Recently, I have had several experiences that have prompted me to rethink what it means to learn:

  • Video Documentary: Recently, I made a documentary about a card game my six-year old son invented. Recognizing thatgood documentaries are suspenseful, I found myself looking at my son's game as an enimga--making my documentary be about trying to figure out its rules rather than, as was my first inclination, trying to figure out the psychological dimensions of his game (wish-fullfillment, etc.) This approach forced me to dwell with the details, putting off totalizing theories that might sum up his game in too tidy a fashion. I found that I have really enjoyed repeated viewings of the video to the extent that I left the meanings of disparate elements open.
  • Service Learning: I am both a practioner and adminstrator of service learning. While some students take pleasure in producing media for community partners in "real world" exigencies, many more have fun "processesing" with each other their reactions to the unpredictable aspects of working with a community partner. Frustration, humor, admiration, boredom--it almost doesn't matter whether the field experience is on the whole negative or positive. What seems to make an "impression" on students--to get them thinking and talking in an animated way--is the chaotic nature of working in the real world. Educators, of course, feel morally compelled to push students towards virtuous attitudes about thier "civic engagement" but I found more important for learning is the opportunity to have a genuine (messy) experience and to process it with others.
  • Learning Community: For the last two years, I have linked one of my annual Fall English 111 classes with a General Education Political Science foundations course called "Quest for Justice." The Political scince course is a discussion-based foundations course where students are asked to compare and contrast classical texts in political theory. In my class, I used a genre-based texbook (Trimbur's The C all to Write) to frame the scenario-based writing assignments as "interventions" of citizen-activists. They wrote:
    • a letter to a principal or PTA organization on a dress code policy
    • a manifesto on an inconspicuous problem facing a group to which they belonged
    • a profile or a person that radically challenged their (peer) audience's assumptions about an activity, character trait or event
    • a collaborative zine (print or electronic) addressed to next year's incoming freshman class
    In some of the initial freewrites and all of the final reflections, students were prompted to consider how their readings in political theory (paralimentary procedure, utilitarian ethics, etc) connected with the issues and the stake-holders they were dealing with. In almost every case, students initially saw no conceptual overlap but when we started to invoke names and rhetorical situations and imagine, for instance, how Pericles would respond to someone criticizing the dress code ()or eating habits or recretaional pursuits) of Athenian soldiers, discussion became lively as students came to see how particular notions of relevance and (in)justice were contingent on the political ideologies and exigences of a particular place. What made this group of students a "learning community" was less the actual interdisciplinary connections that I would nudge them towards as the shared experiences they had with one another trying to figure things out--sometimes intellectual issues but mostly questions about particular people's commitments ("Hey!, you said..") to beliefs or generalized differences between the two classes that felt more like gossip than "intellectualism."








One: Situating Embodied Learning

Two: Case Study: Oliver

Three: Implications for the Literacy Autobiography Assignment