Susan Davis writing for “Getting Smart” begins her blog post on “Teaching Authentic Writing in a Socially Mediated World” with this idea: “…I don’t know where to start. You see, I’ve completely bought into the idea that what we teach our students should be authentic, that is, tangible and real in ways that are meaningful and purposeful for our students.” I like how she problematizes what authenticity means by questioning its traditional roots. When examining the common core curriculum that she is required to teach, she comes to the realization that “They just don’t resonate for me or my students in today’s world.”
So, what does this have to do with English class and authentic audiences. I think that we owe it to our students to reexamine what an “authentic audience” means in the 21st Century. It’s no longer just parents, school community groups, or peers. It has expanded with the use of blogs and social media so that our students can write with an incredible reach. Publishing used to be a million-miles away for our students, but no longer. There are a myriad of self-publishing tools on the web.
Susan Davis also brought me to this website “Taking IT Global” whose tag line is “inspire, inform, involve”. It is about getting youth engaged in creating positive change. I think that this speaks to the heart of what authenticity is in the 21st century. It is not longer about writing and broadcasting, it is about writing and connecting.
But I’ll leave you with what Susan Davis suggests as authenticity. It is a great place to start when reconsidering what your students can reach for.
“How such writing is made authentic depends on the context of how it is introduced in each learning environment, and, of course, this is where things get tricky. Tricky or not, here is my tentative list:
- Text messages to friends vs. text messages to colleagues
- Captions for photos that convey important and relevant information
- Questions that probe and dig for what matters
- Status updates that share a mood or point of view with a particular audience
- Comments on blogs and other interactive sites that continue the conversation
- Reviews of videos, music, products or services that argue a point with convincing detail
- Email that expresses an appropriate tone, conveys information succinctly, and invites further discussion or commentary
- Collaborative documentation (Google docs, wikis, etc.) that goes beyond divvying up and delegating sections to become, instead, actual co-construction
- Elegant tweets that add value and share perspective in a community of learners
- Blogs (in all their multitudinous forms) that allow ideas and information to percolate over time
- Citizen journalism that bears witness to the news of the day
- Storyboards and scripts that lay out way all the elements of how a video or audio will unfold
- Proposals to make, do, or change something
- Process analyses that examine the way things work
- Syntheses that draw together and make meaning of complex, disparate resources and multiple media; and
- Reflections that share transparently and probe thoughtfully.