Friday, May 10, 2013


Today is GSE's Graduation.

Who would know how fast this year would go. I feel like September was yesterday. I walked into PennGSE knowing one thing: for this brick of money that I put up, I was going to get my money back....

I think I did pretty well. First and foremost, I benefited greatly from focusing on my work rather than focusing on the grades [except for yesterday, but that's a different story...]  Focusing on my work allowed me to flesh out thoughts and explore ideas rather than try to pin down what professors wanted or was what I submitted effective. It became a self driven process.

As I look forward into next year, I would ask all new GSE students to continue to reflect on your ideas and explore them in the way that makes you happy and fulfilled with all the urgency of this expensive graduate school experience affords you.

In the most famous words of the Isley Brothers, ITS YOUR THING, DO WHAT YOU WANNA DO.

Monday, March 11, 2013


I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite voices out there Jay Smooth. In this video, which is part of a series of videos, he elaborates upon what he calls the “Little Hater.” The Little Hater is the voice, mostly inside your head, though can be heard from numerous agents in our life, often blocks us from being our most creative. It makes us question ourselves. Is this up to par? Does it really make sense? In this episode, Jay Smooth talks about his current challenge: balancing interest and intrigue with having “something to say.”

One voice saying “you are not interesting enough”, another voice saying “you are not honest enough”

I have to say that I am also facing the same dilemma when I think about how to create curricula for students that serves pathways for engagement and messing around, while placing opportunities for students to think critically and challenge ideas. I’m currently working on a proposal for my hometown to create a summer technology program that will ask youth to explore creative media production, web design, and computer programming, while simultaneously seeking to foster community engagement around critical issues and advocate around breaking the digital divide. It’s a lot to think about and questions often emerge: Is this project really just a big facade for what you would like to say? Aren’t there more important things (street violence, ‘concrete’ skills,etc.) that deserve more atttention than youth understanding computers? How long are you even dedicated to this mission? Don’t you need to be worrying about getting a job? All these things come together to put up a blockade around my enthusiasm about getting this project up off the ground.
In general, when it comes to digital literacy and multimodality, there are often “little hater” style ideas that infiltrate the emergence of technology in the classroom. Are you just doing this because it’s more fun? Aren’t you just creating a new generation of stimulation junkies that can’t sit still for more than 5 seconds? ”You know, the more technology we have, the more impersonal society becomes…” “I could see this done in an afterschool program, but I don’t understand what’s so significant about these digital tools to become a core principle.” What’s most important about the Little Hater is that these permeate through my mind as I contemplate my committment to seeing the rise and validation of new technologies and textual forms within schools—specifically disadvantaged, underfunded, and overburdened schools.

In the end, I take inspiration from Jay Smooth when he says “I’ll still think it’s worth it to get in the ring.” That means looking at new ways to approach the goal. Catching up on research on how to effectively blend digital tools into existing school curriculums. Bookmarking news reports that mention how many future jobs will open that are in need of tech-friendly workers and colleges who are taking their programs online. Tying back the potential of new tools to community possibilities and improvements.

As an educator, how have you faced ‘The Little Hater’?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I better get the job.

Essay #3. Now, a chance to go off-script. There’s a scene in American Beauty (1999), shot in slow-motion, where a white plastic bag appears to be dancing in the wind (click here to watch that scene) – a quiet, lyrical moment that balances out the heaviness of the film. Choose one detail in the world that helps you stay balanced and explain why you chose it.

