.” She challenges researchers to conduct critical analysis of texts to ensure that the story being told about Native populations is nuanced, complex, and accurate. To prove this point, Reese uses the lens of new historicism to critically analyze two popular texts that are widely shared by teachers, librarians, and parents – Little House on the Prairie (Wilder) and Thanksgiving Day (Rockwell). Through her analysis, she shows that images of Native people in these texts could misinform readers, causing them ‘“learn” that Indians welcomed and helped the Europeans…that Indians were primitive peoples, and, that friendly Indians are those that fight with whites, against other Indians, but who, in the end, willingly leave their lands for whites” (67). Her call, to indigenize children’s literature, is far-reaching, and it is a call that researchers must answer if we are to change the narrative, even if it means acknowledging and challenging the problems in our favorite children’s stories.

February 2017

Introduction by Lourdes Cardozo-Gaibisso, Scholars Speak Out Editor

Literacy is more than reading and writing. It is inherently a political act, an inexcusable opportunity to examine and challenge structural oppression and questioning commonplace statements which shape our everyday lives. Literacy truly is a space to scrutinize our long-standing and enduring understandings about the world around us and how we contribute to the replicability of power, and the hegemonic take-over of languages and cultures.

This month, as part of JoLLE’s Take 2 Feature, we want to invite readers to revisit Sonia Nieto’s article Language, Literacy, and Culture: Aha Moments in Personal and Sociopolitical Understanding (2013).  Nieto walks the reader through her personal and professional experiences as a student, teacher, teacher educator, and a scholar-activist. Through a journey of personal realizations (Nieto’s aha moments!), the author argues that teachers need to become cultural mediators, navigating at the complex intersections of critique and hope.

December 2016

Introduction by Sharon M. Nuruddin, Editorial Board Member

As a language instructor who has designed and implemented online courses for university students, I understand that online pedagogy in language education is a critical and controversial topic. Bridgette W. Gunnels’s 2008 article, “Going the Distance in a Changing World: Distance Learning and the Foreign Language Classroom,” offered a much-needed critique of the lack of attention to the role of technology in world language education. Online language learning continues to be a highly-debated subject, but with a generation of digital natives, greater study of online pedagogies on the part of scholars and educators, and greater acknowledgment on the part of academic associations, online world language education is forging ahead. Here, Dr. Gunnels reflects on the past of online learning in foreign language education, and looks forward to its future.

A second look from author Bridgette W. Gunnels, PhD., Oxford College of Emory University

Nearly ten years have passed since the 2007 MLA publication on foreign languages and their role in the academy. My original article offers a critique of the lack of attention to the place of online courses in this report, as well as to distance education in general. In short, the article emphasizes capacity for successful completion of student learning outcomes via the intentional use of the following tools:

  • the virtual classroom via a study of Wimba
  • the new level of realia in the virtual setting
  • asynchronous discussion boards as a community builder

Going beyond the basic use of IT in the classroom made up the core of this article, by illustrating how instructional technology should be at the forefront of the conversation, not at the rear, seen as an ‘extra,’ or critiqued as an ‘innovation’ in the classroom. To date, nearly all of the major associations within the academy, including the American Association of University Professors (hereafter, AAUP), the Modern Language Academy (hereafter, MLA), the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL hereafter) and the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (hereafter, ADFL) have published statements and best-practices around online delivery of foreign languages classes and distance education in general. This is a generous step in the right direction, although the hesitancy around language learning online persists, and is a tremendous missed opportunity for L2 educators to drive the trend instead of consistently producing reactionary pedagogy that falls short.

My conclusions offer an excellent jumping off point to re-examine where we are ten years later.

Instructional Technology and the Future of Foreign Language Curriculum Development

Robert O’Dowd (2010) states in his article, “Online Foreign Language Interaction: Moving from the Periphery to the Core of Foreign Language Education?” that online intercultural interaction and exchange remains tangential to normalized instruction, although student demand of this feature has increased. The amount of time that students spend within online environments has also peaked, and the value that a professor attributes to this delivery must necessarily increase. O’Dowd is referring to the practice known as telecollaboration, which has seen significant increase as either an add-on to a primary instructor or as a form of primary instruction itself. Telecollaboration is made possible in part by the falling cost of software/hardware and IT in general (O’Dowd, 2011), which allows schools to have a greater number of computers open for student use. I would add that the increase of, and to a certain degree, the success of telecollaboration is due to the changing nature of our students.

Current foreign language educators must contend with a variety of realities that now present themselves to us each fall in the form of how a ‘typical’ freshman student operates in terms of transmission of course content. Being a digital native (Prensky, 2005/2006) is a given; today’s freshmen have been operating in the mobile environment since adolescence.  Smart phones and tablets (mobile technology in general introduced in 2007 with the iPhone leading the pack, the iPad three years later in 2010) are changing the way students interact, communicate and learn. All the CMS platforms mentioned in the original article (Blackboard, Canvas, D2L, and others) have mobile-ready applications; some of them are still not smooth but are in constant states of updates. Literature review of articles published in the last decade that center on mobile applications and language learning illustrate how again, pedagogy reacts to the trend instead of getting in front of it. A quick MLA Bibliography search generates 77 articles centered on mobile applications and learning, highlighting either a trend or a reaction to a trend, depending on one’s perspective.

The MLA has yet to recognize its role in Curriculum Development

To date the MLA has considerably increased its footprint in terms of its stance on distance education.  The 2001 report from the MLA committee on technology (reviewed and accepted again in 2014) includes a section entitled “Special Considerations for Language and Literature” that offers a rejoinder to the AAUP statement on distance learning that was published in 2001. Some of the language around distance learning points us to the general concerns that the academy wants to address:

  • Autonomy of departments or divisions to determine the suitability of online delivery for course content on an individual basis and stress the invaluable expertise of the faculty member for determining the potential value of online delivery
  • Responsibility of the institution to develop policy and procedures that protect educational objectives as well as the intellectual property of faculty who create new courses from traditional ones for online delivery
  • Stress the need for support (academic, clerical, technical) for the faculty members who are encouraged to offer these courses. This protection should extend to all faculty, including adjunct faculty, who often bear the weight of an institution that has turned to online or hybrid delivery as an intended cost-cutting measure

However, despite the nod to distance education, there was one session at the 2016 MLA conference that addressed foreign language delivery in online platforms, and it was titled “Productive Resistance Outside Traditional Spaces”. This is hesitant language around what continues to be a taboo topic, staging the argument around traditional versus ‘resistant’ modes of delivery. Again, I would stress that these statements are more curriculum reaction than curriculum development.

