A Lab That Grows Young Writers

An afterschool writing center offers fourth- through eighth-graders the opportunity to explore their creative capacity, creating an open-ended and imaginative space for writing and reflection after school. To enter the Word Lab, an afterschool writing center in Santa Cruz, California, students must first walk through a “portal.” Called the Chamber of Heart and Mystery, the portal has the aura of an old-fashioned curiosity shop, sans the dust. Staged as the study of an eccentric researcher, the room is overflowing with feathers, clocks, binoculars, and masks. The space is meant to stoke the imaginations of the fourth- through eighth-graders who visit every week and get them warmed up to spend the afternoon writing. Once inside the Word Lab, students receive a short lesson and a quick writing prompt from a teacher, but what they do with the rest of their time is largely up to them. They are encouraged to write whatever they want, be it a personal narrative or a fictional story. This open-endedness is deliberate. At the Word Lab, students are granted a rare level of agency and trust. When students are given that freedom, Word Lab creator Julia Chiapella and her staff believe they become more creative, self-reflective,...
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Nashville Library Gives Incarcerated Teens the Freedom to Create

  • on Jan 5
  • in LRNG
  • by Natalie Orenstein

How a local public library in Nashville is using digital media to help teens see themselves as readers, and much more. It began with a simple library lending program. When funding for the library at the Woodland Hills Development Center in Nashville, Tennessee, was slashed in 2015, the staff there reached out to their local public library for help. The Nashville Public Library (NPL) got the teens at Woodland Hills set up with library cards, which they use often. Woodland Hills is a youth development center for teens ages 13 to 19 who’ve been committed to state custody by the juvenile courts. NPL teen librarian Raemona Taylor admits she didn’t know what to expect when she began the partnership with Woodland Hills. She was worried the teens, who typically spend six to nine months at the facility, would not be receptive to library programming. But when she saw how eager they were to take advantage of the library’s services, Taylor began thinking about how to deepen the partnership with the center. How could the library, in line with its broader mission, help the young readers there become storytellers and creators themselves? NPL is the recipient of a 2015 LRNG Innovation...
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Practicing the Principles of Connected Learning

  • on Dec 13
  • in DML
  • by Howard Rheingold

New media educator Howard Rheingold interviews educator Kevin Hodgson about connected learning and how educators enact its principles with technology. I've met and profiled active contributors for years, but Kevin Hodgson has to be one of the most active co-learners I’ve encountered. He was part of my Twitter personal learning network, but I began to understand how much energy he puts into sharing his knowledge and imagination when we participated in Connected Courses, "a collaborative community of faculty in higher education developing networked, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web." We had a plan, but part of that plan was what I call "co-learning" — we knew that the learners in this course were also educators, and we knew that they would come up with ideas that the course planners had not thought of. We knew that leaders we had not picked would emerge. Hodgson, a prolific edublogger and tweeter, started posting "daily connects" — a brief activity, every day, that led the far-flung participants to connect with each other. If you are organizing a course, MOOC, or co-learning community, daily connects are one of the most powerful and yet simple tools at...
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Lesson Ideas for Mobile Learning

  • on Dec 6
  • in DML
  • by Howard Rheingold

New media educator Howard Rheingold interviews educator Shelly Terrell about her new book, which highlights the power of students' mobile devices to drive learning in and out of the classroom. I knew that I had to talk with Shelly Sanchez Terrell again when I learned through the tweetvine that she had a new book out about mobile learning (Learning to Go: Lesson Ideas for Teaching with Mobile Devices, Cell Phones, and BYOT). Six years ago, my interview with and blog post about Terrell’s netweaving turned out to be a useful resource when I sought to explain to educators the value and how-to of personal learning networks. She’s a teacher who teaches teachers. She’s taught in more than 20 countries! She’s currently adjunct professor At Alamo Community College in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve learned a great deal from her. I taught social media literacies at Berkeley and Stanford for years, and although we regularly used forums, wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and video chat, I only used the power of my students’ mobile devices once — toward the end of my last teaching year. I had been encouraging students to take charge of their learning. They took turns co-teaching with me, they...
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