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Dave Rick
"Our stories can set us free, Dirk thought. When we set them free." -- Francesca Lia Block, Dangerous Angels
"Our stories can set us free, Dirk thought. When we set them free." -- Francesca Lia Block, Dangerous Angels
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If there's an afterlife, I find that a beautiful image. If there is not, I find it no less beautiful.
RIP Leonard Nimoy.

A fine actor and director.

I hope that you are now sitting on a porch with DeForest Kelley and Gene Roddenberry, enjoying a drink and watching the stars, somewhere in the afterlife.
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“The relation of thought to word is not a thing but a process, a continual movement back and forth from thought to word and from word to thought. In that process, the relation of thought to word undergoes changes that themselves may be regarded as development in the functional sense. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them. Every thought tends to connect something with something else, to establish a relation between things. Every thought moves, grows and develops, fulfills a function, solves a problem. This flow of thought occurs as an inner movement through a series of planes. An analysis of the interaction of thought and word must begin with an investigation of the different phases and planes a thought traverses before it is embodied in words.”
— Lev Vygotsky (Thought and Language 311)

Key Terms: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

Much of Vygotsky’s renowned work, Thought and Language, is devoted to discussions of developmental psychology. In keeping with this, he makes the case that thought and language are not independent, as was once believed. Instead, Vygotsky posits that thought develops through speech (both internal/private speech and external speech) and that children’s thinking is shaped by the way they communicate and interact linguistically with those around them.

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"American meritocracy is validated and sustained by the deep-rooted belief in equal opportunity. But can we really say that kinds like those I taught have equal access to America's educational resources? Consider not only the economic and political barriers they face, but the fact, too, that judgments about their ability are made at a very young age, and those judgments, accurate or not, affect the curriculum they receive, their place in the school, the way they're defined institutionally."
-- Mike Rose (Lives on the Boundary 128)

Here is a book that I love unequivocally. Mike Rose's Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America's Educationally Underprepared is many things: a theoretical discussion of teaching composition, a history of said teaching, a confessional memoir, a literacy narrative--and yet, it is also more than those. Ostensibly, it's a collection of stories about Rose's upbringing, his history in school, his path to becoming a teacher and tutorial center administrator--also of the students, so many students, he worked with. He dispenses observations, advice, motivation, lesson plan ideas all with the casual flair of a master storyteller. This is a book that understands what it is to be a teacher, with all the love, work, frustration, and joy that comes with it. This book speaks to me affectively, aesthetically, intellectually--and I could go on, but I feel my point is made.

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"Oratory is the art of enchanting the soul, and therefore he who would be an orator has to learn the differences of human souls—they are so many and of such a nature, and from them come the differences between man and man."
-- Socrates in Plato, Phaedrus

I have abandoned my questions for these texts, as I do not see them as directly applicable to my interests. In total honesty, I have included them only because Plato is such a canonical figure. This allows me to experience and address his work, but it also challenges me to see it in a useful context. I am not certain that I have been entirely successful, but at the very least I can see it as an example of generative creativity. Perhaps.

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“Our brains are engaged full time in real-time (risky) heuristic search, generating presumptions about what will be experienced next in every domain. This time-pressured, unsupervised generation process has necessarily lenient standards and introduces content-not all of which can be properly checked for truth-into our mental spaces. If left unexamined, the inevitable errors in these vestibules of consciousness would ultimately continue on to contaminate our world knowledge store. So there has to be a policy of double-checking these candidate beliefs and surmisings, and the discovery and resolution of these at breakneck speed is maintained by a powerful reward system-the feeling of humor; mirth-that must support this activity in competition with all the other things you could be thinking about.”
— Matthew M. Hurley, Daniel C. Dennett, and Reginald B. Adams., Jr.

This fascinating treatise on humor began as Matthew M. Hurley’s dissertation, completed in 2006. It offers both a history of humor theory and an attempt (impressive, to my mind) at quantifying both the “whys” and “hows” of humor. No mere joke book, this instead is an exploration of not only why and how we laugh but where the phenomenon of humor comes from, how it manifests, and the way it exists in social contexts. I included this text on a whim after hearing it discussed, and I find that it is somewhat compatible with my thinking–certainly it has something to say about pleasure and inclusion–but overall I am not certain I can directly adapt much of it for pedagogical use.

