Letting Students Choose the Audience in a Creative Project

I believe in the power of an audience. This is why we chose to add “Launch to the World” to our  LAUNCH Cycle design thinking framework. When students create work for an authentic audience, it feels more relevant. Student engagement skyrockets. They want to put their best foot forward.

However, sometimes this creates unwanted pressure. Sometimes students want to choose a smaller audience. In fact, sometimes students might create work for an audience of one. This is what happens in journaling. Often, the conversation around audience is split between two binary options of “kids should share with world” or “kids should keep away from online spaces.” But what if there’s some nuance that includes both paradigms? What if students keep some work private, share others with classmates, share other work with geeky tribes who share their interests and share other work with the world?

The key question is, “Who gets to choose the audience?” If we want to see creative, inquiry-driven classrooms that value choice and student agency, why not let them decide on the best audience?

Sharing Your Product with an Audience

When engaging in creative work, I often ask students to clarify the audience. In design thinking, this can be in the first stage (where they show empathy toward an audience) or it might be during the Navigate Ideas phase (where they create a plan). Again, they have the opportunity to define the audience when they are ready to launch it to that audience.

This sense of agency is important in other work as well. When students blog, they should decide not only whether it is public or private (or classmates only) but also what type of audience they want to share it with. When they do a science fair project, participation in the public display should be optional.

Sharing the Process with an Audience

While it’s important to share your work with an authentic audience, it’s also powerful to share your journey. We saw this last year with our Global Day of Design. Over 50,000 students throughout the world shared their design projects as they were creating them. It was powerful to watch the hash tag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

This is the idea of sharing your process as well as your finished product. (Incidentally, I love Austin Kleon’s ideas on this in Show Your Work.) My friend Tim Lauer does an amazing job of this as a principal. He’s always sharing the process of what his teachers are doing. He snaps pictures and posts them to Instagram.

On some level, this gets to the heart of social media and publishing. These platforms we use are both content creation tools and communication tools. They are publishing platforms and spaces we inhabit. This mashup between the two mean students are able to focus on a finished work for an authentic audience (whether it’s a local or global audience, a physical product or digital media) but also share their process with an authentic community. It’s not either/or. It’s both. So, when we share our process, we are being social and relational rather than simply publishing work to the world.

However, he also asks permission. He understands that sometimes students want to keep their process private. By asking permission, he is saying, “I respect your agency as a learner.”

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If you’re interested in student choice, empowerment, and ownership, here are some next steps you might want to consider:

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