Going beyond the school as an audience

I came across the fascinating story of Kelly Stewart today. Growing up through a difficult childhood in a remote part of Australia, she taught herself various tech skills, including programming, using various sources on the internet that fueled both her knowledge and her imagination. This week she starts working at Google.

The piece reminded me of various articles – such as this, this, this and this – that advocate for students sharing their work with an audience that is beyond the classroom, teacher or school community. In my context from within the Computing classroom, I have found incredible benefits of students publishing podcasts, videos, screen casts and such of their work. Some of them include:

  • Increased confidence levels over the concepts being covered since they are now in a leading position.
  • Better understanding of the concepts themselves – to learn something, teach it. And teaching uses both structure and planning.
  • Improved communication skills since they realize they are catering to a much wider, potentially diverse, audience.
  • And perhaps most importantly : increased sense of empathy.

Students coming into the Computer Science program, specially in international programs like the IB, often come with a lot of diversity not just in their cultural backgrounds but also their levels of mastery with computational thinking. This has allowed various possibilities to emerge in terms of group work, collaborative activities, differentiated approaches, tiered lessons where students either work solo or in small teams to accomplish tasks. The knowledge gathered in such a setting can be of high quality given the diverse nature of both the discussion and student agency. Content produced in such a high performance atmosphere would, hence, have lot of value if it reached an audience beyond the classroom.

Going back to my initial reference to Kelly’s story of struggle and triumph – being able to share work on a public space allows for millions of Kellys to engage with it. Having the privilege to work and live in comfortable, safe, well structured and well funded schools only means there has to be a constant effort to reach out to a wider audience that may not be as fortunate. The capacity this creates to share the resources beyond the school walls is pretty powerful. While the culture of creating curated content for in-house newsletters and mailing groups is commonplace, getting kids to share their code, for instance, with the world allows for those lesser privileged Kellys to gain more insights about a topic from yet another perspective.

As we are well ahead in the era of content creation and not just content consumption on the web, this additional step emerging from all our classes holds much promise. I, for one, certainly intend to explore this area more.