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Those Formerly Known as the Audience

(This post is a response, a build on, and my thoughts in response to reading this excellent piece of writing by Dean Shareski – I hope you have read what he has to say on this topic.)

In the five years I have been blogging in my classroom, I have seen a vast change in the students that I teach and in their experiences with technology, audience, and global communication.

When I first started, few of them had little experience even speaking with people from different parts of the world. When we first started blogging as a class and someone received a comment from a distant place on the globe, it was an event that was discussed and people often herded around the map to see where these places were. Even as our blogs became more popular thanks to some of the publicity we received, students were still very interested in the fact that people from other parts of the world were interested in what they had to say.

Now, through IM, Xbox Live, Facebook and a whole host of other things, most of the students I teach have at least some experience dealing with geography and timezones. It is no longer as novel to have spent time with people from different parts of the globe. The idea of global audience is no longer as motivating for many of them

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I see it happening in my classroom. In the past, simply having an audience, knowing that people from somewhere else was reading their published material was enough to motivate students to do an excellent job. I’ve seen students revise and edit blog posts repeatedly in order for their work to be the best it possibly can before sharing it with their audience. Now, as students are becoming more used to user generated content being on the web, it doesn’t seem to have the same effect for all students. Many students still are motivated and interested in being global communicators and globally linked. Many students still are driven to do well with the knowledge that they have an audience. But this is changing. Now, as many students already have an account at a place like Facebook or YouTube before they come to my classroom, the idea of posting content of your own online is not as novel as it used to be. The idea of having an audience is not as appealing.

So why should we continue to do so? Why should we continue to drive students online to post their own content?

While the motivating factor of audience may be dropping off for some students, there are still many reasons to have students publish their work online. First of all, it gives students experience becoming multimedia creators. I believe that online communication skills in all of their forms are vital. I think that just as my teachers expected me to know how to craft a well written business letter, I need to teach my students how to communicate a message using the tools of this time. This means through written texts such as blogs, videos, and audio files. It is essential that students learn to use them all. I also think it is vital that students learn how to use these tools for learning and working in collaborative global groups. As many people have found in their classrooms, there is a vast difference between the technology skills that students have mastered at home, and those required to deeply investigate and learn about a topic. Third, I think that students must have holes pushed through their classroom walls in order for them to broaden their perspective on many issues. Most of us live insular lives, and having access to technology can open us up to global ideas and perspectives. The opinions from real people around the world posted online can push our thinking into new places and new directions like is possible no where else.

As Chris Lehmann has said:

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14 Responses

  1. There is a lot of value in helping students think about what is published and how it is published. It’s easy enough to publish a video on YouTube. It’s quite another thing to think through the issues of content, how images relate to music and the spoken word, taking control of your content and selecting an appropriate license. I’m starting to look for opportunities where I can match the creation of content with review and discussion from particular classes around the world. It gives the students a concrete sense of their audience. Their work is still out there for anyone to see and use, but they have a more immediate sense of the recipient of their hard work.

    I have to go take a look at Dean’s post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I’m interested in examining the difference audience makes to rural, more isolated students like yours as compared to students who live in largely populated areas. My instinct is that this matters more to your students. For them global connections offer hope and possibility they may not otherwise experience. True?

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Clarence Fisher, Mark Dunk. Mark Dunk said: from @glassbeed's blog Those Formerly Known as the Audience [...]

  4. Having an audience is still novel to my Grade 5 student bloggers. I was thinking about Dean Shareski’s comment to your post, about the more isolated students and students who live in largely populated areas. Whilst my students are still youngish (10-11yrs), they are fascinated and motivated by global connections. Perhaps it is the age of them that makes this so. As International School Students, most have already traveled to, and lived in, more countries than I have. We live in Bangkok, Thailand, a very largely populated area, with culture diversity physically all around us yet my students are still fascinated by a connection with someone from the otherside of the globe leaving them a comment. Better yet, they are “chuffed” when their parents leave them a comment! Again, perhaps it is not only isolated vrs populated, but age may be an influence factor as well.

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by glassbeed: Those Formerly Known as the Audience – New on Remote Access:

  6. My children still love that global audience. We like comments most of all when they have a URL so we can go and read the posts of the person commenting. We seem to get lots of ‘readers’ and it is difficult to get people to interact by commenting.
    We are in a small rural city and most of the class have cell phones, about 3/4 computers at home and about 1/4 game online. Still some online growing to do so maybe that is why the global audience is still so appealing to them… we do go to the map and find the country!

  7. [...] Shareski’s post Why Audience Matters earlier today and just finished reading Clarence’s follow up post and thought I’d add to the conversation as [...]

  8. Dean; I’m not sure that I like the idea of global connections offering “hope and possibility” for my students. It makes Snow Lake sound like a place of sorrow and loss. I have often thought of the differences between rural and urban students. I have no evidence and no absolutely firm thought, but I am not sure the line should be drawn between them or if it has more to do with online experience.

    Chrissy; I am always interested to hear of your experiences at ISB and think you have made a great point about international school students. They often have a well developed sense of geography and are well traveled. They may need an entirely different category when we are thinking about these students.

  9. [...] Audience Matters, followed by fellow Canadian (Snow Lake, Manitoba), Clarence Fisher in his post, Those Formerly Known as the Audience.  Finally, it all came to my attention, when Jeff Utecht tweeted a link to his installment on [...]

  10. [...] effect each group of viewers could have on a student. On the Remote Access blog, Clarence Fisher weighs in by analyzing a shift in the way his students view global audiences and why it’s important to [...]

  11. [...] effect each group of viewers could have on a student. On the Remote Access blog, Clarence Fisher weighs in by analyzing a shift in the way his students view global audiences and why it’s important to [...]

  12. [...] קלרנס פישר ממשיך את הדיון בבלוג שלו. הוא מהרהר שלפני מספר שנים, כאשר האפשרות של קהל ממקומות רחוקים היתה חדשה, קיומו של קהל כזה פעל עבור תלמידיו כגורם מדרבן. אבל היום, המצב שונה:בסיום המאמרון שלו פישר מצטט בחיוב את ה-tweet של להמן, אבל נדמה שבכל זאת פישר רואה בקהל רחב גורם של מוטיבציה אצל תלמידים, ואילו להמן איננו מתייחס למוטיבציה אלא למצב שבו תלמידים מוכנים לכתוב, אבל אין להם מה להגיד. [...]

  13. [...] to the cross-linking blog post conversation, like the Lehmann (via status update) to Shareski to Fisher to  Utecht to Warlick posts about the value of audience, I’d like to bring together a couple [...]

  14. [...] Fisher author of the Remote Access blog acknowledges that the motivating factor of audience may indeed be declining for some students but [...]

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