Authenticity. This is a word that I say and write often when working with my graduate students. We read articles, discuss effective literacy instruction, plan for and reflect on literate activities of small groups of students and whole class lessons. As we work together, we focus on authenticity in our teaching: making instructional and classroom decisions that create readers, not 'completers' of projects.
In one of my past posts, Close Reading is NOT a Regimented Protocol, I lamented how close reading was becoming a required product of reading, rather than a process of looking at a text with different lens and perspectives. As I read from Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3 - 8 by Bass and Sibberson with the #cpberPD Google Group this week, I was again reminded of how we often make unintentional decisions that actually take students farther and farther away from real reading. As a teacher educator, I work to ensure graduate students understand this dilemma and then work to change it.
I provide experiences to mimic the conditions of the classroom: choice in their reading, various methods of responding to texts and digital means of connecting with others. Franki’s example of working with iMovie was a critical one for me. I often require my graduate students to respond to texts in particular, required ways to give them experiences and opportunities with digital tools that can enhance their own learning, as well as their students. Yet, in doing so, I am actually modeling very inauthentic behavior since I have required a particular act and a particular product of thinking, both of which contradict what real readers do unless they have chosen to do so based on their needs and context of reading and learning. This was powerful for me. I have a responsibility to teach my graduate students digital learning tools, but I need to ‘walk the walk’ and model how to do so authentically. Rather than require that everyone completes a Glogster as a reading response, I need to teach my students through these methods and provide a wide variety of them throughout my courses and professional development. Authenticity comes when the message and the audience are at the forefront, not the tool or the class assignment.
I should not focus on teaching the technology.I need to teach the content through technology instead. Then, teachers can choose the right tool for them based on their own experiences, the texts they chose to read and the life context surrounding them. I give them the power to choose and become intentional in their own learning. Lane and Sibberson (2015) state, “For students to make purposeful decisions, they need a variety of options. If everyone reads the same article or visits the same website each day, if we tell students which links are important or conduct all the searches, student intentionality is limited and we are doing the work for them” (.p.49). This same concepts applies in our work teaching teachers so they can see the power of intentional learning that comes with authenticity. I can then reflect with them on how they can replicate this in the classroom. Such power!