(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.