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18 in the Bay Crit

July 15, 2017

18 in the Bay is like like a bizarro senior yearbook: uncensored by faculty, raw and honest because it is devoid of posturing, and youth centric. It is pretty beautiful. I am impressed the teacher, students, and Medium put it together. There are numerous projects students are asked to complete that range from an urban dictionary, to using SnapChat to document a day in the life, to interviewing someone for a sense of perspective. It utilizes multiple digital platforms to help students examine and reflect on their final high school year and it is made public. Thinking more about it, the site is really a digital zine.

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In terms of the weekly theme of “New Literacies” I am finding connections between having the students utilize their familiarity with social media as a way to capture and reflect on their lives. Their storytelling is not simply a written essay, or a powerpoint, but rather a combination of writing, music, and photography all incorporated into a blog. I would be interested to see the teacher’s instructions, expectations, rubrics, and grades for these assignments. I also wonder how much the Medium team helped the students and staff with framing and facilitating this project. Looking over the survival guide it got me thinking about voice as well – it feels like most of this project is the voice of the students. I don’t really see the voice of the teacher, or their presence. Having projects that give students agency and voice is important – it sounds like teenagers, it looks like teenagers.

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That said, when thinking about incorporating a project like this into my own classroom I am struck by how little censorship there is. There is a massive amount of cursing, slang, drug related discussions, and I don’t think that putting this in the public sphere would fly at my school. I wonder how they pulled this off? It just seems so totally beyond the pale in terms of what kind of output is allowed for a school. I am not saying that students should be censored in general, but I know I would probably face massive disciplinary action if I allowed this type of material to be part of a class. Now I have done oral histories and zine projects that are similar to this in some ways and we edited the text and photos. We had to. When we did this, it limited the voice of my students, but it was the framework that we were working within and followed the rules.

Reading through the blog I was also struck by the privacy issues that surround some of this. There are so many pictures and personal stories… These very raw and honest portrayals walk the razor’s edge between privacy and art. I know students today post many things on social media, but there does seem to be a line crossed here. I guess I am just old fashioned… Overall, I would love to do something like this with my students because I know that they would dive in and create amazing work, I would just frame it differently.

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