Wednesday, March 21, 2012

5 Steps to Help Students Connect with Real Audiences

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 educator’s do not support youth in finding their audience, they are robbing them of doing the meaningful work that is essential for success.


  1. Totally, totally important! When I speak to homeschooling parents on how to nurture their kids as writers, I spend a lot of time trying to help them understand the importance of authentic audiences. Kids will get better at writing if they want to write, and they'll want to write (in most cases) if they have a real audience, and feedback from someone other than a parent or a teacher.

    Great suggestions here, Lisa!

  2. #yourock my friend!! Thank you for all that you do to advocate for the learning that all students deserve and teachers wish for!

  3. Another lesson that's important and that public school students will learn is how often administrative meddling is involved in some of these projects that actually can hurt their chances of ever going public. Ever have a situation where a teacher has a great project like this started but it's scuttled by a nervous principal? That seems detrimental to learning, but it's actually a life lesson. I have lost count of the number of times a VP or C-level at a company has decided to "get his hands dirty" with a product or project and turned what was once a great idea into a steaming pile of feces.