VT-BLTN Kicks Off What’s the Story? 2.0

Oct 20th, 2015 | By | Category: BLTN Teachers, Fall 2015

Bill Rich alt head shotby Bill Rich
Vermont Bread Loaf Teacher Network Coordinator and Project Director
MA ’99

On September 18—after a summer of restructuring, redesigning, and re-energizing—the VT-BLTN team welcomed this year’s cohort of 21 middle and high school students to Middlebury College for a day-long kickoff of What’s the Story? The Vermont Young People Social Action Team, a year-long, credit-earning course that provides the tools, resources, and expertise middle and high school learners need to pursue their questions, collaborate with peers across Vermont, and create compelling multi-media narratives that provoke positive change in their communities.

Photos contributed by Bill Rich, Tim O’Leary, and Edward Brown.

Emily Rinkema got everyone on his or her feet for the opening activity: a winner-take-all Rock, Rock, Paper & Scissors championship, won by Brennan Bordonaro, a Ro Sham Bo ringer from Middlebury Union High School. Here he is sporting his prize: a Middlebury College baseball cap. Time will tell if Brennan can maintain this mantle, or if a new rising champ is out there now, karate kid style, ceaselessly practicing to perfect her paper, scissor, and rock form.

By the end of the day, all 21 students had done the following.

  • created and made a post on their blog
  • accessed their account on Canvas (learning management system) and accessed course material there
  • studied and self assessed their starting points on three sets of color-coded learning scales, which make explicit the learning outcomes students will demonstrate and what they can do to make progress toward those outcomes
  • brainstormed possible topics and questions to pursue
  • begun to draft the beginning of their I-Search paper (Ken Mcarorie), which will unfold on the students’ blogs
  • practiced video calling via Google Hangout
  • listened to some powerful, local leaders speak with eloquence and passion about the importance of this innovative approach to learning and teaching

rockchampAlmost three weeks after our September 18 kickoff, students have already made their first two I-Search posts on their blogs, and their audience—29 adults committed to providing a prompt and wise ear—have responded in double, providing each learner with two replies to their blog posts. We’ve already—once again!—seen the power that an active and responsive audience has on the writers’ quality of thinking and depth of expression. If you’d like to become a “prompt and wise ear” to a student or two, contact our Lead Instructor, Tim O’Leary (toleary@acsu.org), who can pair you with a learner or two.

On October 30, we’ll reconvene for an overnight stay, providing the time and space and support the students need to determine from all of the topics/questions they and their peers pursued in their I-Search papers, which ones to move forward with in teams. A challenging, daunting revision process, for sure! Once teams are set and topics/questions are finalized, students will begin learning how to use their digital media kits, which include a range of tools for capturing video, audio, and image.

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