George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using Technology to Foster Authentic Audiences

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

I think that one of the best thing that a teacher can do for his or her students is to provide them with opportunities to engage with authentic audiences. This broadens the school community beyond the classroom walls, and allows students to see their work in a real context. Of course, it needs to be carefully managed by the teacher in question – there’s no point providing students with an unwelcoming or uncaring audience, but equally, the real value of this is in students receiving some meaningful feedback. One of the best ways that I’ve found to provide this authentic audience is through what I like to call ‘special projects’.

Let me give you an example: we recently had Write a Book in A Day (WABIAD). I’m not sure if this is an international thing or just for Australia, but the basic idea is that students get together and write a story. The bottom limit is 4000 words, but students can write more than 8000 words if they want to. We’ve done it for a number of years now, but this year we stepped it up a little bit and had more than 5 teams, including some from local primary schools.

Students receive a list from the organisation in charge about what they are required to include in their novel. These are the parameters – for example, my group this year had to include a babysitter, a chemist, a giant squid, a cricket match and the issue of time travel. In addition, they had to use the words hectic, fascinating, cantankerous, furry and curious.

As a side note, I should mention that using technology is really useful in this endeavour. We use Google Apps for the simple reason that it allows collaborative editing – students can read and edit each others chapters immediately – it takes away the need to swap USB sticks and it also means that students can see their novel taking shape as they work.

The great thing about WABIAD is that it provides that students with an audience immediately. The books are published on both the school website and the organisation website. Here’s a link to read some more and see some of if you are interested:

But what I am really excited about is that, for the first time this year, our books are going to be published on the iBookstore. Part of WABIAD’s mission is to raise money for charitable causes. We hit upon the idea of publishing the students’ books on the iBookstore, so parents and supporters can download their books for a nominal fee, with all the proceeds going to support the charity.

Suddenly, there is literally a global audience for students. People all over the world can buy and download books written by students. I think, as far as audiences go, that’s pretty authentic. Imagine how you would feel as a student to know that people all over the world can read a book you’ve written?

In what kind of ways do you use technology to create an authentic audience?

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

This sounds pretty nifty. I'm finding that kids (and teachers) are really just no uncovering the power of google docs and collaborative writing. I love the added benefit of getting their books out into the world! Can't wait to share that more broadly.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Keith...I am sharing this with our school. Even if they can't participate in something formal, what a fun way for kids to collaborate with one another. As far as publishing as an iBook - I can't imagine how excited the kids are. My daughter gets excited when she gets a like or comment on her blogs.

Each year in our schools, I see more blogging and use of social media - but still a lot of fear in exposing or permitting the kids to use. That, I feel, requires more education. Educating people on how to use the tools...responsibly, and showing them just how many students out there are using technology in a positive way.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

This is great, and sounds a lot like our NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), when students (and adults) around the world write a novel in the month of November. Our endeavor is supported by an online community of novelists who share ideas, critique passages and track one another's progress toward goals. Amazon supports them by providing free publication of novels for students who reach their goal, and then the novels are sold on Amazon. Very exciting for my 8th graders! And we rely on Google Docs for the same reason: students jump into one another's docs during writing time to offer feedback or ask questions, and I am able to do the same without interrupting their writing. It's quite a robust writing project that takes advantage of many tech tools, as well as providing students with an audience of their peers and Amazon shoppers.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Another way my students use technology to improve their audience is by blogging their literary analysis. Although I have tried a variety of ways to do that within lit circles in the classroom, nothing has been as powerful as putting their reading responses on a blog. No longer hampered by a crowded classroom, distracted by the voices of so many peers talking all at once, limited by the class period time nor silenced by one's own shyness, my students took to blogging with great enthusiasm. They responded to one another's posts at home (without being told to), and continued conversations that used to end as soon as the bell rang. Their audience grew to include students in other class periods, as well as parents and other teachers on campus who joined the conversations. Although face-to-face book-group-style discussions have always been my goal, 32 kids in a classroom make that very difficult. Blogging those discussions has proven to be far more valuable.

Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY

Like Laura, I have my students blog. I end up flipping the classroom by having students read independently for the entire class period, then they go home and blog about their reading experience. hat has been extremely beneficial is that not only do classmates comment on each others' blogs, I also recruit alumni that love literature as well as other AP teachers, to serve as reading mentors.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.