Live-tweeting class: an experiment

As I have mentioned before, I am experimenting with twitter this semester. In both of my classes (qued2010, femped2010), students are required to use it for various assignments and I am using it to communicate with class. Over the past month, several of my students in feminist pedagogies have live-tweeted class as a way to take notes for our discussion (I suggested it as an option for their note-taking assignment). Because I always like to try the experimental assignments that I suggest to my students (for lots of reasons, such as: I need to be willing to take the same risks that I expect my students to take and I want to make sure that the experiments that I come up with our actually doable), I decided to live-tweet my queering desire class yesterday. I’m really glad that I did. Here are some reflections on the process–I will include a transcript of my tweets after the jump).

Background: The class usually has 25+ students in attendance. It is an upper Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies course that is cross-listed as a mid-level GLBT Studies course. Blogging and tweeting are central to the class. Yesterday’s class was devoted to a discussion lead by a student group (part of their diablog assignment). We were talking about James Kincaid’s essay “Producing Erotic Children” in Curiouser. Because I was not responsible for leading class, I thought it was a good opportunity to try out live-tweeting. Instead of tweeting as the class administrator (qued2010), I tweeted as myself (undiscplined)

Some Thoughts:

1. I enjoyed it, but found it to be difficult. At first, I was a little scared. Documenting what students are saying in class is a big responsibility–what if I miss an important point or exclude student voices? It is also stressful because of the pressure to quickly post ideas in a very limited number of words.

2. It’s a helpful way to document the process of class discussion. There are all sorts of ways that I could imagine live-tweeting a class. You could tweet main points or offer up your own commentary on the discussion. You could limit the number of tweets in order to have time to (quickly) process the ideas being discussed. In my live-tweet I tried a different approach: my goal was to try and tweet as much of what was being said as I could. This meant I did a lot of tweets and that I didn’t spend much time trying to process/reflect on the discussion. The benefit of this approach is that I was able to document a lot of our discussion. The limitation of this approach is that I was not able to reflect (or engage) as much as I would have liked. I just counted the tweets: I did 52 for the hour of class. That’s a lot for me, especially considering that I had only done about 140 tweets total prior to class. This experience makes me want to tweet a lot more; it seems to be central to the twitter experience.

3. Does this encourage active listening? Yes and no. In my feminist pedagogies class the concept of active (sometimes non-judgmental) listening has come up a lot in our discussion. Berenice Fisher focuses on it in No Angel in the Classroom. AnaLouise Keating promotes it in Teaching Transformation. And Alejandra C. Elenes reflects on it in “Transformando Fronteras. Chicana Feminist Transformative Pedagogies.”  I imagine active listening to involve attempting to really hear/understand what others are saying. It requires that we don’t rush to interject with our opinions or judgements, but that we sit back and let others speak. In most basic terms, it requires that we stop talking and start listening. Live-tweeting helps facilitate the “stop talking” part of active listening. When you are trying to document what everyone else is saying quickly and succinctly, you really don’t have time to offer up your own opinions (I suppose you could through your tweets–I didn’t). In my experience yesterday, I didn’t talk at all (okay, I think I talked once); I was too busy trying to type up what people are saying. So, because live-tweeting encouraged me to stop talking and to really listen to what students were saying so that I could accurately document it, I think live-tweeting encourages active listening. However, even as my live tweeting experience was encouraging me to listen closely, it wasn’t always encouraging me to listen deeply. As I mentioned above in #2, it is difficult to process and engage with class ideas when you are trying so hard to document those ideas–especially when students are so excited to talk that they are (almost) cutting each other off in order to express their thoughts on the reading/topic. At one point during the discussion I briefly thought, “Wow, I hope they don’t ask me to say anything; I can’t image what I could contribute to the discussion!” Also, I wasn’t really engaging with the students. In addition to not speaking, I didn’t offer up any non-verbal expressions either–no head-shaking affirmations or looks of confusion (or whatever other gestures I usually do–not sure what those are…I wonder if students would be willing to point them out?). As a result, I felt distanced from the class; even as I was listening, I wasn’t really there. Is that always a bad thing, I wonder? Maybe my role as the instructor should (at least sometimes) be to step back and let them talk and work through the issues. I want to keep thinking about this idea of active listening and how it works.