Education and Instruction are Vital to Harness the IT Revolution

ADFL and ACTFL are more in tune with what today’s students are demanding: relevant content delivered in a fast medium. ADFL issued a statement on best practices in hybrid and online language courses in 2014 that succinctly speaks to concerns around course management rather than pedagogy, although the document reads “Pedagogical Considerations”. Highlighting the difference between online delivery of other course content and foreign languages by contrasting teacher-centered online curriculum versus student-centered experience, this document does not sufficiently address the acceptance of online delivery or extensive use of IT as a primary tool/method of course delivery. The concerns are based solely in assuring that faculty has administrative support when a department decides to offer a foreign language course via any other type of delivery other than face-to-face.

At the 2016 ACTFL national conference, a conference that is historically very selective with a ~30% acceptance rate of panels and workshops, there were 82 individual presentations over three days; ranging from technology to distance learning best practices, hybrid and blended classes, going mobile for language learning; assessment of productive skills for online language learners. This group has shown that they are ready to take the lead in curriculum development that will inform the future of language learning in a variety of mediums.

In addition to the panel presentations and workshops, there are currently two special interest groups (SIGs) dedicated to this forum and there was one roundtable that spoke to designing successful inter-institution distance learning courses. This is a significant departure from ten years ago, and constitutes progress in this area.

Education and instruction are vital, now more than ever, to harness the mobile revolution. This requires professors to reimagine how students learn best:  visual culture, information chunks, scaffolding and incorporating a plethora of creative tasks that allow for the ‘mobile narrative’ that forms the baseline for today’s student existence. Our student learning outcomes have not necessarily changed; we still strive for linguistic and cultural competence, cross-cultural understanding and communication driven goals. However, as the ACTFL 21st century skills map (2011) for language learning highlights, the ways in which professors get their students to these goals must change.  The deep contrast between past and present pedagogies couldn’t be clearer. Advanced learners already deliver evidence of learning an L2 in a global environment (via social media, via self-produced videos/podcasts, via telecollaboration). Our educators must learn to mediate the process between past and present through our pedagogy in a way that gets both faculty and student to a win/win.


O’Dowd, R. (2011). Online foreign language interaction: Moving from the periphery to the core of foreign language education? Language Teaching, 44,368-380.

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership 63(4), 8-13.

Special considerations for language and literature: the AAUP Statement on Distance Education (n.d.). Modern Language Association website. Retrieved from https://www.mla.org/About-Us/Governance/Committees/Committee-Listings/Professional-Issues/Committee-on-Information-Technology/Special-Considerations-for-Language-and-Literature-The-AAUP-Statement-on-Distance-Education.

Suggested best practices and resources for the implementation of hybrid and online language courses (n.d.). Association of Departments of Foreign Languages website. Retrieved from https://adfl.mla.org/Resources/Policy-Statements/Suggested-Best-Practices-and-Resources-for-the-Implementation-of-Hybrid-and-Online-Language-Courses.

21st century skills map (n.d.). American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages website. Retrieved from https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/21stCenturySkillsMap/p21_worldlanguagesmap.pdf.

November 2016

Introduction by Kalianne L. Neumann, Communications Editor

As a former English teacher and doctoral student studying Learning, Design, and Technology, I am constantly considering the role of technology in the teaching and learning of literacy. Schools have evolved rapidly over the last eight years, and technology is more accessible in classrooms due to a variety of technology initiatives (e.g., 1:1 and BYOD). In some of my own research on these initiatives, I have become interested in the tensions caused by the first and second digital divide. Sarah Lohnes Watulak and Barbara Laster’s piece “Technology stalled: Exploring the new digital divide in one urban school” highlighted what 21st century literacy learning looked like alongside the first and second digital divides present in 2008-2009. Their feature in this month’s Take 2 updates their previous work and encourages the use of technology for literacy-related purposes in order to overcome the first and second digital divide barriers that are still present today.

A second look from authors Sarah Lohnes Watulak and Barbara Laster, Towson University

In our original article, Technology Stalled: Exploring the New Digital Divide in One Urban School, we intended the title to reflect the idea that although the teachers and students in the urban elementary/middle school in which we collected our data had access to computers and (when connected) the Internet in their school, technology was primarily used in the replication of teacher-centered literacy instruction. Student-directed uses of technology were all but absent, as was the use of technology for production, critical thinking, or inquiry. The promise of technology to support meaningful literacy learning was stalled by a complex constellation of issues including access to a small number of classroom computers that weren’t always working; the mandates of making AYP under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law; and a lack of a shared vision among teachers and administrators for how technology can support student success in school and beyond.

Since we collected our data (2008-2009), the landscape has shifted rather dramatically on both the technology and policy axes. Mobile devices including phones and tablets have gained ground in a range of ways (Johnson, Adams Becker, Cummins, Estrada, Freeman, & Ludgate, 2013), with some school systems (including one of our local school systems) embracing a 1:1 computing approach, and others embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement (Cavanagh, 2015). National policy has shifted away from the AYP mandates of NCLB, toward the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). While the CCSS doesn’t directly address the use of technology to support content learning, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recently partnered with CCSS to provide teacher resources that highlight the ways in which technology can be used to support both the CCSS and the ISTE Technology Standards for Teachers and Students (Stoeckl, 2014). Even the definition of urban is being rethought, as researchers have noted that some sites that would formerly be defined as suburban have the characteristics of what we used to call urban (Schiller, 2015).

