Adults & Student Presentations

June 24, 2009

I just finished reading Jim Moulton’s blog post, “Learners Thrive with a Public Audience” ( In it he recounts being invited to attend some middle school student science presentations @ Bates College in Maine–part of a project where college & middle school students conducted scientific research. Moulton’s observation was that the students were intent on rising to occasion because the audience  included 5 adults–2 known to them and 3 total strangers. At the end of the post, Moulton poses the questions, “How do we get other adults into your classroom to be part of our kids’ audiences? Or do you take the kids’ work on the road?”

I started twittering about this because it got me interested. Here are some of my ideas:

  1. When planning presentations–from the outset–include an expectation of adult invitees so that students know that their work will be viewed by more than their peers. This means that the presentations should have value beyond the classroom. The key here is planning the activity and trying to contact the right audience.
  2. Many adults might attend just because the presenters are related or friends, but who else would be interested in these types of projects? Well, determine what type of project it is–if it’s history and local, do you have local historians, curators, archivists who might be interested? What about members of the local Legion or other veteran’s association? Is it a political issue? How about the local political parties or politicos? Is it science? Are their local research laboratories, salmon enhancement groups, water-quality community organizations, branches of local government who might be interested? Is it literary? Maybe some local experts at a college, some writers or author aficionados? Is it a school issue like bullying? Invite the administrators & school board–other parents, etc. At my previous teaching position, there was a list in the copy room of parents & community members willing to come in and support classroom activities–e.g. tutorials–in specific areas of their expertise. Why not create a similar list for potential audience members?
  3. Many local newspapers, magazines, community TV channels have websites today. Could the student presentations be incorporated–especially if related to recent or upcoming items? Could the teacher contact the local newspapers, magazines or channels to see if there are any relevant feature items in which the class might participate–or augment?
  4. Go global? Take the information or the show online–if appropriate–but the teacher must ensure that there are appropriate media releases and also where appropriate the students identities are kept secure. This means that someone viewing the project on the internet cannot identify or locate the students.

Some considerations:

  1. Does your school or district have a policy around adult visitors to a classroom? For example, do they need a police records check to make sure they are safe to be around children? You’ll need to ensure that this aspect is reasonably covered.
  2. If going online, have you sufficiently protected student identities? Do you have media releases? Could a person “find” the participants if they were to be kept anonymous?   One of my EDTE611 students recently found an animated video that some Irish students made for a class.  It was well done and provided something in the “zone of proximal development” for elementary students to see as an example. Through the available information either in the posting of the data in YouTube or via the title frames/credits in the video, I pointed out that someone could  pinpoint the school on Google Maps, could have some first names–some with last initials–the students’ grade level at the time of the project and could determine the current grade level. This person could also collect names of some trusted adults from the credits and would be able to discuss the project with them. (I had more specific information here on the video, the school and the teacher—but prefer to refer to them in more general terms for their safety.) My point is that in posting the material online, there is enough data for someone to possibly track down & identify these students—without visuals of the students themselves by chatting up some students coming/going to the specific school.

Whenever student work is shared, you as the teacher, have the ethical and moral responsibility to maintain their health & safety as it relates to their work in school. Be sure that anything you share not only has media releases, but also is shared in a way to protect students in developmentally appropriate ways–e.g. K versus grade 5, and grade 5 versus grade 12 or post-secondary.