Website Review
Youth Voices

Vibrant online community hosts authentic student writing

  • On Youth Voices, student ideas and writing are front and center.

  • Multiple channels feature writing along various topic strands.

  • Student posts touch on issues ranging from the environment and politics to personal narratives and video gaming.

  • One of the channels features writing in Spanish.

  • The administrative dashboard lets teachers edit or delete content and create channels.

Quick Take
Pros: Empowers students as writers and thinkers, and multimedia elements open the door for further digital composition.
Cons: High school writers sometimes submit questionable content as they explore personal and provocative issues.
Bottom Line: Supported student writing, collaboration, and communication make this a healthy space for kids to express themselves.
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
Students will like the social nature of Youth Voices and its emphasis on putting student ideas and writing front and center. Most will recognize the feel and navigation of a social networking site.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4
Spanning subject areas, the activities include various challenges for student writers. In what feels like a usual social network environment, kids will be learning writing and communication skills as they share opinions.
Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3
Tutorials and resources are available for new members, but most are designed for teachers learning how to use Youth Voices in the classroom and how to validate the use of a social networking writing space.
Our Review
What's It Like?

Youth Voices is a vibrant home for young writers seeking an authentic audience and a space to publish writing across a wide range of genres. The site is essentially a social network, so students can easily align their interests and make meaningful connections with other young writers. Students touch on issues ranging from the environment and politics to personal narrative stories and video gaming. Some students also add multimedia components like video.

Students will need to create their own accounts and set up a profile. Once they have their own space, kids can begin writing blog posts, which are designated to certain areas (such as argument, stories and poems, video conversations, etc.). A convenient place to start is to access the Youth Voices Play Challenge -- a series of activities in a game format that orients users to the site and has them walk through several challenges, including commenting on other posts. Another area has a series of "missions" for students, in which they explore specific topics as researchers and writers.

Is It Good For Learning?

The teachers behind Youth Voices carefully built and nurtured this site over many years, and it shows. The commenting feature on posts opens up a range of discussions, and writing on the site can be very powerful.

Best of all, the site is free and remains flexible for the needs of teachers and their students. One drawback is that many of the writers on the site are high school students, so the content and subject matter can walk the line of appropriateness at times. Any questionable content centers more on subject matter than on inappropriate language. If you're considering Youth Voices, it would be wise to monitor the site over a period of time to make sure it meets your educational goals and your school's expectations.

How Can Teachers Use It?

For teachers, the community of other educators on Youth Voices can be a powerful support group. The collective networking and thinking among the Youth Voices educators has resulted in usable classroom resources for you, including a series of writing challenges, discussions grouped along various themes, integration of art and writing, and curriculum-based documents that validate how online writing communities meet the needs of students across subject-area classrooms.

This review of Youth Voices was written by

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