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:

A blogging breakthrough?

As I have chronicled in my teaching with blogs section, I have been experimenting over the past year (yes, I have been writing in this blog for almost a year–May 12th is my one year anniversary!) with the blog as a writing and teaching tool. Ever since giving my workshop on “teaching with blogs and blogging while teaching” this past February, I have given special attention to thinking about how to use a blog entry as the foundation for and content of my in-class discussions. I imagine it as an alternative to powerpoint. Why, you may ask, do we need an alternative to powerpoint? Unlike many others, I am not strongly opposed to power point. But for some reason, I have never been compelled to use it. It doesn’t seem to fit with how my brain works or how I want to present and discuss images/video clips, etc. (Note: I am not ruling out powerpoint and am open to suggestions on how to use it effectively. Any thoughts?)

I plan to write extensively about my experiences with course blogs this summer. For now I want to highlight a few entries from this week that have been particularly successful and productive; entries that inspired me to think that I might just be experiencing a blogging breakthrough.

Example One: Thoughts about Happiness, the Unhappy Archives, Gidget, the trouble with dinner, and putting the hap back in happiness

This entry was used as the format for a discussion of Sarah Ahmed’s recent work on happiness in my graduate class on troublemaking (feminist and queer explorations in troublemaking). I used the entry:

  • to reference my own writing on Ahmed and happiness (from this blog)
  • to highlight particular passages from the readings (and questions that I want to discuss)
  • to connect the current readings with concepts/ideas/readings discussed earlier in the semester
  • to post video clips that allowed for further engagement/explanation/complication of some key themes in the readings

I found this format to be a lot of fun (to create and discuss). I am particularly proud of how well the two video clips worked with and against Ahmed’s idea of the feminist killjoy and her discussion of the killing of joy (and the exposing of bad feelings) at the dinner table. I have wanted to do something with Debbie Downer for a while now, ever since I suggested that J Butler might be one in my entry on grief. And I love how bringing in these video clips allowed me to approach the material in a different way–and bring in our discussion about humor and comedy from earlier in the semester.

Example Two: A Feminist Response to the Arizona Immigration Bill (SB1070)

This entry was used as the format for a discussion about the Prison Industrial Complex and “protection: for whom? and at what cost?” in my mid-level undergraduate feminist debates class. The class met this past Tuesday, just days after Gov. Brewer had signed SB1070. The topic of immigration rights, the PIC, and problematic claims of “protection” and “safety” seemed to fit very well with the bill and how it was being discussed by a wide range of bloggers and media outlets, so I decided to make this entry the focus of our class. I used this entry:

  • to provide some context and more information about the bill by summarizing parts of the bill and the discussions surrounding it, and by posting a wide range of links–including a link to the actual bill and to Gov. Brewer’s explanation of it
  • to offer a brief overview of some critical responses to the bill and the implications of it for people living and working in Arizona
  • to connect the reading to an important recent issue and allow students to apply their growing knowledge of feminist critiques of the PIC to current events
  • to post a video clip that encourages students to be curious and to think critically about current events and how they are represented within the news (or the “fake news”–can we call The Colbert Report fake news?)
  • to provide a space, and an example, that could enable students to revisit all of the issues we discussed during the semester and that would encourage them to be curious about the bill

All in all, I think I am figuring out some productive ways for using the blog for my presentation and discussion of key ideas and concepts. In past classes, I have relied (a lot) on extensive handouts. This requires using a lot of paper (especially in classes with 40+ students) and can be overwhelming (and let’s face it, boring) for students. Blog entries enable me to document my notes/ideas/reflections without wasting paper and in a way that is engaging and interesting for many (most?) of the students and for me.

One thing that happened in both classes that I thought was interesting (and cool) was that I didn’t merely read the blog entry from top to bottom. In both classes we jumped around, oftentimes coming back to material again and again. In the feminist debates class the students said several times, “can you scroll back up…I want to talk about how the language was used here or about the idea there…”. The format of the blog made it easy to go back and forth and back again. It also enabled me to jump around, click on links, and bring up new information that related to students’ comments.

One more random thought for today: Does anyone else have problems with boring group (or individual) presentations that seem unfocused and not well-thought out, and that rely too much on powerpoint? This semester in my feminist debates class, I encouraged students to give their very brief presentations directly off of their blog entries (which were a required part of the assignment). So far, the presentations this semester have been more interesting than past classes. A little late in the game (which always happens when I am experimenting), I realized that I should encourage this format even more and give them a sample format. So I posted this entry earlier today. I think that I might require students to use the blog for their presentation next year. I might even provide them with one or two possible formats to use. By making it a structured requirement, I might increase my chances for getting better presentations (that present the material more effectively and that are more interesting). Hmmm….

My Spring Courses

Recently I have been working on my blogs for Feminist Debates and Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking. I currently have 50 students enrolled in my feminist debates course. Yet again I am pushing at the limits of how blogs can work in a classroom by requiring all of them to use our blog regularly. To make the process easier for everyone involved, I have spent a lot of time (maybe way too much) on the assignment and the worksheet that accompanies it.  I am looking forward to seeing how the blog works (or maybe doesn’t work) in such a big class. I wonder, do any instructors use blogs in really big classes–like classes with 75 students or more?

