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.
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.
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.
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!
Written by George Ganzenmuller, @EdTechGeorge