Given these changes, we wondered whether the technology barriers (the first digital divide) that we saw in 2008-2009 still exist in today’s era of mobile devices and mobile learning? And, if we conducted the study again today, would we see more technology-supported literacy activities that involved students in production, critical thinking, and creative inquiry (the second digital divide)? We asked in-service teachers in Barbara’s Fall 2016 literacy graduate classes to share their recent experiences with teaching with technology in the hopes of gaining some insight into whether the new digital divide is being addressed in urban schools. These K-12 teachers work in a range of settings but primarily public schools in four different school districts (including the district in which the original data were collected).

We found that there is great variability in whether these teachers’ school districts prioritize access to technology and whether there is any powerful, student-centered use of technology. In the less affluent districts, access remains less ensured. One teacher lamented, “Unfortunately, the technology is old and outdated, so it’s hard to integrate technology in the classroom.” Still, with one or two computers in her primary classroom, she uses them in literacy centers in which children get to choose which e-books to read (e.g., RAZ Kids). A middle school teacher in the same high poverty area uses tablets and laptops for semester-long social justice oriented inquiry projects but does not rely on support from his school or school district if the technology breaks down.

In another district, high school students are guided to start a Google Doc in which to upload all of their compositions—from English class, as well social studies, science, etc.—over their four years of matriculation. One high school teacher noted that “assignments that require document writing and printing can be completed at school, so students without laptops or internet access are not at a disadvantage.”

In two moderate income districts that have characteristics of urban schools, many elementary students are provided devices that stay at school. One of these districts has implemented a 1:1 mobile device program, and some of the teachers working in this district reported feeling supported in their use of technology: “We use the SAMR model to ensure that we are transforming literacy tasks. Our [technology integration] teacher helps us with this!” At the same time, the types of technology-supported literacy learning activities that teachers described are typically teacher-directed and not oriented to the close reading and expansive writing encouraged by CCSS. One teacher in that same district proudly explained that her district “fully supports tech integration to differentiate learning,” illustrating this point by describing how her students “access a program called iReady which levels them and gives digital lessons for their skill level.” In this example, there is no student-directed uses of technology nor use of technology for production, critical thinking, or inquiry. In contrast, another teacher of intermediate grades shared that in her classroom, “the students use technology to research, read articles, create presentations (PPT, wixie, etc.), and respond to questions (Answer Garden; Padlet).”  Here at least, students are supported in using technology for production.

Thus, it seems that anecdotally, the need to traverse both the first and the second digital divide is as extant in 2016 as it was eight years ago. In terms of the first digital divide, our teachers working in the less resourced districts have access to similar technology resources as those we observed in 2008-2009, while the more affluent districts have become more technology-rich, particularly in mobile devices. Unsurprisingly, our anecdotal evidence from these teachers supports well-known research suggesting that access to hardware and software alone does not guarantee powerful, student-driven, technology-supported literacy learning (e.g., Koehler & Mishra, 2009). Indeed, among our teachers, those with the fewest resources nonetheless used their limited technology for some motivating and vibrant student literacy learning. While the broader policy landscape may be shifting toward valuing the use of technology to support literacy learning—by infusing the CCSS with ISTE standards and integrating technology and advocacy across the new (2017) ILA standards—practices at the classroom and school level continue to be driven by the confidence, creativity, and wise choices of the teachers. It is incumbent upon us to support and educate teachers and administrators to perceive the possibilities and power of technology. By using technology for critical thinking, inquiry, and student-generated purposes, we can assist in a dynamic and positive leap forward in literacy learning within the 21st century.


Cavanagh, S. (2015, May 15). Many high school students bringing their own devices to school, survey finds. Education Week. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2015/05/many_high_school_students_brin.html

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/volume-9/issue-1-09/general/what-is-technological-pedagogicalcontent-knowledge

Lohnes Watulak, S., Laster, B.P., Liu, X., & LERN. (2011). Technology stalled: Exploring the new digital divide in one urban school. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 7(2), 1-21. Available at http://www.coe.uga.edu/jolle/2011_2/watulak_laster_liu.pdf       

Schiller, J. (2015). The new reality of suburban schools: How suburban schools are struggling with their low income students of color. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Stoeckl, S. (2014, December 24). Infographic: Technology maximizes Common Core success. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=250&category=Set-the-standard&article=Infographic-Technology-maximizes-Common-Core-success

October 2016

Introduction by Nick Thompson, Co-Principal Editor

As I was looking through some of our past issues, I was struck by Suzanne D. Knight’s article, “The Power of Students’ Stories: Narrative Inquiry in English Education.” I have recently become interested in narrative inquiry, and it has always been my wish to work as a teacher educator. In this theoretical article, Knight argues for the value of using and analyzing preservice teachers’ narrative writing as a way to understand and form their identities as they navigate the difficult and often tumultuous path from student to teacher. Since we tell stories to make meaning of ourselves and our experiences, engaging in purposeful narrative inquiry has the potential to be valuable for teacher educators as well as teacher candidates. Moreover, narrativizing ourselves is not an individual process, and Knight explores how a person’s identity is, in part, the locus of societal norms, knowledge, and behavior.

A second look from author Suzanne D. Knight, The University of Michigan-Flint

In the article “The Power of Students’ Stories: Narrative Inquiry in English Education,” I made some of the following assertions:

  • It is through narrative that English language arts teacher candidates can explore their realities, thus leading to a greater sense of agency;
  • It is through the process of reflection that candidates’ stories become narratives;
  • It is through the interrogation of experiences that candidates discover how those experiences have shaped their beliefs and assumptions about teaching, students, and learning;
  • It is through the process of sharing narratives that candidates experience the power of the collaborative, as the building of a collective narrative works to support personal narratives and lives.

While my current work still reflects the power of narrative inquiry, reflection, and collectivity, it is within the context of place-based teacher education, a philosophy that both grounds and frames my teaching of pre-service teachers, as well as my research.