            I apologize as this post won’t be as mind-blowing as a plastic bag, but I hope that it gives you more detail into my perspective on life and my ideas on life’s purpose. As I mentioned in an earlier essay, my initial career aspiration was to become a music business executive, a sort of P.Diddy with artistic integrity (Not a diss, I find it amazing how Diddy has become a pop superstar and business mogul as curator and not creator of music).    That being said, I find my balance in the world through soul music, a specific form of music that has feeling and experience at its core though it may be expressed in many genres (hip-hop, RnB, Jazz, Funk, etc.).  I believe it is best described by hip-hop artist Busta Rhymes on the song “Music For Life” on Hi-Tek’s Hi-Teknology2: The Cure (2008). It must be left in semi-phonetic description.  Bussa Buss calls into the song:

Ayo, Hi-Tek whattup?, you know who this is
It's your boy Busta Bus down, Flip Mode Squad, aiight
Now, you know, this is serious thing behind the music that we're doing
It's like.. music, for me man, it mean, it means everything, feel me
You know when we going through, our personal stripes in life
You'know'what'I'm'sayin', we get up in that studio
Close that door, lock ourselves in, that little four-wall space man
Get in the vocal booth and become whoever you wanna be
Express whatever you wanna feel, you'know'what'I'mean?
When you going through your most frustrating time in life
You'know'what'I'm'sayin', you can realize that..
When you can't find nobody else to speak to
You can speak through the music
Help other people feel your pain, your struggle, your passion
You'know, what you live and die for, your values in life
You'know'what'I'mean?, music man
Is the voice of every being in the Universe
What God had provided for us to communicate, when all else fails
It's what allows us to be able to connect
With touching our hearts & the soul of the streets

Inspiring.  Busta Rhymes perfectly describes the emancipatory capacity that can be felt through the creation of art.  I look at this heartfelt monologue and begin to pull together many of the things that I hope to embody through my practice as an educator and engaged citizen.

Get in the vocal booth and become whoever you wanna be
One of my favorite scholars Ernest Morrell, the president-elect of the National Council of Teachers of English and current Professor of English Education at Teachers College, talks about learning as becoming.  In the classroom, we should uphold pedagogy that allows students to become authors, writers, journalists, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, producers, CREATORS.  Don’t teach to the skills; teach students to become and the necessary skills will emerge.

Help other people feel your pain, your struggle, your passion/You'know, what you live and die for, your values in life.
An education that teaches student’s skills and competencies without a critical interrogation of values seeks to affirm social reproduction rather than social transformation as many of our students across all communities grow up as carrier and witness of numerous pains and struggles. I believe the educator is privileged to be in a position that will have influence of what the next generation seeks to find as their mission and purpose while living on this earth. It’s a truth that we cannot take lightly. Many have noted that with power, comes responsibility. As we engage our students in becoming powerful leaders of their communities, we must seek to inscribe values that emerge a call to humanization, inclusiveness, and equity.

It's what allows us to be able to connect/With touching our hearts & the soul of the streets
Overall, I believe one of the most important messages that we can leave to students as educators is simply: “I could be ____”  It’s up to the students to determine how they will fill in the blank.  While I’m assured that mostly all of our students will fill in the blank with great things such as President, CEO, and Doctor, it’s a sad reality that many people in our communities painfully end up stating “I am in poverty. I am in war.  I am in bad health.”  We must impart empathy within our students that says while I have the world in front of me, I understand that my success is intimately tied to the legacy that I leave for the rest of world. Where could we take this world if we connect students to the successes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett while recognizing the injustices and struggles that face the more than 1 billion people who live on less than one dollar a day.

Soul music is my guide and more than most times, my muse. I recycle inspiration gained through art to create curricula that honors experience, feeling, potential, and freedom. Through this, I seek to honor the legacies of soul legends like Marvin Gaye that asked the world to recognize What’s Going On?

Thursday, February 28, 2013


...its bigger than...[ethnography forum reflections]

Over the weekend of February 21st-24th, I prepped for and enjoyed the 34th Annual Ethnography Forum as well as Sunday’s inaugural Screening Scholarship Media Festival extension. It was an awesome experience that left me with many insights and perspectives to begin to unpack. My experience within the Ethnography Forum was enhanced by the time I spent as a volunteer liaison for the Saturday plenary speaker, Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz of Teachers College.

