Last night, we hosted our second annual showcase event at Willis Junior High School. The evening was an opportunity to share our learning experiences, and school culture, with the local community. We invited our own parents and students, as well as those from our local feeder schools. In addition, district administrators, as well as local business and state leaders were in attendance. While our teachers were an integral part of the organization of the evening, we emphasized students as presenters. Our kids demonstrated their use of technology, discussed projects, participated in musical performances, and served as greeters, and guides for our guests.
As I moved around campus during the event, I paid particular attention to our students. While not necessarily surprising, their level of engagement and enthusiasm was evident. They jumped at every opportunity to share their work with guests — answering questions, modeling technology tools, and engaging younger kids in a variety of activities. Watching these students present to an audience that extended beyond our school walls reminded me of this quote:
Why do we ask kids to make presentations, on topics they don’t care about, to an audience that doesn’t exist? ~ Gary Stager (ISTE 2012)
Not only were students able to share about a topic for which they felt a connection, they were presenting their learning to an authentic audience. For our students, this not only added an aire of importance to the discussions, it made the experience relevant. Authentic audiences can be powerful motivators — providing students with the opportunity to experience difference making. Technology affords the opportunity to leverage world-wide audiences, allowing students to share their work (and receive feedback) from well beyond school walls (i.e. blogs, Google Hangouts).
While a community showcase is a great start, I am determined to expand our students’ opportunities for relevant sharing. How do you provide students at your school with an authentic audience?