For example, instead of focusing so much on narrative theory as a lens for examining narrative, I currently am thinking about place and place-making and how place (natural, built, and socio-cultural) shape experience and narratives. Certainly through telling stories of place or narrating stories of place, candidates can examine issues of positionality in powerful ways. However, these new theoretical frames offer a way for candidates to more thoughtfully and intentionally include the narratives of their students. In other words, I am coming to understand that understandings of self are necessarily contextualized within the places we inhabit.

What I feel has been missing is how pre-service teachers might begin to realize and be increasingly sensitive to their students’ situatedness and positionality. How do we get pre-service teachers to move from a focus on their own perspectives to try and inhabit the perspectives of their students? To have greater empathy and compassion for their students? One way to do that is through narrative inquiry that accounts for place. Narrative inquiry that is sensitive to place can help both pre-service teachers, practicing teachers, and students explore and examine their memories of past places. Narrative inquiry within place-based education and place-based teacher education can then also help teachers and students to identify together how they might work to create new, shared places.

Because I did not previously consider how place shapes experience, my understandings of narrative inquiry were not as rich as they might have been. Places are socially constructed, not inherent givens. Even the natural world is not exempt from socio-cultural forces. In fact, systemic realities act on us without our awareness. Narrative inquiry grounded in places helps us to examine these forces, to better understand how they work, and to then respond to them. Through this response, teachers and students then create a community narrative, an idea I posed in the article. However, community can be understood in many different ways, and teachers and students are both part of multiple communities.  Place-based learning allows teachers and students to create a new community together around shared issues and concerns, and through that work, have the potential to influence and shape their communities outside the classroom.

What remains the same for me is the role of the teacher. As I said before: “Teachers do not ‘assign’ ideas or posit questions for the students to think about and then pull back and observe. Nor do teachers do all of the thinking and then make their thinking available for students to absorb. Instead, teachers think about ideas or issues with students and join in the discussion or dialogue alongside them. This is a different ‘image’ of what being a teacher might be all about” (Knight, 2009, p. 55). When teachers embrace the philosophy of place-based education (and when I work to create a tradition of place-based teacher education), they truly desire for teachers and students to work together to transform their communities, their local places. They desire to empower students, to create opportunities where their voices might be heard.


Knight, S. D. (2009). The power of students‟ stories: Narrative inquiry in English education. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 5(1), 48-58.

September 2016

Introduction by Maria Van Allen, Editorial Board Member

The partnership of community and classroom is an aspiration of many teachers. Community members offer an extensive wealth of knowledge that deserves time in the classroom, and Angela Wiseman’s piece featured in this month’s “Take Two” emphasizes their importance. In Now I Believe if I Write I Can Do Anything”: Using Poetry to Create Opportunities for Engagement and Learning in the Language Arts Classroom (2010), Wiseman recollects her observation of a classroom that is engaged in authentic poetry experiences provided by a community member, and what unfolds is nothing short of exceptional. 

A second look from author Angela M. Wiseman, North Carolina State University

When I was deciding where to conduct research for my article, “Now I Believe if I Write I Can Do Anything”: Using Poetry to Create Opportunities for Engagement and Learning in the Language Arts Classroom, I intentionally sought out  a classroom teacher who was bridging students’ community literacies in the classroom and where students’ experiences were central to the learning process. I was fortunate to document a partnership where a middle school teacher collaborated with a community member to teach a weekly poetry workshop in the classroom and to organize monthly poetry coffeehouses in the evening. My research was influenced by the notion of students’ ‘funds of knowledge’ (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2006). In the JoLLE article, I propose the idea that classroom literacy practices could be a mediator between students’ multiple worlds. My findings reflect how important it is to have classroom learning spaces that value students’ experiences and encourage socially supportive environments. Furthermore, students, community members, and teachers were resources for the curriculum.

As I have continued my research journey, I believe that the notion of “response” is more complicated and messy and this insight has expanded as I engage with children in various contexts.  When I reread this article, what stands out to me is the feelings of grief shared by Hector. I can still picture him on that day; he was often sullen or frustrated at school but when the teacher shopped to ask him what was wrong and he responded, the entire class heard him. Students expressed their concern for him when he explained that his cousin had died. Later, after thinking about the students and looking over transcripts, I realized Hector was not the only one who shared difficult stories. While my initial analysis focused on the curriculum and the learning and how it was inclusive of students’ experiences, this led to further questions about how students engage and respond in the classroom.  As I pursued this line of thinking, I wondered about what happens when students share difficult and unexpected stories. Collaboratively Kelly Wissman and I explored our experience with adolescent students, understanding their responses through the lens of trauma narratives.  Trauma narratives provide a basis for understanding how difficult experiences are disclosed and how this process of disclosure can be a way for a person to understand and reflect on emotions around an experience (Felman & Laub, 1992; Wiseman & Wissman, 2012). The process of sharing a difficult story is known as testifying, which involves both listening and evoking response. An important aspect of trauma narratives is that the process of hearing someone’s experience or testimonial is part of the healing process; if that experience is acknowledged and supported this can alleviate emotional pain. Analyzing the same data under a trauma narratives lens, Kelly Wissman and I (2011) explored how students narrate their trauma in school to open up spaces where students take “narrative control” , which we define as a “…way of using language to claim the right to name their own experience and shape their own understanding of traumatic situations and experiences” (p. 243).

I admire the classroom teacher, the community poet, and the students who created a supportive environment where they could write, read, and learn together. I ended the JoLLE article with a quote from bell hooks about how important it is to acknowledge the social reality and experiences of nonwhite students of all ages and how our pedagogy has to change for this to occur. Lately, I have been thinking about hooks’ notion of engaged pedagogy that includes what she terms ‘well-being’. As hooks (1994) states, “To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin” (p. 13). Certainly, sharing difficult stories opens up ethical issues and messy conversations which can blindside a teacher and bring up concerns about “how to handle” situations. However, the stories will not go away with silence. I am inspired by the wisdom of one student named Cindi who told us “…maybe, someone could hear what we say in our poems and they could do something to change that” (Wiseman, 2010, p. 29).  Change, healing, and support can start with respectful and careful listening to students. Valuing and listening to students, especially when they testify to their own trauma narratives, should be our top academic standard.


González, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2006). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Routledge.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Wiseman, A. M., & Wissman, K. (2012). “We suffer more than you think”: Witnessing trauma in children’s poetry. In P. J. Dunston, S. K. Fullerton, C. C. Bates, K. Headley, & P. M. Stecker (Eds.), 61st yearbook of the Literacy Research Association. Oak Creek, WI: Literacy Research Association, p. 119-131.

Wiseman A. M. (2010).   “Now I believe if I write I can do anything”: How poetry creates opportunities for engagement and learning in the Language Arts classroom.  Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 6(2), 22-33.

Wissman, K. K., & Wiseman, A. M. (2011). “That’s my worst nightmare”: poetry and trauma in the middle school classroom. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 6(3), 234-249.

August 2016

Introduction by Jennifer Jackson Whitley, Co-Principal Editor:

Four years ago, I was sitting in my first-ever doctoral course wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, and scared to death that someone would figure out that I didn’t belong—that I was an intruder who couldn’t point out the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, let alone determine what a theoretical stance was. I knew there was a reason why I enrolled in the Language and Literacy Education program here at the University of Georgia, but that reason did not begin to become clear until I had the privilege of reading Grass Houses: Representations and Reinventions of Social Class through Children’s Literature by Stephanie Jones (2008).

This article stuck with me because it addresses an issue dear to my heart, one that I knew was there, but didn’t have the words or resources for as a young book lover turned undergraduate English major, and eventually, as a literacy teacher. When we read, we read the words of the text, sure, but we also read the context from which they were drawn; we read the world (Freire, 2000). Therefore, it is imperative that texts offer diverse representations—in race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and more—because if not, we push readers who do not fit a misguided belief of what is “normal” into the margins, silencing their beliefs, values, and identities.

Jones’s (2008) article unpacks representation in children’s books with a focus on social class. Despite an ever-growing consciousness of the need for diversity in books for young people, an overwhelming amount of texts show representations of lives that accurately depict only a fraction of the people who read them. Eight years later, the core message of this article still rings true, and I am honored to highlight it again for this month’s Take 2.

A second look from author Stephanie R. Jones, The University of Georgia:

Representations and Reinventions of Social Class: A Look in 2016

An unexpected entry point into social classed lives: Writing matters deeply

A first grade lesson on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer surprised me during a visit to a school in Georgia in 2013. The normalization of Christianity, and Christian holidays in public schools was startling after my move from the Northeast in 2007 when I joined the faculty at the University of Georgia. My gut reaction to situations like this lesson about Rudolph can sometimes be rigid critique, as my gut has been well educated in critical theories of resistance and opposition throughout graduate school and beyond. Fortunately, I also have a deeply curious part of me that thoroughly enjoys unpredictability and surprises, especially when they emerge out of seemingly oppressive practices. This is one reason, I believe, I could write the original Grass Houses article and see the brilliance in the grass houses we had created from the grass clippings in my trailer park home where others might have seen oppression. Perhaps this is the critical feminist ethnographer part of me that loves to learn and try to make sense of things—a part of me that has been cultivated through feminist scholarship and mentoring relationships in graduate school and beyond. Most of that cultivation, however, is accomplished through quiet practice, like the morning I walked into this first grade classroom as an invited guest to think about how the school might better support children (Latinx, Black, and White) from working-class and poor families.

The literacy lesson came after lots of talk about Christmas break coming up soon, Santa Claus, and presents—and the assignment went something like this: Write a Help Wanted Ad for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

And my mind went something like this: Oh dear.

But I remained quiet. Quiet and open.

The children, who attended a school that was near the 100% mark for students who qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch, were happily engaged and the teacher and I walked around squatting to listen to conversations and watch the brilliance of first grade writers unfold in front of us.

Their brilliance did not disappoint.

As their talk carried on, it also expanded and reached into the depths of their lived experiences that moved far beyond what their teacher had anticipated. Fortunately, their teacher was also practicing to be quiet and open.

“The ad should say it’s 3rd shift,” a child told his table where everyone agreed. Yes, Santa Claus flies his sleigh at night, so this is definitely 3rd shift work.

“Do they get paid by the day or by the hour?”

“Will they get paid for Christmas Day too, or just Christmas Eve?” the group couldn’t come to an agreement. Christmas Eve ends at 12:00 midnight, they could all agree, but perhaps the delivering of presents continues until daylight, which would extend into Christmas Day.

“Do they get more money for working on a holiday? That means they won’t be with their families.”

“Do they get more money because it’s night shift?”

“Who will watch their kids?”

“This job won’t last very long. They’ll have to find another one fast.”

The teacher laughed a little and seemed uncomfortable when she pulled me to the side and told me she thought they would just write an ad for a deer who could fly and had a red nose that glowed at night. This was all taking her by surprise and she didn’t know what to do about it. She relaxed when I told her that I saw them drawing on their deep knowledge about work, economics, and how jobs are advertised and received by adults who were seeking work. They were showing us what they know, and showing us that it’s not all that much fun to engage in a superficial task like “wanted: a glowing red nose,” but it was actually fun to talk to friends about how to take this Help Wanted Ad seriously.

