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The Shifting Power of the Online Audience

There seems to be quite a discussion going on in the ed-tech blogosphere about the role of audience in motivating students to share their best work through technology. It seems to have started with a tweet from Chris Lehmann, the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He said:

When having audience is no longer novel, simply having one is no longer motivating. We still must help kids have something powerful to say.

As someone who has covered ed-tech for the past couple of years, I've often heard educators talk about having access to a global audience as one of the main reasons why it's so important to tap into the Internet and make use of Web 2.0 tools. Those connections with students all over the world are motivating, I've been told. But Lehmann says—and many of those who posted responses to his tweet seem to agree—that the idea of connecting with a global audience is somewhat of a novelty, and, as that wears off, student motivation may wane as well.

In his post about why audience matters, Dean Shareski breaks down the different types of audiences that posting a video on YouTube, for example, may attract and what effect each group of viewers could have on a student. On the Remote Access blog, Clarence Fisher weighs in by analyzing a shift in the way his students view global audiences and why it's important to share content online regardless of how motivated students are to reach those in other places.

Jeff Utrecht, from The Thinking Stick blog, added yet another type of audience to Shareski's breakdown in this blog post, and finally, David Warlick posted this entry in his 2 cents blog about the power of conversation and creating a network of ideas between students.

This is a fascinating discussion that touches on the power of the Web as well as the struggle to harness a tool for education that is continually evolving. Have you had any experience with this phenomenon? How important is audience to your students, and what types of audiences motivate them most?

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