Everyone – adult and child alike – creates better work and is more dedicated to their work when they are presenting to a real audience. Teachers have known this for a long time. This is the reason we have students write for class newsletters, present at parents nights, perform plays and have poetry readings. As teachers we are always trying to give our students a ‘real audience’.
With our new technologies, we now have the opportunity to give our students a real audience - without the air quotes. Technology allows us to have students write and create for an audience of the world. By publishing work on the internet, students are able to share their work and receive feedback from real people all around the world. They will receive real, unbiased feedback and learn how to react appropriately to that feedback. All of these are life skills that are becoming more and more important in our 21st century world.
Parents and teachers are often wary of sharing student projects on the internet for security and safety reasons. I share the wariness of sharing too much information on the internet, but I also see kids who already share tons and tons of information and would highly benefit from learning how to share information responsibly. We need to start by teaching students how to be safe on the internet. I use this Internet Safety Power Point to introduce these concepts to my students.
Next, I introduce my students to creating content. They build project presentations, tutorial videos and online book reports. We share this content in safe settings like Edmodo and allow classmates to comment on the work. Once students have experience with giving and receiving feedback, we then share the work to a more general public, posting work on a YouTube page, a blog or by asking another class to take a look at it. Students are also encouraged to share their work with their parents and to ask their parents to share their work using social media sites. We ask parents to leave feedback, not only on the work of their own children but also on the work of other classmates.
By building this community of sharing, students learn:
1.) to understand that everything on the internet was created by a human who is not necessarily an expert. This allows them to begin thinking critically about the information that they find on the internet.
2.) how to share information responsibly. Unless we teach students this skill, they will always share too much information and in this day and age it may come back to bite them.
3.) how to give and receive feedback appropriately. The internet gives use the idea of anonymity and makes people say things that they wouldn’t say in person. We need to start training students young to give appropriate feedback and how to respond to feedback, both positive and negative.
4.) the importance of putting your best work out there. Students want others to look on their work with approval. Knowing that others are actually looking at their work will encourage students to push themselves.
5.) technology skills that will help them succeed in the real world. Creating tri-fold boards and hand drawn posters are not skills needed by people presenting information today. However, creating videos, podcasts, and presentations are definitely skills that can be used in pretty much any field students go into in the future.