4. I want to experiment with how to interject more brief reflections on the class as I am tweeting. In the midst of tweeting about what was being said yesterday, I offered the following observations:

It might be helpful to add in more observations like these in the hopes that students will reply with thoughts (maybe during class–that could be hard–or after class, when they are reading through the live-tweet). As I wrote this last sentence, I thought of something else that I would like to reflect on as I think about how/when to use live-tweeting: Should I have the twitter feed projected on the screen as I am tweeting? Would that allow for more students to participate in the discussion as we are discussing? When does this become too distracting? Does it take away too much from the in-class engagement? Is it more productive to offer up the feed after class–to help continue the discussion online?

5. Some quick suggestions: I have spent almost an hour writing this post and I am running out of steam; it’s time to offer up some sort of conclusion. Here’s mine–in the form of a few brief tips/thoughts:

  • I think more practice will allow for better live-tweeting. I need to get used to how to tweet, how to think quickly, and how to step back, while still engaging in the class.
  • Next time, I want to have a list of everyone’s aliases with me. Ideally I want to do what my students in my fem ped class did: I want to put in the students twitter names (I want to “mention them”–with @) as I discuss  their ideas. By mentioning them, I make it easier for them to read and respond to how I documented their words (they can reply to me with corrections, clarifications, reflections). I was only able to do this with a couple of students (I must admit that I did know more of the aliases, but felt overwhelmed by trying to type in some of the longer or more complicated ones. Here’s another good tip: encourage students to put in really short and easy to remember aliases!).
  • Make sure to tell students that you are live-tweeting the class. I didn’t and I think it lead to some confusion and frustration with my lack of engagement in discussion. In the quick de-briefing at the end of class one student exclaimed, “I looked over and saw you on your computer all of the time and I thought, ‘She better not be on facebook while I’m trying to lead discussion!'”

Okay, I am sure that I have plenty more to write about this experiment, but I need to stop now. I plan to post parts of this entry on all of my different blogs, including my queering desire class (I’m writing it initially on my trouble blog). I hope that my students in queering desire will comment on this entry with their reactions to the experiment and their thoughts on what I did/didn’t document about discussion.

The entire twitter feed is after the jump. To read it in chronological order, go from top to bottom.

Continue reading Live-tweeting class: an experiment

More about asking questions

This week in both of my classes, we are discussing pedagogy. In queering desire, we are talking about/engaging with/trying to practice some forms of queer pedagogy. In feminist pedagogy, we are focusing our attention on critical pedagogy. Not surprisingly, a central theme in both classes is the value of making and staying in trouble in relation to asking questions (a theme which has come up a lot on this blog). As I write this, I am in the midst of reading an excerpt from Paulo Freire’s Learning to Question. He writes:

the point of the question is not to turn the question “what does it mean to ask questions?” into an intellectual game, but to experience the force of the question, experience the challenge it offers, experience curiosity, and demonstrate it to the students. The problem which the teacher is really faced with is how in practice progressively to create with the students the habit, the virtue, of asking questions, of being surprised (37).

Excellent. Creating troublemaking habits are an important part of my own ethics of troublemaking. And, as I have suggested elsewhere, asking questions and being curious are central for my own pedagogical aims. How do we (as critical/feminist) educators develop those habits? Hmm…a topic for an article, perhaps?

So many ideas from this week’s class are swimming around in my head. I just wish I had time to respond to all of them and to organize them into some coherent statement. Since I don’t have time for that (and I don’t really want to…I’m writing this at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and want to go take a hike), I will offer up fragments from discussions in my classes (on blog and twitter) from this week.

As an aside: Have I discussed how difficult it can be to manage and maintain four different blog projects at once. It’s hard to post on all of them. I need to experiment with ways for them to work together. Maybe this entry is such an experiment?

So, here’s an overview of what I discussed on my other blogs.

queering desire: 2010

Day Eight: October 5: In our discussion of queering pedagogy, I talked a lot about making and staying in trouble in the classroom. I connected this to Suzanne Luhman’s “Queering/Querying Pedagogy.” Here’s what I posted about it:

One version of queering pedagogy: Making and Staying in Trouble

…trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it (Butler, Gender Trouble).
troubling, spoiling, undermining, disrupting, destabilizing, unveiling, exposing, unsettling, subverting, resisting, twisting, critically questioning, deconstructing, opening up

uncertain, unpredictable, abnormal, fluid, unstable, confusing, flexible…

A few passages from Luhmann:

If subversiveness is not a new form of knowledge but lies in the capacity to raise questions about the detours of coming to know and making sense, then what does this mean for a pedagogy that imagines itself as queer? Can a queer pedagogy resist the desire for authority and stable knowledge; can it resist disseminating new knowledge and new forms of subjection? What if a queer pedagogy puts into crisis what is known and how we come to know (Luhmann, 5)?

