5 Steps to Help Students Connect with Real Audiences

3/27/2012 2:53:00 AM

In my work to support innovative learning in schools, I often find young people, given the opportunity to use technology and the web, are doing great work and are excited about publishing their work for the world to see. Unfortunately, that’s where it falls short. Somehow, the important lesson of audience is absent from most classrooms. If we’re not supporting students in reaching real audiences, we as educators are missing an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to supporting learners. In fact, the reality is audience should be a forethought...not an afterthought.  

Sometimes when I bring this up in school an educator will proudly explain how student work is published on YouTube or SchoolTube and posted on the classroom or school website. While that is indeed one audience, it is not the authentic audience I’m referring to or Angela Maiers means when we talk about doing work that is worthy of the world (see section B).

For example, at a recent school visit students were excited about creating PSAs about issues they were passionate about. They were especially excited because what they created could impact others to learn more about the issue. When I asked how “others” will find the video, they, and their teachers, are usually at a loss. While we’re doing innovative work, the traditional method of doing work for the teacher or class still prevails. There is little thought to reaching the those who share an interest in these topics.  To change that simply follow these five steps.  

5 steps to connecting with real audiences

  1. Research
    • Start with a basic Google search to see who is writing about your topic. Do any organizations support the cause?
    • Do a search on wikipedia and see who supports the cause in the footnotes.
    • Search the topic on Technorati to see who is blogging about your topic.
  2. Outreach
    • Write to each organization. Let them know what you are doing. Ask them for their feedback as far as what type of product might benefit their work. Include things such as content, length, suggested research, credits, etc.
    • Reach out to those who are blogging about your topic. Let them know what you are up to and ask them if they may want to feature it.
  3. Collaborate
    • Once you create the outline or storyboard for your work, share it with the interested organizations. Get feedback for your final piece.
    • As you move to the review, revise, and edit stage, send your work to the organization for feedback.
  4. Publish
    • Invite the organization to publish your work.
    • Share the work on your local sites as well i.e. class, school, project website, with a link to the organization’s page.
  5. Share
    • Share the message far and wide using social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. When using Twitter do a search for the cause so you can include relevant hashtags.

This missing piece to learning can be addressed by taking these five steps.  When educators do not support youth in finding their audience, they are robbing them of doing the meaningful work that is essential for success.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.


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