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Independent Projects & Digital Literacy

Independent Projects & Digital Literacy

Written by Myles Curtis
July 07, 2015

The Meaning of a ‘Project’

‘Project’ is one of those words with a meaning that hinges on whether it is used inside or outside of a classroom. In school, its meaning is often limited: a project is an assignment, a task, a piece of work given by a teacher to assess how students apply, illustrate, or supplement their lessons. But when the noun is extracurricular, out-and-about, a project names all kinds of different human undertakings, from constructing a skyscraper to composing a song. It’s how we describe both the raising of a garden in our backyards or balconies – and the raising of awareness in the world that lies beyond. It echoes its etymology – ‘to throw forth’ – and the different ways we use it as a verb: to predict, to send something out into space, to display an image on a screen, to make your voice carry across an audience. When you start a project, you cast an idea into the work of your future. You plan the idea’s trajectory from figment to fact. You dream of where you want it to land. You hope it reaches.

How do young people learn how to take on projects of their own? How do they learn to trust their impulses to imagine and devise – and follow through on these notions? School can play a role – it can give them the building blocks, show them how to play with others, encourage them to try their best. But when we always ask them to work on that writing, that research, that experiment, that problem – students learn to let go of all the other possible pursuits that bubble and burst in their heads while they try to follow our instructions and assignments.

The Exploratory Program

At Sabot at Stony Point – an independent school in Richmond, VA – we designed a program to see what middle schoolers can discover and accomplish when they are given the time and space in school for independent, autonomous, open-swim projects. For several hours each week, students work on something entirely of their own creation and execution. There are art projects, building projects, performance projects, sports projects, research projects, community projects – and projects that either combine so many of these different types or elude all of them so that they are impossible to classify.

We call this program ‘Exploratory’ – or ‘Explo,’ for short – and as educators, we try to make it our weekly time to take a break from leading our subjects and units and classrooms and try to become better “followers” – honing our skills of observation, empathy, and curiosity as we watch our students’ projects unfold.

Writing, Technology, and Investigation

Exploratory is not a program specifically designed to incorporate technology. Indeed, it’s a fine place for students to emerge from digital immersion and spend hours each week in the woods, the courts, the studio, the easel, the drawing table. Nor is it a program which has the central goal of teaching writing. So why is this a valuable resource for Digital Is?

Because students do use technology in pursuing their independent projects – a lot, and in different ways than we might expect or anticipate when we’re at the helm. And they write – in ways that show us the link between writing and independent learning. This resource is a window into how Sabot at Stony Point uses Explo to provide the time and space for students to use digital tools tools in order to design and pursue their projects. It also seeks to show how writing about one’s project and learning through digital media supports students in their endeavors. It provides a rare opportunity to see how our students use technology and writing in a space that is neither extracurricular nor the teacher-led classroom.

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In The Odyssey, Athena guides young Telemachus on his quest for information about his father by appearing to him not as the Goddess of War and Wisdom, but as a child, a beggar, and Mentor, a family friend. She knows from the beginning the information that Telemachus is seeking, but she follows him loyally on his long, meandering, discursive journey, only intervening when she feels that he needs to be encouraged or challenged. Why does Athena take on so many different personas?  Why does she withhold information that would have made the entire journey redundant? Because Telemachus was not just looking for his father’s whereabouts — he was also trying to find his own inner courage and outer skill.

The teacher’s role in Exploratory follows the same strategy. It challenges educators to step outside roles that they have become accustomed to in the classroom.  Instead of directing, they must follow a students’ work with attention and patience.  Instead of instructing, they must respond to the different directions a student takes.  Instead of sharing expertise, they must learn what a student knows and wants to know. Letting a young person chart their own path and make their own discoveries at first seems like not teaching at all.  It can be frustrating to feel like a student is taking the exact opposite path from what you would take – it seems like you never stop having to remind yourself to hold your tongue, to replace your initial judgments and opinions and fixed ideas with the interest, curiosity, and motivation that the student needs.  

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“I have always wanted to be a writer, and before I did this project, I had no idea what my writing style was. I didn’t know what genres I was the best writing, and what was the best genre for me . . . Even though it was a fantasy story, there were elements of many other genres of books. There was a mystery, there was a lot of comedy, there was action, there was adventure, there was a little Sci-Fi, there were some secrets, and several other types of scenes played into this book. And the weirdest thing, each were necessary to continue the story I was trying to tell . . . Before this, I didn’t realize how much information, joy, sadness, fun, and other complicated emotions that most other things besides words can convey could be conveyed through a book.”

