3 Ways Tech Can Create an Authentic Audience for Students

Authentic learning is an instructional approach that gives students opportunities to explore real-world challenges with projects that are tangible and relevant to the learner. These experiences allow students to see the purpose in their work and have been shown to increase student engagement. This type of learning should also provide students with an authentic audience, giving them a chance to have someone – outside of their teachers and parents – show practical interest in their work.

Create a diorama for a book report. Design a poster board for a science fair project. Write a creative short story that you submit directly to your teacher. Complete worksheet after worksheet on a math skill.

What do all of these things have in common? All of us in the adult world probably remember doing similar projects when we were in school. While they may be memorable learning experiences, they are not authentic learning experiences.

Last year, I took a new approach to a classic creative writing assignment and told my students they would publish their completed short stories on Wattpad, a story sharing website. From the onset of the project, my students were significantly more enthusiastic knowing their work would be seen by real people outside the classroom. They were meticulous in their writing and eagerly sought feedback from their peers and teachers.

Real-world tasks and audiences can enliven any assignment. Here are 3 twists on classic projects that provide students with both:

3 Projects with Authentic Audiences

Reinvigorate the research paper by turning it into a research blog.

Researching is an incredibly important skill. Now, more than ever, it is critical for students to be able to determine the reliability of sources, analyze conflicting arguments, and develop their own opinions based on research. But let’s be honest here, aren’t most research papers are only read by a few people, usually just the student and teacher?

Giving students the opportunity to turn their research paper into a blog post expands their audience dramatically. It’s hard to overestimate the impact a larger audience has on a student’s writing. If they know that their relatives, friends and other members of the school community will read their writing, they work more carefully and thoughtfully. You can even build student excitement by hosting a publishing party to celebrate the date that their writing goes live!

A blog post also allows students to practice important technical skills like how to incorporate pictures and digital media in their writing and how to cite sources digitally.

Consider using Blogger, WordPress, or another blog platform to expand your students’ authentic audience and deepen their investment in writing.

 

Reconsider the geometry worksheet by turning it into a design project.

Have you ever heard a student in math class ask, “When am I going to use this in real life?” It can be a fair question since much of math work is abstract. If students are only practicing math within the pages of a workbook, it can be hard for them to see its relevance.

One possibility for bringing math to life is having the students design something and present their mock-ups to peers, teachers, or the principal. Students could use geometry and algebra to design a school garden or a playground. They could even use their newfound skills to solve real-world problems, like redesigning a classroom or the cafeteria set up to create better traffic flows.

Consider using Google Drawings or even free 3D design software like Tinkercad to aid your students in creating designs that use real-life math work, which they can present to an authentic audience.

 

Refresh the book report by turning it into a digital book review.

Book reports allow students to practice valuable skills: summarizing, critiquing, analyzing, and synthesizing.  These reports have reemerged in modern life as book reviews on Amazon and other sites. Consider allowing your students to practice these skills by posting their review online so other interested readers can learn about the story.

Good platforms for this include:  GoodReads for older students as well as Spaghetti Book Reviews and Share What You’re Reading on Scholastic for younger students.

 

These are just a few ways to turn traditional classroom projects into more authentic experience. When trying these new ideas, be aware of your school’s privacy and Internet policies to ensure the safety of your students. If you’re questioning something, you should run it by your school technology lead or principal.

Do you have other ideas for revamping classic assignments and connecting students with authentic audiences? Add your ideas in the comments or on Twitter via @EducateLLC!

A Community of Innovative Educators

What do you get when teachers from New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Bronx sit at the same table? If you are expecting a punchline, we are sorry to disappoint. This is exactly what we saw last year during Google Teachers’ Lounge – teachers from diverse settings coming together to solve classroom challenges and make new connections.

The Bronx teacher spoke about her challenges in supporting an English Language Learner who struggled to keep up during lessons. Before long, her colleagues from across town jumped in to help and hatched an innovative idea. In order to better support her student, the teacher could dictate her lessons directly into a Google Doc. In this way, the student could see the words come to life on the page, all the while continuing to participate in the lesson. “Amazing things happen when teachers have the opportunity to share ideas like this!” said the New Jersey teacher.

Google Teachers Lounge

Last year, teachers from across the city gathered for Google Teachers’ Lounge to share how they effectively use technology in the classroom.

A space for teachers:

We created Google Teachers’ Lounge last year, in hopes that teachers would want to come out and collaborate after their busy school days.  As it turned out, interest in all six of our events exceeded capacity. We were continuously amazed to see how energized teachers were, even after a long day of teaching. These events made us realize that teachers needed spaces like this to learn, connect, unwind and just have fun. We were also excited to give teachers in our client schools the opportunity to meet each other (and debate who was the best Educate coach). It was always a goal of ours to create a community of educators, and last year proved teachers need these spaces.

This year, we are excited to launch several new initiatives to continue to grow our community of innovative educators so that together we can maximize our impact on student success. This community will be called the Innovative Teaching Co-op and will provide teachers with the support they need to invigorate their instruction with new ideas and best serve their students.

Here’s how you can join the community:

  1. Join the Innovative Teaching Co-op Facebook Group – Join us on Facebook to discuss challenges and successes, or just talk about your day. Meet other teachers virtually, grow your network, and get invited to exclusive events.
  2. Subscribe to the Innovative Teaching Newsletter – Once a month, you will receive an email with recent Educate blogs on instructional best practices, tips for leveraging tech in your class, and upcoming professional development opportunities.
  3. The Innovative Teaching Co-op Monthly Meetup – Every month starting in November, we will be traveling to exciting spaces in NYC. We will honor what worked best in our previous events – a laid-back atmosphere, informal learning, food/drink, and always leaving with a next step for your classroom.

The members of Educate LLC team are rolling up our sleeves to bring this community to you because it is our greatest privilege to work with teachers in our schools, and as former teachers ourselves, we know how challenging this profession can be. Let’s not do it alone. Let’s work together, and be together, so that together we can bring the greatest success to our students.