An Authentic Audience?
There is no doubt that, given teenagers already have an arsenal of options open to them, educators need to be creating assessment tasks that take advantage of these tools. Using the internet as a platform for publication gives students the chance to reach an audience the previous generations could not. Still in many schools and classrooms today, students are asked to perform demonstrations of knowledge, skills and understanding before an audience of 1 - the teacher. In many cases the performer is left feeling very unsatisfied, why? We ask students to spend copious amounts of hours perfecting the required aptitude and their reward is the tick of approval from only a single person. Many forward thinking teachers have started using web publishing tools to give their students the opportunity to reach a wider audience, or a very specific one.
Watch the video on the right to see what one 11 year old blogger accomplished using the internet as a publishing tool, she found an authentic audience and it changed her life!
Who is it that constitutes as an “Authentic Audience”?
Currently all the work a student produces is criticised by the teacher, the teacher is still the 'font of all knowledge' but if we want our students to engage in the community and complete assessment tasks that meet a community need or has relevance to some aspect of the wider community (aka: 21st Centuray Skills), that will mean the teacher is no longer an the only 'authentic audience'. In the video above, Tavi found an opportunity to create and produce for an authentic audience, the fashion community.
Another example, let's say a class is working on measuring the water pollution in a local river and monitoring the wildlife along its banks. The final assessment task is creating a 30 second promotional video to make the public aware of the issue. Throughout the project the class will liaise with local counsel and wildlife experts, with waste management authorities and advertising and marketing personal. The teacher’s role will move from the “sage on the stage” and become “the guide on the side” . The authentic audience, and the people that the students “perform” before, are people who have a vested and genuine interest in the topic at hand. In this case it may not be anyone from the school community, but the local counsel or the waste management group. Local residents that have a direct connection to the river and its inhabitant, perhaps industry that is connected to the river - these are the people that become the authentic audience and ever increase broadbad access give students the oppoortunity to connect with these stake holders.
How does this impact student learning?
If a teacher finds an authentic audience for their students then the question "why do I have to do this?" is immediately answered for the student. Learning suddenly has real world application and student engagement increases accordingly.