Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who is the Audience for Student Work?

In my last post, I shared a document from Alan November's website entitled Is Technology Adding Value? 

It's a useful tool for how learning can and should change if we are effectively harnessing technology as a transformational agent in education.

In it, he outlines 5 ways that technology can transform.
1. Paper Becomes Digital
2. Audience: One to Many
3. All Kids Create Together
4. Limitless Boundaries
5. Building Legacy

Alan rightly challenges us to focus on the audience for student work and it's what 
I'd like to focus on in this post for two reasons.

1. It is low-hanging fruit. It's often neglected and usually doesn't require a re-writing of a unit, assessment, or task - just the altering of the audience and purpose. (Whereas, numbers 3-5 are extremely powerful elements but typically would require teachers to re-structure the very nature of the task.)

2. I do not agree 100% with the descriptor, "one to many".  (Just to be clear, I've heard Alan speak a few times.  To me, his sheet leaves a little too much open to interpretation. But I've never heard him say anything contrary to the point I'm trying to make below.)

It makes sense to start with powerful learning experiences and see how technology can facilitate these experiences to be more collaborative, efficient, effective, etc.  And, this very closely related to an earlier post where I noted the two types of edtech solutions - both with their shortfalls - and the need for a bridge connecting them.

So, let's revisit the GRASPS model from Understanding By Design.  Quality assessments strive to give students a: 

        Goal  - Convince your mayor to adopt stronger environmental laws
        Role - Citizen,  (Producer of knowledge, Contributor, etc.)
        Audience -  The mayor
        Situation - you (your group ) has been granted a meeting with the mayor to help sway her opinion on this issue.
        Product - ?? Powerpoint,  video?   petition?  note-cards/outline for speech?
        Standards and Criteria - (teacher created rubric of expectations)...

My small problems with the "one to many" descriptor are:

1. The "many" is not always the best target audience for learning. It's not THE goal.
      Ex. If the "many" is the goal, I can imagine teachers planning Rain Forest units with the goal of having students create a podcast outlining the general characteristics (problems, data, locations, etc.) of a rain forest with the goal of sharing it with many.  (Should we say congratulations? It's certainly a big step up from sharing it with the class ... or just with the teacher ! By the way, where are all these podcasts meant to live anyway?)  But the learning might have been stronger if the students were targeting their presentations at a more limited audience.  For example:
     - citizens of cities near rain forests
     - write to the CEO of and company that capitalizes on rain forest resources
     - etc.

2. Some teachers might interpret "the many" with an effective integration of technology.   This can hinder the adoption / integration of technology.

Should the teacher above be congratulated? 
What about Teacher B who uses a GRASP approach to assessment which includes no technology. She knows she is implementing powerful authentic learning, but the teacher above gets recognized by the principal in the next faculty meeting for creating podcasts that are shared with the world.

Is Teacher B more prone to implement technology if she feels she has to sacrifice her authentic experience for one where the product can be shared with many?

(And "yes", Teacher B could keep her same authentic assessment and utilize technology in ways to Leave a Legacy, connect with others to gather better data, or collaborate with other schools and broaden the backing of their ideas. But, it's my blog post and I'm trying to make a point :)  )

If we glorify the many, or ask teachers to make sure they Tweet everything or post everything on Pinterest, I think it turns off some  - especially if they can't see the steps about how these tools can lead to more effective and efficient learning.  They see technology being implemented for technology's sake. 

So, let's make sure we start with quality learning tasks and then see if and how technology can be utilized to help make them better.

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