Thursday, May 23, 2013

Authentic Voice, Authentic Audience

I've been spoilt. Oh so very spoilt in so many ways.

The other day someone asked me "What would you say my job is?". I gave a really honest answer. "I really don't know. I'm told my view on your position is so outside the norm because I've seen you go well outside the norm on a regular basis".

The problem with this is that when I say things like "Authentic Voice" and "Authentic Audience" and even, the "learn, create, share" mantra that underpins EVERYTHING in Manaiakalani, I kind of just expect people to get it. It's this great big statement, not due to the words, but more so by the scope on which this is done.

So let's start with Authentic Voice. When I was in Christchurch, going to tech, I had an assignment which involved reading a chapter in a text book and giving an analysis. I was perhaps the most experienced in the subject matter in respect to my peers and argued quite a few of the points and backed up my opinion with analogies and reasons. However, one of my peers was horrified that I would disagree with this obviously superior chapter - and of course, the lecturer would only set this assignment if that's exactly what he wanted us to do and thus agree with.

In other words, her voice was based not on what she wanted to say, but on what she thought the lecturer wanted to hear.

So even us adults (she was 30 at the time) get it wrong. We look out for it. What is the company line? What would the person rather be saying? etc. We read between the lines. Are we always aware when our voice isn't authentic?

And in education, you can almost guarantee, the voice will not be authentic. How often does a teacher say something along the lines of "I want you to write a thank you card to the parents who helped out with our field trip. You might want to say something about how they helped you and kept you safe". And you can almost guarantee that you'll end up with 24 odd cards with the wording "Thank you for helping me and keeping me safe".

We seek out an authentic voice with shared experiences for assessment. "Write about our trip to the zoo".

But what's generally missing, is getting the kids to write about something that means something to them. Some real contextual relevance to their own situation and perspective. So the rather boring term "Authentic Voice" has these rather interesting underpinnings.

Instead of writing having to be a chore, it becomes an outlet for expression.

Which brings us to Authentic Audience. Authentic Audience makes an Authentic Voice a transformative experience. Sharing things with a genuinely interested audience, and knowing that ANYONE around the world may be reading your work ('s visit to the Manaiakalani cluster was in no small part due to the kid's blogs), applies a natural pressure. Who are your audience? It's suddenly not just a teacher, or the very few people who might visit the halllowed halls of a school, but ANYONE! EVERYONE! Is the content appropriate? Is it language that is being used relatable to the audience?

And if you've got people reading what you're writing and are genuinely interested in what you're writing, then the urge to write more is strong. Your views are being respected... The disenfranchised are connected at a global level and their views are out there for anyone to see.

How could you introduce this in other schools? I think anything outside the norm could be documented by the kids online. Show other schools how they might integrate special programmes and the effect it has on the kids and their learning. Suddenly, those things that would be nice but don't find their way into the "3 Rs" (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic - who ever decided to call them the 3 Rs needs more work on their writing) can be implemented with the justification that it's engaging them and can be used for encouraging writing via blogging, or oratory skills via podcasts. Research for these things outside the norm for reading. Any math is a natural part of what's being done (providing a context) thus practical applications explored.

I don't think it'll be all that long until anyone trying the above will find it being implemented in classes as a part of everyday learning. The important thing here is to make sure the authentic voice isn't being censored or restricted (unless it causes harm i.e. insult to people). The idea here is for children to get engaged with writing and expression.

Who would have thought? Something that sounds as boring as Authentic Voice or Authentic Audience being transformative? Can Augmented Reality be that transformative?

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