Youth Voices Inquiry Project

Leveraging reading, writing, and digital media to explore interests across generations

This project overview is an invitation to engage with the New York City Writing Project in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project. Youth Voices is an openly-networked online platform for youth discussions. It is also a community of committed educators, and an archive of student work attached to a growing collection of “missions” designed to invite youth to engage with connected learning experiences. Through the Youth Voices Inquiry Project, teachers and students engage in shared projects and inquiry focused on using reading, writing, and digital media in support of learners’ own passions and interests. After a successful pilot in summer of  2013, in 2014, with support from the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in the New York Community Trust and the National Writing Project’s Educator Innovator and in collaboration with BronxNet TV, we were able to expand this project, engaging 31 youth and 12 teachers as co-learners with the ultimate goal of fostering peer-supported, making and writing-centered classrooms. The audience for this project was youth and teachers, working side-by-side to pursue inquiry-driven work.

During the Summer and Fall 2014 Youth Voices Inquiry Project:

  • Students and teachers together represented all five boroughs of NYC
  • 8 of the 12 teachers had students in the program from their own schools
  • 58% came from Bronx schools
  • 42% were English Language Learners
  • 61% were young women; and 39% were young men

In addition to meeting face-to-face at Lehman College, this group also met with the broader Youth Voices community, which includes schools, teachers, students, and other interested parties around the country. We met together on Teachers Teaching Teachers, a weekly webcast that often becomes an open staff meeting of teachers whose students are using Youth Voices. We shared ideas, challenges, and curriculum on a Youth Voices teacher channel and we developed missions together. In  addition to this, many phone calls and emails knitted us together as a team.

Although the Youth Voices Inquiry Project wasn’t originally designed for English Language Learners, three of the six teachers we recruited to join us in the Summer of 2014 were teachers of students learning English, and they nominated these students for our program, making up 42% of the students we accepted. In this way, the project became a wonderful laboratory to learn how to address access and equity issues for students learning English. We have been reminded that engaging these youths with connected learning experiences requires extended time for them to complete tasks. We were excited to see how the use of visuals and coding (6 word memoir/Scratch/Powtoon) to augment language expression had special significance for English Language Learners. In the Youth Voices Inquiry Project we have seen visible increases in fluency and writing produced over the summer weeks, and this has led teachers in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project to plan ways to provide extended time, use interest-based learning, and multimedia during the academic year. See video documentation of youth sharing their writing in a live “read around.”

Open digital badges are an integral part of our work in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project. The students and teachers in the summer chose the titles, designed the icons, developed the criteria, and published Open Badges using the P2PU’s platform. In an introductory workshop, teachers and students designed badges to represent personal passions and skills. A vegan made a Herbivore Muncher Badge; a participant who loves the cultural diversity of NYC created a Travel within your own city badge. Later, teachers and students both issued and applied for badges that represented those things that had been important in our work together: the skills, competencies, and standards that mattered most to each of us. Participants created and issued badges for Annotating, Freewriting, Controlling Code at the Next Level, and more. The process of peers designing, applying for, and issuing open badges with each other as part of a three-week intensive learning experience led to a deeper understanding of the ecology and promise of how badges enhance learning. We are looking now to bring these hands-on, bottom-up experiences of badging into our classrooms, where a more top-down approach to assessment is often the norm.

A lot of work in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project has been dedicated to supporting teachers and students as they bring the work of the summer back into their classrooms. In the fall of 2014, we piloted three fall sessions on Saturdays, a packed nine hours of work together. Both youth and teachers got excited about Youth Voices and about writing for public audiences in the Youth Voices community and beyond in connected ways. Although the outcomes were modest when compared with the summer, we look forward to extending the school-year work with future versions of the Youth Voices Inquiry Project.

Through the Youth Voices Inquiry Project, we learned the value of teachers and students working collaboratively, achieving meaningful, supportive communication and encouraging self-expression. Participants—teachers and students alike—responded positively to the freedom to engage with activities at your own pace and according to personal interests.

BronxNet – Youth Voices Story of the Day 2

Participant Feedback

At the workshop’s conclusion, participants were asked to reflect on one thing that they would remember most from their experience during the Youth Voices Inquiry Project. Teacher and student participants alike appreciated the “open, supportive environment” and primacy of student choice and agency. Participants specifically noted that it was refreshing to work alongside students as peers—”giving ideas, helping each other, being friendly”— in ways that suited individual learning styles and interests. As teacher participant, Gabrielle Utting noted, “One thing I will remember about the Youth Voices Summer Program is that there are many different ways to express yourself…The work here was different from in school because here we had no time limits. This was great because everyone had freedom to work at their own pace and on the projects that most interested them!” Louise Bauso, another teacher participant also echoed this sentiment noting that she would specifically remember, “how well a group of students can work alone, without instruction or interference…”

One thing I remember from the Youth Voices program is the interview I did with two teachers because I got out of my comfort zone for the first time and I loved talking for once. I enjoyed the simplicity as well the independent times we all got to have. I was able to write about my passions which I was not able to do at school. – Nashaly Felix, Student Participant

One connection I am making now is that personal interest in a topic is a real motivator in producing a finished, multi-faceted project. I want to take aspects of the Youth Voices website back to my classroom and start small, then hopefully build on them throughout the year (and years). – Jim Nine, Teacher Participant

I think I’ll remember all the encouragement I got for reaching my dreams and putting my writing out there. -Alexandria Marston, Student Participant

Lead Organization:
New York City Writing Project

Partner Organizations:
BronxNet TV , National Writing Project , Lehman College, CUNY

Project Goal:
Too often, youth are disengaged from school and unable to see the connection between academic work and their cultural, community, or peer identities. The goal of the Youth Voices Inquiry Project is to create environments to bridge students’ different worlds and to give them opportunities to engage in interest-driven inquiry. In addition the Youth Voices Inquiry Project gives teachers an opportunity to experience connected learning first-hand as an entry point to integrating this orientation into their classroom teaching.