– Zane, reflecting on his project on writing a fantasy novel

“Even though we were writing a school newspaper, in some ways it felt like we were business owners trying to please our customers, and keep our company going. Book recommendations aren’t interesting to everyone, but not everyone wants to look at soccer scores either . . . we had to get people to want to read our paper.”  

– Lilac, reflecting on publishing a school newspaper

“If cooking is a language, then that would be the new language that I explored in this project . . . I learned about artificial colors and flavors, cooking, how to interview people, how artificial ingredients affect humans and animals, how to cook . . .”

– Emma, reflecting on her project cooking natural and artificial recipes.

Many students create writing projects in Exploratory. The range of writing genres covered is an English teacher’s dream: sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, historical fiction, poetry, short stories, research projects, screenplays, children’s books, newspapers, yearbooks, and more. What’s more, students come to you for help revising, editing, formatting – when it’s their creation, they are especially invested in getting it right.

But the most interesting way that Exploratory teaches all students to write is by asking students to document, reflect, and share their work. Each student is assigned a blog which they update each Exploratory session to comment on their progress, share their triumphs or frustrations, and share their work and research through photographs, videos, screenshots, and links. They write a thoughtful evaluation at the mid-point of each project and submit it to their mentor for feedback. And at the end of the project, they compose a reflective essay that focuses on how they grew and what they learned about themselves as project-creators and project-doers.

Students don’t always love this writing task. Who wants to stop and naval-gaze in the middle of the action? Zane – who is so effusive and sharp in the opening quote – hated this requirement of the program when he first entered the sixth-grade. He had been thinking all summer about the fantasy novel he wanted to write – he had to fight his way through the black forests, climb the misty mountains, and do battle with the dragons in his imagination – and this kind of “meta-project” writing seemed like it would keep him stuck in the hobbit-hole. But as his project progressed, he started to create wonderful blog entries, each focusing on the particular quest he had ventured on during that day’s writing session – “Creating a Funny Fight Scene,” “Creating a Difficult Choice Scene,” “Creating a Flashback Scene” – and shared an excerpt from his work. He began to realize that blogging was a chance to both focus his work and share it with the world. By the end of the project, he was as invested in the audience of his blogging as he was in his final product – and he had gained the important self-insights shared above.

The relationship between documentary, reflective, and communicative writing and independent projects is deep and fundamental to the program. Without teacher-directed instructions, writing is the place for students to collect, process, and gather their thinking, remind themselves of their tasks and their overarching goals, share challenges and triumphs, and find the big take-away from each project.

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Students are often eager to jump into their project on the first day.  They want to rush together a timeline and dive headfirst into their work.  To slow them down enough to survey the waters before they take this plunge, teachers work with them at forming a “guiding” or “overarching” or “open-ended” question for their project.

Why is forming a question an important starting point? Young people – especially middle schoolers – cling to what they already know and can do – these points of emerging expertise are like rocks they cling to in the stormy waters of adolescence.  And so unsurprisingly, a student will often design a project around something they already have some experience with.  But the purpose of a project – as opposed to a hobby or a pastime – is to deepen and expand an area of interest, to find something new in something known.  Putting a student through several rounds of Socratic dialogue – pushing them to think closer and closer about their ideas, their plans, their aims – without inserting one’s own opinion on how they should approach it – is another challenge that a teacher must work on.

But once a student has a guiding question, it becomes a reference point for all their work to follow. It helps them keep a clear focus on both their process and their product.  It pushes them to reflect on their activity from week to week.  And at the end, it allows them to think thoughtfully about what they uncovered. Using questions to guide a project turns the work from being just an activity or a practice into a search, a quest, a journey.


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Exploratory is a way for students to think outside of how failure and success are measured in the traditional classroom.  Just as it challenges teachers to step outside of their roles, it challenges students to take charge of their learning.  The inertia of starting one’s own work, the doubt that can plague you along the way, the fortitude to keep going after encountering a major obstacle or frustration, the ease of being bored when getting interested would be the more difficult step – all of these are pitfalls that students fall into.

