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Authentic Conversations on Youth Voices

Authentic Conversations on Youth Voices

Written by Paul Allison
October 17, 2010

“Who does that?” a girl in my 10th grade English class murmured dismissively.

We were walking back to class from the garden across the street from our school, the East-West School of International Studies, Queens, NY. She was responding to my vague proposal that we take their essays about different plots in a local community garden and make audio recordings.

“We could put your recordings together as podcasts, then people could download our collection. Or,”  I said trying to preempt one of the objections that might have been behind the student’s rolling eyes, “we could download it for them.”

I waited for a positive response, thinking how interesting it would be be for the students to make and edit recordings of their garden essays using Audacity. And how wonderful it would it be for guests to walk around the garden across from our school while listening to the students’ essays.

“Whatever,” I pushed on, “once the recordings are on their iPods, people could take guided tours of the gardens.”

It’s this idea that received the student’s withering response. I’m glad I listened to her, eventually.

“We could link to the mp3’s inside of markers on a Google map of the gardens. Wouldn’t that be cool?”

“Ah, NO-OH!” the student persisted, trying to keep it real for me.

I listened this time, and instead of creating audio, we spent more time with revising the writing and with inserting an image from the garden on each “text and media” discussion post, created on Youth Voices, a web site where my students publish, distribute, and discuss their work with peers from across the country. Even more important, I gave the students time to compose comments under each others’ posts on this social network. We’ve learned that it takes time for authentic conversations to develop. (See Jackey’s post with comments.)

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