Different types of authentic audience (and a compelling use of Facebook)

One of my favorite education quotes is from Lisa Nielsen:

“21st Century educators don’t say ‘hand it in'; they say ‘publish it’.”


Based on university library borrowings in the UK, the average readership of a PhD thesis is 1.8 (according to Stephen Heppell). That’s got to be a deflating statistic for anyone who has poured years of blood sweat and tears into a thesis! But most secondary science students produce their work for an audience of just 1.

Over the last few years I have had my students publish their work online in a number of different ways. I’ve had students publish podcasts on Podomatic, iPadio and iTunes. I’ve had them publish blogs to WordPress, Edublogs and Class Blogmeister, post research findings on Wikipedia and had them publish videos and screencasts to YouTube. All these things are great and give students a more authentic audience than writing their work on paper and handing it in to their teacher. But this semester I had students who made screencasts publish them on their facebook wall.

When students publish their work on facebook, the audience is significantly different to what comprises their audience when they post it on these other sites.

When students publish their work on a class blog, screencast.com, podomatic.com or even iTunes, it can be seen by others in the class and by me, and although theoretically anyone in the world can see it, realistically, very few will. So while this is more authentic than doing their work on paper, it’s still a very small audience of classmates – and not significantly different to making a poster and pinning it up in the classroom.

In stark contrast, when students publish their work to YouTube or Wikipedia, their audience is larger and in some ways more authentic as anyone viewing the work is doing so as a result of an Internet search. But on these sites, my students are anonymous (I require them to create usernames that won’t identify them and thereby compromise their privacy). So while they have an audience of hundreds, it is an anonymous crowd.

But when a student publishes his or her work to their facebook wall, the audience is large and comprised entirely of people who are significant to the student. There is no hiding behind a mask of anonymity. The authenticity of this audience, I think was illustrated to me by the trepidation with which my students approached this task. Students who have become accustomed to publishing work online in various ways, were visibly nervous and had to dig deep to find the courage to put their work in a place which was so authentic for them.

5 thoughts on “Different types of authentic audience (and a compelling use of Facebook)

  1. This was a great post Andrew. Encouraged me in many ways. By the way, you have been so overdue in posting on your blog…I have been checking in regularly to read of your next learning realisation.
    First, I had watched the Stephen Heppell video this week and proceeded to read half of his blog posts on his site. I REALLY get what he is saying and doing. I will email you one of his writings in particular that could most likely figure significantly in the work I do next year.
    I have also been considering how I can use Facebook to bring a greater relevance to my student’s learning journey. One of my students who is very low in literacy, on his own volition, joined Facebook last week and the class hovered around him to help learn the basics.
    Of course with the block on Facebook at TAFE this had to be done on my personal MacBook with wireless dongle.
    It was precious to watch.

  2. I too have missed your posts. We have just started our year in September here in Canada, and I have been hoping for a new posts for a while. You do not disappoint. Keep up the good work. You inspire many to expand their horizons and the horizons of their students and colleagues.

  3. This is very interesting Andrew, as you are right, it is a very different audience to the usual ‘work’ submission that most students would do. I am interested in the feedback or comments that students might have received when they did post to FB. Was there anything that encouraged them or challenged them? What sort of work did they post? Was it opinion or discussion based or more factual? As we know part of sharing and posting is based on the responses and comments that engender further discussion and given that this might be an audience that might approach it from a different perspective I wonder what might have ensued.

  4. Pingback: December 2010 « S.A. E-Learning Newsletter

  5. Pingback: Publishing work online: options and audiences « heck yeah ICT

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