In order to be ambitious, to take risks, to experiment, to try different approaches, to recognize when something is working – students need to be allowed to fail.  Making failure an option is the opposite of low expectations – it’s teaching students to observe and learn and recalculate in stormy waters as well as smooth.  Students who are used to being rewarded and praised for following instructions diligently must figure out how to recover a suppressed sense of how to make your own rules and find a different approach from everyone else’s.

Success, too, is something that we want students to think about differently in Exploratory. A flawlessly executed project, in this sense, can be a failure – challenges are the most important learning experiences one encounters when working on one’s own project, and we want students to reach for something that they haven’t yet mastered. We want students to be bold.

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“In those mountains, there is now a cave and a Nordic ruin, but just the entrances to them, as I have not made the insides yet. And from there, I went on a texturing rampage and retextured lots of the landscape and added several new cliffs and trees to certain areas. And from there, I went out smoothing out the beaches because the continental shelf was only one foot from the beach and was insanely steep.”

– Wyatt, describing his process of creating a massive virtual landscape

“I noticed [the urban farm] used every bit of space. There were pumpkin vines creeping around on most every surface and the end of the summer’s crop and the beginning of the fall’s crop occupied almost every bed. There were a couple of beds that were not occupied because they thought that tilling it would mix up the natural soil layers. In order for the plants to be healthy, you must mix up the soil a little bit. They can do this by hand, but I don’t think it would work on a 100 acre farm . . . As I was driving home after touring the farms I was thinking about Richmond is a big city and getting bigger every year. We need more of these [urban gardens]. This should not be a rare thing. We should see gardens like these everyday and everywhere.” 

– Hannah, describing a visit to an urban farm

“You can see other people eating in the restaurant at the museum, or walking around the garden, and then, there’s just this ballerina, and for some reason I feel like having the other people there doing normal things brings out the ballerina.”

 – Lilac, describing a photograph she took of her ballet friends posing at various locations around the city of Richmond

The three quotations and illustrations above are all taken from different students’ project blogs. Each is representative of the most common ways that students explore and imagine worlds through independent projects. Wyatt is a modeler – he is drawn to structures, environments, geographies, and designs projects in order to build, map, and create worlds. Hannah is an investigator. Led by her abundant curiosity and keen observation, she researches online and “in the field,” reports her findings, and imagines different, possible worlds. Lilac is an expressionist – she sees the world as a canvas, a source of inspiration, and a stage on which to express herself.

Each of these project-creators used technology in their explorations, but by looking at how they used these tools and especially what they used them to do reveals the complex interplay between the virtual and the material in young people’s explorations.

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Wyatt, a former 8th-grader at Sabot, was our school’s consummate techie, our unofficial IT department. The popular image of someone fascinated with all things digital is someone whose zone is entirely inside the world of computers, but a survey of Wyatt’s Exploratory projects reveals something much more complex. He used video editing software in order to make a documentary about our school – conducting research with old yearbooks and historical archives, interviewing teachers and administrators, filming at locations around the school – including a wonderful time lapse video of a day’s worth of comings-and-goings. He used script-writing software to write a full-length screenplay set in locations around Richmond – expanding as a writer by working on characterization, dialogue, and visual storytelling. He used coding programming to create a collection of small video games, which blended his interests in fantasy role-playing and the real world – in one, you buy a drink at “The Drunken Dragon,” a pub set in a magical realm, and in another, you buy a slushie at the 7-11 at the end of Wyatt’s street. 


In his final project, which took him more than a year to fully complete, he used a variety of rendering and programming programs to create a massive, “playable” virtual world using the game engine from the popular video game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. While the scope and the achievement of this project is impressive, what is most interesting is his continued focus on the details that were most important to him. In a wonderful blog post titled “I Need An Oak Tree!!” he writes:

“Okay, you are probably reading this and thinking: no oak trees, so why is that such a big deal? If I was modeling and working with just the world of Skyrim, I would be good with just the aspen and pine trees that I am given to modify the environment, but as I am making a world of my own, especially one that is not the frigid and cold environment of Skyrim, you need some things that you would find in warmer environments. Oak Trees are normally found in warmer environments and as trees are VERY important and a large part of the environment, they are going to be very noticeable. The type of trees in an area do help set the scene and tone, just as the different styles of architecture and buildings help set the tone and feel of a town or city, so to set the tone of the environment, I need to make my own style of tree.”

