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Five Steps for Connecting Students to a Global Audience

By teaching students media literacy and giving them opportunities to present to a global audience, students can be immersed in the conversation of learning and the building of global partnerships. This piece is written by Jennifer Williams, a literacy specialist, professor, and member of the International Literacy Association Board of Directors; and Don Goble, an award-winning Multimedia Instructor at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, Missouri.

Join Jennifer and Don on Twitter for #GlobalEdChat this Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 8pm ET. They will answer your questions and provide further ideas and resources.

by guest bloggers Jennifer Williams and Don Goble

Living in a connected world, students of the digital age know the value of communicating across geographic and cultural boundaries. Our students today participate within communicative networks where the sharing of stories and experience is possible through video, audio, text, and visual representations of thought and expression. To support them as they navigate new digital landscapes, we must continually seek ways to empower our students with agency and ownership over ideas by connecting them with global audiences.

As communication forms in our world today are expanding to not only include reading and writing, but also listening, speaking, viewing, and visually representing perspectives and ideas, there is a great need to extend learning past classroom walls. These new literacies are transforming instructional practice, and complex digital spaces are enabling students to communicate for a variety of purposes. In multimedia lessons, students can assume multiple roles and viewpoints and, through a synthesis of modes, meaning can be constructed within socially placed contexts of global partnerships of peers. In our experience of bringing our students to the world and the world to our students, we have found that all voices can be amplified through opportunities of connecting to global audiences. Here is our five-step process of connecting students to a global audience:


Step 1: Research a Global Idea
As citizens of the world, our students are constantly seeking sources of inspiration and ways to think critically to find local-to-global connections. They examine the world in search of problems of global significance, and then develop plans for research and investigation. During this phase, it is critical to document the process of ideation and expansion of thought. All forms of media can be used together to create one unified idea, so we must encourage personalized decisions and creative expression. 

 Put it into Practice: Step 1

Create a Google Doc and list as many international and national headlines as you can: a major United States Presidential election, social justice, immigration, policing in the US, global warming, water supplies—the ideas are endless. Stories are everywhere. How could you localize these topics? Write down as many ideas as possible.

student at whiteboard.png

Identify local experts that could speak to your main topics and that would understand these global stories. Examine the staff in your own building, family, and relatives. Brainstorm and research local universities, colleges, businesses, physicians, politicians, athletes, historians, media, and others in your community who may have a comment or opinion about these headlines. Write down as many names of people as you can think of or find through research.

Send out tweets, emails, and actually call these individuals on the phone to see if they would be available for a story.

Create a possible production schedule for when these stories could take place.

Complete a planning sheet, and who knows! You may have a story to begin working on.


Step 2: Discover Ways to Create Media Projects that Connect to Learning
Media projects allow students to move beyond simply obtaining and curating information. As creators of content, students can deepen learning to levels of application, integration, and authentic communication. Students prepared with global ideas for investigation and reporting should next select the modalities of expression in which they want to engage. Through various media projects, students can connect content area learning, and they can discover ways to question, communicate, and create across multiple formats and platforms.

 Put it into Practice: Step 2
Mobile devices have democratized the media creation process. As educators, this is an amazing opportunity to train our students of all ages to become aware of the world around them and report the news from their community. Become a Citizen Journalist is an iTunesU course that provides students and educators with the necessary techniques and skills to use the power of an iOS device in their hands to successfully produce a mobile journalism news package—in any class, for any subject. 

Through interviewing experts to editing still images and video with an iPad, we all now can become responsible citizen journalists. This short video explains it well: Make a film with iPad.

Step 3: Create Media through the Use of Multiple Modes of Communication
With clear direction for content and connections to learning, students are prepared to create with media. Media projects can allow for digital storytelling and process-based expression through a collection of images, audio, text, and animation. Collections become digital artifacts—documentation of understandings and personal interpretations of experience—ready for sharing both within local and global contexts with an audience of the world. 


Put it into Practice: Step 3
It is important for students to investigate the issues that impact their community. Again, stories are everywhere. Whether it's politics, social justice, or understanding the importance of digital citizenship, digital storytelling is a powerful way for students of the world to connect and encompass all of their literacies—reading, writing, media—into one powerful product.  

In the classroom, we must build on students' visual literacies. Whether it's a personal profile story for students telling the world iAm or leveraging the power of Ernest Hemingway's Six Word Stories through video to enhance writing and learn important media literacy skills, multimodal communication is an engaging practice to reach all learners. 

Step 4: Publishing for the World
After an iterative process of drafting, editing, revising, and finalizing, student work is prepared for publication. There are many digital platforms available that can serve as repositories to store and archive all types of media and digital artifacts. Blogs can also be added to allow for expansion of thought and experience through personal narratives and reflection. 


Put it into Practice: Step 4
In Don Goble's multimedia class, students produce their own public website full of community news, video stories, weekly polls, photos, and student blogs. Students also created the Global Student News Network which has been highly impactful. 

global audience.png

The class studies the weekly analytics of their work as well, to understand who their audience is and where on the site their audience is spending time reviewing their content. In education, analyzing data is a powerful process, and the end result is not a product. Therefore if the numbers are low, Don's class discusses the "why" and then works towards developing a plan to gain a wider audience. However, an average of over 2,000 page views a week offers Don's class authentic and positive information. 

Step 5: Distribute to a Global Audience
With media projects complete and published, students can look to now share with global audiences. Global audiences open up student work to not only an increased number of viewpoints for expansion of thought and discussion, but also allowing for multiple viewpoints from diverse cultures, generations, and backgrounds. Authentic audiences of the world can bring about diverse views that before were virtually out of reach of most students. Through extension of ideas within connected global networks, students can collaborate with audiences of the world and add to the cultural richness and beauty of a body of work. 


Put it into Practice: Step 5

Don's students are empowered to take initiative of their own learning through their website creations, tweeting updates, and promoting their work on Facebook. Behind the scenes stories are captured and shared on Snapchat.

student with celphone.png

By using social media, students are allowed to access the tools the professionals use, while gaining important digital citizenship skills. By allowing student access to social media, global connections are developed and students truly understand that they are accountable for the reach of their voice. Life skills of communication, accountability, responsibility, relationships, and teamwork are developed, surpassing any lesson or curriculum standard.

Social media sites require students to be 13 years or older to access, so if students are under the age of 13, teachers could create class social media accounts and manage the content for the students. By collaborating as a class on social media with our younger learners, the process and experience remains, allowing students the opportunity to still express their voice, while connecting to their global society. 

When we allow students opportunities to create global projects, the world becomes smaller, networks begin to grow, and authentic learning occurs.

Connect with Don, Jennifer, and Heather on Twitter. 

Photo Credit: Don Goble

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