The Power of Digital Writing and Connected Learning

“Sharing power in a system rooted in not sharing power is a pretty tough go,” was the first thing Terry Elliott said when I asked him about his longstanding work in student empowerment — from unschooling his own, now grown, children, to encouraging high school students to blog about a real local issue (bus safety) way back in 2002. These days, in addition to the systemic obstacles to real student empowerment, Elliott faces the challenge of teaching writing to students who, for one reason or another, have difficulty writing. He starts by asking students to “think about writing a paper around a question that they really want to find an answer to.” Elliott teaches that first step in constructing a semester-long paper is “gathering information about a question you are passionate about.” He adds: “I usually do the research and writing right along with them. They see that I’m doing the same thing they are doing. That’s an old schoolteacher tool — one of the best I’ve run across for sharing power with students.”

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