Public education has long been scrutinized for how it is serving today’s diverse learners. In an effort to measure and communicate with stakeholders the academic progress of public schools, federal and state assessments have been implemented to examine if and how well academic standards are being met. These high stake tests consume much needed instructional time, have cultural bias tendencies, and have been proven to be inaccurate indicators of successful learning.
Many alternative evaluation tools have been recommended to more accurately measure academic gains, but what if schools were more transparent with what goes on in the classroom? What if learner work were shared on a wider level so the work could speak for itself? And what does this sharing of academic tasks in a public space mean to educators and learners? Wouldn’t this transparency address concerns of stakeholders and possibly have other affordances for both learner and educator?
I am committed to positively transforming education. One way to accomplish this, is sharing what’s happening in my classroom. As an educator-learner, I choose to publish student work as well as my own reflections via, blogs, Twitter, discussion boards, conference presentations, webinars, and various education organization sites. When student work is broadly shared, it helps the audience to understand what is possible, what can be improved, what could be replicated in other schools, and what could be reenvisioned.
Being transparent with learning also adds another layer of authenticity to education. Authentic learning is not demonstrated by a worksheet that’s turned into a teacher. That may be more appropriate to indicate progress in a particular more isolated skill. Real learning, however, is manifested in learner creations that are published for consumption by a wider audience. Knowing work will be seen by numerous sets of eyes heightens accountability of learners and educators alike. Sharing with with people outside the classroom inspires higher quality work. This wider scrutiny also provides opportunities for various perspectives to be shared. Likewise, learners gain access to feedback from more people.
And, Learners find even more advantages to sharing their work in public spaces as noted in the video at the top.
It’s exciting to see learners seek out feedback and place value on receiving comments from diverse settings. Under normal classroom conditions, it’s difficult to get young learners to revisit their work. For many, receiving critique from others is seen as an admission their work may be flawed. Many teenage learners prefer to get an assignment, do it, and be done. They’re ready for a grade. However, somehow, sharing work in public spaces and the prospect of doing so helps learners revisit their work, integrate feedback and improve future work. The opportunity to cultivate and grow their virtual identity through their work motivates them to create, critique, and iterate.
What’s most interesting is the learner agency engaged through this sharing of work in public spaces. Learners understand the potential impact on wider audiences. They see it as a responsibility to help reform education, but they also see other ways to make impactful change. They can gain both moral and financial support for important causes. We see learners accepting different roles is when sharing work in public space. They are advocates. They are philanthropists. They are critics. They are teachers and learners. They accept more active roles in the world, within each, understanding how social media and its multitude of contributors give them voice and the power to choose from diverse perspectives not tethered to the classroom.
But how does one get started? Here are some quick tips and resources to check out:
- Make sure your learners have parental approval to share work more broadly than the school. On my campus, students sign a release to approve sharing work as well as images of them from school activities to the wider public.
- If your learners do not already have a school email address, please ensure they do. They should create “school” accounts for whichever sites and social media platforms you envision using in your classroom. Consider having a discussion with your students about digital footprints and virtual identities. Remind learners to keep personal and academic accounts separate, and reiterate the importance of negotiating these separate identities and when to use each.
- Know the stance of your district and campus administration on using social media in the classroom. You may need to advocate and get certain sites approved to use. Focus on the social media you’d like to use in your classroom. I, personally, prefer a more open space like Twitter vs. something like Edmodo that is limited to education. Check out KQED Education’s Guide to Using Twitter in Your Teaching Practice. This valuable resource gives to tips on how to be safe, use netiquette, and even advocate for including social media in the classroom. Twitter is an excellent tool to use for rapid responses. It’s also ideal for getting learners to work on getting a concise thesis statement.
- When you choose which platforms and/or discussion boards you’d like your learners to participate in, review the expectations/norms of the site. For example, when using KQED Do Now, the purpose of the board is to engage in civic discourse. To that end, talk about how the goal isn’t to “win” a debate but rather to continue discussing to learn various perspectives. Just because learners may disagree with one another, it’s not a solid contribution to the discussion if people are constantly attempting to shut one another down. (For more information on how to implement Do Now in the classroom, check out this In the Classroom post from earlier this school year.)
- It’s helpful to use platforms that are low-stakes and easy to use. Hackpad, for example, is a collaborative space that allows people to log in and “hack” content that’s already there or add their own. The low-stakes quality of Hackpad seems to invite more organic – and deep – conversation. Consider creating individual Hackpads addressing specific questions. Framing the purpose is essential, and guiding questions really help set the tone of contributions. Here’s an example of a Hackpad about Youth in Participatory Politics.
- But what can learners do with all the stuff they have created and put out there or how can learners catalogue inspirations and research in a user-friendly platform? I am a huge supporter of curation. Pinterest is a great tool they can use in school and out. Encourage learners to create specific pinboards for various topics and share so they can collaborate on research and musings. They can even add summaries and justifications for pins and discuss relevancy via comments. Another great way to make learner thinking transparent and gain various perspectives!
When asked why I invite my learners to share their work in public spaces, it’s difficult for me to respond succinctly because although there are excuses not to do so, the affordances of this transparency in learning is, forgive the pun, clear. Perhaps, the most appropriate response to such a question is “How can you not?”