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Author Biography: Kyle Dunbar is a Technology Integration Specialist in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles outside of Washington, DC.

Kyle has been in public education for 18 years and has been a Social Studies teacher and Professional Development Specialist before becoming a Technology Integration Specialist. She has presented at VSTE, ISTE and the Global Education Conference about global projects, blogging, professional development and digital stories. She lives to help the youth learn in a community that will change their lives.You can find her on Twitter @edtechdunny or read more thoughts on her blog Learning with Meaning Activity Summary
Students publish their writing on the website Authentic Voices (http://authentic-voices.wikispaces. com/). In addition to uploading the text of their written pieces, students also record themselves reading their piece. During the recording and listening back, students often choose to edit and revise their work. This experience of writing, reading, listening and re-writing leads to students developing a stronger voice in their writing. In addition, students can receive feedback from readers around the world about their work. This experience of being a published author changes the students selfperception of themselves as a writer. Furthermore, this website can serve as a place for students to read about common experiences of teenagers around the world. Many of the posts center on universal themes such as family, change, and fairness allowing readers and writers alike to find what they have in common despite their different geographic locations. Class or subject area: Language Arts Grade level(s): 6-12 Specific learning objectives: Students will be able to revise and edit their work based on listening to themselves recording their writing. Students will be able to revise and edit their work based on feedback from a global learning community. Students will view themselves as writers by publishing their writing to the world. Students will see commonalities with teenagers around the world by reading and responding to writings by students in different parts of the country and world.

Anniversary Book Project


We Have Authentic Voices

But we are still looking for authentic audiences...

By: Kyle Dunbar Creative Commons License: CC BY Author contact:

Authentic Voices ( was launched in January of 2011. It was inspired by a comment made by Cornelius Minor, a writer, teacher, and scholar, during a presentation for Teachers College Reading & Writing Project ( When a teacher asked about how to keep kids motivated to write in a culture where writing isnt cool, Cornelius replied, You make it cool. He talked about kids recording themselves reading their stories and posting it to YouTube. He described how kids were inspired by other kids who were willing to put their writing out there and how it motivated them to publish their writing too. At our next break during the all-day workshop, a teacher came up to me and said I want to do that. I was so excited about the idea and her enthusiasm. I couldnt wait to start. Additionally, I had been reading Troy Hicks ( The Digital Writing Workshop ( Troys book makes a convincing case for how teachers and students can be using Web 2.0 tools to compose digitally and communicate digitally. Not only will using these tools be helpful to the students and teacher, but they can help students to become better and more relevant writers. This book is full of practical and inspiring ideas about how teachers can re-structure their classes and writing spaces to embrace digital formats. Another source of inspiration for me was listening to Paul Allison and Chris Sloans podcasts Teachers Teaching Teachers ( In these podcasts I learned about projects such as YouthVoices ( where teachers were creating online writing communities for their students. Listening to these teachers share their ideas, their challenges, and their hopes, helped me to visualize how I could work with teachers and students to make our own online writing community. Luckily, I work with amazing, dedicated, talented teachers who were just as inspired as I was to create a space to celebrate and publish student work, a space where students could feel their writing mattered and was important. We met numerous times and discussed the logistics. How would we organize the website? (More on this below.) What kinds of permissions would we need from parents and students? (We went with specific letters home that explained the project.) What did the administrators think? (They loved it.) Wikispaces (http://www. was still a relatively new content-creation tool for me but it seemed like it would fit my purposes: a site where we could upload student work of all formats (text, voice, and video) with

