Amplifying Student Voice at EduCon

When cleaning up my random-paper pile on my desk, I realized that I meant to do a follow-up about my session at EduCon. Here I am, two weeks later.

It was a great day when I realized that I could co-facilitate my EduCon conversation with Katie Robbins, Educational Director at Figment.

We had been chatting since last spring, when a boatload of SLA students signed up for the Figment website to share their short story projects online. We knew we had some shared questions, which boiled down to these:

– What do students want to write about? How are already they doing that online?
– What is authentic audience? How does it affect what you write?
– How do we (as educators) help students grow as writers? How does an authentic audience help them grow?
– How do students connect to each other and the larger world through student writing? what concerns are there?
During the session, we first had participants respond to the following prompt:

Tell the story of your education — for an audience of 100,000.

Here’s mine:
My Education

We then had folks share out and talk about how a large audience affected their work (hence my notes at the bottom.)

Next up, we gave people papers that were blank, save a set of concentric circles. The innermost circle was labeled “private,” and the space outside all of the circles was labeled “out there.”

This was your “work map.” Prompted by the question, “where does the work live?” participants were invited to label each ring, based on their environment — and then map out where different products live.

My Work Map

For me personally, the mapping helped me realize how permeable many of the different audiences are at SLA. Several of the zones that we think of as being SLA-specific are also part of larger networks, but we leverage them more to network with each other, not the outside world.

Once people completed their maps, they shared and discussed — and challenged each other to think about what they could “push out” to a larger audience, a ring farther out on their map.

What really made this part of the conversation — and the whole session, really — was the presence of the SLAMedia crew, plus a few students who use Figment on their own. They scattered themselves at every table where the “adults” were, and from the beginning it was clear that we could have walked in with no plan at all, and they would have carried the day.

Our students are comfortable sharing all kinds of work online — written, artistic, school-assigned, self-promoted, photography, video, personal, professional… and they speak well on navigating the process and protocol for each of these.

For most participants, I think talking with our kids was an eye-opener. One big take-away from the session for me was the reminder about how many schools and districts take a defensive stance towards ANY publishing of online work. One participant described how her school uses google apps — but that they’re turned off at the end of the day, so students can’t access them or any of the work saved in the programs. Other teachers described how schools create draconian acceptable use policies, where no names of photos of students can appear online.

This reminded me of an auxiliary benefit of amplifying student voice at SLA: not only does it empower the students involved, it shows the education world what can be done, reasonably and safely and well.


3 thoughts on “Amplifying Student Voice at EduCon

    1. lpahomov Post author

      Thanks Mathieu. A great thing about this session, which really shows the spirit of EduCon — I didn’t know what my own map would reveal to me, and I planned the activity. I got to push my own thinking along with facilitating for others.

      1. Mathieu Plourde

        Great reflection. Being the facilitator of a group doesn’t mean that you have all the answers in advance. So many educators are afraid to lose face when they don’t have the answer that they avoid venturing into unknown territories, which in turn prevents them from growing.

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