In Grass Houses: Representations and Reinventions of Social Class through Children’s Literature, I wrote,

Unlike many busily scheduled lives in middle-class and affluent families in this time of children as commodities and “resume-making” beginning at birth, millions of kids live their daily lives in various kinds of homes and neighborhoods uniquely characterized by their humble economic affordances. Whether in homeless shelters, communal homes, trailer parks, modest single-family free-standing homes, apartment buildings, or in the basements of extended family members, kids’ and families’ lives move through sunrise and sunset and are filled with happiness, sorrow, pain, laughter, play, work, love, loss, stress, and leisure. And I want to know where their stories are. (p. 42-43)

These brilliant, racially diverse first graders found an unanticipated invitation for telling parts of their stories in the composition of a Help Wanted Ad for a fictional character. Their stories were not represented in published children’s literature available to them in their classroom, but writing has been—and continues to be—a powerful space where those both young and old from marginalized economic backgrounds can bring stories we’ve lived and imagined into the discourses available for ourselves and others (e.g. Jones & Shackelford, 2013; Shackelford, 2015).

Reinventing our responses to stories of classed lives

In 2008, when the original article was published, we didn’t yet know that the United States was in what is now called the Great Recession. Statistics tell us that nearly 9 million jobs disappeared, unemployment rose to 10%, and official poverty rates were as high as 15% between 2008 and 2012. Now, in 2016, public discourses assert that employment rates are up even if it has become normal to work multiple part-time jobs and independent contractor gigs; the most wealthy are doing better than ever, even if the poor are more disenfranchised with more children experiencing homelessness; more people are attending college even if they graduate with tens of thousands in debt and do not have enough security to live on their own.

In 2008, I was still receiving questionable looks and skeptical comments when I gave presentations on social class and education. Folks would occasionally ask me if I was the equivalent of the devil in the United States: a Marxist.

Public discourse has experienced a palpable shift, however, and talk about social class is everywhere you look and listen. Occupy Wall Street, higher taxes on the 1%, the “Fight for 15,” governors breaking unions, income inequality, temporary work without benefits, the fight against split shifts in low-paying jobs, a movement toward ending tipping in restaurants and raising the basic wage of servers to a living wage, the Affordable Care Act, free college for everyone, reimagining the end of homelessness, and even #BlackLivesMatter all have social class inequality and exploitation embedded at their core.

To be as clear as possible about this discursive shift, Senator Bernie Sanders ran for the office of President of the United States of America in 2016 as a “Socialist Democrat” and came very close to being the nominee of the Democratic Party.

The public discourse around class and inequality is being reinvented, as discourse has a tendency to do.

There is no excuse, in 2016, for educators to not have these—and other—social classed discourses on the tips of their tongues as they respond to children’s oral, writing, and multi-media produced stories that reveal deep understanding of social class and society.

What we still need to do, perhaps, is to give teachers “permission” for engaging in these seemingly taboo topics. It is clear who benefits when social class, income, inequality, and exploitation is presented as an “individual” problem: those with class privilege. When we understand that social class, income, inequality, and exploitation are collective problems we can move away from individual shame and blame, moving toward a discourse about systems that privilege some on the backs of large groups of exploited others.

Children’s literature continues to need a proliferation of representations and reinventions, but it’s not the only way classroom literacy will become more sensitive and responsive to issues of social class and lives lived on the margins of economic privilege. Practicing to be quiet and open to expressions of social class and reinventing classroom discourses to engage those expressions meaningfully will make a difference to individual children and influence our collective education for the better.


Freire, P. (2000). The pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Jones, S. (2008). Grass houses: Representations and reinventions of social class through children’s literature. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 4(2), 40-58.

Jones, S. & Shackelford, K. (2013). Emotional investments and crises of truth: Gender, class, and literacies. In Hall, K., Cremin, T., Comber, B. & Moll, L.C. (Eds.), International handbook of research in children’s literacy, learning, and culture. West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

Shackelford, K. (2015). Engaging, examining, and exploring the phenomenon of social class at Pine Tree Elementary. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Georgia.

July 2016

Introduction by Nick Thompson, Co-Principal Editor:

In 2008, Jennifer C. Stone and Erika S. Veth wrote a manuscript for JoLLE that investigated the representation of gender norms in popular internet culture aimed at child consumers. Recently, The Pew Research Center reported that the percentage of smartphone users nearly doubled from 2011-2015, and the number of Americans who use their phone as their primary mode of internet access is increasing. This increase is especially prevalent amongst the young. The internet has insinuated itself into our pockets, increasing our exposure to it in all parts of our lives. Gender identity, representation, and equality has also increased as a topic of daily consideration in the past eight years, and it will certainly be foregrounded in America’s first presidential election featuring a woman nominee. The issues dealt with by Stone and Verth have become a more important to the country and education, so JoLLE invited Dr. Stone to reflect on her research and the issue of internet-based gender representation addressed in her article, “Rethinking the new literatures of childhood: Cultural models of gender in popular websites.”

A second look from Jennifer Stone, University of Alaska Anchorage:

Knowing my longstanding interest in children’s websites, a friend shared the new Barbie “Imagine the Possibilities” ad campaign with me last fall. The commercial showed girls in a number of professions—a professor giving a lecture on brains, a veterinarian examining pets, a soccer coach giving her (all male) team a rigorous workout, a businesswoman discussing a recent transaction, and a paleontologist giving a lecture at a museum. Each of these interactions was mixed with imaginative connections, such as the veterinarian asking a pet owner if her cat could fly. After each scene, the commercial showed nearby adults, charmed and amused by each girl. The commercial closed by revealing that each of the scenes was imagined play between a girl and her Barbie dolls, along with the slogan, “When a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.” As Burns (2015) pointed out, the commercial effectively dealt with Barbie’s image problem by (1) targeting adults and not children and (2) showing Barbie from the child’s point of view. In so doing, the commercial framed Barbie dolls as toys for engaging girls’ imaginations and developing positive self images rather than as bimbos giving children unrealistic body images. It seemed from this new campaign that perhaps something had changed with Barbie. The commercial promoted a message of empowerment from playing with Barbie, which allowed girls to develop strong self images and imagine limitless futures. Around that time Mattel also added new hair textures and skin tones along with three new shapes for Barbie, including curvy, tall, and petite figures.

