MIT Massive: Annotated Bibliography

This bibliography is a bit of a mixed bag, but as I mentioned in my end-of-term reflection, I see the readings circling around two themes: tribe-making vs. social inclusion as well as the role of arts-based learning in teaching skills required for the future of work. Now that I have a sense of what themes interest me most, I will do more concentrated reading in these areas.

Arts/Future of Work

Hull, Glynda, and Mira-Lisa Katz. 2006. “Crafting an Agentive Self: Case Studies of Digital Storytelling.” Research in the Teaching of English 41(1):43–81. Retrieved September 10, 2012 (

The authors posit that desire for knowledge acquisition is inextricably linked to narratives of our present and future selves. Digital storytelling offers an opportunity to craft agentive, relational, and multi-faceted identities, as in the case of Dara and Randy, two participants in Oakland-based multimedia literacy program DUSTY (Digital Underground Storytelling for Youth). The combination of speech, writing, performance, and imagery inherent in multimedia storytelling facilitates multiple ways of being social and fashioning the self, as well as the (crucially) supportive audience and sense of sponsorship provided at DUSTY. In both cases, participants re-contextualized texts that appealed to them (see Jenkins et al on appropriation), saw themselves as agents with a certain sense of control, and assumed multiple identities in relation to their families, their work, and historical or fictitious characters. As they did so, their willingness to hone their craft was apparent, as was their ability to own their expertise in their field.

Jenkins, Henry, Katie Clinton, Ravi Puruchotma, Alice J Robinson, and Margaret Weigel. 2009. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved July 24, 2012 (

The authors of this report identify a participatory culture as one with relatively low barriers to artistic express and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing, and opportunities for informal mentorship. Types of participatory cultures include affiliations, expressions, collaborative problem-solving, and circulations. The authors identify a number of skills (play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, negotiation) as being vital for new media education but not taught systematically in school. As such, three concerns are expressed regarding potential participation gaps, transparency problems and ethics challenges. A detailed section on each of the skills discusses their character and importance, as well as current initiatives (a large number of which are MIT-based) that aim to teach these skills.

Barron, Brigid. 2006. “Interest and Self-Sustained Learning as Catalysts of Development: A Learning Ecology Perspective.” Human Development 49(4):193–224.

Using three case studies, the author applies a learning ecology perspective to self-sustained learning, positing that it is possible for any activity, in and out of school, to spark and sustain interest in a topic, (so it is fruitful to examine a holistic network of pathways of participation), that people choose/develop/create learning opportunities for themselves once interested depending on time/freedom/resources, and that interest-driven learning is self-sustaining and spills over into multiple social spheres. Based on the case studies, the author identifies five of these learning processes: seeking text-based information, creating projects and other interactive activities, developing knowledge-sharing relationships, pursuing structured learning opportunities, and exploring media.

Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. 2015. Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education

(I didn’t realize until I was midway through the book that it was largely a response to critiques of Robsinson’s TED Talk, so it often referred to his previous work without explication. However, there are some really promising references in the end-notes.) Robinson and Aronica critique the current education system as being a “factory” for education, and draw attention to the discrepancy between the goals of policies like No Child Left Behind and what they actually test. The book is largely a series of anecdotes wherein teachers and principals play an active role in changing the nature of education from test-based grilling to teaching 21st-century skills. While it was a bit of a disappointing read, I found that part of the disappointment stemmed from the fact that #MITMassive readings on personalized learning had provided a critical lens I didn’t have before.

Levy, Frank, and Richard J. Mumane. 2013. Dancing With Robots: Human Skills for Computerized Work

This report discusses the future of work: the way computers process information and complete tasks has led to certain types of jobs being computerized, which has contributed to the collapse of the American middle class. However, political structures and educational policies have also played a part in this growing disparity between the very rich and the very poor, as evidenced from a comparison of wealth production in other developed nations. The report discusses how metacognition, communication skills, and flexibility are key skills required for the future of work, as well as the potential of the Common Core State Standards for rectifying some of the mistakes of NCLB.

Tribe-Making vs. Social Inclusion

Kizilcec, René F., Andrew J. Saltarelli, Justin Reich, Geoffrey L. Cohen, unpublished article.

[Annotation for this unpublished article removed.]

Steele, C. (2010). Whistling Vivaldi: And other clues to how stereotypes affect us. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Steele introduces the idea of identity contingencies: situations one has to deal with because of one’s social identity, and stereotype threat: fear of proving a known stereotype through one’s personal performance. He discusses studies he and others conducted showing that social, rather than individual, identity is an under-examined factor contributing to academic underperformance. Mental activity directed to overcoming perceived stereotypes detracts from the ability to concentrate on the task at hand. In addition, stereotype threat can adversely affect decision-making (like asking for help, the ability to work through difficult problems in a group, and trusting feedback). Steele discusses potential interventions for reducing stereotype threat (the “high standards” critical feedback strategy, self-affirmation exercises, re-framing intelligence as expandable, encouraging inter-group conversations, offering participants the opportunity to craft a narrative that explains frustrations while projecting success, and having a critical mass), and implications for future policy decisions.

Godin, Seth. 2008. Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us.

With the advent of the internet, it is easier than ever for anyone to share ideas and expertise, and create a following around these ideas. Godin’s book lays out the traits of leaders (as well as their ‘tribes’) in the internet age, and encourages readers to take the leap and consider how they too might lead their own tribes. I appreciate the exhortation to encourage dissent and dialogue, although the book is more a manifesto than playbook. However, I find it difficult to agree with the book’s stance on exclusivity, and even that tribes necessarily require a leader at all. For a longer analysis of the book, see here.

Sinek, Simon. 2011. Start With Why.

A book about effective storytelling – to create interest about your work, it is most compelling to start with why you do it. Having a mission also provides personal clarity and helps power through difficult or challenging circumstances. While this piece of advice is, I think, a sensible one, the book does a poor job of providing clear examples of people and companies whose sense of “why” sets them apart from others. It also does not provide clear references for its claims. For a longer critique, see here and here.

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