Wyatt’s explanation and insight doesn’t just reflect his absorption in the virtual environment he is creating – it shows how much attention he is paying offline to the details, architecture, and landscapes of Richmond, whose river, bridges, hills, and Oak trees all appear in his final creation.


This interplay between the virtual and the material can be found in almost every modeling project that students undertake. One student used the “sandbox” game Minecraft to chart the water clarity of the James River, while another was inspired by a recent Pop Art exhibit at the local art museum to use the same program to create his own sculptures. Other projects shows how interchangeable digital and material tools can be. One group of students modeled Richmond landmarks using Google SketchUp, LEGOs, balsawood, and clay. Numerous projects designed imaginary cities and countries and structures using paper maps and models but using internet resources and research. One student interested in maritime history first modeled a variety of historical ships on his computer, then crafted wooden pieces and a large map for a board game based on the history of the Atlantic sea trade.


The “virtual” is a world that young people have inhabited long before the coming of the computer. To me, these students and projects remind me of those undertaken by the young Bronte sisters, who created a massive imaginary world named Gondal using dozens and dozens of brimming, collaborative journals while growing up in their isolated, heathland home. Just like Wyatt, they created landscapes, architectures, and storytelling that blended the world they observed around them with the worlds they dreamed up in their heads – and explored them through their own inspired avatars. This early, juvenile project seems directly connected to their later projects – the story of how three plain and obscure girls figured out how to transform the 19th-century novel. Young modelers in this century have many more options for what sort of tools they can use for virtual creations – but what they require is the time and the space to build and blend their worlds.


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I was fortunate to witness the first step of Hannah’s three-year investigation of the many aspects of urban food and farming. Her mother and I were accompanying her on her first research mission – to visit a new lot of “food trucks,” a national trend that had just arrived in the city of Richmond. As we stood in the midst of a dozen vendors, Hannah – then a shy, small sixth-grader – didn’t seem to know where to start. Careful to obey the central tenant of mentoring Exploratory – do no direct instruction – we made light suggestions about how she might go about interviewing people or collecting information. More comfortable with interacting with us, she sent us on missions to buy food. She used our phones to snap some pictures. Finally, with parent and teacher by her side, she summoned the courage to ask a few tentative questions to some of the vendors.


Then, she went home and typed up the outing on her blog. This was the seed for a project that would take Hannah all over the city on all different kinds of leads and angles to her overarching question. She ate at restaurants that used local ingredients. She visited urban farms and explored their techniques and missions. She researched nutritional science and compared processed and unprocessed foods. She collected and cooked various recipes. And in her eighth-grade year, she worked babysitting jobs, saved her money, and gathered materials to build a chicken coop in her backyard – and raised her own brood of chickens!


Along the way, she collected all of her different projects on her blog devoted to her investigation. She devoted time and attention to improving her blog – working on how to share her research, sharpen her prose, and supplement her work with photographs, diagrams, and resource links. She sought out feedback from teachers and students, and she sent inquiries to local publications and food writers that she admired. As her blog became better and better – short, breathless write-ups became detailed, well-written pieces of reportage – her audience grew. Style Weekly, a local newspaper, contacted her about a meeting. Michael Pollan – bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” gave a shout-out to her blog. And an essay that she wrote about her experiences raising chickens won a prize in a local writing contest. Along the way, even her “side-projects” reflected her focus on food and farming: she created miniature food sculptures and painted portraits of her hens.


Students who are “investigators” – who are motivated by their curiosity about the world around them and design projects to seek out information and answers – seem spurred and guided by digital media, by the potential for their work to be shared and responded to by the larger audience that the internet affords.


They are also motivated by the problems and the possibilities that they uncover through their investigations. Evan – a creative and scientifically-minded sixth-grader – created a project to explore the benefits of a world where humans only ate insects instead of other forms of protein. He is so devoted to sharing his research and findings on his blog that he only casually mentions how thorough his investigation was at the very end:

“26% of all non-ice-covered land is used as grazing for animals and a third of all arable land has to be taken up just to produce their feed. Because of all this feed, you’d think they’re loaded with meat. Not technically: 7 pounds of feed makes 1 pound of meat. And there is another problem. With so much food, there’s also an equal amount of poop, and with poop comes methane. I’ve calculated that since the average American eats 64.4 pounds of beef a year and a cow produces roughly 10 times that, a cow produces 30 liters of methane a day and live for 30 months. So for a year’s worth of meat that the average American eats, 45000 liters of methane is put into the atmosphere. I know I’m talking to Americans, who are in the few 20% of humans who don’t eat bugs, but there is 1 kg of meat for 13 kg of vegetable feed, whereas there’s 1 kg of cricket for 1.5-2 kg of vegetable feed. I found Crickets are not as protein-full as I once thought, but grasshoppers and many other bugs are bursting with protein, with minimal calories. (I recently ate 7 bugs for only 9 calories.”


