Friday, October 31, 2008

Analysing your Audience

Analysing your Audience - no degree required!
Most people who go to the effort of developing an online public space, whether adult or child, begin to develop curiosity about whether anyone is looking at it. And if they are, then who are these people and why do they choose to view this page out of all the millions on the internet. It seems to be a pretty common experience that the first time someone mentions that they read your page or blog you experience a feeling of surprise. Did you? Why did you do that? And I think that many of us who have started up a page with a particular audience in mind have discovered that that there are a number of people outside our target audience who are also interested.
So how do you find out about your audience?
It is dead easy actually. In a previous post I wrote about Feedjit and the graphic way it alerts us to who has been on the web page - and gives us a few details along the way. But if you really want some information for free, then Google Analytics is a must have. It's one of those tools you sign up for and you get a piece of code to place on your web pages. This code sends information back to Google about about your visitors - things like where they come from, what site they were on when they came, how many times they have visited your pages, how long they spent there, what they were searching for if they came from a search engine etc.
It is not as difficult or geeky to do as you might think, and lots of tutorials are available on YouTube if you can't follow Google's own instructions!
Once it becomes active you visit your Google Analytics account and discover more data than most of us could possibly want (unless our web page is part of our business). You can export data in a variety of formats, incorporate it with Google Earth, and get reports sent to you or anyone you choose. And if you are a teacher working with students on a website or blog you have a wealth of data available for lots of statistical analysis fun.
It should come with a warning though - this analysis stuff can become addictive!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Authentic Audience

We use the term "Authentic Audience" a lot when defining what our Manaiakalani cluster is about. We talk about our students having an authetic audience for their writing and for the digital learning objects they produce from their writing. It is at the heart of our vision statements defining what we are about. One of the ways we are endeavouring to improve the literacy outcomes of our decile 1 students, many of whom are from non Engish speaking backgrounds, is to motivate them to write by helping them establish an authentic audience for their writing.
I was pondering this as I prepared one of my presentations for ULearn08 recently. As I was looking through my slides a discussion popped up on Twitter briefly about the use of this term. It is not something we 'carelessly fling around' as we describe what we are setting out to achieve with our students.

We have a very simple definition and a deliberate plan of attack to help students grow one.

An authentic audience is people who choose to listen to you.
And if they pay to listen to you then I guess they are even more authentic!
By this definition most audiences for student literacy outcomes in particular at school are not authentic; they are captive audiences. The class who is forced to listen while a student reads out a story, the assembly of students who have to watch what is happening on the stage, the staff who have to listen to the principal at a staff meeting...

But when we start talking about their work published on television, an area I started working in a decade ago, or the podcasts/movies/blogs etc published on the web - then we are talking about an authentic audience. This audience has the power of the remote or the mouse to surf on the second they lose interest. They are an authentic audience. And if they linger long enough to leave some feedback or a trace of their presence then they are a powerfuly authentic audience.
Last year when I had the opportunity to research the impact of the KPE podcast on student learning the survey responses over and over referred to the significance of knowing people were choosing to listen to them as a motivator for the reading and writing they needed to do to create a podcast episode. And it should not be surprising to us in this YouTube (subtitled 'Broadcast Yourself') age that the global and unknown audience was the most important to the students in the research sample.
There is a lot teachers can do to help our students reach an authentic audience with their writing or the digital learning objects they produce. We have co-constructed a pathway over a number of years which builds a foundation for this to occur. Within the school there is the daily television show where they can begin to experience an interested audience, though that is not an authentic one by our definition. The next stage, parents and community, are more of a proud audience - but they are definitely the beginning of an authentic audience. It is when their work appears on public televsion, on iTunes and on their blogs that students really begin to experience this. People who have chosen to listen to them.
If you haven't left a message of encouragement for a kid recently, start today. There are a number of student blogs on the sidebar to the left and oodles more out there. Take up a 30 day challenge. For thirty days visit 30 different student blogs and leave them a comment. You could change their lives - or at least their attitude to literacy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Power of Collaboration

Last year the Time4 Online conference here in New Zealand explored collaborative online learning as one of the themes. I had the opportunity to contribute a workshop called "KPE - An example of collaborative online learning". One of the points I made during this was that although student collaboration plays a significant part during the KPE podcasting process, most of the collaboration occurs offline. Particularly when compared with the experiences we read about Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis' students having in their Flat Earth projects, or with the ways our students participate in the Rock Our World projects. During 2007 one of the collaborative opportunities the Pt England School podcasters had was to work with a group of students from Stanley Bay School in Devonport, Auckland. Their teacher, Stephen Grady, brought a group across to visit so they could learn from the PES students how to create a podcast and the learning experience was wonderful on both sides.
Recently the kids from Pt England have had the opportunity to pay a return visit as the kids from Stanley Bay have become New Zealand authors by publishing their own book of short stories - and KPE is about podcasting NZ authors. So I had the fun last week of taking four students to see how the other half lives - or at least goes to school- and record a podcast with them about their book.
It was quite an experience for the students from a Decile 1a school to travel across the harbour bridge to this Decile 10 school and spend the morning there. The school was a warm and inviting place and the friendliness and hospitality of the students was outstanding. They quickly made the four Pasifika visitors feel quite at home and after showing them around the school they all went out to play with the rest of the school. After morning tea, recording the podcast was easily accomplished and promises have been made to collaborate further in the future.
The discussions in the car on the way home were most interesting as the kids had all kinds of positive observations to make about their experience. With the constant and imperative focus on literacy in our school and cluster it was interesting that one of the stand-outs for them was recognizing how extremely articulate the SBS youngsters are. "Their sentences are full of big words", "They have a wide vocabulary" and "They talk like dictionaries" emerged from the discussion.
But the one that really had me chuckling (and recognising the different worlds we inhabit) was this.... "They even talk like that in the playground"
Long live collaboration!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Google Font

the text you want using the colourful Google font online. Simply go to and type in the word(s) you want to googlify, click create logo, and it is all done for you. Download and use it as you please. Thanks to Ken Shelton from the GTA for this tip.