Word count: 116 words

An Assessment of my fall 2009 blogs: two strategies

A couple of days ago I posted the details of my blog assignments for Queering Theory and Feminist Pedagogies. In this entry, I want to write about how I implemented these assignments. Here are two strategies I used:

1. I demonstrated a commitment to the blog.

I showed the students I was serious about using the blog by spending considerable time training them and thinking with them about what a blog is and how it is useful. Way back in August, when I was writing about teaching with blogs, I offered the following suggestion:

Spend some time at the beginning of the semester training students on how to use the blog.
If possible, demonstrate how to: log in, write an entry, create a link, upload an image, embed a youtube clip, comment on other blogs, find helpful blogs (other things I am forgetting?). You should also spend some time discussing what blogs are, how they can be used, and how/why they will be used in your class. Although this reading is a little dated (from 2005), it might be helpful in getting your students to understand what blogs are and why they are useful. And, it might (but not always) be helpful to have students reflect on blog rules (how to comment on others’ blogs, etiquette, etc).

This fall I took my own advice; in each class we devoted an entire week to training and thinking critically about blogs and how they could/do function in feminist and queer classrooms. In my queering theory class, we read essays on queer blogging by Jill Dolan, Rahul Mitra and Radhika Gajjala, and Julie Rak (you can read my discussion of them and find links to the full citations here). We also devoted a lot of time to thinking about blogging in relation to queer theoretical issues (is the blog a queer space of freedom? what sorts of queer subjects are constructed through blogging? how do blogs challenge and/or reinforce liberal notions of the Subject/Person and the personal?). Reflecting on blogs in this way–queerly and as an important topic for queering–established from the very beginning that the course blog wasn’t just going to be extra (busy) work for the students to do; the blog was going to be a object of study and where they could practice their own queering of theories/ideas/experiences, etc. In my feminist pedagogies class, we read Blogging Feminism: (Web) Sites of Resistance and my three part series on feminist pedagogy and blogging (here, here, and here) and we discussed how blogs can be used (and abused) in feminist classrooms. In both classes, I gave them a tutorial on how to blog in the media center. I also posted (and discussed) this blogging primer.

2. I was an active participant on the blog.

In addition to spending some time at the beginning of the semester for training and thinking about  blogs, I also participated in the blogs with the students. I posted entries in which I reflected on the readings, offered up an example for them to analyze, made announcements about interesting events or resources, and linked to my own blog when I had written entries that seemed relevant to the class. I also occasionally commented on their own entries. With all of this posting, I definitely increased how much I participated in my course blogs. In past classes, I averaged about 10-15 posts per semester (which consisted of announcements about class or weekly questions for them to respond to). In my queering theory and feminist pedagogies classes this past fall, I did 88 entries combined. While many of these entries were about course management (announcements, additional readings, links to handouts), overall I was more creative in my use of the blog. Here are some examples of how I participated on the blog. I posted

The blog can be an amazing (and perhaps overwhelming, at times) resource for students as they engage with the material, with me and with other students. I really enjoyed exploring so many different ways to facilitate (and encourage) that engagement. Okay, so I have run out of steam on this entry. These are not the only strategies I used for implementing the blog. In future entries, I want to write about using the blog in class discussions, a few blog categories that I am particularly proud of, and my struggles with comments.

An Assessment of my Fall 2009 Blogs: the Assignments

It is January 6. In 13 days my spring semester begins. Remarkably, my syllabi for Feminist and Queer Explorations in Troublemaking and Contemporary Feminist Debates are in pretty good shape. Time to reflect on what worked/didn’t work in my course blogs this past semester. If you recall (if not, see here), one key reason I started writing in this blog was to practice what I preach/teach. I imagined that actually participating in what I assign for my students would help me to create more productive and engaging blog assignments. It would also help me to understand the limits and possibilities of using the blog. And, I hoped, it would help me to understand better how blogging can contribute to my feminist pedagogical goals. It did all three of these things. I strongly believe that my development of and participation in this trouble blog has contributed greatly to the success of the blog assignments in Queering Theory and Feminist Pedagogies. But, before I get to how these assignments were successful (and also where they could be improved, because isn’t there always room for improvement?), let me start by describing the assignments for each class.

