We rarely marvel at connecting online in 2020. Clicking a “like” buttons is easy. How do we create spaces for more meaningful connection? This presentation describes an approach using off-the-shelf web tools and student-centered design for personal sharing between grade 10-12 students deemed at risk of not graduating. Wordplace (https://wordplace.ca) was developed for connecting three urban schools in a mid-sized Canadian city.
Students in Prairie South School Division’s three graduation support programs enrolled in a common course. Previously, students met curricular outcomes and fostered a sense of belonging by corresponding with postcards. The stories shared were private and the process was often cumbersome for teachers. Tracking was challenging and the flow untimely. By publishing online, barriers were removed for students sharing stories, thus changing the nature of their writing. Student voices became visible.
Student safety, autonomy, and a sense of belonging were at the forefront of the project. Students, who had no experience found unanticipated delight in using a shared site. WordPlace created a dialogue about writing. In the first two months, the site generated hundreds of student-to-student comments.
Contributing to WordPlace fosters different levels of resilience for its participants. As major curricular linked themes like the Resiliency Project emerged, WordPlace became a way for students to learn about themselves.