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It is important to distinguish between authentic learning activities and what are, in fact, exercises. An exercise is always in support of something else. It is an opportunity to practice a skill or demonstrate that certain competencies have been acquired before moving on. Authentic Active Learning activities create polished products which have value in themselves. The product has usually been created for sharing or publishing and the student has “polished” it for presentation. In other words it is an end-product that can stand on its own.
Traditionally student work is submitted to the teacher for grading. This means that the quality of the product will only be known to those two people. This confidentiality reduces the incentive that most of us experience when we know our peers will see the fruits of our labor. This eliminates an important incentive to do our best work. It also implies that creating the product is only an exercise which does not connect to any reality outside the classroom.
Preparing work to be shared with others also creates demands on the student’s communication abilities. Thus the activity becomes multi-dimensional, reinforcing additional skills.
It is not necessary to limit the potential audience to the student’s classroom peers. Current technology permits going outside the walls in order to reach an audience in other contexts—other schools, other parts of the world. The bigger the context the more the incentive for the student to put a significant effort into the work and the greater the pride of ownership that comes from good results.
Student publishing is very important for Active Learning teachers. (more…)