Dr. Sealey-Ruiz’s presentation focused on disrupting partial representations of students in your class through clips from the Beyond The Bricks project where Black male students came together to create a documentary. She challenged educators to ask themselves: Are you seeing or are you noticing? In her metaphor, noticing indicated full attention and an inquiry approach. We were asked to complete a Venn Diagram that asked us to describe in one circle “How People See You” and in the other circle “What You Want People to Notice.” It made it more evident that while seeing and noticing are synonyms, they differ greatly in meaning. For my activity, I was partnered with an Ed.D candidate within RWL. We spoke about our identities and how that translated with our self-identified roles as advocates for social transformation. She offered that people see her as a White female, though she was hesitant to be noticed as a White female because of the traditional notions that follow the White female teacher in education. She noted that through her work, she strives to transcend that association. For myself, I offered that people see me as a Black male, and that I would like to be noticed as a Black male because the dominant narratives of Black males in the United States often excludes or exceptionalizes people like myself. A very interesting mix yet we shared one thing in common: we wanted to be noticed for our work first. Our work supersedes our personal identity and we both felt cautious about whether that would be recognized.

As I began to meditate on what it meant to put the work first, I thought about how that would influence my role as a teacher. I have always operated from the standpoint of asking students not to follow me, but to follow the ideas. It is perfectly fine to not to agree with me. I have often found myself more interested with such “skeptical” students. Especially in terms of the mainstream media’s representation of the Black community, I believe there has been a privilege of cultural, political, and economic critique taken up by preliminary Black leaders that I seek to dismantle. I understand this phenomenon to assume a narrative that concludes that many of the youth (and undereducated) in the Black community have to earn the right to have their concerns be taken seriously. In terms of national press, how diverse is the pool of Black people that contribute to critical national conversations on equity and social justice? This trickles down into our communities. Whereby many often have powerful and passionate critiques of individual and institutional discriminatory practices, there still lies the notion that these perspectives must be funneled through so-called leaders to speak truth to power. How can I convince the young people that I work with that their voice is just as valuable as Martin Luther King, Sojourner Truth, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Frederick Douglass? Not in the future, but right now?

I have found that the best practice is to disrupt the “banking” education model that Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed talks about so brilliantly. It’s not about what I think. It’s what you think. I love the moment when a young person looks at me sideways because they cannot perceive what side of a debate I am on. I push them to find their own stance backed up by personal values. Through this practice, I hope to instill within them the confidence, competence, and passion to become active spokespersons within their community in favor of equity, democracy, and justice.

I still have questions about this approach. Am I doing youth a disservice by not transmitting to them some of the wisdom that I have gained over the years? Do I think less of them to believe that if I give them my opinion, they will take it at face value? By engaging with the youth, am I evading my own inevitable personal bias and positionality? I want to be present one-to-one in the lives of youth while proclaiming that this work of teaching and learning is much bigger than you and I.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Reblogged from my Education Interwebs blog.

...bringing to the stage, DJ Ed Interwebs...

Today in #diglits, we spoke about the identit(ies) that we perform through the creation of our blogs. Dr. Stornaioulo [god, I hope that spelling is correct :)] pulled one of my original quotes into a document that had quotes from all of our blogs. It was one of my first posts. She obviously had to do some digging to get to it. I’m on post 57.
I hope to use this blog to share many of my “ruminations” about the future of education as well as pepper in many of the quotes and perspectives that speak to my hopes and dreams. If you notice from the title, hip-hop plays a major role in how I “read the world” (Friere & Macedo, 1987) around us. If you don’t know, get familiar.
My introduction to the blog. I noticed a couple things. One, ruminations…I love that word because I believe it to be associated with Rumi, who happens to be one of my favorites. Two, I had to link my brother from another mother Paulo Friere. He should be my uncle I guess. He was pretty old. Maybe he could be my pops. Lastly, the “get familiar”—-tag line that I know from DJ Clinton Sparks mixtapes—which links to a YouTube of Jay Electronica’s “Victory is in my Clutches”.