Instead of focusing on the common concerns of teaching, such as what should be learned and how to teach this knowledge, pedagogy might begin with the question of how we come to know and how knowledge is produced in the interaction between teacher/text and student (Luhmann, 6).

As an alternative to the worry over strategies for effective knowledge transmission that reduce knowledge to mere information and students to rational but passive beings untroubled by the material studied, pedagogy might be posed as a question (as opposed to the answer) of knowledge: What does being taught, what does knowledge do to students (Luhmann, 7)?

Alice Pitt (1995) points out: “Learning about content is not the same thing as learning from it. In other words . . . learning is something more than a series of encounters with knowledge; learning entails, rather, the messier and less predictable process of becoming implicated in knowledge” [p. 298](Luhmann, 8).
Both queer theory and pedagogy argue that the process of making (sense) of selves relies on binaries such as homo-hetero, ignorance-knowledge, learner- teacher, reader-writer, and so on. Queer theory and pedagogy place at stake the desire to deconstruct binaries central to Western modes of meaning making, learning, teaching, and doing politics. Both desire to subvert the processes of normalization (Luhmann, 8).

at stake are the implications of queer theory and pedagogy for the messy processes of learning and teaching, reading and writing. Instead of posing (the right) knowledge as answer or solution, queer theory and the pedagogy I have outlined here pose knowledge as an interminable question (Luhmann, 9).

Such queer pedagogy does not hold the promise of a successful remedy against homophobia, nor is it a cure for the lack of self-esteem. This pedagogy is not (just) about a different curriculum or new methods of instruction. It is an inquiry into the conditions that make learning possible or prevent learning. It suggests a conversation about what I can bear to know and what I refuse when I refuse certain identifications. What is at stake in this pedagogy is the deeply social or dialogic situation of subject formation, the processes of how we make ourselves through and against others. As an inquiry into those processes, my queer pedagogy is not very heroic. It does not position itself as a bulwark against oppression, it does not claim the high grounds of subversion but hopefully it encourages an ethical practice by studying the risks of normalization, the limits of its own practices, and the im/possibilities of (subversive) teaching and learning.

In connection with this discussion, I also posted an open thread on class discussion. I focused on discomfort, uncertainty, resistance and failure. Incidentally, this open thread is the second one I have done this semester. It hasn’t been successful yet, but I imagine it as a great space for getting conversation going on topics related to the class. In the future, I might add in an assignment in which students have to start an open thread. Or one in which students must contribute to the open thread every week?

feminist pedagogies: 2010

Day 5: October 6:
In feminist pedagogies, we discussed Freire’s Learning to Question. Very cool. Here are some of my tweets about the readings (which also show up on my twitter, but will be buried soon–one big problem with twitter):

Freire’s ideas are really important for me as I think more about my own vision of troublemaking pedagogy. I especially appreciate his valuing of why.

BTW: My grad students in feminist pedagogies live-tweeted the class. It seemed to work very well. Here’s a link to the transcript that they posted.

Prepping for class: feminist pedagogies, some sources

So one of my colleagues at the U of M suggested that I focus my feminist pedagogies class this fall on technology. I love this idea–even though it requires a lot of work as I think through what technologies to focus on, etc. Not sure if I even like the term technologies here. Maybe new social media or digital media? Anyway, I want to begin putting together a list of possible resources for the class. Here’s what I’ve already found (most of this comes via my twitter feed). Since I trying to learn a lot more about twitter (I don’t know much, but want to use it in my classes this year), this list is pretty twitter-heavy at this point.



I’m still trying to decide how much emphasis I want to put on technology and how many different technologies that I want to focus on. I definitely want to talk about blogging and twitter. I’m also thinking about podcasts/v-logs,  google maps/google Earth and digital storytelling. Any thoughts?

