Engaging the Community to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
When we think about how to effectively integrate technology into the curriculum, we often consider how we can leverage our digital tools and skills to increase student engagement. I love this graphic by Sylvia Duckworth of Philip Schelecty’s Level’s of Engagement because it illustrates how attention and commitment are very different attributes that feed into a student’s level of engagement:
How do we elevate student attention and commitment up these scales to achieve engagement? When my students ask “why are doing this?”, I have tried rattling off a list of skills they are developing, our government has listed hundreds of learning standards that must be met, and there’s always the fallback “it counts towards your grade.” Perhaps these answers might speak to a student’s sense of duty, and her attention increases, but rarely do we see her commitment increase beyond preparing for the next assessment.
Authentic audiences are an excellent motivator for today’s students who are growing up in an exceedingly social society.
But authentic audiences are an excellent motivator for today’s students who are growing up in an exceedingly social society. And technology is constantly leveraged to deliver messages to our authentic audiences.
As I child, my parents used to take pictures of me and my brothers as a way to preserve memories and document important moments in our lives: from first lost tooth, to family gatherings, to graduations. Of course, we would rush to the nearest 24 hour photo shop, so that we could make multiple copies to send to grandparents and friends. But this sharing was almost secondary. The photos were for ourselves and our photo albums, which we would occasionally open nostalgically.
Where others see a child obsessed with a screen,
I see a child trying to connect with others.
Today, students document moments with the intent to share. Where others see a child obsessed with a screen, I see a child trying to connect with others. And this internal desire to share easily translates into the classroom. In allowing our students to share their learning with an authentic audience, we are helping them to develop the skills necessary to share and connect with others, both online and offline. Whether presenting before an audience in the school auditorium, or posting their project on the school website, students love to share, and are more engaged with an authentic audience for their work.
This morning’s Martin Luther King, Jr assembly was a wonderful example of the elevated engagement that happens when an authentic audience is integrated into the learning experience. Since returning from winter vacation, two of our English teachers had their ELA students prepare a presentation for the assembly, accompanied by our music teacher and the middle school chorus. Each student chose a famous Black American and created two slides – one with photos and one with a quote. Then they stood on the stage, in front of the whole school community, with their slides behind them, and told the stories of famous Black Americans – the discrimination they faced, and the way they overcame adversity to find success. The students spoke eloquently and told fascinating stories, followed by a community singalong of We Shall Overcome.
Sharing our learning with authentic audiences can be scary.
Sharing our learning with authentic audiences can be scary. It can be terrifying to stand before your entire school and present in person. And it can be equally terrifying for the teachers who put the students out there and pray for their success. Hours of preparation went into preparing those slides and those stories for our assembly. Followed by more hours of practice in the auditorium. But the student engagement that happens when there is an authentic audience for their work is priceless. What might have been a unit on famous Black Americans squished into a busy week, instead became an opportunity to share knowledge and celebrate learning, diversity, and community.
On the day of the assembly, the presentation was flawless. It was an exemplary display of learning, a subtle and meaningful integration of tech, and an engaging experience for the DCD community. I both admire and am grateful for our teachers and their ELA and chorus classes, who orchestrated a wonderful start to celebrating MLK Jr Day. Congrats and thank you to the students and their teachers!
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