The Promise of Publishing For Everyone

Posted by Dr. Louis Moore on 2/5/2020

Last month the NJ DOE Digest celebrated efforts at RBR to elevate student voices through podcasting.  Podcasting is booming and a major hurrah is due to April Bunn, Kelly Ann Moylan, Federica Proietti-Cesaretti, Jeff Mauro, Gabriela Castro, Irene Vergis, and Kaitlyn Muller who made this possible.  POD-cast fans will be glad to hear that the new Media Center will have a dedicated studio space for this work.

Why has podcasting taken hold?  Part of the explanation is that it presents everyone with the opportunity to find their voice and take a stand on an issue that’s important to them.  In addition recording mandates sustained effort and a commitment to craft. Creating a script, selecting the right word, and speaking in the appropriate tone all come together in a successful podcast.  Finally, podcasting does not follow the conventional assessment pathway. Unlike a test or a quiz, this work is not going to stop at the teacher’s desk. Instead it’s going to be pushed out, shared, and celebrated.

For many students at RBR, publishing, presenting, and performing their work is woven into the fabric of school.  During midterms, students in Ashley Studd’s Engineering Design and Development class shared presentations on their senior projects.  Students provided updates on their progress and sought honest and critical feedback in order to improve their final product. Similar experiences occur throughout the academic year in other academy programs.  Think of the frequent VPA performances, showcases, and capstone experiences that happen all the time. Giving students the opportunity and agency to create and share work defines what our 4-year academies are all about.   

This approach should be expanded to all our students across all subjects with the aim of celebrating academic work in the core.  This caveat should be kept in mind: the model can only be applied to a limited number of assignments because publication is a process that requires time--time for drafting, receiving feedback, and revising.  But the process is just as important as the final outcome and can be a powerful motivator for deep learning.   

In addition to intellectual development, the publishing process generates social and emotional benefits.  It often supports collaboration and is both empowering and fulfilling. Revising an essay, creating a documentary, or preparing a podcast clarifies our thinking, sparks creativity, and reduces stress.  

What’s next?  For the rest of our academic year, I’d like to start a school-wide conversation on ways to encourage all students to publish, share, and celebrate their academic work.  This is not an elusive dream. In fact, because of our many strengths, the foundation has already been established. In addition to podcasting, the Buccaneer also welcomes student submissions on a wide-range of topics.  Thanks to Cass Dorn, students have a great forum to share ideas and report on issues that are important to them.  

Another source of strength, is the increased emphasis on writing across subjects.  As Tom McDonough mentioned at our meeting, students have started using digital writing portfolios to maintain a record of their work for themselves and their teachers.  A priority has been placed on providing students with feedback and opportunities for revision--essential aspects of the publishing process.  

In addition, many students, with their teacher’s encouragement, have already shared and submitted their work for publication in the New York Times Learning Network.   (The current Network challenge is a Stem Writing Contest.)  

Let’s build on these strengths and insist that students become invested in their academic work by building up opportunities for publishing.  A digital non-fiction journal can be established to publish, showcase, and celebrate academic non-fiction. By design it would provide a platform for both long and short papers, films, recordings, and commentary.  Writing is the immediate “go to” for this work, but films, recordings, etc, would all be welcome.  

Emerson observed that the “ends” should be implicit in the “means” we employ.  If we want our kids to be deeply invested in learning, we must mandate tasks that require emotional and intellectual engagement.  Prioritizing the publication, sharing, and celebration of academic work is a strong step in this direction.