Prepping for class: Queering Desire

It’s that time of year again. Time to start seriously prepping for classes this fall. Last fall I taught Queering Theory and Feminist Pedagogies. This fall I’m teaching Queering Desire and Feminist Pedagogies. Several of the same students from queering theory will be in queering desire so I need to radically redo the syllabus. Here are some books that I am thinking of using:

1. The Promise of Happiness by Sara Ahmed
2. The Queer Child: Growing Sideways by Kathryn Bond Stockton
3. Curiouser: the queerness of children edited by Steven Bruhm and Natasha Hurley
4. Queer Ecologies edited by Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson
5. Cruising Utopias by Jose Esteban Munoz
6. Mad for Foucault by Lynne Huffer

Will I use all of these books? At this point, I’m not sure. I do know that I want to add in many more random articles. And I also want to focus a lot (again) on blogs and blog reading. Last year students in the class suggested that we spend more time on each others’ blog entries. If I want to do that, which I do, I will need to make sure that I don’t assign lots of articles/book reading. In addition to reading each others’ blog entries, I want students to read entries from other blogs. What if I did some blog clusters (that is, a series of articles around the same issue + some non-blog background reading)? I was thinking it might be useful to start with the recent “Butler Scandal”–the scandal that erupted when Judith Butler refused the civic courage award in Berlin. Here are few sources that the students could read for this section:

a. Where Now? From Pride Scandal to Transnational Movement
b. Judith Butler Refuses Prize at Berlin CSD 2010
c. Transcript of Butler’s refusal speech
d. Celebrating Refusal
e. Angela Davis’ youtube response:

f. Interview with Judith Butler

Along with these blog sources, I might want to throw in a reading or two. Maybe an excerpt from Puar’s Terrorist Assemblages + something else? I need to spend a lot more time thinking through all of this. Good thing I have more than a month before I start.

Addendum: I posted this entry a few hours ago; since then, I found a couple more sources that I might want to use in the class. I wanted to post them here before I lost/forgot about them. All three of these sources discuss the value of new social media for queer communities/activism/theorizing/engagement:

Queer Blogger Roundtable: What’s the future?
Queer and Feminist New Media Spaces

Out in the Country by Mary Gray

A few links I want to re-read (or reference)…someday

Ever since I got my iPad in May, I use it a lot for my morning internet news reading. For some reason, I can’t figure out how to make bookmarks on my iPad version of safari (which might be a good thing because I tend to bookmark lots of links that I never return to). So instead, I have started emailing myself the links. Now my inbox is filled with them and I’m feeling the need to clean (which doesn’t happen that often–as hard as I try, I usually have hundreds of emails in my two main mail accounts. Sigh).

Since I use this blog as an archive for ideas, I have decided to post a brief “annotated” list of these links/entries/articles:

1. Childhood, Disability and Public Space a blog entry by Angus Johnston at Student Activism
This entry, which links to an interesting thread on Feministe about kids and public space, is about the rights of children and adults with disability in relation to public space. Here’s his conclusion:

Which brings me to my most important point: that the duty to minimize disruption isn’t a duty that the young and the old and those with disabilities have to the robust adults among us, it’s a reciprocal duty that each of us, whatever our condition, has to each of our neighbors, whatever their condition.

Each of us has an obligation to refrain from whining too long or too loudly in museums. But each of us also has an obligation to accept the company of others good-naturedly, and to respond with grace when disruptions inevitably occur.

Why I’m archiving it: This essay resonates with me on a number of different levels–personally (as the mother of two young children who struggles to navigate public space with them and in the midst of other parents who do seem to feel entitled to take up lots of space, and as a daughter who witnessed my mom’s fearful attempts to inhabit public space as terminally ill, slow-moving and fragile without being knocked over or shoved out of the way) and intellectually (I like thinking about the links between public space, children and disruption).

Where I found it: random twitter search on @bitchphd, buried deep on page 2 or 3

2. threadbared a blog by Mimi Thi Nguyen and Minh-Ha T. Pham
Here’s a description of this super-cool blog:

Threadbared is an evolving collaboration between two clotheshorse academics to discuss the politics, aesthetics, histories, theories, cultures and subcultures that go by the names “fashion” and “beauty.” With commentary on how clothes matter, as well as book and exhibit reviews and interviews with scholars and artists, Threadbared considers the critical importance of taking clothes –and the bodies that design, manufacture, disseminate, and wear them– seriously as an entry point into dialogue about the world around us.

Why I’m archiving it: Okay, I’m not really into fashion that much (but maybe after reading this blog, I will be!), however I am familiar with Mimi Thi Nguyen’s work (Alien Encounters and a brief online essay on Mulan from years ago) and I appreciate the ways in which she brings feminist, queer, and anti-racist analyses to bear on pop culture. Minh-Ha T. Pham’s work seems pretty cool too; I especially like her post (which I just found) on why I feel guilty when I don’t blog. And here’s one more reason: this is a kick-ass blog done by academics who are using their impressive set of critical tools (feminist transnational studies, queer theory, critical media studies) to critically reflect on popular (fashion) culture. And it’s a diablog. This is a great model for being diablogical!