Alex’s projects are often concerned with analyzing social issues that concern him. He conducted social experiments with his classmates to gather data about gender stereotypes. He devoted a sprawling, multimedia project to the problem of materialism. And in order to investigate the issue of poverty and food in Richmond, he teamed up with his friend Cole to create an alternative bus plan that would address the problem of “food deserts” in the city’s neighborhoods. Cole was a good choice for a project partner – he is a modeler extraordinaire, whose other projects include constructing Richmond landmarks out of LEGOs and building wooden replicas of medieval siege weapons – in miniature, thankfully.


Alex’s richly shares his research on his blog, sharing both his political opinions (“I did find the [transportation department’s] six-year improvement plan (SYIP) . . . it reminds me of the Five Year Economic Plan produced under the Soviets, which decided how much of everything needed to be produced in the next five years – with no deviation allowed”) and his frustrations with online research (“Never, NEVER trust”.) Finally, he found a map of the bus routes in Des Moines, Iowa – a city that had specifically addressed the problem of food deserts in their transportation plan – and began to work on basing their bus plan for Richmond on Des Moines.


Not all investigators and investigations are focused solely on changing the world, of course. Some students use Exploratory to investigate local museums, vintage clothing stores, and other businesses. And, of course, being hungry, hungry middle schoolers, many students are drawn to gustatory adventures.


Abigail and Sophia are two sixth-graders who teamed up to explore sandwich recipes at local restaurants. Both had already done successful investigation projects previously that year, each with a clear theory-and-application structure: Abigail analyzed different Disney plots and characters and then created her own “pitch” for a new movie (“I found it very fun to watch movies for a purpose instead of just pleasure,” reflects Abigail, “which I found out and didn’t know about myself before”.) Sophia researched the origin and traditions of Henna design, met with local artists, and then tried her own hand on the ankles and shoulders of willing friends and family members. (“I have never drawn a tattoo on anyone before . . .” she begins her reflection – a relieving admission, coming from a sixth-grader!) Projects like these developed the students ability to turn a “pleasure” into a “purpose” – and what could have easily devolved into an “eating out” project became an exercise in reviewing restaurants systemically, analyzing and recreating and re-purposing recipes, cooking and creating their own versions of sandwiches, and collecting and responding to feedback and reviews on their own creations.


These projects all contain the “hidden motivation” of digital media – the way students were guided to ambitious, adventurous investigations of their city and their world by documenting, sharing, and reflecting on their blogs. Would a student report on a sandwich, raise a roost, or eat a bug if there was nobody to tell about it? Possibly. But to keep digging deeper, young people need a place to store and track and share their findings.


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What I love about this one is that there’s the ballerina doing a ballet pose in front of the normal city, with houses and cars,” writes Lilac, blogging about a photograph of a project where she staged pictures of her friends doing ballet poses around the city. “I don’t know why I like this, I just really do. I think maybe I like simple or normal, like the people doing normal things, the normal city in the background, because they really bring out the ‘abnormal’ ballerina!” Lilac’s work in this project is remarkable – not just for the skills and work of the photographer and dancers, but for how each shows a young person in the city transforming the landscape around them. Familiar locations to Richmonders – a museum, a park, a prominent wall mural – are reclaimed and reshaped by a young person’s vision.

Expressionists are students who use Exploratory to project their own visions and concerns onto the world around them – through art, through performance, through actions. They can be very exacting – much of Lilac’s blog is devoted to her careful, close cropping and adjusting of each photograph using an editing program to get it exactly how she wants it. But there is also a need to be a little rebellious, to interrupt business-as-usual with a project: part of the fun of the project for Lilac was the wondering stares of onlookers and getting harangued by security guards for climbing up onto a fountain.

