Friday, February 19, 2016

The Transformative Power of an Authentic Audience

Look at our society today and it doesn't take long to see evidence that people enjoy an audience. Sometimes the public stage contributes something valuable to either the audience or the contributor such as with Thomas Suarez, a young app developer. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples of unproductive and harmful things being shared publicly.

Kids are comfortable in the public arena of the internet. YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Snapchat are all popular venues for garnering an audience. (Facebook has dropped in popularity since the old folks showed up). Employers are starting to research what applicants are sharing publicly. They will either find evidence of values that will contribute to their organization, evidence of poor judgement or no significant evidence of anything.

How can we help students leverage the power of a global audience to promote themselves in a positive light and engage in dialog, inquiry, and the publication of relevant work?

Providing experiences that offer students an authentic audience have a transformative impact in the learning environment. No matter how awesome you think that Powerpoint project is, students really don't find it that important to do work that is only seen by the teacher. If they know their work may be potentially viewed by anyone in the world it takes on new level of importance. Students want their work to be great and they want feedback.

Check out this example of an authentic audience. Kids frequently muck about with their parents and a ball. Parents may even coach on their little league team. Small children are pretty motivated by feedback and support from those close to them but as they go through school they are less interested in what we think and more interested in feedback from others. This young man is experiencing the power of a larger audience. I'm betting there are some people in the stands are a little jealous.

My daughter has been sharing video and photographs on various sites since middle school. She has acquired a fairly large audience and she wants to showcase her best work. When she started publishing, she thought "more was better" but then she found she wasn't proud of all of the work she was posting. Through this process she has learned that for her, it is not good enough to post everything you do; it needs to be of a high quality.

I'm not advocating that everything we do should be public. When you are doing good work and want genuine feedback from a larger audience, technology provides a perfect medium. We need to be aware of and help our students understand that not all feedback will be positive and some may be inappropriate. We can teach them how to avoid unwanted feedback and how to deal with criticism, be it constructive or otherwise. Feedback is important to iteration and improvement.

Many kids will seek out the public audience available on the internet with or without us. It is up to parents and educators to teach them how to utilize this space in a productive way.

Examples of students who have garnered a world-wide audience.
Jack Andraka- at age 15, developed a test for detecting pancreatic cancer
Jacob Barnett- shares how autism gives him a different perspective
katexone Videos that address teen culture, interests, reflections
Cicily Boone- make up videos
KBOB TV- Bethke Elementary math tutorials created for students by students

Resources on Authentic Audience
An Authentic Audience
3 Easy Ways to Increase Learning Using an Authentic Audience
Another Study Points to the Importance of Students Writing for an Authentic Audience