When JoLLE asked me to take a second look at “Rethinking the new literatures of childhood: Cultural models of gender in popular websites,” coauthored with Erika Veth (2008), I immediately searched for the Barbie site to see what had changed in the past eight years (Mattel, 2016). I was interested to see how Mattel’s ad campaign and recent doll updates might have shifted the content of their website, as well. What I found, however, was that little has changed over the past eight years with Barbie as well as the other three sites. While the slogans were different, the product lines were new, and some of the activities and games were updated, the sites remained very similar in terms of cultural models of gender. Boys were still being encouraged to develop competitive strategies, engage in technologically-oriented activities, and build things, while girls were still being groomed to take care of domestic duties, develop their fashion sense, and participate in social events. I took a quick look at the Barbie site for any games that pushed beyond these cultural models, and I did find a few. A handful of games, including Amazing Architect and Ready, Set, Check-Up, were added that encourage girls to explore careers in fields such as architecture and medicine.  Even so, there were still many more games on the Barbie site that engaged children in activities like caregiving (see Potty Race), performing domestic duties (see My Dreamhouse), and playing dress up (see My Style Book). In short, while there have been a few changes on the sites, they were small compared to the radical rebranding that the Barbie commercial suggested.

Over the past eight years, a few significant technological and curricular changes have occurred, too, that intersect with popular children’s websites and media more broadly. First, smart phones, tablet technologies, and related apps started to emerge just after the original article was published. As a result, a parallel and overlapping set of games and activities from sites like Barbie have been produced in app form. As these handheld technologies are even more portable than laptops and other computers, such activities now have an even more ubiquitous presence in young people’s lives. It seems that now more than ever we need to be unpacking commercial texts like the Barbie site and related apps with children. Second, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which started in 2009, has continued to shift attention away from everyday texts like popular websites (to be fair, little attention was paid to such sites prior to the Common Core). While the Common Core has paid some attention to media and technology, the emphasis on complex texts and technology for locating and evaluating information continues to elide the importance of attending to “new literatures of childhood” like popular websites. Moving forward, I challenge educators to close the gap between technological shifts and commercial media strategies on the one hand and classroom curriculum and practice on the other.


Burns, W. (2015, October 29). Mattel reframes the Barbie brand in new campaign targeting adults. Forbes, Retrieved from http://onforb.es/1P7PbG0

Mattel. (2016). Barbie. Retrieved from http://kids.barbie.com/en-us

Stone, J. C., & Veth, E. S. (2008). Rethinking the new literatures of childhood: Cultural models of gender in popular websites. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 4(2), 21-39. Available at http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/rethinking.pdf


April 2016

Introduction by Rhia Moreno Kilpatrick, Editorial Board Member:

Erin Kearney’s 2008 article, Culture Learning in a Changed World: Student Perspectives, provides a fascinating discussion on the role of culture in foreign language education. Even now in 2016, the inclusion of culture in the foreign language classroom is sparse and often stereotypical or taught through little blurbs spaced throughout the language textbook. As Kearney discussed in her study, students not only need a more authentic inclusion of culture, but also want to hear about real and current culture that will help them better connect to the language itself. Kearney referenced the MLA’s statement that “more students will continue language study if courses incorporate cultural inquiry at all levels” (p. 77). Cultural knowledge intrinsically motivates students to want to learn more, to understand more, and become more involved with the language and all its facets. Learning a foreign language cannot be a robotic process of grammar and drills; students must be brought into the language in a way that interests them to pursue further education and understanding. Strong and authentic cultural inclusion and contextual instruction is the key.

A second look from author Erin Kearney, University at Buffalo:

In 2008, when I had the opportunity to publish a piece in JoLLE about student perspectives on the nature of cultural learning in their university-level foreign language class, the Modern Language Association’s 2007 report that suggested “new structures” and radically different frames for conceptualizing the content, process, aims, and organization of foreign language education, had just been released. The field has now had more time to digest and debate the report, and in that eight-year span, scholarship has also evolved to conceptualize the nature of the “changed world” in which foreign language education takes place in more and more nuanced fashion.  Most notably, Claire Kramsch has elaborated the notion of symbolic competence (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011) as a new way of thinking about the aims and process of learning in foreign language education, and recently, she has articulated the modernist/post-modernist tensions that characterize life in a globalized environment and that trouble the field of languages education (2014).  These tensions help to explain the persistence of some traditional views and methods when it comes to addressing cultures in language teaching, while at the same time we see teachers, students, teacher educators and policymakers grappling with a host of complexities and fluidities brought on by life in a globalized environment and that have specific impacts on the field of foreign language education.  As a result, we stand at a quite different place than we did eight years ago.

In my estimation, theory-building has come quite far as a result of the MLA report’s urging, and many stakeholders have stepped into the space it opened for discussion; yet, at this juncture, two significant challenges remain.  First, certain stakeholder voices are still quite underrepresented in discussion of what the cultural dimensions of foreign language education are.  These include student voices, but two notable exceptions are Mangan’s (2014) monograph on the goals of collegiate foreign language learners and the extent to which these relate to professional standards and Kramsch’s Multilingual Subject (2009), which also shines significant light on language learner and user subjectivities and perspectives.  Some conscious effort to tap into K-12 learners’ perspectives to complement some of the work that has been done in higher education would be most welcome.  Second, we continue to lack empirical studies that help to connect theory and practice about cultural dimensions of language education.  Ostensibly desirable outcomes and processes that theory outlines – such as developing tolerance of ambiguity or interpreting form as meaning or developing critical cultural awareness (to borrow from both Kramsch’s and Byram’s well-known models) – are often difficult to imagine at the level of instructional practice.  Envisioning a wide but concrete range of options for curriculum and pedagogy and then conducting empirical research that both documents and analyzes such options will likely be key in further developing foreign language education’s ability to actually cultivate symbolic and/or intercultural competences in learners.  This particular gap has been the focus of some of my own work in the years since the JoLLE piece appeared (Kearney 2010, 2012, 2015).  I remain committed to classroom-level and participant-focused examination of the cultural, intercultural and transcultural learning and engagement that takes place in foreign language education, and I remain hopeful that other researchers, teacher educators and teacher-researchers will continue to study and share with the field the diverse practices they encounter and engage in as they pursue objectives that make sense for foreign language education in a “changed world”.

