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Substantial literature

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Substantial literature ties collaboration among young people’s supporters to student learning, motivation, and persistence in school – and collaboration itself requires communication and information-sharing between the players in young people’s lives. We know from research that youth do better when they get regular feedback from teachers on their classroom performance (Hattie 2008). Teachers teach better when they know how youth are experiencing their classes or how parents say youth are doing at home (Jones and Yonezawa 2008/2009). Parents support their children more effectively when they learn about their children’s performance from teachers (Lawrence-Lightfoot 2003), and when they learn from each other about the resources and opportunities available in the school and community (Mediratta et al 2009, Mickelson and Cousins 2008, Henderson et al 2007, Louie 2004, Lareau 2003). Administrators shepherd and innovate reforms better if they are linked more regularly to other administrators and to their teachers to share information and advice; teachers get more equipped to teach their content if they discuss teaching regularly with other teachers (Daly et al 2010). Research shows that positive relationships between youth and educators and between families and educators involve communicating information on student progress and on available supports for youth (Taveras et al 2010, Nieto 2008, Diamond and Gomez 2004).

Sharing information and ideas not only builds relationships of mutual support, mentorship, and partnership between these players (Grossman and Bulle 2006). Information-sharing also allows people in young people’s lives to attend closely in real time to the experiences of every learner, reinforce moments of success quickly and effectively, and reduce moments of failure with timely and appropriate intervention. Conversely, a lack of information sharing – a lack of necessary communication between the necessary players in a young person’s life -- contributes to unsuccessful partnership and student failure.

Work from many fields indicates that communication between the people in a child’s network is essential for these partners’ collaboration. See research on organizational learning and behavior, as applied to education (organizations work better when all stakeholders in the organization are communicating about efforts to reach a common goal) (Spence 2009, Jewell-Sherman 2008); social networking literature, as applied to schools (the more effectively the people in an educational organization communicate, the better they collaborate) (Daly et al, 2010); literature on data-driven decision-making (students are better served when many stakeholders are aware of and discussing specific data on their progress) (Boudett et al 2005); teacher education (teachers serve students better when they are talking to young people and families about youths’ experiences in their classrooms and the efficacy of their own efforts) (Sleeter xx, Nieto 2008, Cochran-Smith and Lytle 2009, Ladson-Billings 2001); community organizing (students are better served when community members are brought into the discussion about ways to support student progress) (Mediratta et al 2009, Warren et al, forthcoming, Oakes and Rogers 2006); family engagement (students are better served when family members are brought into the discussion of student progress and empowered with information about schools) (Taveras et al., 2010; Lawrence-Lightfoot 2003, Henderson et al 2007); youth engagement/motivation (students are better served and more motivated when they are engaged with others in discussions of how to support their own learning and achievement) (Jones and Yonezawa 2002, 2008, 2009; and, social capital literature, as applied to education (socially networked communities better support student success, because people are sharing information on available resources and supports for youth) (Putnam 2001).

Just as veins in a body are required for blood and nutrient flow, or nerves in a body are necessary for the literal flow of information between organs, communication channels (Hymes xxx) are needed for the flow of information between communication partners in young people’s lives (including students themselves). In most public schools, however, and particularly in diverse, mixed-income communities, too few channels link youth, parents, educators, and community members to collaborate in youths’ development, or to regularly share information and resources. Stories abound in any public school of parents, particularly low income or English-learner parents, unaware of “how children are doing,” or uninformed about local resources (Mickelson xx); of youth unaware of how they themselves are doing (Fine xxx?), of teachers unaware about their students’ full selves, and vice versa (Morrell xxx, Marc at Columbia xxxx), of tutors, teachers, and other service providers unaware of youth’s experiences with the other participants (xxx) -- in short, of key people unaware of what youth can do, who they are, what assistance they need, and what's available to assist.

In the OneVille Project, we argue that technology can support such collaboration in public education – that is, support running communication between necessary players of a full range of necessary information -- because it leaps over typical boundaries of ecological “setting” (e.g., Bers et al, 2010), distributing the task of student support to multiple people in multiple settings and at any time. We are also committed to low cost and open-source technology, so that any diverse community can adapt any strategies that work -- and we argue that tech solutions designed in diverse and mixed-income communities are more likely to work in them. Basically, we’re trying to help cross the frontier from 20th century to 21st century student support, empowering more people who share a diverse community to participate in everyday, low-cost ways to support student success collectively (Shirky 2008). So, we’ve been working on pieces that together, add up to an “ecosystem” of communication improvements for public education.

First, let us share our process of participatory design research – our method of learning, with community members, which communications need to be improved and how to do it.