Watchworthy Wednesday: Empowering Youth Through Writing, Digital Media


Four 16-year-old Muslim-American girls are getting their stories heard through slam poetry. Thousands of other young people are sharing their hopes, fears, aspirations and observations, too, as part of the Young Writers Project. YWP, a nonprofit organization based in Burlington, Vermont and founded 10 years ago, is dedicated to helping youth develop the confidence and communication skills needed to shape their world via creative writing, performance and visual and audio mediums.  “We develop effective methods to help youths explore their own ideas, share with peers and mentors and present best work to affirming audiences,” says Geoffrey

Parent Choice: Using Data to Justify Decisions that Perpetuate Segregation?


As a researcher of urban education and parent of a child entering public pre-K in New York City this fall, my professional and personal interests converged this past year as I visited schools and poured over school performance data, along with every other parent of a 3-year-old in the city. I practically squealed with pleasure when the Department of Education released its newest data tool, the School Performance Dashboard. The Dashboard makes the process of at-a-glance school comparison that much easier, at least for parents conversant in the languages of data and quantitative measurement, who are

The Contradiction of Borderless Technology in a Border-Filled World


As I am slowly making my way through an analysis of the mission statements and strategic technology plans of the United States’ largest K-12 public school districts, one thing is becomingly increasingly clear to me — nearly every district is striving to prepare students to be “21st century ready,” but none define what exactly this means. Instead, what they are doing is throwing around terms like “global citizenship” or “21st century economy” to stress the necessity of new investments in pedagogical models (e.g. blended learning) and digital infrastructure. I’ve realized that education policy discourse (particularly when it

Watchworthy Wednesday: Spreading Storytelling Through Photography and Connecting Educators


As a documentary photographer, Andrea Birnbaum is a storyteller. But, she emphasizes, “I am very aware that I cannot tell other people’s stories for them. I can only show my perspective on what I see in the world.” So, when she discovered Phonar Nation, the online photography class immediately appealed to Birnbaum, also an educator, as it teaches students how to tell their own stories. Designed by award-winning photographer, Jonathan Worth, Phonar Nation was built to be taught from a mobile device for a mobile device user, and it’s an open course that any student can

Teaching Computational, Abstract Thinking


Visual programming languages and programming as a learning tool are old dreams, rooted in the late Seymour Papert’s creation of the Logo programming language for children. Lately, many promising variants — all of them based on visual rather than command-line interfaces — are popping up: Scratch, a successor to Logo, has been evolving in the MIT Media Lab’s “Lifelong Kindergarten;” Google has entered this arena with Blockly, “a library for building visual programming editors;” UC Berkeley’s Snap focuses on robotic control, as does Roberta. Many of these are powerful learning instruments, but because they run in

The Situational Approach to Learning with New Media


The topic of whether or how children should use new and emerging technologies for learning is evergreen, particularly as the new school year commences. I’ve written in this space before about reactions to tools for electronic reading and writing, and I’ve begun to notice that commentators on these subjects adopt a few different approaches for discussing learning with new (and old) media. I call them the nostalgia, work habits, and the situational approaches. Nostalgia Approach The nostalgia approach tends to focus on personal and emotional connections to books. When this approach is evoked, advocates note their

Watchworthy Wednesday: Connecting Hip-Hop and Coding


How can young people use coding to express their interests in areas such as hip-hop dance? To explore this question, Progressive Arts Alliance and the MIT Scratch team will host the Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit, a two-day workshop for educators and program leaders to learn about creative pathways into computing. The summit, to be held Oct. 21-22 in Cleveland, Ohio, will bring together a diverse group of people who lead programs for young people, especially for youth in underserved communities. Forty participants will be chosen on Sept. 5, so there’s still time to apply. The summit

A Learning Life: How Connected Learning Might Work Over Time


In my last blog, I talked about Learning Identities, Education and Community: young lives in the cosmopolitan city as an example of an attempt to study connected learning in action — catching the process of travel across learning sites and focusing on the process of building a learner identity. In that study, we paid particular attention to how participants in Oslo in Norway constructed narratives about themselves to suggest an almost existential meaning for the choices they made about education such as which school to attend, what courses to follow. How individuals “storied” themselves, what forms of

Watchworthy Wednesday: A Dreamer’s Guide to College Funds


Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca would not be studying at Cañada College in Redwood City, getting ready to transfer to a four-year college and major in political science and communications, were it not for the help of a scholarship for undocumented students. Unable to apply for federal student loans because of her status and discouraged by naysayers, she thought it would be impossible to go to college, and she knows many other undocumented youth feel the same way. (About 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year in the U.S.) That’s why she created DREAMer’s Roadmap, a