Where I found it: Wow, I wish I could remember. Probably twitter again. I think twitter is my new researching BFF. Seriously, twitter is a great resource. I will definitely have to use it in my classes this year.

3. May I, Please, Queer Your Kids? The New Queer Pedagogy an online article by Stephanie Jo Marchese in a Special Issue of MP: An international feminist journal
In this article, Marchese opens her discussion of queer pedagogy and the queer classroom with one queer student’s story (Sara) of being deemed a threat by her teachers:

By asserting the contagion of queerness, any school system, any teacher, any student, and any administrator has an increased chance of exposure. Paranoia becomes the vaccine to this social disease. It has seeped into pedagogical practices resulting in the devaluation and disgust with which queer studies is viewed in mainstream educational discussions. In advocating queer learning spaces, educational institutions run the risk of losing all categories, run the risk of leaving all subject matter ripe learning material, and inadvertently allow for provocative and resistant citizens to thrive. In linking this theoretical pondering to my opening example it makes perfect sense that Sara was told to pipe down. Keep it quiet. Don’t disturb your role because you unsettle mine.

Marches argues that queer visibility (and a pedagogy that is queer) doesn’t always have to lead to paranoia and containment; making sexuality visible in the class could allow for more honest conversations about it and the ways in which it gets regulated (through what is normal/acceptable and what is not).

Why I’m archiving it: I am always interested in essays on queer pedagogy and the bibliography for this article seems like it could point to even more sources. Plus, I appreciate her discussion of the queer who unsettles/disrupts as someone who needs to be encouraged (because of the productive, good troublemaking they do) instead of being contained or denied.

Where I found it: I got a mass email through the WMST-L listserv about a call for papers from the MP journal. I went to their website and randomly searched the archives.

4. Twitter for Academia a blog entry by dave on Academic Hack
In this entry, dave provides a list of various ways in which to use twitter in the classroom, including: class chatter, classroom community, get a sense of the world, track a word, track a conference, instant feedback, follow a professional, follow a famous person and more.

Why I’m archiving it: I plan to use twitter in my classes this year (and to teach about how to use it in my feminist pedagogies class) and am always looking for advice and ideas about it. Not only does dave offer some great suggestions, but his post has 46 comments worth of ideas too. Cool. This post should be very helpful. Here are a few that I particularly like:

Track a Word: Through Twitter you can “track” a word. This will subscribe you to any post which contains said word. So, for example a student could be interested in how a particular word is used. They can track the word, and see the varied phrases in which people use it. Or, you can track an event, a proper name (I track Derrida for example), a movie title, a store name see how many people a day tweet that they are at or on their way to a Starbucks. (To do this send the message “track Starbucks” to Twitter, rather than posting the update “track Starbucks” you will now receive all messages with the word “Starbucks.”)

Instant Feedback: Because Twitter is always on, and gets pushed to your cell phone if you set it up this way, it is a good way to get instant feedback. I was prepping for a lecture and wanted to know if students shared a particular movie reference, I asked via Twitter and got instant responses. Students can also use this when doing their classwork, trying to understand the material. Tweet: “I don’t understand what this reading has to do with New Media? any ideas?” Other students then respond. (This actually happened recently in a class of mine.)

Maximizing the Teachable Moment: It is often hard to teach in context, Twitter allows you to do this, but better yet, allows your students to do it for you (a way that others will hear perhaps). Recently someone in my Twitter circle made a marginal comment about a male friend who was dating an older woman. Another person in the same circle called him out this. Perfect, an in-context lesson on gender prejudice.

Public NotePad: Twitter is really good for sharing short inspirations, thoughts that just popped into your head. Not only are they recorded, because you can go back and look at them, but you can also get inspiration from others. This is really useful for any “creative” based class.

Where I found it: I’m pretty sure that I did a google search for twitter and academic use (or twitter teaching?). Sidenote: I used Academic Hack’s blogroll to find ProfHacker, which is great source on the Chronicle of Higher Education for teaching and technology.

Okay, I’m done now. Well, my list of links is not done, but I’m done. I find this entry to be a helpful exercise, one I might try in my classes. It’s more time-consuming than I imagined it would be (it took about 90 minutes, off and on, to write). I need to go rest my brain now and listen to some summer music: