Authentic Audiences

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  • The importance of valuing our students’ voices and helping them feel heard.
  • Taking your classroom to the next level with these strategies to provide an authentic audience.

Have you ever struggled to challenge your students? Have you tried to incorporate authentic audiences in your learning activities? If the teacher across the hall can do it, you can too right?

Well, challenging students isn’t necessarily the hard part. Engaging and motivating your students can be difficult. Students challenge us from time to time with one of the most common questions: “Why are we even doing this?

I’ve discovered that using digital tools makes it easier to engage and motivate digital natives. They also let our students  make connections and share their work beyond the classroom walls. When I share how to engage and motivate students, I always come back to the why and the who. As teachers, we have to ask ourselves:

  • Why are we asking students to create a video, webpage, or tutorial?
  • And who is going to see their work?

Two years ago, I decided to make a change in my classroom. I wanted to take the stacks of papers and projects, and provide students the opportunity to show them WHY we are doing this assignment.

But how? I know if  I schedule another class presentation, I will see the eye rolls and quality of work will suffer.

According to several articles that I researched, students are more engaged, more thoughtful about their choices, and more eager to revise if their voice is heard and input is valued. Perhaps most importantly, they begin to think of themselves as real-world problem solvers, not just students who are producing another project to add to the pile.

Students are more engaged, more thoughtful about their choices, and more eager to revise if their voice is heard and input is valued. Click To Tweet

So how did I do it?

Keep It Simple

I still remember the first time I had students design an app for other teenagers to use to get the proper amount of sleep. I invited some of my other colleagues and local business people to listen to their proposals.

We used a  Shark-Tank style, and I had several excited young inventors/entrepreneurs. My students had the chance to watch their work be evaluated by actual adults. They realized that someone could potentially buy their product.

Go With High-Profile Locals

Afterwards, we were working on a wellness project for our town. I got to thinking about how can I provide young people an opportunity to see that their voices and ideas are valuable. I was able to get the mayor, superintendent, and school board members to listen to student proposals about our town and schools.

Small changes were made and students learned that their ideas and opinions were interesting and meaningful to others.

Using Digital Tools to Connect Globally

I’m consistently amazed at the advancement of technology tools. Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Flipgrid are a few I love to use.  These tools have allowed my students and me to connect outside the classroom walls. Video technology is a perfect unification of video, voice, and chat.

Using GoToMeeting to connect with the Blue Zones Organizational Lead in Albert Lea, MN was monumental in my students’ learning. They loved being able to present a week later. It made them feel “seen” and heard, which makes them feel legitimized. Acknowledgment by an expert gives them their first sense that their work is being considered on its own merits.

Students were ecstatic working with other students from South Dakota using Flipgrid. Using this platform not only engages students, but encourages them to ask real-world questions. Also, Google Hangout provided the opportunity to work on a school wellness project with another school across town. Bringing in audiences from around the world, or even the community, motivates students to work on their projects more doggedly than traditional assignments. They get competitive and take pride in their work, which promotes a greater sense of urgency. The outcome is just better.

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Authentic audiences provide real-world experiences. They allow students to connect lessons from the classroom to reality. They provide engagement, attention to detail, and commitment to the task from the students.  As educators, we understand the everyday hustle and bustle of the classroom. Having the ability to connect to a global audience provides an inside look at the impact the community has on the development of its future citizens.

About Tyson Gardin

Tyson Gardin is a health/physical education teacher in the Fort Mill School District where he has the honor and joy of working with every student in the building.

Tyson is certified in school administration, a member of the South Carolina Health Advocates, and holds an Education Specialists Degree in Educational Leadership. He is dedicated to motivating and engaging every student.

Tyson lives in Fort Mill, SC with his wife and two children.