Kate, another expressionist, was excited by the concept of a “meme,” an idea that rapidly spreads and evolves through a society – most often aided, of course, by the internet. She designed two projects that tried to spread “memes” by making connections between both public and virtual realms. Her first attempt was to create a large, geometric sculpture out of bottles and place it in a prominent location in the city. She wanted this sculpture to direct passers-by to a website that she created to promote awareness of autism disorders. There were a lot of steps, and each proved to be a formidable challenge.

Kate is a very ambitious young person, so it wasn’t enough to use a blogspace – she wanted to build a website using HTML code. When she realized this was going to bog down her project, she then moved onto the next task: the sculpture. Crafting posed all sorts of difficulties, and again, she needed to get it just right. Then came the biggest difficulty: city bureaucracy. She worked with me closely on drafting and editing a professional letter to various parks and recreation officials to get approval for her sculpture. She was crawling up the walls at how long it took to respond. We did a second round of impromptu writing tutorials on how to create a “gentle follow-up” e-mail. Finally, she got a response: she had a meeting. This was maybe the biggest challenge of all: Kate is comfortable talking with adults, but she tends to get flustered and fast-paced when she gets nervous. Knowing this about herself, she practiced her delivery and poise and pulled off the meeting perfectly. At the end of the trimester, she triumphantly placed her sculpture with her father in a local park, filming her triumph.

But at the end of the project, after all this effort, Kate was left wondering whether or not she achieved her initial goal of spreading an idea through public art and messaging. Clearly, she wasn’t satisfied – and her next project reworked the idea. This time, she had the idea of spreading “random acts of kindness” through strategically delivered messages. On the “pay it forward” model, she reasoned, inspiring one person to do one good act would spread to others. She went about her work around the city, putting together care packages, delivering donuts, placing notes on cars, and writing messages on balloons.

Art projects, of course, appeal to expressionists. Emma is a student who came to the school in sixth-grade and wasn’t used to doing open-ended project work. It was clear from her initial projects that she had the idea of a “research project” firmly implanted in her mind and was nervous about trying anything messier. A collaborative art project with a friend, however, seemed to give her boost and direction, and she decided to create stop-motion videos using clay characters. Working diligently each week, her final video was a huge success when she presented it to the school. This encouraged her to take the next step: using a program to create sound and dialogue for stop-motion and animation works. This was a good example of a student taking on a formidable challenge: learning a complex, professional-grade software program all on her own. But even more interesting is how much she captures about her world in her final video – a recreation of a nonsensical recording she made overhearing her two little sisters fighting. Emma tends to be one of the quietest, most inward-dwelling students in the classroom – attentive, observant, sharp, and interesting in her writing, but reluctant to jump into group conversations, inside and outside of class. So when her final video was a big hit across the middle school – students all crowding around a computer, laughing and admiring her work, watching it over and over again – it was a big achievement for sharing her own sensibility with the world.

Another important way that students use Exploratory is to express their sense of humor. Jokes, laughter, and acting up tend to be carefully contained in the classroom – fine for an occasional break in the proceedings, but discouraged as the general tone and almost never the central focus. A student can toss in a bit of comedy here and there in their work, but they don’t get the chance to actually work on being funny. Unsurprisingly, students who create projects that express their comic sense of the world are drawn to the kind of short, wild sketches and editing styles that young people are the leaders of on sites like YouTube and Vine. Iris is a sixth-grader with seemingly infinite reserves of energy and wackiness and a deep love of play and fun. We were surprised, then, when she proposed to do a series of videos dealing with the upsetting topic of “stranger danger.” But even though she tried to attach these videos to serious warning messages, when she got together her cast of friends, they ended up more like wacky, over-the-top parodies of outdated PSAs. Rather than treating a serious issue lightly, they seem to be a way of “fighting back” at a scary world with silliness and absurdity.

Whereas investigators tend to use digital media as a means of sharing a project as it unfolds, expressionists are more interested in using digital tools to create a particular vision of their world and show it off for others. It also proves to be a powerful motivator to acquire new skills and capabilities and understandings – each of the students profiled here came out of their project having learned a piece of software or developed a coding skill or even mastered a digital basic, not as the central goal of their project – each would have likely balked at doing a “tech” project – but as a means to the end of creating and expressing themselves.

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