II – The Learning Process: It should be noted that in
this example there is clearly some overlap between the first two phases.
their increased love for and understanding of Giant Pandas the class
began developing their advertising campaign. The chief goal was
to develop a local advertising campaign that would both make the community
more knowledgeable about Giant Pandas and create interest in visiting
the Georgia Panda Project at Zoo Atlanta. During phase II the
students developed their advertising plan. They chose a four-pronged
approach to delivering their message. Once these four goals (advertising
projects) were identified, the students organized themselves into small
groups based on their interests in a specific project(s) and their abilities
to help accomplish the project goal. The students then set out
acquiring and developing the materials and technical skills needed for
each advertising project. Initially, these work groups were well
defined, but as the students diligently worked a synergy developed and
individual students moved among groups offering assistance and expertise
following are brief descriptions of the four advertising projects.
Examples of these projects may be accessed online at http://www.arches.uga.edu/~cmims/panda.
- A website was designed to educate online visitors about and create
enthusiasm for Giant Pandas and the Georgia Panda Project. The website
URL was included in all of the advertising, and served as a common
reference database to which everyone could be "pointed.”
- Flyers - Thousands of flyers inviting the citizens of Athens to meet Zoo Atlanta’s
pandas, Lin-Lin and Yang Yang, were distributed around town and the
university. This project was viewed as warm, friendly, "inviting"
advertising. The flyers included a picture and the names of
the bears. No “educational” information was included.
Ad - A 30 second television promotion that aired on the local community
access station was created. The ad included numerous images of Lin-Lin
and Yang Yang and information about the plight of pandas as an endangered
species. The hope was that people would be touched and/or intrigued
by the pictures and information and wish to visit the pandas.
- Local businesses and organizations made our Panda Pamphlets available
to the public. These pamphlets provided an introduction to Giant Pandas,
information about their declining numbers, and the goals of the Georgia
The Take Away: All of the features of authentic learning
mentioned in the first phase continue to be present during this phase.
Students continue to be engaged with real-world problems and situations
that motivate them to seek to understand about a wide variety of subjects.
Another characteristic illustrated in this phase is students’ engagement
with higher-order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation).
The students simultaneously took all their information about pandas
and their knowledge about technology, analyzed and interpreted it, and
used this to help them design their advertising campaign. Students
were involved in these higher-level activities by their own actions.
Their drive to be successful caused them to push themselves in these
relation to the aims of this technology course, the students were involved
in a wide variety of learning goals. All four of the advertising
projects involved word processing, graphics, images and basic design
principles. Each project also involved students in a set of experiences
that were unique to that project’s aim. For instance, the group
developing the television ad needed a much greater level of expertise
in issues related to visual design and mass media. They gained
this knowledge with the assistance of faculty and students in the university’s
communications department as well as from volunteers from a local advertising
firm. These students then shared their new expertise as they helped
the other groups improve their projects. This acquisition and
sharing of knowledge was present throughout this phase of the experience
and greatly enhance students’ mastery of the course’s goals.
Phase III – Communication: After all the advertising
projects are completed, the students kick-off their ad campaign.
The flyers are handed out, placed on cars, and tacked on bulletin boards
all over town. The pamphlets are placed in business and organizations
that have volunteered to distribute them and the television commercial
begins playing on the local community access channels. The flyers,
pamphlets and commercials all direct community members to visit the
newly launched website. The students are proud of their finished
products and enjoy the chance to “showcase” them during the campaign.
They find that, repeatedly, they are given the opportunity to share
their learning experiences with others as a result of the public advertising.
The Take Away: The primary element of authentic learning
that can be demonstrated in this phase is that students need the opportunity
to share their finished projects with an audience outside of the classroom.
The literature offers varying degrees to which this should be done,
but the key point is that students should find the entire experience
and their finished project relevant to the real-world. This ability
to transfer their new knowledge and skill beyond the walls of the classroom
and make practical application of it is the most powerful characteristic
of authentic learning.
objective of this class is for students to learn to integrate technology
into the learning process. This has been demonstrated in numerous
ways over the course of this learning experience. One example
includes an information database that the students created to help them
keep record of each student’s expertise with technology. As an
advertising project group encountered a problem that none of them could
solve, they would consult this database to find a class member that
possessed the needed expertise. This database sprang out of, what
the students’ viewed, a necessity. It was not an extrinsically
imposed requirement, but rather something the students thought would
help assist in their experience.
Overall Take Away: There are some aspects of authentic
learning that are best illustrated by looking at this entire experience.
Throughout this process learning was student driven with the teacher
acting only as a guide or coach. Inquiry and scaffolding were
used as students constructed their understanding of the information
and there were always ample resources available. The final feature
that has been illustrated is the opportunity for social discourse among
the students throughout the learning process. These students engaged
in whole group meetings to develop the advertising plan, in small group
discussions about individual projects, and countless one-on-one conversations
about numerous aspects of this experience.
teachers that are considering using authentic learning in their own
classrooms I offer some practical advice.
- You must think
like a coach. Authentic instruction calls you to a much
different role than traditional teaching methods require. The
students are now in control of their learning and it is important
that you not take that power away from them.
- Bring earplugs.
Realize that your classroom environment will drastically change.
Students will be actively working, participating in discussions, hunting
for information, and enjoying the entire process. Desks will
have to be moved around and students will need to have freedom to
move about the room. It will become important for you to develop
the ability to distinguish between “energetic learning” and other
- Ease your
way into it. Perhaps undertaking a two-week authentic experience
in your initial effort is not a good idea…for you or for your students.
All of you will need to become acclimated to this new process.
- Get some help.
There are quality examples and resources to help you design authentic
instruction, both at the bookstore and on the Internet. Use
their ideas and take advantage of any advice they offer. It
might also be a good idea to have adult volunteers come into your
classroom and assist you initially. The students will have many
questions and needs, not just related to the lesson, but also as they
begin to adjust to this new process. An “extra set of hands”
could be helpful in dealing with this.
- You are learning,
too. Think of your first attempt at implementing authentic
instruction in your classroom as a learning experience for you.
has long been a discrepancy between the traditional process of learning
in schools and the process of learning in the real-world. As a
result, students have been unable to see any real-life connection with
what they learn in school. Authentic learning offers the opportunity
for teachers to bring the outside world into the classroom. In
doing so, students can begin creating those connections. This
will empower them to transfer their knowledge and skill learned at school
into their everyday lives outside of school, thus making the value of
learning much more important to them.