Students presenting in the public space presents both challenges and benefits. The potential benefits to having students produce public work are immense. By having students publish work in the public domain, students are “pushed’ to produce better products. They get practice with new ways of interacting and communicating and build their online portfolio. As a public school teacher, I have also heard a lot of skepticism on the benefits of having students produce work for the public space. Most of the concern centers on issues of student safety and a potential time drain for both students and teachers when entering the online environment. While these drawbacks are real, most of the risks can be greatly reduced through better planning and preparation of students. I believe that the advantage of having students produce work in the online space outweighs the potential risks.
One of the primary drawbacks to online student work is the idea of the negative digital footprint. Will students leave behind digital footprints that may hurt them in the future? Is student information more available to people or companies that would exploit that information? Both of these questions are valid, if perhaps somewhat exaggerated. One of the critical pieces to creating a safe and productive space for students to engage in online work is to provide the necessary education on understanding digital citizenship before students make work public. For K-12 students it is imperative to build the skills and awareness necessary to protect their digital identity and understand the responsibility that comes with a digital footprint. I would suggest that having a deliberate digital citizenship curriculum and expectations are critical. Any type of public presentation will add to the student’s digital footprint, however, the creation of a positive digital footprint is possible and desirable in today’s environment.
The other major concern is that online work may result in a time drain. Many students will experience frustration with online work, because of technical difficulties and lack of understanding. There is also the problem of access. Many students do not have access to internet outside of class and this limits what they can do. Monitoring classroom discussions and activities outside of class can also add a significant burden to teachers. These potential problems can be lessened through good planning and do not outweigh the benefits of public work. Once again, by practicing with students the process of using online tools to make work public and setting clear expectations can lesson time costs dealing with these issues later on. I have experienced this set of issues first hand with students, in my one-to-one high school classroom. While offering students a vast pool of knowledge, access to the internet also has the potential for distraction. This is where it is critical to monitor and redirect student work when possible. Creating high expectations for online work by providing positive examples and nonexamples for students to critique are ways to scaffold the products you would like to have students create.
The greatest benefit that publicizing student work may have is to improve the level of work produced by the student. The theory behind this is that students will feel the pressure of peer review and public comment and spend more time or energy to put forth their best work. According to Drenan (2012) “Students realise how high the bar of public domain writing is. This can be initially intimidating, but that removes all apathy or sense of the humdrum.’ While I believe this can be true for many students , there are also some that will not feel the pressure of public presentation and produce work that is weak or undeveloped. This should be seen as an opportunity for growth. The online portfolio for student work is a good opportunity to document student growth. With many universities looking at online work in determining acceptance, it is necessary for many students to begin to develop their positive online portfolio in high school. Another benefit to online work, is that it opens a new method of communication and interaction up for students that may not participate in a traditional face-to-face environment. It allows introverted students and those that typically like to think through their responses more time and opportunity to contribute. By setting response expectations, the teacher can level the discussion, so no one student can dominate it and the teacher has a better formative assessment of what the whole class understands.
Student online work in the public space can propel students to produce their best work and give them a venue to observe personal growth. Public presentation can create opportunities for students to share ideas with other students and the greater public in ways that were previously impossible. Drawbacks to public presentation are overstated and with careful planning and high expectations can be minimized.
Drennan, M. (2012). Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/jul/17/students-should-be-blogging