The power of audience

“When student work culminates in a genuine product for an authentic audience, it makes a world of difference.”

Steven Levy

In a post for ASCD titled the “Power of Audience”, Steven writes that the “most effective way to engage students in learning is to create an authentic audience, giving them a sense that someone else (besides teachers and parents) cares about their work”.  This authenticity gives the work purpose.  It provides external pressures, constraints and challenges and gives the learner a ‘real’ platform to present to.

For Year 7 Multimedia students, the real audience is teachers.  Now how is that different from the every day?  Well for these young designers, the audience is the TeachTechPlay conference attendees.  The design brief is simple.

On the 7th and 8th of April, Ivanhoe Grammar School is hosting a large technology conference called the TeachTechPlay conference
Your design brief is to design a keepsake for the TeachTechPlay showbag.  The piece should be an original idea that represents you.  The keepsake is to look complete on its own but also needs to be able to connect with another original component and look complete.  The size and durability of the keepsake are very important.  Teachers who attend will each receive an original keepsake and be required to find the other matching piece.  This game will assist them with introducing themselves to each other and getting to know new people.

Students are then stepped through a design thinking process to develop this keepsake.  A collaborative OneNote notebook created through OneNote Class Notebook creator assists with capturing student thoughts, ideas, reflections as well as providing a 24/7 conduit for feedback from the teacher and from peers.

Design process

This Thinker’s notebook is made all the more powerful as students are using their Surface Pro 4 laptops to sketch, annotate and expand on ideas.  Below is a fantastic example of thinking evolution.


The idea map completes the research phase of the process.  From here students are using Pinterest inspiration boards to assist the generation of ideas.  They are then required to revisit their idea map and flesh out further connections and to dig deeper with their learning.  2D & 3D prototypes are then developed using sketching (OneNote or on glass/whiteboards, playdough and polymorph pellets.  This rapid prototyping method really assists with the development and extension of ideas.  Often students have to completely pivot away from an initial idea.  Students have been using Tinkercad (a great free 3d modelling website), Perler beads and Makerbots to create and develop their concepts.  The below video gives you a little insight into the marvellous work taking place.

The deadline for this project is very real and there may be students who can’t meet the deadline.  This is a real world experience.  The power of the process is that it is an incredibly engaging medium for students.  I have a metric that gauges this interest and ownership.  It is the number of students who ask (and do) drop in during lunchtime to keep working on their pieces.  As it currently stands, we are at +7.

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