One of the important moments in the Digital East St. Louis (DESL) project occurred on the evening of May 24. We hosted a public presentation where participants shared their works in progress -- websites on East St. Louis -- with friends, parents, and siblings. The event offered new possibilities for what student public presentations in East St. Louis might look like.
I've participated and attended student presentations in East St. Louis for more than a decade now. Typically, the programs concentrate on the arts, especially dance routines as well as rapping and singing performances. I've enjoyed the events and activities.
The DESL presentation in May, however, prompted me to think about student presentations in different ways. The young people were talking through what they had researched and were researching about East St. Louis history. They were also discussing how they had translated what they found into distinct web pages.
I was impressed to see these middle school students discussing why they had made particular decisions about layout and color on their sites. They also spent time speculating about what would occur next and where their projects were going.
One of the students is doing a project on fashion. She was the most vocal, discussing past fashion and ongoing trends in the city. She made a plea for clothing designs and purchasing practices that linked directly to interests in East St. Louis. During the Q & A period, that middle school student had a cordial debate with an adult woman in the audience about the kinds of places East St. Louis citizens tend to shop. I was impressed that the student's website and topic had placed her in a position to have that kind of exchange.
The DESL presentations that evening extended my view of what student showcases in East St. Louis might entail. In addition to the performance arts presentations we've become accustomed to, I started wondering about technology presentations or other kinds of showcases where students discussed their "research," to employ a word that they were comfortable using that evening.
• A Notebook on Digital East St. Louis