Student Agency, Student Voice, and the Maker Movement

Posted by Mary Hendra on October 23, 2014

As October is Connected Educator Month, we are pleased to announce our partnership with Educator Innovator! Educator Innovator, powered by the National Writing Project, provides an online "meet-up" for educators who are re-imagining learning. Educator Innovator is both a blog and a growing community of educators, partners and supporters. We know we're with the right partner, because in this month focused on "Connected Education," the theme chosen by Educator Innovator as its key focus is:

Student Agency, Student Voice, and the Maker Movement

"Powerful learning occurs when youth, driven by their own interests, are supported in being creators and not just consumers of knowledge." We agree. And, it makes me think of the story behind a young group of "makers" we worked with several years ago.

I love the project, too, but the story behind it is so special to me!

Several years ago, we began working with schools in a much more in-depth way. Instead of just individual teachers and teacher teams, we were working with five schools to impact school culture, embedding Facing History in multiple grade levels and across the curriculum. In the Spring, we offered a special opportunity for students from the five schools to come together to make things using digital media. We partnered with MetaFour Productions to help on the digital side of things since we were still pretty new to it.

After a few smaller projects, they launched into a digital creation of an animated, non-verbal video. The brainstorming commenced. What should they make? There were students from three different schools. What they had in common was that all had taken Facing History classes. Not getting to consensus, the adults finally left the room, leaving the students to talk about it further by themselves.

The adults returned to an active conversation among the students putting their story line together. They had quickly come to the consensus that the concept of "universe of obligation" was so central to their understanding of Facing History, that is what they wanted to represent. Here is their video.

I love this because "universe of obligation" IS central - and it is often a difficult concept for adults as well as students. Their video makes it simple! "Universe of obligation" is the term Sociologist Helen Fein gives to the circle of individuals and groups

toward whom obligations are owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for [amends].” (Click here for a PDF lesson.)

I also love this video because the "star" is a student who has autism. None of the other students knew him before starting this project together, but they not only accepted him being there with them, they put him front and center. While many students receiving special services are viewed as "different" or "other," and are excluded from student projects or even regular student interaction, not in this group. In the very way they did this project, the students illustrated the concept of "universe of obligation."

EducatorInnovatorEducator Innovator and its partners support learning opportunities for teachers, youth workers, mentors, librarians, and museum educators that are open, re-mixable, and typically free or low-cost — and share the goal of more powerful and connected learning for youth. We've already hosted two webinars with Educator Innovator:

I Write To Know What I Think

What Happens When Young People Take Action: A Webinar on the Freedom Riders

Connected Learning leverages the advances of the digital age to make that dream a reality — connecting academics to interests, learners to inspiring peers and mentors, and educational goals to the higher order skills the new economy rewards. Facing History's pedagogy already engages student voices, student interests, and seeks to encourage real-world current connections, and with our California regions paying particular attention to "playing" with new technology, it is a natural fit.

  • READ more about Connected Learning.
  • JOIN other activities this month for Connected Education.
  • EXPLORE another great student-produced multimedia project, "Neighborhood to Neighborhood," on on our sister blog Facing Technology.

Topics: Choosing to Participate, Bullying, Student Work, Upstander, Using Technology, Tech Innovation

Welcome to Learn+Teach+Share

This blog helps Southern California teachers connect directly with each other, share ideas, and learn about new resources and opportunities for those interested in or already implementing Facing History.

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