Is authenticity the key to engagement?

There is an obvious emerging trend in all of the project work I’ve seen with the High Tech High Deeper Learning Course: most projects have an audience outside of the classroom. While I have had some success with this in my own project planning, I am realizing that it is a an area of “deeper” or “21st century” learning that I want to focus more on.


Here is another project tuning protocol from a High Tech High teacher eliciting feedback on a project her students did: writing and publishing a book about the products they use everyday.

I think the hardest challenge I am finding as a new teacher is to find the time to plan these authentic projects, when most of my school experience was designed in an entirely different way. We, as teachers, draw on our most recent learning experiences, and it is unfortunate that we were not trained in this way as students.

This is why I actually love the work that happens through something like Cohort 21: we are in many ways unlearning how to “do school”. If we participate in personalized learning experiences, we will better know how to facilitate them for our students. Part of me wonders if the Deeper Learning experience should be around modelling this essential “real world / authentic” audience for us teachers so that we can go back and re-create it for our students.

How can we possibly reinvent the wheel if we don’t experiment with it ourselves?

About the Author
Passionate and curious about technology, smiles, special education, differentiated instruction, forests, graphic novels, accessibility, anti-oppression, and warm beverages. Can often be found laughing with young people and improvising songs on the spot. @teach_tomorrow

One comment on “Is authenticity the key to engagement?

  1. Michelle Sadrena Clark says:

    Hi Celeste! I wholeheartedly agree that we need to practice what we preach. In the same way that we want students to personalize, collaborate with their peers, and engage in authentic work, we should be modeling that on a regular basis, otherwise we are hypocritical. In many school environments serious changes would need to be made to the structure in order to facilitate the type of teacher collaboration and planning that leads to deeper project. At HTHNC, we meet four times a week, so it is almost impossible not to connect or collaborate with your colleagues. It is in the sharing of dilemmas, projects, techniques that we are all able to grow in our practice. I think that even at traditional schools, if administration along with a critical mass of teachers are on board, it is possible.

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