One key thing that can happen when students have easy access to technology is that their work can be shared with so many other people. When we have students produce work in class that just goes to the teacher, there is an audience of 1. If we have that same student share that piece of work with others, they have a much larger audience and often times this can have a positive impact on engagement and learning. Many students put in the minimum effort when they know that the teacher is the only person seeing what they create. They focus on how much they have to do to get the number of points that they want instead of taking real ownership of what they are creating.
Ways to increase the audience
- I would first start by just sharing with the other students in class. This can easily be done by using a Google Doc that students put the links to their work in or you could even use a form to collect the work and share the results with everyone. You also could just create a class group using Google Groups and then just have the students share their work (view or comment only) with the group so that they could offer feedback. I would suggest having guidelines and showing how to leave proper feedback, reminding students that are jobs are to learn and to help others learn, not to discourage learning with ill comments.
- Using a blog to have students posting their work to and sharing with others is another road you can head down. You could use free tools like Blogger, Weebly or even a Google Site. A teacher could use the script pagemeister to produce a separate page for each student on their own site to get started. The student would have more ownership of their learning if they were the owners of their own blog, which is why I would suggest eventually moving towards a tool like Blogger or Weebly or even having them create their own site. Imagine a student who creates their own site in middle school and uses it to share their learning all through middle school and high school. That student would have a great record of their learning which would allow them to reflect on how and what they have learned.
- Have students create their own podcast, or vodcast, and share that out. Have them interview others and have others share their work through their podcast. Let them create what they want and they will surprise you with how much it improves their learning.
Issue to watch out for
- Of course privacy has to be a real concern when sharing online, whether it is the student sharing or the teacher sharing. One thing that might help is to use either only first names or to use a made up name to protect the identity of the student.
- One teacher, that I saw that had students create blogs for their class, had the students use just their first name and last initial. The teacher and the students knew who each other were but not anyone outside of that group. This made it so the student could share out without having others know exactly who that person was.
- You have to find the right level of privacy for your students, and the parents, that makes them feel comfortable but also allows them to share their work with others.
Our students want to create, and they should not have to hide their creations or only show them to the teacher. They should be able to use the technology that they already use in the classroom to share their learning and achievements with others. Our job as teachers is to help them learn how to share out, how to protect themselves and to protect their own creations. But our job is not to hid them or to make them only produce for ourselves. Give your students an audience of more than 1 and you will see learning happening like never before.