New York City Writing Project
(Funders: New York Community Trust/Hive Digital Media Learning Fund, National Writing Project/Educator Innovator, Lehman College, BronxNet TV)

The Youth Voices Inquiry Project (YVIP) had three goals: 1) to provide youth with an opportunity to explore their interests through digital tools and connected-learning practices that link academic work with youth’s cultural, community, or peer identities; 2) to enable teachers to re-think literacy pedagogy and learn alongside youth in a nonhierarchical environment; and 3) to develop a model that combines youth education and teacher professional development in support of connected learning theory and practice, and consider its potential for expansion as an ongoing connected-learning initiative of NYCWP.

Seventeen youth and 6 teachers participated in a three-week summer program at Lehman College, and another 14 youth and 6 teachers participated in a fall Saturday program. Youth and teachers experimented with various digital tools for making and learning; created self-chosen digital projects that arose from interest-based inquiries; and used http://youthvoices.net, as well as other open online environments, to engage other youth, experts, and decision-makers. They also created, earned, and issued open badges that reflected their learning. One additional objective for teachers involved developing or remixing curriculum to pilot in their classes and share via multiple outlets.

Evaluation findings (students):

  • demonstrated a high level of engagement, as demonstrated by attendance, task completion, and online participation.
  • recognized value in the program’s fostering of community and peer-to-peer support.
  • recognized and appreciated having independence to pursue interest-based work.
  • noted improvement in their writing and language development, particularly for English language learners.
  • student work aligned with the Common Core Standards and Mozilla Web Literacy Standards.

Evaluation findings (teachers):

  • developed their understanding of theory and practice in connected learning.
  • increased their understanding of the affordances and challenges of having students write, and write online.
  • recognized students’ potential as independent, engaged learners.
  • expanded their resources and networks for teaching, including ongoing work integrating the Youth Voices website and its resources into their school-year teaching.
  • developed awareness of and concrete approaches for using badges for student assessment in literacy.

To date, YVIP has reached approximately 600 additional youth through their teachers’ participation. 

Related activity: