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UPDATE:  Our interview is now located in the archive section of Henry Jenkins’ site – select link for February 2012 and scroll down

Henry Jenkins recently interviewed us and all 3 parts are now currently posted on his blogsite:

He asked us some great questions – we hope you’ll take a look!

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At the end of September, our friend Andrew Slack (Executive Director and co-founder of the Harry Potter Alliance) gave an inspiring talk at the TEDx conference in Rome.  He talked about the role of story in motivating fans to work towards social justice issues and does mention the power of popular culture and story to reach and motivate students in schools.  You can watch his 13 minute talk here:


Andrew and the HPA are a central focus of Chapter 7 in Teaching Harry Potter (along with activist wrock groups Harry and the Potters and the Whomping Willows and the family-based HP conference Enlightening ’07).  Titled “Imagining More,” the chapter focuses on the intersection of literacy, community, and educational spaces – and the potential for both engagement and activism that can come from embracing students’ popular interests in the classroom.  Andrew likened the process to ” . . . an alchemist who finds gold in common minerals, teachers who ‘see the gold’ in their students can help them figure out how to bring it forward” (p. 157).  He and former Chapter Chair Karen Bernstein then discuss the role of local HPA Chapters as ” . . . a way to connect to other local members in order to work on projects in their own communities as well as organization-wide initiatives . . . ” such as fundraising for earthquake relief in Haiti, which was highly successful and which Andrew details in his TEDx talk.  In this way, students and youth can funnel their love for story into action.  As Andrew also states in our book: “Anyone can be an activist” (p. 156).

Congratulations to Andrew on his TEDx talk- make sure to take a look!



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While we recover from our midnight movie outing and try to put together our thoughts on the final Harry Potter movie (ok, so we’re working on the denial thing . . . it’s over, really?), we thought it would be a good idea to let you know where you can actually catch up with us, hear us talk about Teaching Harry Potter, and hopefully join the conversation.  While we aren’t attending a Potter-centric conference this summer, we are going to be speaking at the National Association for Media Literacy Education – NAMLE – conference this weekend in Philadelphia, PA ( ). Our presentation, titled “Imagining More: Reflections on Education on the Mirror of Erised (Desire)” will take place on Sunday morning, July 24 at 10:45 am.  You can find a description here: .  We’re looking forward to being back in Philly and to hearing all the latest in media literacy education.  If you’re in the area, make sure to stop by and say hello!


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I haven’t talked a lot about my (now not so) new job (ok, so Becky and I haven’t talked much at all here lately, but in our defense, we’ve been doing double duty going over the copy editing on Teaching Harry) but my work is, well, different.  I work for a nonprofit, but spend my days in a large, urban, public South LA high school where I work to support and drive the efforts of the nonprofit, the faculty, and the administration to help create a successful atmosphere and learning space for our students.  It’s a tall order, especially given the current budget crisis that has hit our school pretty hard.  Plus there’s the usual testing pressures and everything else that comes with the urban school package.  In the midst of all this however, our nonprofit does manage to open a few doors, and one of these was for Jamie Oliver and his production crew who filmed the current season of Food Revolution at our school this past January and February.  Amidst the drama of the district’s refusal to let Jamie into the district officially (if you’re interested, here’s an article about it: ) we were able to welcome him to West Adams where he cooked with our culinary students – who then won a city-wide cooking competition – and taught a couple of food/nutrition classes for our kids.  On the ground, trying to make sure all was well with a film crew on one’s pubic school campus, the whole thing was exhausting.  But it was also really cool to watch our kids experience something quite different from what they’re used to in their day-to-day school lives.  They cooked, sampled new foods, talked, debated, listened, experienced, and learned with a bunch of television cameras around and a “famous” person who brought a lot of attention their way.  And our kids rocked – and I really hope that comes through on the small screen.

In Teaching Harry Potter, Becky and I talk a lot about new media and the value of using popular culture in the classroom.  But with this experience, the classroom became part of popular culture.  And the results?  The kids I’ve talked with so far have all ranked working with Jamie as a highlight of the year.  And our advanced culinary students spent their spring break week in New York taking classes as part of their prize package for winning the city-wide competition.  For my part, I’m still thinking on it and withholding final judgment until the series completes it run on ABC (and I can breathe easy about how our kids are presented on national television).  But it has given me a lot to mull over – especially about urban students of color in the media and how it does or doesn’t interact with them, and what that interaction looks like when it does happen.  And since the whole thing was about healthy eating, there is definitely a lot to think about in terms of nutritional health in the community and at school and how the district deals with these issues.  Mostly, though, I hope that everyone who watches will see our South LA kids for the amazing, caring, and thoughtful people they are.  In the end, hanging out with them every day is what makes my job brilliant.

