After reading ‘An Ethic of Excellence’ by Ron Berger I was inspired to try and use his core principles to make a difference in my own school.
One of the core principles that struck me from Berger’s work was his strong belief that ‘to truly engage learners, there needs to be a real audience for their work’. This really rang true for me and took me back to a comment that Julia Skinner (@100word) made about her fantastic work with the 100 word challenge. During a TeachMeet presentation, Julia asked us all ‘how an audience of 1 person (us, the teacher), can be that motivating’? If the work always stays on our desk and never goes any further, we are only just scratching the surface in terms of student motivation to do their best. Julia continues to organise a weekly 100 word challenge to engage students in writing, knowing that they’ll receive ‘real comments’ from ‘real people’ through the power of blogging – hence the increased motivation coming from having a real audience.
In transferring this principle to Woodham Academy I wanted to set up a pilot project that could be easily evaluated to analyse its impact. The Art department at Woodham (@woodhamart) have just started to use social media, and with art work being so visually appealing to a public audience, it was an easy choice to make.
Speaking to the enthusiastic staff in the Art department, it was decided that to create a real audience for the wonderful student work that is produced daily in lessons, we should take to social media. For decades artwork has been displayed in school on notice boards, classroom walls and at the occasional art exhibition. In reality, what is the potential reach of this work? Peers, parents, teachers and maybe the odd family friend? In the grand scheme of things, it is not that significant or particularly motivating. By using popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram we can very quickly widen this audience both in number and location. Digital technology can also make this happen immediately, direct from the classroom, a few seconds after a piece of work has been painstakingly finished.
Two distinct strategies have been employed so far:
1) To publish the very best student work every day direct from the classroom.
Students are told that the staff are looking for great work every day to post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. With large numbers of students and ‘real people’ from around the world following these feeds, you can see the motivation to have your work featured. Then, there is the added attraction of gaining ‘likes’, ‘retweets’ and ‘comments’ – some of which can happen during the lesson, only minutes after the work has been finished and published!
This piece of artwork by a year 9 student was published to Instagram and was spotted by ‘IG Draws’ and was showcased to over 1,000 followers!
2) The second strategy, and probably the most exciting, has been to tweet famous artists.
From time to time classes produce tribute work to famous artists in their style and genre. As many artists are accessible via social media such as Twitter, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for students to gain critique and feedback direct from these famous artists themselves.
Amazingly, within only a few hours, Loui Jover replied to the students as shown in the tweet below:
If having a world famous artist feeding back on your work isn’t motivation, then I don’t know what is! Since that time students from the Art department have also had feedback and critique on their work from Brooklyn, NY artist Dean Russo and New York stencil graffiti artist Paper Monster.
Due to the huge success of this pilot project, the Technology department (@woodhamDT) also decided to see how they could now utilise the power of social media. Students were encouraged to make their products (designed as part of their coursework) public on social media to gain critique from a real audience. One student in year 11 made a gold speaker in the style of the rock band Queen. He then tweeted the official Queen Fan Club and had the picture of his product retweeted to over 12,000 Queen fans across the world – gaining lots of comments in the process!
The success of this project within Woodham Academy can not be underestimated. Students are showing increased levels of motivation and now have a real audience to impress and gain critique and feedback from.
How can you use social media to create an audience for your student’s work and in turn, send their motivation through the roof?