It may seem that the impact of such a program will be relatively small compared to the work it will take to implement. The true impact, however, will be hard to exaggerate.
First, word of mouth is the most effective way to spread ideas. Whether we’re talking about debunking dangerous stereotypes, spreading nutritious recipes, or sharing the rekindled love of learning, this will happen organically as the teens recognize the value of the experience. Inner city teens are trendsetters. If even a small group decides to assert their individuality by speaking up against unhealthy eating, wasteful energy consumption, or racist ideals.
Another wonderful way to spread good information is the internet. Of course, our school will develop and maintain an active website where parents and community members can find information about the school. In addition, students and staff will make contributions to Wikipedia. Currently, there are a few college classes which require students to add to the body of knowledge on Wikipedia.# The process of researching, assessing noteworthiness, and writing in an encyclopedic tone is very helpful in understanding how knowledge is created. Putting the information they gather and synthesize into the creative commons on Wikipedia not only makes their learning available to others, but also holds them to the high editorial standards of the global Wikipedia community.
Students in Baltimore City Schools are required to complete 21 credits in order to be eligible to graduate.# The unfortunate reality is that many students earn these credits simply for showing up to a class. Our program requires students to select and complete a project or a series of projects to demonstrate their understandings of each subject. Many projects are interdisciplinary, which helps students understand the inter-connectivity of their world. Each student is required to complete a major change to an existing Wikipedia article or a new article as one of their culminating projects, but each can select a topic that interests them. In this way, they will all get at least one experience of defending their work to a large, uncaring network of people whose job it is to ensure high quality content on the site. One great conundrum of teaching students who come to you unprepared is how much to reward effort and how much to push for excellence. The process of putting work into the creative commons is an opportunity for students to experience the latter.
The process of publishing is also a way to make students actively proud of their work, and encourage them to share the good ideas they’ve learned. As a contributor for the Baltimore Indyreader, I will encourage students to publish their work in that format as well.