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About Writing Digital Learning Equity & Access

Designing for Connected Learning and Teaching

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The Power of Authenticity: Motivating Students with Meaningful Audiences
By Laura Bradley
Three educators present the projects that provided their students with authentic audiences motivating the students’ best efforts. These authentic writing opportunities include developing broadcast Media, collaborative “maker” projects, blogging, Ted-style Talks, and submissions to Film Festivals. Included are samples of student work and classroom resources.
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Today’s Reasons Why We Need Students to Write for Authentic Audiences
By Katie McKay
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Let 'Em Shine ~ Elevating PBL
By Angela Stokes
A year-long project-based learning project called Let It Shine which connected students across three high schools to ask questions surrounding local monuments and their stories.
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Lessons in Linked Learning and Maker Education from the Wonder Workshop
By Paula Mitchell
Teachers at Grass Valley Elementary engage young people in exploring their interests and found that Project Based Learning with a focus on Maker Education increased student engagement and empowerment. Included are examples of student work, links to Maker kits, prompts, and templates.
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Exploring Our Environment Together: Green Is the New Pink
By Ellen Shelton
A school-community-university partnership, called the “Green Is The New Pink: Young Women Environmentalism-in-Action,” supported young women in grades 8-11 to explore environmental issues in a local context, igniting passions through their own inquiries.
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Disrupting the Prolonged Silence: Youth Inquiry of the Tulsa Race Massacre
By Shanedra Nowell
Using digital tools and the power of student-inquiry, 6-12 graders explored the question, “What can we learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre to make the world a better place?” Here are field trip documents from when The Oklahoma State University Writing Project partnered with the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation in Tulsa to disrupt the prolonged silence surrounding the massacre.
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Reflections on Partnering with a Juvenile Detention Center: The Uncaged Project
By Raemona Taylor
The Teen Center at the Nashville Public Library partnered with educators from a juvenile detention center that houses incarcerated male youth to explore connected learning through music and video projects based on the students’ definitions of freedom. Raemona Little Taylor explains how the project began as well as lessons learned and tips for other organizations looking to embark on similar partnerships.
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(Re)Defining Youth Space: Adolescents “Reading” a Place
By Molly Buckley-Marudas
Educators use creative place making and youth participatory action research, to encourage students to ‘read a place,’ such as the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art and other spaces around their city. Included are student conversations of space along with images from the project.
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Seize Your Future: Career Passion Projects
By Kelly Guilfoil
Educators in the Lake Stevens School District in Washington give students the chance to earn failed credits over a three week program by pairing project-based learning with students’ own career ambitions. Included are samples of student work and PBL student surveys.
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Addressing Gun Violence: Creating Visionaries, Storytellers and Community Activists
By Vision Quilt
When students requested to learn more about the topic of gun violence, teachers drew on the Expeditionary Learning Education Model with interdisciplinary lessons in the humanities, math, and the arts, to co-design a three-month curriculum entitled “Addressing Gun Violence: Creating Visionaries, Storytellers, Community Activists,” with non-profit partner Vision Quilt. Included are examples of student work and a downloadable link to the Addressing Gun Violence toolkit.
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This is Not School: Designing a Storytelling Project for a Community
By Katie Kline
Connecting students from sixteen Kansas City High School districts, KC Storytellers was created to break down divisive barriers across communities while expanding the audience and purpose for personal writing in the classroom. Included are program development tips to maintain the “this is not school” feeling along with a link to their YouTube channel.
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Advocacy for Game Design: Classes that Keep Student Interest
By Krystel Theuvenin
Playable Fashion at the Academy of Innovative Technology in NYC provides tools to teach students game design, technology, and fashion to engage students in active, creative and critical practices that integrate technology with real life. Included are resource links, program development tips, and student feedback.
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12 Posts in this Collection

More often than not, learning is still thought to be a matter of skilling up, remembering facts and figures, and knowing what’s been known and proving you have the skills that “matter.” It is often organized around sorting students (Are they ready for the next grade? For AP? For college? For graduation?) and, in our great information age, tests and data promise to help us see something we still can’t figure out—even with all the tests and data—about access and about equity.

What if we really stopped to redesign what we are doing and approached learning differently? What if we design learning opportunities that center around what brings joy and inspires passion? What if we approached the challenges of access and equity by supporting youth in being agents in their own learning and directly addressing issues important to them and their communities? What would we see, and learn, if we approached learning this way?

Teachers across the country do actually know what this kind of learning looks like and, over the last few years via LRNG Innovators, they have been working to redesign their everyday learning and school spaces to tap into the interests of their students. These interests might be those built from youth’s personal passions or they may be more connected to something political, philosophical or historical in nature that impacts them and their communities (Ito, et al., 2020; Kirshner, Strobel, and Fernández, 2003). Either way, what we can see and learn from across this work is that this powerful learning is doable and that it provides access to opportunities and supports equity for students.

The projects shared here are part of a larger collection of designs and stories that show the possibilities when teachers and students co-design for more creative and connected learning. We invite you to explore them, to tap into inspiration and resources, while also raising questions about how these approaches could work and what they would look like in your context.

Here are a few stories about what it can look like when youth have an opportunity to follow their interests and passions with the support of caring adults – including teachers, peers, families and mentors:

These stories show us what it can look like to support deep learning through project-based design that emerges from youth questions and community inquiries:

In these stories we see teachers working alongside key community partners and tapping into larger resources that helps make the reimagining possible and impactful:

Here we see schools addressing challenging issues in their schools and community contexts by designing alongside youth and engaging them as collaborators:

Read more about LRNG Innovators, founded in 2014 by John Legend’s Show Me Campaign with support from the National Writing Project, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift. You can also tap into more teacher resources and stories at The Current.

Hero image from another great LRNG Innovators story: Advocacy for Game Design: Classes that Keep Student Interest, Bronx NY

Up next

Content type
Today’s Reasons Why We Need Students to Write for Authentic Audiences
By Katie McKay
Content type
Let 'Em Shine ~ Elevating PBL
By Angela Stokes
A year-long project-based learning project called Let It Shine which connected students across three high schools to ask questions surrounding local monuments and their stories.
Read more
Content type
Lessons in Linked Learning and Maker Education from the Wonder Workshop
By Paula Mitchell
Teachers at Grass Valley Elementary engage young people in exploring their interests and found that Project Based Learning with a focus on Maker Education increased student engagement and empowerment. Included are examples of student work, links to Maker kits, prompts, and templates.
Read more