QUEERING THEORY: upper-level undergrad seminar, 12 students

Brief summary/background: When I started putting the syllabus together last July, I knew I wanted to make the blog a central part of the course. The last time I taught Queering Theory, in spring of 2008, the assignments were fairly effective and we (both me and the students) enjoyed the semester. We had a blog that we used, but not that much. This time, I was ready to mix it up and really push at the limits of how blogging could (or should?) be used in the classroom. A class about queering seemed perfect for such an experiment. By making the course rely so heavily on the blog, the students and I could work to challenge/unsettle/disrupt/queer the course. We could potentially disrupt where (not just in the seminar room, but wherever our computers were) and when (not just during the officially scheduled class time, but at 2 AM if we wanted) class engagement occurred. We might also be able to unsettle what counted as academic engagement and rigorous writing (blog entries instead of formal papers) and who counted as an expert (not just the professor or the authors of our “scholarly” texts, but the students as blog authors/posters). Here is part of the official assignment that I distributed to them a week or two into the semester:

ENTRIES: 30% or 300 points (15 total @ 20 points each)

7 Direct engagements with the readings
Annotated bibliographies
“Queer This!” posts

ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT: 10% or 100 points (10 total @ 10 points each)

3 Comments posted in response to the query in “Class Summaries and Queries”
Comments posted on direct engagement OR annotated bibliography entries.
Comments posted on any blog entries

* NOTE: While you are encouraged to post as much as you are able, only 2 entries and 1 comment per week will count towards your overall grade.

Included in the official handout was a more detailed explanation of each type of entry/comment. You can download it here.  I recognize that the amount of detail I give for the blog entries might seem overwhelming (which I think it was for some of them), but it also demonstrated that I was taking this whole blog thing seriously–because I had put so much thought into the assignment, they could trust that I knew what I was doing. As one student pointed out in her final blog entry, trust (between me and her, her and the other students) was central to making this blog experiment a success. A week or so after distributing and discussing this handout, I gave them a worksheet and more instructions about how to keep track of their participation. You can download that here. Here is a screen shot of page 1 of the worksheet.

Central to the blog assignment was the tracking of a particular theme related to queering theory. Students were able to pick which theme they wanted to track. Their direct engagements and annotated bibliographies were required to engage with that theme. They also had to read an additional essay related to their theme and present on it. Finally, they were required to post (or submit) and briefly present on a final wrap-up in which they defined their term and reflected on the experience of blogging. In total, the blog assignment was worth 800 points out of 1000 total points (300 points for blog entries, 100 points for comments, 150 points for presentations, 250 points for the final wrap-up). That’s right. 80% of their grade was the development of and participation in our course blog. As I have stated before, I am amazed and impressed with my students’ willingness to engage in this risky experiment, especially since only two of them had taken courses with me before.

FEMINIST PEDAGOGIES, graduate seminar, 14 students

Brief summary/background: This past semester was my second time teaching Feminist Pedagogies. When I taught it the first time I had always hoped that the blog could be a productive site for engagement with the ideas. We used it but, just like in my first queering theory blog, we didn’t use it that much. It wasn’t a place for us to engage with ideas, only a place to post notes or additional resources. When I found out that I would have 14 students and that the time for my class had been cut from 2 1/2 hours to 2 hours 10 minutes, I knew that the blog would be essential for allowing us to discuss all of the material. So I decided to emphasize the blog as one of the places where students would raise questions and discuss readings/pedagogical theories/teaching. Just like with the queering theory course, a course on feminist pedagogies seemed to be a fitting place to experiment with blogging. Here is the assignment that I gave them:


You are required to actively participate on our course blog. In addition to posting your pedagogical question on the blog (worth 50 points), you are required to post 10 posts (either as new entries or comments on other class members’ entries) over the course of the semester (worth 15 points each).

Pedagogical Question:
Each session will begin with a wrap-up discussion of pedagogical questions that are first raised by several students on our course blog. The questions can be theoretical and/or practical in nature (e.g.: How do you deal with students who don’t “get it”? How do we create community in big classes? What characteristics should a feminist classroom have?). It could also stem from your own experiences as a teacher or student. We will spend approximately 10-15 minutes on the discussion as we brainstorm responses. Each week, several students will be responsible for posting their questions on our course blog. The questions should be posted by Monday evening.

10 Required Posts:

5 direct responses to pedagogical questions
related to the development of your syllabus/reading list
your choice on feminist pedagogies

Direct responses: These 5 posts can be comments posted directly on the original pedagogical question post, or they can be new entries that directly engage with and respond to the pedagogical question. Your response should be thoughtful and draw upon course readings, discussions and/or your own experiences in the classroom as a student or teacher.

Syllabus-related posts: The purpose of these 2 posts is to enable you to chart your progress as you develop your syllabus. Your posts can be about anything related to that process: questions about possible readings, mini annotated bibliographies on sources that you are planning to use, reflections on figuring out your topic, readings, or assignments. The only requirement is that one of these “syllabus progress reports” must be posted by November 4 and the other one must be posted by December 16.

The remaining 3 posts can be about anything related to the course and feminist pedagogy. You could post questions about the readings (what certain terms mean, etc) or mini annotated bibliographies with sources on feminist pedagogy or teaching. Or, you could share images/ideas/examples with our class that might be useful for teaching. You could even post your critical reflections on why blogging is/isn’t effective in the classroom or offer another direct response to a pedagogical question.

You are required to make 5 posts by November 4.
The remaining 5 posts should be completed by December 16.

There you have it, the blog assignments for each course. In upcoming posts I want to write about how these assignments did/didn’t work. I also want to write about how they reflect my pedagogical vision and values. And I want to offer some advice for anyone else wanting to experiment with blogging.