eService Learning: Digital Collaboration with Freedom School Scholars

This website was created in collaboration between graduate students at UNC Charlotte and Freedom School Scholars.

This website was created in collaboration between graduate students at UNC Charlotte and Freedom School Scholars.

During the Summer 2013, graduate students in an online course at UNC Charlotte collaborated with high school student Scholars in the Freedom School program at UNC Charlotte to create a website detailing the Scholars’ thoughts on the topic of gun violence. The high school students are part of a Freedom School program for students in grades 9-12 that is being piloted at UNC Charlotte in conjunction with Freedom School Partners, Inc. Freedom School is summer program for low-income youth that has a strong literacy component.

Graduate students enrolled in the READ 6265 Multiliteracies course at UNC Charlotte collaborated with the high school Freedom School Scholars at UNC Charlotte as a collaborative service learning project. This project culminated during the week of July 8-12, 2013 during the Freedom School Integrated Reading Curriculum time (IRC). IRC is a shared reading time in which Scholars and their servant leader intern (teacher) read and discuss books around a topic. This year’s topic was gun violence and Scholars read a variety of books and texts about this topic. During the July 8-12 week, they read the book, Gun Violence, edited by Lauri S. Scherer.

The Multiliteracies graduate students worked in groups to plan ideas for the Freedom School Scholars to read the book, discuss and share their ideas about gun violence in a website that was created for the project. The two groups used a blog to discuss the readings and the project.

The digital tools like the blog and website were important for two reasons. First, the READ 6265 Multiliteracies course is an online course in which students do not meet face to face so the use of a planning wiki, the blog and the website were essential for collaboration. Second, the Freedom School Scholars wanted to be able to share what they were learning with policy makers and others. The group travels to Washington, DC in July where they will meet with Senator Kay Hagan and with staff from the Children’s Defense Fund. The website allows for the project to last as an artifact of their learning.

Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Service Learning project typically take place between teachers, students and community partners working in the same physical space. This project added the challenge of having graduate students in an online course work with high school students in a summer program. The Center for Adolescent Literacies supported this initiative and advocates for initiatives like this that promote engaged and meaningful teaching and learning.

Freedom School Partners is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides quality summer Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® programs for students in grades K-12  living in Charlotte’s inner-city neighborhoods.

The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment that helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning. Children are taught using a model curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health.

The Center for Adolescent Literacies at UNC Charlotte focuses on developing instruction to make literacy and learning relevant and effective for adolescents and those who work with them.