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"But No One Will Ever Read This!": Importance of a Real Audience

Today I was helping out a teacher with a lesson (9th grade). My role was to provide the initial research instruction and then support as students needed assistance looking up topics online and in the reference books.

As I was walking around the room, one of the students stopped me to ask about copying and pasting a page of information from a Website into his Prezi.

"Can I just copy and paste this whole thing onto a slide?"

Well, no. I told him he can put it in his own words and cite, or do a few direct quotes and cite. But no, you cannot just copy and paste an entire page and call it a day.

"Why not? No one's gonna see this thing anyway."

YIKES.

How was I supposed to respond? It's not my class or my project, but I can see that there is a major disconnect. Students are not understanding the connection between the assignment and real life. They feel that their work is unimportant in the scheme of things.

"The most effective way to engage these students in learning is to create an authentic audience, giving them a sense that someone else (besides teachers and parents) cares about their work," says Steven Levy in "The Power of Audience", published in Educational Leadership.


Obviously this student knew that the only person seeing the project was the teacher. That didn't mean anything to him, other than a grade. So how would I modify this experience to make it more meaningful for these students?


1. Live Performance Have the students create a skit or play that they perform for other English classes, or possibly younger students. 

2. Video Let students use their phones or provide flip cams and let them video themselves presenting information, then post on the class Website. 

3. Virtual sharing Connect with a similar classroom via Google Hangouts and present to each other.

4. Blogging Have students blog about their research, commenting on each other's work.



These are just a few ideas that I believe would have improved the lesson. It was great in theory, but the students just didn't connect with the assignment. Adding a real audience makes the experience more meaningful, personal, and useful.


References:
Levy, S. "The Power of Audience." Educational Leadership 66.3 (2008): 75-79. Educational Leadership:Giving Students Ownership of Learning:. ASCD. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

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