Alumni Profile with Jessica Hochmann ☆

Jessica Hochmann

Jessica Hochman (MA 2000, PhD 2009) is an assistant professor at Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and the LMS (school library) Program Coordinator. She teaches courses on teaching and learning in libraries; whether, how and why to use technology for instruction; literacy practices; and educational foundations. Research interests include the nexus of youth culture and technology, informal literacy practices, and theories and practices of feminism. You can find out more about Jessica by visiting her at http://jessicahochman.wordpress.com/?ref=spelling

By Timothy Ignaffo

What made you to decide to do a PhD? Did you always want to be a Professor?

My first job out of college was working on Encarta Africana, a CD Rom encyclopedia of the African Diaspora. It was a joint project between two professors in Afro-American Studies at Harvard and Microsoft. There were so many ways we were making the text come alive with links, images, video; all very Avant garde for 1998, and loaded with educational potential. At a time when the conversation around educational technology was focused on putting the Internet in schools, we were creating digital content (granted, it was a CD ROM, but eventually it spawned a web-based project). I found myself wondering about the impact of instructional technology on both our teaching and on our selves, as well as the stakes of academic partnerships with tech companies. (Who could have predicted the extent to which Bill Gates would be involved in P-12 education back then?) So, I’ve been thinking about these questions for a long time, and this curiosity was what ultimately sent me to a Masters program at TC, in Computing, Technology and Education to work with Robbie McClintock and Frank Moretti.

So you moved here for the Masters? What did you do you study specifically? Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri. I studied undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and was working at Harvard before moving to New York. My MA was in “Instructional Technology and Media,” which was part of the Computing in Education Program, which is now Math Science and Technology, I believe. At that time, Robbie McClintock was the head of that program I believe, and he was also my Masters advisor, and was a really inspirational figure, as was Frank. Frank was interested in philosophizing around the implications of technology. They were both grounded in philosophical work, but engaging digital media and instructional technology, in a way that I found very profound. When I came to TC, I was interested in what young people were doing in their own time outside school, and how technology was contributing to their work in these spaces, and allowing them to create new spaces of their own. I am still interested in these issues.

My Africana Encarta experience affirmed my interest in the humanities, in writing and a love of academic life, but it also showed me a completely new world of technology that I hadn’t been exposed to before. I loved all the complexities and challenges that the project presented and it was a desire for more experiences like that that ultimately brought me to TC for a Masters in Computing and Education, and kept me there for a doctorate in Philosophy & Ed.

How did you become interested in information technology and library science?

I have always been interested in technology as it relates to teaching and learning, so my movement toward library science was a natural shift. I did, however, have a lot of on-the-job learning to do about the world of school librarians, and that, too actually seems like a natural fit for me. School librarians occupy an in-between and at times, liminal space between the world of the classroom and that of the public library. Like me, school librarians find themselves between two worlds. My latest research will use oral histories by school librarians to explore their views on their place within the current narrative of education reform.

Tell us about the edTPA conference? What do you make of edTPA, of the direction of school reform in general?

I’m thrilled to be involved in the edTPA conference! School librarians often do not have a voice in conversations about education reform, and I am honored to bring the perspective of this field to bear in a critical conversation about high stakes testing for teacher candidates.

Within the current narrative of education reform, many binaries are being instantiated, like so many gauntlets being thrown. So many incredibly complex problems are being reduced to soundbites and slogans on both sides of the issues. The dialectic of Education reform, it’s very polarizing and there’s no room for nuance in the discourse. In my own thinking I’ve tried to identify both the benefits and challenges of current policies. While edTPA is a high stakes test that has created untold logistical headaches and anxiety for me and my students, it was also an occasion for us to engage in deeper unit planning practices than we had previously during student teaching. I hope the edTPA conference is a chance for us to push beyond rhetoric and discuss providing candidates with rich meaningful field experiences.

Similarly, it’s very easy to blame technology for things that are already endemic to our institutions, it’s also very easy to look to technology to solve these problems. But it’s more complicated than that; we need to examine our approach to technology, and the approaches technologies “want” from us. I think we shape our tools as our tools shape us.

We need to think very carefully about these issues. The dialectic of Education reform, it’s very polarizing and there’s no room for nuance in the discourse. Everyone wants a soundbite, but we need to push against that.

(Stay tuned for Part II of this interview coming next week)

Timothy Ignaffo is a PhD Candidate in Philosophy and Education and works for the Department of Arts & Humanities.