Ladder of Youth Participation

A great follow-up to our recently published white paper, Sharing Student Voice: Students Presenting at Conferences (More about this resource | Download PDF) is the Ladder of Youth Participation by Roger Hart.

This is nicely described on the website, as a representation of the levels of youth participation in community development activities. In the diagram, the bottom three rungs represent non-participation, while the rest represent increasing levels of participation. This is an important point when planning youth participation in adult events. The hope is that students are not there as mere tokens, but that they are there to give voice to the results of their authentic participation in a real activity, or, to actually participate in an activity with the chance of long-term results.

In the white paper, I describe how how conference participation can be part of the continuous process in which youth action becomes youth voice. It can be a way to climb that ladder. Here’s a sample:

Enabling student voice is more than simply listening to students. While it is tempting to think that the act of students speaking at a conference enables student voice, it is dependent on the students having something authentic to share with the audience. It might be more effective to think of conference presentations as “sharing” student voice, rather than enabling it. (from Sharing Student Voice: Students Presenting at Conferences PDF)

Resources like the Ladder of Youth Participation are tools that can help adults who facilitate student activities think through the choices and practices that they are faced with every day.


Student-Centered Support Systems to Sustain Logo-like Learning

It’s been crazy since I got back from Eastern Europe, but I promised to put my paper online once I returned. Here it is!

Student-Centered Support Systems to Sustain Logo-like Learning (PDF)

Conventional wisdom attributes the lack of effective technology use in classrooms to a shortage of professional development or poorly run professional development. At the same time, logo-like learning environments require teachers to develop more expertise not only in technology but also in pedagogy.

This paper proposes that the perceived lack of technology professional development is a myth and that traditional professional development is ill-suited to teaching teachers how to create logo-like learning environments. Furthermore, it proposes models of student-centered, student-led support for teachers that support classroom practice aligned with the attributes of logo-like learning environments. These models situate teacher learning about technology in their own classroom, reinforce constructivist teaching practices, provide support for technology use in the classroom, and enrich learning environments for students.


Back to school: Acceptable Denial Policy

Welcome back to school!

See the lightAre you busy sending large packets of documents home with your students for them and their parents to sign? Have you read your own technology Acceptable Use Policy lately?

Go ahead, I dare you. Search for positive, vision-oriented statements among the threats of punishment. Did you find any?

This year, why not issue a Technology Vision Statement along with your Acceptable Use Policy. Let your students know what you are trying to do with technology. Not what you are going to buy or install, but how you envision learning will change.

Better yet, have a few students help you shape it so it makes sense to them. Pick kids who aren’t going to parrot what you already have written. Send it to parents so that your technology vision is more vibrant and personal than the hysterical “To Catch a Predator” media hype about technology and the Internet. They pay the bills, so let them know you have a vision that soars over the implementation hurdles that everyone faces.

Vision changes everything – so share it, don’t keep it a secret. If it’s your second or third year of a major implementation like laptops, it’s even more important to remind everyone of the vision you started with. Don’t let your revolution peter out because you are assuming everyone still has the original plan burning brightly in their brain like you do. Believe me, they don’t.

Along these lines, does the “contract” you ask students to sign guarantee THEIR rights to have access to reliable computers along with the list of infractions? It’s not a contract if it’s only one way.

Welcome back to school!

Technology in a McDonald’s Wrapper?

A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health study showed that young children preferred food, even carrots and milk, wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper over the same food without branding. It’s a clear win for marketing, and an indication of how susceptible children are to branding and marketing messages.

Litter - McDonalds

In education, we tend to hear messages like this as a call to add relevance to lesson plans, like adding “hip hop” to word problems and hoping kids are fooled by this into liking math more. In technology, we like to talk about “engagement” as a goal rather than an outcome, which confuses the issue in a similar way.

The idea that children are swayed by marketing messages should not be a call to educators to use the same tactics, but to provide children with deep exposure to ideas so that they can see past marketing sleight of hand.

Children should learn about food, make food, grow food, and be taught to analyze marketing messages. They will get it, but they need time to taste it, to feel it, to see a flower change into a pea pod, and have a hand in it. Eventually they will read the calorie counts on the tray menu. Then they will annoyingly recite them to you when you are trying to enjoy a milkshake.

Children should also have the opportunity to live and learn with technology that puts them in control. Control does not mean pushing a button or clicking on the “right” answer. Control means using open-ended tools that allow for meaningful interaction with data, people, ideas, and concepts. It means programming and simulations. It means making, not consuming. It means giving students agency and responsibility for their work.

If not given that chance, they are more susceptible to seeing technology only serving trivial purposes, not a way to understand the world better.

Web 2.0 community for new teachers

My recent post, Connecting Ed-tech to Ed-reform got a nod from Will Richardson (mother-of-all ed-tech bloggers) as part of a thoughtful post on his search for connection and meaning beyond the latest shiny new technology.

It also attracted a comment from Peter Henry, one of the participants of the panel and author of some of the educational reform articles I linked to. Web 2.0 at its finest.

I was on the panel that you quote above and wrote some of the material. And yes, I am specifically talking about using new technologies to fundamentally change and “reculture” public schools. I myself offer graduate level courses online and have completely rethought how I teach based on using the Web as a learning tool.

In fact, my site,, is dedicated to the proposition that “new teachers” (the new generation, mainly) collaborate, share and team much more regularly and effectively than do previous generations.

The goal is to build a learning community online that is dedicated to using technology and the ethos of open source learning to bond new teachers together, wherever they may be.

And, frankly, I need help. I need members, I need content, I need web designers. This is an open call to the community. If you want to move toward democracy, incorporating new technologies and building networks of like-minded people, please contribute what you can, when you can and spread the word far and wide.

It is a new day, a new dawn really, and we are on the cusp of something really special here but like any incipient community, we need the founding members to come forward, stake a claim and build something tangible so that others can see the dream actually going up.

So there ya go – I think this call to action deserves to be up front, not hidden in a comment. I’m not sure if I agree that new teachers are better (or worse) at teamwork than previous generations. But really, we certainly should do anything possible to prevent the incredible exodus of new teachers from the profession. So if what Peter wrote intrigues you, head on over to New Teacher Network and join the cause!