I realize that I really do take pride in my links. It’s not really about me. Most of the time, I don’t think I have anything original to say, or as Nas would say “No Idea’s Original.” [the ALCHEMIST version from The Lost Tapes] I do see myself as a curator and it comes out in a number of forms. I can dissect most of my language to their “originators” as in saying “jawn” happened because I grew up around Philadelphia. Rap lyrics infiltrate the idioms and phrases of my life. Comedians offer so many different jokes. So many things feel like a Curb Your Enthusiasm moment. The music I listen to is not only connected to the artist, but also connected to the moment that I discovered them and the process in which that came about. It’s a giant story. For example, Kendrick Lamar. [thats a Willie Hutch sample from The Mack Soundtrack] I have been listening to Kendrick Lamar since the EP because 9th Wonder had an interview on which he stated that Kendrick Lamar was one of his new favorites from out of the West. One Ctrl+ T later, I am downloading the free Kendrick Lamar EP and have been a fan ever since. There is so many different instances which pull events together.

I often talk about the genealogy of ideas that I have so much fun with in music, but it relates well to academia. Reading a WaxPoetics magazine, you come across so many different talented artists that helped to build classic music that would stand the test of time to become some of Hip-Hop’s greatest songs. Ex. The Delfonics’ Ready Or Not. These are amazing talents. You have to CITE YOUR SOURCES!! The funny thing about Hip-Hop is that you don’t just give it away. It becomes the responsibility of the listener to do the searching, to do the crate digging. You have to find it. I remember hearing the story of Afrika Bambataa (from DJ Red Alert on a RBMA lecture) that he would change the labels of the vinyl’s that he would play so that no other DJ would know the records he would be playing at the party. HAVING THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SOURCES IS A BIG DEAL.

I think of how hip-hop definitely favors the academic in terms of being a crate-digger and a curator. It’s not just about what I have to say. In many ways, my validity is only based on the sources. As @epohnire pointed out today in class, I do look at my blog like I am a DJ. I try to create an environment that supports social justice, digital media, and progressive education. I don’t care if it’s my records or from somewhere else. It’s about that sound. If it’s not there, I would have to do more to create it. But that energy is already out there in the world so I can step back and curate it.
Miles Davis was great at curating. He knew how to find himself in the new movements of jazz. I believe he did this because he always had one ear on his playing and one ear surveying the land. And you got to know what that Champion Sound is….

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday. (continued)

I don't just write about my escapades in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Here's a post from my "professional identity" blog Education Interwebs.

hold up, it ain’t exactly free. [ruminations on the digital divide]

“I can play the game because it’s free, but then are some other parts that it won’t let me access without payment.”
This is of course, the prevailing way in which developers are releasing their product: the freemium model. The freemium model means that there is a wide amount of access for everyone, yet for premium privileges, there is a price. We see it everywhere. This is what storage sites like DropBox depend on. My favorite music community SoundCloud is predicated upon the same deal. Many of the new ed-tech tools is premised upon the same strategy (famous exceptions: Khan Academy, CK-12). In this way, it becomes awfully easy to suggest that there are SO many tools out there that are free. I would ask you to think twice about that.
Have you counted the cost of the computer/console/phone/device?
[have you considered the prerequisites of the operating system and software needed to browse Web 2.0 (Flash, HTML5 Supported Browser, etc)]
Have you counted the cost of the internet upon which many of these applications depend?
[have you considered how telecom companies structure the cost of internet into triple play deals because internet is “just not enough”]
Have you read about the intricacies and delays around Comcast’s court-mandated Internet Essentials program that makes access to broadband SO cheap?
[do you know anyone who actually has it? Do you know the bandwidth limits they have for these connections?]
Do you know how to set up a router?
….and on….
….and on….

There’s a lot that we need to consider before we say that there are so many FREE tools out there to help students learn. There is still a ways to go before we rid ourselves of the digital divide.
BONUS: There was a controversial article in the Forbes’ blog last year that spoke to this. What was the name of it?