My experiences as a learner utilizing an open online space are limited to EC&I 833 and 834. Within these classes, I have the opportunity to share my thinking and my insights for an audience beyond my instructors. Blogging, commenting and creating/receiving pingbacks create a community and a purpose for my writing. In addition, twitter (this little friend who is growing on me) allows me to connect and share ideas.
Now when I think about who my audience is for this blogging and tweeting, I would state – the members of the EC&I 834 class; however just recently, I have had several people (outside of this class) randomly come up to me and tell me they are enjoying the tweets that I share or some of the writing in my blogs. My immediate reaction: Wait!? What?! Oh yes. That’s right. I am sharing this information on this little dealio called the world wide web. My audience extends beyond a mere “classroom”. How does this change my perception/intention? Well… this audience creates a deeper sense of thought, more intentional writing and a different “voice” in my writing and communication. Ultimately, it creates more authenticity for my work.
Nicole mentioned the importance of audience related to authenticity. I know this to be true for me and I can see this with my students as well. When they know their work will be seen beyond the walls of our classroom, they are more invested and care more about what they say and produce. I’ve always told my students that knowing their audience is a key to good writing. But what if their peers and I are the only audience? If I know quality and depth increase if an audience is proposed, why have I not provided more opportunity for this open online learning/communication in my classroom?
In the past, I used Kidblog within my middle years classroom, specifically related to Genius Hour. Within this setting, similar to what Nicole described, students read and commented on each other’s blogs and parents had opportunity to read (but rarely to never did). Students weren’t invested. Not to mention, I moderated all their writing/comments and it took forever. Does it matter if they have spelling mistakes? Should I be working with them to edit everything? Megan and Benita talked about the importance of scaffolding the process of open online communication – I don’t think I did this well despite the fact that I know the importance of modelling. The audience I provided extended beyond me, but it wasn’t authentic. If I could create a larger community and teach my students how to work together to edit and publish, then I believe they would be more invested and engaged as they saw their audience increase.
I teach a tricky age as my students are grades 7 and 8 and range from ages 12-14 throughout the year. Many popular social media tools (with the exception of twitter – which my students dislike) require a minimum age of 13. I know that students would be even more invested and engaged if they could use a tool that was familiar to them (and let’s be honest, they are already using them despite age regulations). While I do think you could do some great open communication with these tools, they are less easily monitored and could turn into a whole other can of worms for a classroom environment. So until someone lets me in on the magical secret to using Snapchat in my classroom, I will stick with something more structured.
I think I would like to reintroduce blogging in my classroom. However, for middle years, I think they need a more open forum and variety in what they are writing about – how to do this is the tricky part. They also need a wider audience. A wider audience allows for more accountability and greater preparation/investment (for most – let’s be realistic). I think it will also provide a platform to discuss digital presence and their digital footprint. I know I see a shift in engagement and investment when an audience is introduced because I believe the task becomes more authentic.
Wouldn’t you prepare and invest differently for an ever evolving audience of 100 versus a repetitive audience of 1? Let me know your thoughts…