Another great evening spent with all of you thesis writers…

Thanks again for another great evening of thinking and exploring together. This week it was a pleasure to hear from both Kevin and Dylan as they presented their thesis-in-progress work. Our agenda:

Kevin is working on a thesis project that was born last Spring in the Networked Narratives class (“Net Mirror” course). He is forging his way through a dystopic landscape in what will prove to be a “pandemic fiction” – arguably a new genre that takes a closer look at the shifting social consequences emerging from a crisis born from a global public health disaster. This pained new world is born of a paucity of trust because the technologies employed to keep us safe are simultaneously also tools that might take away individual freedoms. In the age of data tracking, micro-targeting, and ubiquitous algorithms determing your next moves, what happens to human understanding (of both the self and the other)? With new forms of data driven digital surveillance, what happens to people who just want to feel connected, but find it difficult to trust in anything? Kevin sets out to tell a tale of his “everyman” protagonist – Kirk, and the conflicted “striver” antagonist – Juan. Through a series of unforeseen events (and perceptions of events), Kevin will open up these hard questions about life today in the age of COVID-19 and it’s aftermath. I think Kevin has paid close attention to setting (New Orleans and the Southwestern US) and he has set the stage for a creative work that will possibly lend itself to a screenplay or a series pilot “treatment”. Through his presentation, I think he has identified some possible categories for his lit review – and now he can delve into some deeper research.

Thanks to Dylan for a really thoughtful and courageous presentation of his thesis-in-prgress – a project which involves his deeper philosophical and personal query into how a writer defines the self. Dylan’s work dares to ask difficult questions about the origins of self-understanding and identity in light of the writer’s trials and tribulations. He grapples with concepts like authenticity, truth, inspiration, interhumanity (via Witold Gombrowicz), the repesentation vs. the real through language, rumination vs. reflection. His work also heads off the struggle with depression, and writing is situated as a pathway through the ambiguity, indifference and/or pain. The work adds up to a brave act, as it bears a certainly vulnerability which is necessary, and in this case, yields a certain profundity. I am certain that it is work that only Dylan Hirtler can produce. His talent and his intellect is made evident throughout. His thesis is ultimately part field-guide, part inquiry, part philosophy, part Writing Studies research, part auto ethnographic narrative, part scholarly and artistic curation…and this special pastiche will add up to a rigorous account of the writer and the self. I am thrilled to see this work manifesting, and I can only imagine how it will grow with more time.

Next class we will hear from both Nives & Linda, and I am sure it will be another memorable night. I am so deeply touched by all of your collective talent…the diversity of your intelligence and the spirit and soul of each of your projects. Bravo…as we head towards Thanksgiving!

More About Theory (blog post 11)

Hi and welcome back to another week! Thank you so much for stopping by once again! I mentioned last week that I would be working on the introduction and rational part of my research. Although it is not yet the final draft both are attached below and accessible with kean email. Please click on the images to read.

This week has been another late night week mostly with reading and diving more into writing my thesis. Unfortunately, I ran out of all the black ink and have been reading journal articles in blue and green writing. (This was terrible btw). This is one article that I read and found it made a significant point for my reproach.

Ek, Lucila D. “Language and Literacy in the Pentecostal Church and the Public High School: A Case Study of a Mexican ESL StudentThe High School Journal, The High School Journal © 2008 University of North Carolina Press vol. 92, no. 2, 2008, pp. 1–13.

This article was an exemplary piece of ethnographic research. From the introduction to the conclusion the author Lucila Ek presersented a clear description of her research and the results. In her research she writes plainly,

I examine the differ educational experiences of an immigrant Mexican youth, (Edgar), in his Pentecostal church and his public high school. I found that the church created a nurturing and supportive environment for engagement in language and literacy practices while the school marginalized Edgar and failed to provide effective teaching and learning in either English or Spanish. (pg.2)

This ethnographic research was guided by the sociocultural theories of learning and development in addition to critical pedagogy. She uses both approaches to make a comparison in the ways Edgar’s ESL experiences were constructed by his personal and school life. Her research highlights the language and literacy learning that takes place in school and outside school engagements like homes, churches,  after-school programs, and community spaces. Essentially, all of her research made the argument that ESL students not only need the academic (pedagogy) but they also need the outside community (home, church, etc.) to cultivate a full learning experience. I want to use this article to add to the second part of my thesis that ESL students need family support to succeed in the classrooms.

More About Theory

During my class presentation I asked the question is my research study evident of social constructivism theory? Although I mentioned briefly what the theory Is about I want to dive into it more in this blog post because this theory is the underlying framework for my research.

This theory was founded by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky in 1997. The theory essentially focuses on the role of social and cultural interactions in the learning process. The theory overall is complex and has many parts to understand, but to remove the complexities and make it more intelligible it is simpler to focus on the four key points that are the highlight of this theory.

  1. The first key point of this theory is the central role of the teacher-student relationship in learning. According to Vygotsky, adults are an important source of cognitive development for children. They can transmit their tools of intellectual adaptation that children then internalize. Adults are also an important piece for student learning because they can provide assistance. This is what Vygotsky describes as scaffolding. Scaffolding is when a teacher gives a learner the right amount of assistance at the right time. This implies that if a learner can perform a task, with some assistance then they are closer to mastering it. 
  2. The second main point of this theory is the inherent cultural and immediate social influences upon the student’s attitudes and beliefs. For Vygotsky, There is an emphasis on culture affecting cognitive development. He maintains that students are largely influenced by peers and social environments, thus their cognitive development is constructed through peer explorations and not independent learning. the environment in which children group up will largely influence how they think and what they think about.
  3. Additionally, another fundamental aspect of Vygotsky’s theory is the importance and power of language as a primary tool for the transference of social-cultural influences on a child. Vygotsky places emphasis on the role of language in cognitive development. He believes that thought and language are initially two separate systems. Cognitive development results from an internalization of language.
  4. Lastly, the theory highlights the benefits of student-centered teaching. Vygotsky makes the argument that knowledge is co-constructed and that individuals learn from one another. When students work in pairs and interact with other learners of the same kind they can exchange ideas and learn from one another. In his opinion, he believed that the learner must be engaged in the learning process. 

I discuss in depth these four main points in the rational section of my paper. This theory can be a complex subject, but for your benefit I added a brief broken down cartoon explanation for simple understanding. Please click the link below to watch.

Vygotsky’s theory is essential for healthy adolescent development. He makes the connection of peer learning and he also stresses the importance of adult interaction with the student. He maintains that adults should be knowledgeable and provide adequate assistance to students in their development stages. Students’ social environment helps in their development. Thus learning happens with assistance from other individuals. I chose to use this theoretical framework because my arguments that family support and ESL classes are necessary for ESL success are grounded in Vygotsky’s claim that language is a social construction and in order for students to develop cognitive functions they need the assistance of knowledgeable adults and similar peers around them.

I hope you learned something new today and I thank you for stopping! I hope you have a great rest of the week and a great weekend!