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“The incidence of play is not associated with any particular stage of civilization or view of the universe. Any thinking person can see at a glance that play is a thing on its own, even if his language possesses no general concept to express it. Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.”
— Johan Huizinga

Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture puts forth a number of interesting arguments about the nature and practice of play. It builds the case that play precedes culture, is linked fundamentally to “the great archetypal activities,” including the construction of language and myth, and even that “genuine, pure play is the basis for civilization” (Kindle loc. 107-131). In framing his definition of play, he notes that play must be voluntary–and is, in fact, an expression of freedom. It must also be an “interlude,” a temporary state with beginning and end (however often it may be repeated). Play also necessitates some form of structure, with internal rules. (Indeed, Huizinga’s discussion of play as a sort of constructed space with internal rules that must be consistently held up, lest the play be violated and broken, puts me very strongly in mind of J. R. R. Tolkien’s discussion of the Secondary World from “Tree and Leaf.”) Huzinga notes both “contest” and “representation” as functions of play, and a substantive measure of the text discusses how various cultures have distinguished between them.

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"This renegade line of thought values rhetoric not as 'formulaic discourse' or pure technique, but rather as the activity of learning and wondering; a process that eschews the constraints of a singular 'purpose or end or stance' and cultivates instead a 'suppleness of mind' well-suited to address continuously evolving social contexts."
-- T. R. Johnson

Key Terms: Renegade Rhetoric

T. R. Johnson describes "renegade rhetoric" as a "pleasure-oriented, magical tradition," an approach to composition as something powerful that can be enjoyed (4). In framing this discussion of pleasure, Johnson cites ancient Greek philosopher Gorgias’s theory of rhetoric, noting, that the first step to students’ learning of composition, particularly persuasion, requires the student to "first learn to experience composing itself as a kind of pleasure-charged performance" (2). Further, Johnson derives from Gorgias a "working definition of authorial pleasure," describing it as "the feeling that ensues during the composition process that is roughly analogous to the transformation of pain and alienation into knowledge and connection, and its contagious quality is the stuff of persuasion, perhaps of communication" (2). However, Johnson also observes that "[Gorgias] explicitly understands the contagion of pleasure in terms of magical spells and witchcraft" and that occult thematic symbolism surfaces throughout the history of rhetoric whenever pleasure is discussed, right up to Peter Elbow in the 1990s (3). This makes Johnson, for me, a landmark thinking in the world of deciphering the magical practice of writing.

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Koster's A THEORY OF FUN FOR GAME DESIGN (Comps version)

"What is fun? If you dig into the origins of the word, it comes either from 'fonne,' which is 'fool' in Middle English, or from 'fonn,' which means 'pleasure' in Gaelic. Either way, fun is defined as 'a source of enjoyment.' This can happen via physical stimuli, aesthetic appreciation, or direct chemical manipulation."
-- Raph Koster

Key Terms: Chunking, Grokking, Ludemes

I have already discussed my impressions of this book to some degree in my initial review. I have since found that much of Koster's thinking has become central to my own, though (as a wise professor of mine once said of Paulo Freire) that does not mean yet that I feel I have entirely captured the ability to "do" Koster. That is, I find his ideas fascinating and potentially very--pardon the pun--game-changing for my conception of teaching, but I have not yet managed to go beyond first (very small) steps in implementing these theories into my active pedagogy. Even so, I believe Koster cuts into the heart of many of my deepest concerns about education, and I am hopeful that as I proceed with both my studies and my teaching I become better able to make Koster's theory a central part of my practice as an instructor, a gamer, and a thinker.

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"“It is feminist thinking that empowers me to engage in a constructive critique of Freire’s work (which I needed so that as a young reader of his work I did not passively absorb the worldview presented) and yet there are many other standpoints from which I approach his work that enable me to experience its value, that make it possible for that work to touch me at the very core of my being."
-- bell hooks

Teaching to Transgress: Language as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks is one of the most illuminating texts I've come across. As I discuss below, the text was a fundamental one in framing my approaches to the questions I ask, and hooks has had a profound effect on my thinking and self-awareness, both as a scholar and as a human being. I do not know that I could ever claim to fully understand her work, but I can safely say that every time I revisit her work I come away with a deeper and more powerful understanding--both of her words and of myself. For me, hooks remains forever indispensable.

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September 19, 2014 in Comps, Doctoral Studies by Dave Rick

    “The creative individual is a person who regularly solves problems, fashions products, or defines new questions in a domain in a way that is initially considered novel but that ultimately becomes accepted in a particular cultural setting.”
    — Howard E. Gardner

Key Terms: Intrinsic Motivation, Fruitful Asynchrony, Affective/Cognitive Support

Howard E. Gardner’s Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity as Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi sets out to characterize factors in the development of creative thinkers. This ambitious project offers a number of fascinating suggestions and arguments, supporting them with evaluations of the titular selection of modern-era creative exemplars. While Gardner’s project tends a bit too much toward a focus on superlative creativity–creative genius, I would call it–he nonetheless offers a few particularly interesting (and, to my thinking, useful) observations about creative development and how it might be encouraged.

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