What I’m reading: June 2020

Between working from home and an upcoming sabbatical in the fall, I’ve been doing a lot more reading than usual. Rather than devote an entire post to reflections on each of these items, I thought I’d share some thoughts on them in smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this month.

What I’m reading for research

“Three Views of English 101” by Erika Lindemann and “Perspectives on Information Literacy” by Colleen Addison and Eric Meyers: There are so many parallels between writing studies (specifically composition instruction) and information literacy. So many. I’m far from the first person to note this but what has me thinking about it a little more lately is two articles that I happened to stumble upon at the same time. The first is “Three Views of English 101,” which was published in 1995. In this article, Lindemann argues that there are three approaches to teaching writing: writing-as-product, which focuses on the student’s ability to emulate the practices of experts, writing-as-process, which emphasizes reflection and problem-solving, and writing-as-system, which places writing in the context of a discourse community. Meanwhile, in their 2013 article, Addison & Meyers suggest three approaches to information literacy: IL as the acquisition of skills, which focuses on the student’s ability to emulate the practices of experts, IL as habits of mind, which emphasizes reflection and problem-solving, and IL as social practice, which places IL in the context of a discourse community. Seriously. What’s especially interesting about this is that Addison & Meyers don’t cite Lindemann among their sources, which means these parallels may be total coincidence. Spooky. Both articles are well worth a read on their own but reading them together definitely got my wheels turning.

Lindemann citation: Erika Lindemann. (1995). Three Views of English 101. College English, 57(3), 287–302.

Addison & Meyers link: http://www.informationr.net/ir/18-3/colis/paperC27.html#.XtfotS-ZPOR

 

What I’m reading for professional development

“The Academic Side Hustle” by Josh Boldt: This is actually an older advice column from Chronicle Vitae, originally published in 2016. I first read it about a year ago when I was searching for ideas to replace my side hustle as a writing tutor for an online graduate program after some questionable changes led me to think that that particular job was no longer sustainable. It seemed worth revisiting now given the uncertain future of higher education in general due to the coronavirus pandemic. Boldt’s article is a good reminder that if there comes a time when I can’t do what I love, there are other things I could do using elements of what I’m already good at or have an interest in, professionally speaking.

Ask a Manager: Alison Green’s Ask a Manager blog is an extremely popular source for professional advice. I’ve been reading it almost daily for several years now and aside from making me extremely grateful that I’ve never had to deal with some of the issues advice-seekers bring to her, it’s also just a great resource that really has helped me in my professional life. But her advice is even more important now as she addresses a number of questions about work issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, from whether it makes sense to be annoyed at people who are incapable of locating the “Mute” button on Zoom to legal issues associated with returning to the workplace. A lot of this is geared toward people who are in the corporate world rather than the academic world, but even so there is always something to relate to and learn from.

What I’m reading for fun

Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution That Changed America by David Kamp: I came upon this book by accident when searching for an “Available Now” ebook among my local library’s collection. As the title suggests, it traces the history of the development of children’s television in the late 1960s and 1970s. The focus is specifically on Sesame Street with occasional detours into stories about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood(1) and some others. What I really love about this book is the creative energy and excitement that went into the development of these programs and their different approaches to educating children via television and the immediate observable impact it had on learning. It’s also interesting to read how the political climate of the time made this possible despite deep divisions between the political parties. Like, somehow everyone managed to come together and agree that television could be used to educate kids and that the government should contribute funding to such initiatives so that all kids could have access to these resources. It’s almost impossible to imagine something like that happening today, which makes reading the book a little bittersweet but worth it if only to be inspired by the absolute joy so many of the people involved in this work took in what they did.

What’s the Legacy of the Lost Finale? by Jen Chaney: Apparently this past month was the tenth anniversary of the series finale of Lost, which makes me feel very old. I was a superfan of Lost during its first season and though my interest faded in later seasons when the mythology started to take precedence over character-driven stories, I stayed with it until the end. Like a lot of people, I was disappointed by the finale at the time but I rewatched the series in its entirety a few years ago and frankly changed my mind. It’s not a perfect ending but it’s beautiful in its own way. Anyway, Jen Chaney at Vulture wrote this piece about what it’s like to rewatch this last episode during a time in real life where we’re all, like the characters on the show, “living a little out of time.” It’s a great piece about Lost but it’s also a great piece about how our experiences of familiar pop culture have changed since the start of the pandemic.

 

What I’m watching for fun

Mr. Robot: Okay, so when this pandemic started I mostly only wanted to be watching TV shows that were familiar and comforting like Stargate Atlantis. I definitely didn’t want to be watching a complicated, pretentious prestige show that was the opposite of all of these things, especially one I’d already tried once and gave up on after the first season. But Rami Malek’s big eyes pulled me back in and I’m determined to see this thing through to the end. The series definitely has some rough patches but I think what’s helping me get through it this time is the knowledge that despite this, it will end in a way that makes the journey more or less worth it (and yes…I know how it ends–please don’t judge my spoiler preferences). Either way, it’s interesting to watch a series that imagines a world in which the rug is suddenly and unexpectedly pulled out from underneath everyone and the complications that come from that, albeit in a much different way than what’s happening now.

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(1) Bizarrely, this is the first time I’ve had to look up how to punctuate the title of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and according to both Wikipedia and the show’s official site, this is the correct way to do it. It looks odd to me but I trust that people involved in the education of children know what they’re doing with this stuff.

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