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I have the great privilege – and occasional stress – of raising a girl.  Right now.  In the midst of the Disney, Hannah Montana, pink/princess media blitz.  It’s been . . . challenging, but I have to admit, mostly really cool.  The coolness factor comes out of all the fun things about new technology, 21st century kid power, and, of course, the resurgence of awesome books.  After all, it’s good to be a geek now.  It’s especially good to be a savvy, personable geek who can put together an excellently creative outfit or two (let’s face it, some things never change . . . ).

But the dark side of all this is essentially the “pink.”  And (rant coming, apologies!) not just the color, but all that it seems to mean:  treat me like a princess, dress me up like I’m 15 when I’m 7, please look at me and notice me and want to be me . . . etc. etc.  Not to rain on everyone’s princess parade, but let’s be real.  What does that look like when you’re 16?  18? 20?  Having fun teaching these girls in the classroom?  Yeah, I thought so.  I realize that not every girl becomes a pink princess monster and that some pink is ok, I mean, I’m all in for everything in moderation.  However, there’s something incredibly insidious about the layers and layers of pink, and how and where we (don’t) place girls and girl power today.

I’ve tried to check this with my daughter.  The trick has been how to do this without it all coming from me.  Luckily, I have had some excellent allies and feel compelled to give them a shout out, particularly since this is the week the new Twilight movie is being released.  And while Movie Bella is a bit tougher, Book Bella sets girls back about 200 years. (There, I said it, let the hate begin.  For reference:  So, personal shouts out to 3 pop culture/media icons who care about others and never play stupid:  Hermione, Carmen Cortez, and Katara.  Because one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that there’s nothing like pop culture to counter to pop culture.

To Hermione, the top of the list, who made reading, being curious, asking questions, and being a bit odd seem really brave and cool – I thank you.  I could write an ode to all the ways my daughter has looked to you as a role model over the years, but that would just take too long and probably get too sappy.  I’ll just say that my daughter first watched Sorcerer’s Stone when she was three and she hasn’t looked back since.  She’s hanging out reading as I write this, as a matter of fact.  And while I’d like to take all the credit, well, there’s no denying you’ve left your mark.  We hated that Warner Bros. made you wear pink in Goblet of Fire, but we all know you would rather have worn blue, and that’s what matters.

To Carmen Cortez (one of the Spy Kids), thanks for encouraging my daughter to be tough and not at all demure around boys, especially ones related to her.  And you sing and dance too, which, in this family, is a huge bonus.

And last, to Katara (from the Last Airbender), although you’re probably the most traditional “girl” of the bunch, you ask all the right questions about what one does with their own personal power and the choices set before them.  And you face them, head on.  Movie-you debuts this week as well, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because, as Hermione well knows, certain types of girl power don’t always translate well to the big screen.

At least they’re “letting you” wear blue.  Rock on.

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I ran across this news post on Mugglenet today: Rowling may allow Harry Potter to go digital.  The comments on the Mugglenet post are interesting–fairly evenly split (at the time of this writing) between people who look forward to adding Harry Potter to their Kindle libraries and those who relish the experience of reading a “real” (e.g. printed-on-paper) book.

Book Stack image by Flickr user ThiagoJ

Photo by Flickr user ThiagoJ

Personally, I’m torn on the question of electronic versus digital books. I enjoy the experience of reading printed books–the look, feel, and even the smell of some books are important to me.  As I look around my office, I see shelves groaning under the weight of too many books, piles of books I checked out from the library that need to be lugged back to campus and returned next month, and a small, dust-covered pile of novels designated for summer reading once the academic year ends and our manuscript is finished. Ebooks would certainly cut down on the space I need to store my reading material and make my books more portable, reducing the piles and shelves to a few gigabytes of data. For work-related books, I think this would be great (once an ebook reader with proper page numbering becomes available). However, I wonder how it might change the reading experience for special books–the ones I re-read for fun and comfort–the ones that take on lives of their own in my imagination and guide my view on life. I wonder if I could get the same experience with an ebook?

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