“Why do we have to do this?”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had students ask you that question.
So how do we as educators answer? Of course we can talk about that thing that is most nebulous to most teenagers: “the distant future.” But we can also talk about right now. What if we could answer “because we’ll be showcasing your work for the community next week” or even better “because XYZ real-world client is depending on your work.”
Creating a real world audience for student work a small, but powerful move.
Need some inspiration? Check out these ideas from this throwback post.
One major difference between schools that create innovative problem solvers and those stuck training students to be competitive regurgitators is that the former contextualize learning in the real world. Students create products that matter to someone other than their teacher.
Try one of these simple strategies in your upcoming unit. Have students:
- Write letters to elected officials or professionals in a relevant field. They can pose questions, make suggestions, or argue for a change.
- Design murals or other public displays to show their learning.
- Create blogs or videos that convey their ideas and use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to market their sites.
- Ask professionals to come into the classroom to judge student presentations or proposals. Or publish student work on the internet and ask professionals to judge or comment on it.
- Pair up with another class or school and have students conduct a “teach-in” to inform each other about relevant issues they are studying.
Ready for more ideas? Will Richardson’s new TED Book Why School: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere has a great chapter entitled “Real Work for Real Audiences.” Richardson envisions students creating work that is relevant and useful in the world outside school. You can read an excerpt from it here.
Though the possibilities for real-world audience are almost endless, the principle is simple: creating work with real-world value is more motivating and relevant than classroom exercises. Think about how you can showcase students’ learning beyond the school walls!