On Wednesday, December 4, 2013, the online journal Theory, Research, and Action in Urban Education (TRAUE) launched its second issue. The journal was initiated by Jean Anyon in the Urban Education Program of the CUNY Graduate Center several years ago, in an effort to educate doctoral students on the process of peer-review; create a for-and-by-students space to develop ideas in theory, research, and action in urban education; and explore the possibilities of online publication (which was, at the time, an emerging medium for peer-reviewed scholarship). I was asked to share a few thoughts on the origins of TRAUE at the issue launch, and here are my comments in full. My sincerest thanks to the students and faculty who have worked diligently in the last few months to launch an exceptional contribution to scholarship. Jean would be proud:
I decided to read from notes for this event. As much as I want to talk from my heart on the spot, it’s still hard to speak about Jean without welling up. I thought reading something would help keep the tears at bay. And somehow, talking about Jean’s work with TRAUE from notes on an iPad seems apropos.
It’s hard to describe the origin of TRAUE without also sharing a slice of Jean’s technological journey. Although the boundaries between the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds no longer feel as distinct as they once did, there was a time less than a decade ago when many of us wondered if we could read and annotate articles solely online; conduct research via digital-only media; or if online peer-reviewed journals could really have the same respect and impact as those that appeared primarily in print. If we look back on just the last five years, it’s dizzying to think about how far we’ve come.
The changes in digital communication entered most of my conversations with Jean over the last eight years. I remember discussing the advantages of having a gmail account; the mind-boggling capabilities of Apple technologies; why I felt that blogs and social media provided a new and exciting place to listen to teachers. Jean was wary at first — unclear, as so many of us were, about how digital technologies might reframe and redirect our work as teachers, scholars, and activists; but her skepticism didn’t last long, and I remember when she finally made the switch from AOL to gmail, upgraded from a flip phone to an iPhone, and gave me the go-ahead to run with my research questions about identifying online spaces worthy of educational research. When she got an iPad, she sent a steady stream of texts, amazed and delighted at her discoveries in the App Store. She became fearless in her application of digital technologies in her research and daily communication, and in many ways, her approach to TRAUE embodies her courage and willingness to try something new at a time when others weren’t willing or able to take a similar risk.
Jean was onto something when she brought the idea of an online journal to the Urban Education program here at the CUNY Graduate Center back in the 2009-2010 school year. While the idea of online journals almost seems dated now, we were one of a handful of education doctoral programs exercising the possibility and potential for digital, peer-reviewed work.
Thinking back on those first few meetings of TRAUE, it was a messy but productive time. Jean would hold multiple meeting times, to make sure everyone who wanted to could participate. She spent endless hours helping us draft and redraft our explanations for the purpose and sections of the journal; she made sure to honor and listen to everyone’s voice; and most importantly, she left the decision-making up to us. She wanted TRAUE to be a journal for and by students; to be a place for doctoral students in our program to learn the process by which journals receive, review, and publish articles; and to draw together, well, theory, research, and action in urban education.
Like so many of us have discovered –and continue to discover — since Jean passed away, she provided a wide and deep network of people, projects, and ideas with which to continue her legacy. TRAUE is, in a way, one of her many parting gifts. It is a reminder that we shouldn’t wait to try out new ideas; that research in education is dynamic and changing more rapidly than ever; that the opportunities to effect change are shifting and full of hope (or at least full of the potential for hope).
I want to end by saying that so many people were involved in the origin and evolution of TRAUE, and while I am delighted and honored to share some of my personal thoughts on the process at this event, there would be no TRAUE without the dedication, hard work, and persistence of those people who worked diligently to get the first two issues published. Jean would be proud of us for carrying on her work of fighting for change, equity, and justice in education in an ever-changing world.