Thursday, June 16, 2011

How v. Why: A Question of Audience

In my classroom, the most motivating factor for students to gain information has been, hands down, audience. If students are working towards a project that will be presented for an audience they care about, it gives them a purpose beyond performing a task for my eyes alone. In addition, the traditional audience of one does not reflect our digital 21st century. Our students can and should publish to a wider audience. This can be done through individual and class blogs, collaborations via google docs, you tube videos, skype calls with other classrooms, voicethread essays, podcasts, letters to the editor, comments on news articles, book review sites, publishing a class book, online contests - the list is endless.

To be honest though, I find that I can think of many ways to answer ‘how can students apply information?’, but always return to ‘why should they?’ If the purpose is merely to ‘gain information’ then students could just as easily read summaries of our books instead of the books themselves - in this case, information becomes a commodity to ingest and produce, no matter the audience. A paper summary is a Twitter summary is a blog summary. However, if the teacher’s purpose is to prioritize critical thinking, facilitate connections across texts and ideas, and solve problems through collaboration, then teachers need to construct the form of their curriculum to be a catalyst for these goals. The audience then becomes a meaningful context for information, where ‘how can’ is enabled by the teacher, but ‘why’ is motivated by the student.

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree with you more about the purpose that is created when students are presenting their work to the world, not a just a classroom! To support and prepare global/digital/21st century citizens we must give them the platform necessary to effectively get their voices heard and work seen. Having specific goals that support critical application & creation demands a vast audience that can take the students refection of their work to the next level. You definitely have the wheels turning for me and how I can give my students what they not only deserve but need in an audience.


    (ps- consider merging your blogger into posterous, I just did & cannot express how much easier & efficient it is!)