a moderated space for comments about the students writing. There are probably hundreds of other ways we could have set up Authentic Voices but in the interest of avoiding analysis-paralysis, I went with a tool I found accessible and manageable. Thus, Authentic Voices was launched. My Name ( was the first student piece added to Authentic Voices. Working with this student taught me so much about the potential online writing spaces have for developing student voice. After showing Deandre how to enter the text to his poem and how to record himself using Audacity (, Deandre asked me, Is it alright if I change my poem? Well, as any Language Arts teacher will tell you, getting students to revise their work is often the most challenging part of teaching writing. I was thrilled that, given to opportunity to publish his work, Deandre was noticing that parts of his poem could be improved. But I played it cool to Deandre, Yea, if you want to, you can change it. Deandre edited his piece five, yes thats right, five separate times. Much of Deandres revisions had to do with the interplay of reading his piece out loud and listening back to his recording. As he heard himself reading his poem, he could understand how words could be changed and moved around to improve his meaning. His writers voice got stronger. After about nine different attempts at recording, Deandre finally pronounced his work done. Listen to the results yourself. This young man embraced writing and his voice. Since that time I have had the opportunity to work with a number of other young men and women as they took a piece of writing and breathed their voices into it. Not every student took as much time as Deandre to edit and revise. Some students improvised as they recorded their piece and never went back and changed the written words. Some students made one recording and declared it perfect. But one thing remains consistent. Students are empowered by having their writing taken seriously. Students would grab me in the hall and say I wrote something else, can I put it on Authentic Voices? I would write out the website on the back of my business cards (at least they are good for something) and students would grin shyly, put it in their pocket and tell me their grandmother might want to see it. In fact as I was working on this piece today, a student stopped by and asked me if I could show her the site again. Last spring we had an exciting flirtation with another school. Through Cornelius Minor at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, I connected with a Literacy Coach in the New York City Public Schools that was interesting in collaborating on Authentic Voices. I was jumping out of my skin when I hear back from her. I knew that feedback from other students in another state would be tremendously powerful for the students I was working with. So we exchanged emails, I created logons, she passed out permission slips, and then I waited. I still remember the morning that the comments from the New York school started coming through. All of the sudden my inbox was full of messages from Wikispaces. A comment has been published on Authentic Voices the message read. I stopped what I was doing and started to follow the conversation. The most powerful was in response to a poem posted by a strong but tender eighth grader. She called it Changes. (http://authentic-voices. Heres how the exchange went: JL606 May 19, 2011 10:29 am I like your poem because it shows how someone (you) changes in life. It also shows how you changed your attitude from good to bad. This stands out because a lot of people go through changes

from bad to good or from greedy to generous. I agree with you: L=Life I=Is F=For E=Everybody. This makes me think that life isnt all that easy. You have to change physically, mentally and spiritually to change. I can relate to this because I used to be so mean and green, but now Im nice and helpful to people who are my friends and people who arent my friends because one day you might be stuck with them. Im a 6th grade girl that loves to draw. My life has had some trouble because of state tests during the past few weeks. myself, am going through some changes because in the first and second marking periods, I failed. But I wanted to change. So when I got my report card, my teacher smiled at me and I felt so surprised and excited because I tried really hard and I passed. Now, I want to get 80% to 90%. TP19432 May 19, 2011 12:38 pm Thanks A Lot That Mean So Much To Me And I Use To Be Just Like You always fighting and in trouble but as i got older learned that I cant keep acting like that because it wasnt going to get Me no where,. One day i was fighting and got in some real big trouble that changed My life forever and I had to Go to A School for bad kids and when i got there the teachers there Help Me to change Im so happy that my poem could show you that you are not a lone and once again I Want to thank You A Language Arts teacher could leave a page full of comments for a student on a piece of writing and never come close to the power of this exchange. Letting students reply directly to students and they will amaze you with what theyll say. Unfortunately, summer came swiftly and our collaboration with the school in New York ended. We are still searching for a new school partnership. We do know that Authentic Voices has an Authentic Audience. According to our wiki statistics, we get thirty to forty hits every month from countries around the world. Students are amazed to think that someone in another country has read and listened to something they wrote and that is keeping them motivated to write for the time being. But I am hungry for more. I know that the power of publishing your work to a public forum will fade without authentic feedback. We dont just want our audience to listen to our work, we want them to comment. We want to know what people think when they listen to our work. We want to know what connections they have with what we have written. We want to know what our work makes them wonder about. This is why I will keep reaching out to global learning communities through groups like the Global Classroom Project (, Global Education Collaborative (, the Flat Classroom Book Club (http://www.flatclassroombook. com/index.html) and through tweeting ( my heart out. I know that there is a classroom down the street or Down Under that will join us soon. I am learning from my I,

colleagues about how to establish global communities and how to set up global collaboration projects. I am confident that I will soon reach my goal of creating connected, global learning communities for adolescents in which they feel a higher sense of purpose for their lives. I look forward to the day when I write about the interactions between my students and students from another place or culture. I cant wait to see what connections they make as writers, authentically.