Project Tags:
Media Literacy & Production, Professional Development, Webmaking, Writing, Youth Development & Leadership

Project Portfolio

  • teaching resources

    Curriculum Guides

    Day-by-day curriculum and agendas for Youth Voices Inquiry Project, including links to participant profiles and work.

  • teaching resources

    Youth Voices Guides

    Guides and templates for students to help in the completion of a wide variety of tasks from commenting on one another’s work to doing plot analysis.

  • sample works

    Youth Voices Scratch Projects

    Projects created using the free programming language Scratch that were created by participants in the Summer 2014 program.

  • sample works

    Student magazine 2013

    A print magazine that was produced with the work of students in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project Summer, 2013 program

  • documentation

    Youth Voices Teachers Teaching Teachers Webcast

    Video discussion with participants in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project Summer 2014 program, recorded as a part of the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast.

    • Webcast #400: video discussion to plan the Youth Voices Inquiry Project Summer 2014 program
    • Webcast #402: video discussion to think about curriculum with Youth Voices Inquiry Project teachers
    • Webcast #405: video discussion with participants from Summer 2014 how to bridge the summer experience to school in the fall,
    • Webcast #419: video discussion with participants in the Youth Voices Inquiry Project Summer 2014 program

  • documentation

    Youth Voices summer program 2013

    A film made by Jim Nordlinger with his colleagues at the New York City Writing Project about the Youth Voices Inquiry Project Summer 2013 program. 28:00m

  • media

    Open 2.0 Program Featuring Youth Voices

    Episode one and episode two  of Open 2.0, a magazine-style show produced by BronxNet Television. Filmed over the course of three weeks, these episodes chronicle the work of the Summer 2014 Youth Voices Inquiry Project.

    Over the course of three weeks, the BronxNet OPEN 2.0 team documented the work of high school students and teachers working in a connected learning environment, sharing and posting their work to the Youth Voices social networking site. A unique platform where students and teachers are working alongside each other, learning with each other, Youth Voices was an excellent opportunity for our team to work in a similar fashion, with videographers Justin Rodriguez and Vince Bracy, planning, meeting and executing the project with producer Marisa M. White – See more at: http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/open-20/youth-voices/viewvideo/4520/youth-voices/youth-voices-ep-1–open-20#sthash.j9s0SNFq.dpuf
    Over the course of three weeks, the BronxNet OPEN 2.0 team documented the work of high school students and teachers working in a connected learning environment, sharing and posting their work to the Youth Voices social networking site. A unique platform where students and teachers are working alongside each other, learning with each other, Youth Voices was an excellent opportunity for our team to work in a similar fashion, with videographers Justin Rodriguez and Vince Bracy, planning, meeting and executing the project with producer Marisa M. White – See more at: http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/open-20/youth-voices/viewvideo/4520/youth-voices/youth-voices-ep-1–open-20#sthash.j9s0SNFq.dpuf

  • media

    BronxNet Story of the Day: Exploring Scratch

    Produced by BronxNet Television, this video short chronicles Youth Voices Inquiry Project participant Halimat Sulayman as she explores the basics of coding using MIT’s  Scratch programming language.

  • media

    Open 2.0 Youth Voices

    Part one and part two of the cable television program Open 2.0, produced by BronxNet Television, about the Youth Voices Inquiry Project Summer 2013 and Summer 2014 programs.

  • media

    Youth Voices Connected Learning Program

    Paul Allison and Christy Kingham tell us how The NYC writing project uses reading, writing and digital media to find and explore high school teachers and students passions through academic inquiry. – See more at: http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/open-20/youth-voices/viewvideo/4414/youth-voices/youth-voices-connected-learning-program#sthash.xhT3CAFP.dpuf
    Paul Allison and Christy Kingham tell us how The NYC writing project uses reading, writing and digital media to find and explore high school teachers and students passions through academic inquiry – See more at: http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/open-20/youth-voices/viewvideo/4414/youth-voices/youth-voices-connected-learning-program#sthash.xhT3CAFP.dpuf

    Paul Allison and Christy Kingham describe how YVIP uses reading, writing and digital media to find and explore high school teachers and students passions through academic inquiry; produced by BronxNet Television

  • media

    Photo Collections

    A collection of photos from Youth Voices Inquiry Project sessions:

  • tools

    Youth Voices Web Site

    This is the main Youth Voices web site where students voice their thoughts about their passions, explain things they understand well, wonder about things they have just begun to understand, and share discussions with others using as many different genres and media as they can imagine! Anyone is invited to join!

  • tools

    YVIP G+ community, 2014

    This is the Google Plus community site that was used for the Youth Voices Inquiry Project, Summer 2014 program.

  • tools

    Youth Voices Open Badges

    This site shows the process and the end results through which the Youth Voices Inquiry Project 2014 participants created, applied for, issued, and earned their own open badges. See Open digital badges from 2013.