March 2016

Introduction by Stephanie Anne Shelton, Managing Editor:

Mollie’s article was a result of her serving as the keynote speaker for the JoLLE@UGA 2014 Winter Conference.  Her article resonates as powerfully now as it did then, both during her keynote address and in the article’s Spring 2014 Issue publication.  In this article, Mollie and her participant, Jared, queer what it means to be a LGBT activist through personal and theoretical explorations of teacher and ally identities.

A second look from author Mollie V. Blackburn, The Ohio State University:

In the two years since this article was published, I started teaching at a high school not unlike the one where Jared taught in that it is a school where, in Jared’s words, “gay kids don’t have to be the gay kid. … where kids are not just safe, but safe and also free to do – to explore their interests and figure out how they want to contribute to the world.” As such, I have had students in my classes who have self-identified as trans and gender queer; I have also had students who self-identify as the gender they were assigned at birth but perform gender quite differently; and I have had students whose self-identifications vary throughout the semester we shared.

These students have taught me to address them always by the names they claim rather than the names on the roster, for example, but also to learn the names their parents’ use before talking with them.  They have also taught me to introduce myself with my name but also my preferred gender pronouns (PGPs) and invite students to do the same. This is particularly important for cisgender students, so that they might better understand that PGPs cannot be assumed. I have learned that just because someone said they preferred he/him/his on day one does not mean they might not prefer they/them/their later in the term. I listen for shifts in names and pronoun usage, particularly when students’ close friends address or reference them. I don’t simply start to use what I hear their best friends using; instead, when I hear a discrepancy between the names and PGPs I am using with those being used by others, I talk with the student being referenced and ask explicitly for their preferences. These students have also taught me innumerable ways of organizing the class that do not require that that any one student make some big gender claim for the sake of my limited pedagogy, including alphabetic by preferred names, numerical by birth dates, and stances on particular issues. I have learned to apologize for misgendering students. For example, I misgendered a student last year just after he came out as trans to me. I felt awful. That night, I bought him a trans-themed young adult novel, inscribed it with an apology, and gave it to him the following day, just before class. I am sure that my apology had something to do with the privileges I have since had with this student: to celebrate with him on his first day on testosterone and the day his name changed, legally. I am constantly learning to be more “thoughtful, kind, open, and aware of how [my] actions might impact” my students, and I have Jared and these young people to thank for that.

Blackburn, M. V. (2014). (Re)Writing one’s self as an activist across schools and sexual and gender identities: An investigation of the limits of LGBT-inclusive and queering discourses. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 10(1), 1-13. Available at http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ReWriting-One%E2%80%99s-Self-as-an-Activist-Blackburn.pdf


February 2016

Introduction by Rachel Kaminski Sanders, Children and Young Adult Literature Editor:

Need an exciting way to engage your students? Look no further because Star WarsSpidermanAlly McBeal and The Incredibles are making their way into the language arts classroom. This article not only provides valuable information on the use of multiple literacies, but it shows increased student engagement by connecting popular culture with the analysis of literary elements in traditional text.

A second look from author Robyn Seglem, Illinois State University:

When co-writing “21st Century Literacies in the Classroom: Creating Windows of Interest and Webs of Learning” with my colleagues Shelbie Witte and Judy Beemer, we were very aware of the number of students we had seen stumbling through their language arts classrooms. Too many students were being asked to read classic literature that, in their eyes, had little relevance to their lives in the 21st Century. Thus, rather than developing their literacy skills through the reading and interaction of these texts, students resisted reading all together, often bluffing their way through class and assignments using online resources. Students—and teachers—were missing out on rich opportunities of learning together simply because students were unable to make connections to the material.

Judy first introduced me to the Spiderman metaphor during a Summer Institute hosted by the Flint Hills Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project. While listening to her, it quickly became clear to me that students not only needed to make connections to learn—a fact I was already familiar with—but they also needed to be made aware of this need. By using the Spiderman metaphor to teach students about the power of making connections, we could empower them in their learning. And helping more teachers and students realize the power behind this simple metaphor was the impetus for this article.

Although I am no longer a middle or high school English teacher, I continue to respect the potential of popular culture as a vehicle for student learning. In examining the movies, songs, games, and other artifacts of youth and popular culture, we can help our students build their Spidey powers and make connections to the literature that seemed unattainable. Yet, as I continue my work with preservice teachers, I have moved beyond simply valuing these artifacts for what they can do with the classics to embracing their potential as texts in and of themselves. By working with teachers to explore the attributes of ALL texts—the old and the new, the print and the digital, the images and the sound—we can help students develop the critical literacy skills that will prepare them to consumers and producers in a world that continues to rapidly change.

Seglem, R., Witte, S., & Beemer, J. (2012). 21st Century Literacies in the Classroom: Creating Windows of Interest and Webs of Learning . Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(2), 47-65. Available at http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/21st-Century-Literacies-in-the-Classroom.pdf

January 2016

Introduction by Meghan E. Barnes, Principal Editor:

In the inaugural issue of JoLLE (published in 2005), Shirley Brice Heath contributed the following editorial outlining her vision for the journal. In her article she posed a few key concerns she had for the future of literacy education and the binaried ways in which many in education approach literacy and language. Part of her call for future JoLLE writers and editors was to challenge this binary and to bring together these two complementary fields. As a three-year veteran of JoLLE, I cannot help but consider how JoLLE has responded to Dr. Heath’s call for the journal to: “seriously and consistently take up some bold strategies to reshape the future of the field of language and literacy studies.” My hope is that you too find Dr. Heath’s editorial meaningful for your own work and consider the ways that current and future research can continue to reshape our field.

Heath, S.B. (2005). Guest editorial. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 1 (1), 1-8. Available at http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Brice-Heath.pdf



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