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July 20: Putting Youth Voices Front and Center

Putting Youth Voices Front and Center Online is a blog posted yesterday at the DML Spotlight highlighting the work of Youth Voices, a school-based social network that was started by a group of National Writing Project teachers in 2003. In this post, high school English teacher and New York City Writing Project tech liaison Paul Allison is quoted as saying,

The heart of the site is asking students to find things that they are passionate and deeply interested in and to post about those things over time.

At Youth Voices various guides and missions support youth in surfacing their passions and interests and following/creating paths to share with others.  Some of the ways that students are supported in getting started include freewriting as well as raising questions about themselves and the world around them.

Paul shares in this Digital Is blog post, Re: Connected Learning, some of the ways that this supports connections in learning through a screencast/meditation on his own practice as well as examples of paths taken by his students.

The things that prompt me to highlight this at this point in the study group is the fact that we have:

  • shared many resources that start to point to ways that students can share paths they have taken (portfolios, curations) or create paths of textured literacies exploring a range of modes and mediums for communication ...
  • asked questions like "how do we move from school authentic to student authentic" or make "open loops" in projects that allow for students to determine what's next? ...
  • talked about provide tools that "unlock" students ability to communicate as well as our own ...
  • and challenged each other to reflect on many the many facets of our own learning and teaching, like, what is writing? who owns it? what are we modeling? how are we learning and connecting that learning?

We also started by sharing our own inquiries that brought us here, ie.: how can we support english language learners? what is the role of blogging in literacy? in what ways can I better support wrting in the math (or science, or history) classroom? how do you move from writing to a focus on craft in writing? in what ways can we support equity in this work?

Moving into the weekend then, what can we learn from the voices of youth bloggers and their teachers at Youth Voices? What questions are raised that you'd like to continue to discuss in our final study group week together?

Task Discussion

  • KevinHodgson   July 23, 2012, 6:20 a.m.

    I admit: I struggle with the "authenticity" of this kind of writing with my students.

    This is the inherent condundrum: if I pay attention to the technology and media interests of my young students, and then use those interests to develop learning activities, am I taking away the thing that made it interesting and engaging in from the start? (ie, interest is student-driven, not a school assignment).

    Sometimes, I think we teachers suck the fun out of natural learning by making it a learning experience.


  • Tellio   July 23, 2012, 7:43 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 23, 2012, 6:20 a.m.
    Adults have forgotten how to play, but we can re-learn. Shaz has curated a fitting YouTube vid on her EdDev curated site. Everything at these German youthfarms is driven by the kids. I love the 'huts' that they build with lots of boundaries and lots of edges just like in nature. I am no absolute believer in Rousseau's natural man, but I do think we can shift the balance toward the natural child. Any shift, even a small one toward the authentic (aka child generated) has to be a victory for all. On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 5:20 AM, P2PU Notifications <
  • Sheri Edwards   July 25, 2012, 2:33 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 23, 2012, 6:20 a.m.

    I think Youth Voices is based on student choices that accomplish required objectives. Creating this venue provides students with a place and tools that allow varied responses to project work.

    My responses in the vialuges are:


    Why? It connects us; use the platform that works to make those connections of people and ideas.
    Connecting, always connecting: ideas, words, movies in a fluid process back and forth, together in parts to build on one idea; Paul then shares those connections and acknowledgments in his blogs and posts. This is a model of learning and sharing.
    Blended. Mixed. Remixed. Anywhere. Anytime. Reconnect. Find face to face -- online webinars and hangouts. All of us who are connected do this.
    Youth Voices offers a venue with boundaries to participate as a global citizen, following interests and passions from the local to global, from pleasant hobbies to problem solutions.
    For a classroom, Youth Voices will be one option; if a student can make a connection with ideas and people there to help them pursue their passions while demonstrating their "school knowledge," then I think we have provided the student a path and the school an authentic platform to demonstrate learning, as we are required to do.
  • Christina Cantrill   July 27, 2012, 11:26 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Sheri Edwards   July 25, 2012, 2:33 p.m.

    Hi Sheri.

    Apologies for being slow getting myself back in here. I'm sorry to see the study group wrapping up as there is still so much to discuss! For instance, I'm interested in your sentence here "Youth Voices offers a venue with boundaries to participate" which I think is kind of fascinating -- ie. "boundaries" and "participation" as part of the same thing. I think its interesting because we can often think about boundaries as a barrier to participation ... but I'm also interested in where boundaries supports participation.

    Jenkins describes a participatory culture this way ...

    1. With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
    2. With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
    3. With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
    4. Where members believe that their contributions matter
    5. Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).

    And your comment about boundaries stikes me as part of that mentorship and support. Would that be accurate in your thinking too or is there something more you see here too?

    (Jumping into vialogues myself now too! See you "there" also :)


  • Christina Cantrill   July 27, 2012, 11:27 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 23, 2012, 6:20 a.m.

    Hi Kevin. I think this is a powerful statement -- the "I struggle" part so thank you for making it here. A powerful meditation forward, I am thinking!

  • Sheri Edwards   July 27, 2012, 12:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Christina Cantrill   July 27, 2012, 11:26 a.m.

    Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking -- the boundaries allow for a safe and supportive environment for idea expression. Youth Voices participants share text, video, audio, etc. and give / receive feedback. What they express matters. Since the students are K12, its "boundaries" provide the safety bubble for teachers and students: transparent, yet colorfully diverse in ideas, content, and participants, with teachers continually infusing the surface tension of encouragement and monitoring to keep the bubble fresh and vibrant with possibilities.

    Thanks for the details from Henry Jenkins; theory to applicability!



  • Tellio   July 22, 2012, 12:09 p.m.

    If anyone is interested, I have started a Vialogue on the video above.  My comments vary.  Some of them are just marking where stuff is on the video and summing up.  I will be going through a second time and I will be inviting Paul as well via his G+ account just to show how much further his discussion can go.

    Here is the link to the Vialogue.

    Classic example of the adjacent possible.