The pursuit of ‘authenticity’ in education when it comes to student activities is always a hot topic. The question of whether we can truly prepare students for a life outside school when we teach them within the walls of the classroom is one that comes up again and again.
What steps can teachers take to bring the wider world into their place of learning in an effort to engage children and help them to see the work that they are doing in a wider context?
Student blogging is one of the ways that teachers can bring an authentic audience to their students, increasing engagement, and widening the horizons of any classroom-based activity. It’s often the case that children’s work is only really seen and commented on by their teacher. By using blogging platforms, a child’s efforts can potentially be seen by a global audience who can constructively comment on that work. When a child understands this, they often increase the effort they put in as it’s not just a teacher who will be reading what they wrote. There are sometimes drawbacks as an audience is not guaranteed and the teacher must be confident in things such as privacy settings,
Bringing experts into the classroom has always been a sure-fire way to increase engagement and the scope of a particular project. However, there are often organisational hurdles that go along with these types of visits. Video conferencing software can be used to great effect to try to alleviate some of the trickier logistical issues of having visitors in school and can also be used to make links between classes and schools where previously, geographical constraints would have made this an extremely laborious process. Tim Peake discussing his time in space with children in the classroom whilst actually in space has been an excellent recent example of this, and the possibilities are numerous as video conferencing offers the next best thing to a physical presence in the classroom.
Project-based learning offers a mirror to how hurdles are overcome in the world of work whilst presenting an alternative to the more linear breakdown of sharply defined subjects. Students try to find the answer to a complex question or a challenge often framed in the real world and have to use a cumulation of their collective knowledge and skills in completing the task. English, maths, science, art and a sense of collaboration all go towards successful achievement in a closer reflection of how things work outside of the classroom.
In utilising these ideas and more, teachers can begin to explore the idea of bringing authentic learning to the classroom, and by doing so, give their students a taste of what things are like in the wider world, preparing them for their journey as learners and their negotiation of it.