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8 Ways to Make Student Work Authentic (Part 2)

iLEAD Schools

Both learners and facilitators want their ‘why’ to be an integral part of the learning process. Authentic learning can make learning real and optimal for all learners. Project-based learning practitioners, as well as many educators who take a personalized 21st-century approach, use authenticity as a foundational metric of both pedagogy and success.

How can facilitators make work more authentic? Here are the final four of eight broad areas (see Part 1) that increase authenticity in teaching and learning:

5. Authentic Skills

Historically, teachers have evaluated student success primarily based on what the student knows rather than what the student can do. However, academic norms are shifting. We live in a performance-based world. It’s not enough for students to know something. They need to know how to apply what they know. In recent times, we’ve seen a renewed emphasis on skills acquisition, from technical skills to soft skills. Other authentic skills include those in the areas of technology, literacy and presentation. Project-based learning allows learners to improve across skill areas simultaneously. Facilitators identify skill goals for learners, offering them effective, timely, regular feedback on the development of these skills. Collaboration, or teamwork, is a prized skill in the workforce, and it’s something learners can practice, improve, understand deeply and be assessed on. 

6. Authentic Tech / Authentic Gear

School equipment in the past was fairly standard and didn’t reflect its real-world work counterparts, but learners love to use authentic, professional equipment and the latest technology. In light of the tech revolution, do we really want learners to make posters for their presentations, or would it be more authentic for them to create professional slide presentations complete with images, videos, links, survey tools and resources? Schools should observe what’s happening in industries and offer learners access to relevant tools, such as 3D printers, welders, plasma cutters, high-end cameras, studios, specialized software, maker spaces and STEAM/STEM labs.

7. Authentic Products / Authentic Outcomes

In project-based learning, learners create and share products that the public can experience and critique. The list of authentic products is endless, but they’re similar to what professionals produce as their final work. They’re things learners can make, build, create, design, produce and present. These may be presentations, videos, public service announcements, printed materials, websites, logos, companies, organizations, or events. Learners tend to care about their work more when there are public expectations of their final products. And their final products often combine many authentic elements, such as real-world problems and challenges, technology and gear, audiences and collaborators and more. As educators, we care about the learning process and metacognitive journey that learners will engage in while producing their best public product. 

8. Authentic Competition

Let’s be perfectly clear. Not all projects need to have a competitive component. That said, competition is one avenue that can create more interest and authenticity for learners. Why are athletics, performing arts and other co-curricular endeavors so popular? There are many reasons, but their competitive nature is one of them. Those in the visual arts (video, media, art, graphic design) have long enjoyed participating in various local, regional, national and even international contests. Educators working in Career Technical Education realized long ago that contests, such as Skills Challenge USA, engaged learners with real, relevant and applicable work. Schools can create the contest, or competition, in any authentic learner work. If we’re addressing a school or campus concern, for example, the administration can offer awards or incentives, such as implementing winning solutions. Business and community partners can offer a competitive component, such as awards, scholarships or internships. What if our learner products, presentations and work used Shark Tank–like tactics and allowed public audiences and collaborative partners to choose, as well as invest in, selected final works? There are online contests for almost every imaginable endeavor. Sometimes we just need to include or make our learners aware of these options. 

Wrapping Up

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of ways to encourage authentic learner work. Connecting learning with the real world will become increasingly vital over time. These various paths to authenticity can help solidify that connection.

Posted on June 24, 2020 in iLEAD Digest

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Michael Niehoff

About the Author

Michael Niehoff is a teacher, leader, blogger, learner advocate, and the Education Content Coordinator at iLEAD Schools.
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Effective date: August 29, 2019

Maker Learning Network (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://ileadschools.org/ website (the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from the Service.

Information Collection and Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

We may use your Personal Data to contact you with newsletters, marketing or promotional materials and other information that may be of interest to you. You may opt out of receiving any, or all, of these communications from us by following the unsubscribe link or the instructions provided in any email we send.

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We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

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We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and we hold certain information.

Cookies are files with a small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Other tracking technologies are also used such as beacons, tags and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyse our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service.

Examples of Cookies we use:

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Maker Learning Network uses the collected data for various purposes:

Legal Basis for Processing Personal Data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), Maker Learning Network legal basis for collecting and using the personal information described in this Privacy Policy depends on the Personal Data we collect and the specific context in which we collect it.

Maker Learning Network  may process your Personal Data because:

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Maker Learning Network will retain your Personal Data only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy. We will retain and use your Personal Data to the extent necessary to comply with our legal obligations (for example, if we are required to retain your data to comply with applicable laws), resolve disputes and enforce our legal agreements and policies.

Maker Learning Network will also retain Usage Data for internal analysis purposes. Usage Data is generally retained for a shorter period of time, except when this data is used to strengthen the security or to improve the functionality of our Service, or we are legally obligated to retain this data for longer periods.

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Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to – and maintained on – computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ from those of your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Maker Learning Network will take all the steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organisation or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure of Data

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If Maker Learning Network is involved in a merger, acquisition or asset sale, your Personal Data may be transferred. We will provide notice before your Personal Data is transferred and becomes subject to a different Privacy Policy.

Disclosure for Law Enforcement

Under certain circumstances, Maker Learning Network may be required to disclose your Personal Data if required to do so by law or in response to valid requests by public authorities (e.g. a court or a government agency).

Legal Requirements

Maker Learning Network may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

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The security of your data is important to us but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Our Policy on “Do Not Track” Signals under the California Online Protection Act (CalOPPA)

We do not support Do Not Track (“DNT”). Do Not Track is a preference you can set in your web browser to inform websites that you do not want to be tracked.

You can enable or disable Do Not Track by visiting the Preferences or Settings page of your web browser.

Your Data Protection Rights under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

If you are a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), you have certain data protection rights. Maker Learning Network aims to take reasonable steps to allow you to correct, amend, delete or limit the use of your Personal Data.

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We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), provide the Service on our behalf, perform Service-related services or assist us in analysing how our Service is used.

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We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyse the use of our Service.

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Maker Learning Network uses remarketing services to advertise on third party websites to you after you visited our Service. We and our third-party vendors use cookies to inform, optimise and serve ads based on your past visits to our Service.

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Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

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Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Child has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

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You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

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Important information regarding confidential student data

There is ongoing litigation between the California Department of Education and the Concerned Parent Association. A notice issued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson states, “The lawsuit accuses CDE of widespread, systemic non-compliance by local educational agencies with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. The CDE denies these allegations and is actively defending the litigation.”

The court has ordered CDE to release student and parent information to provide personally identifiable information (PII) – an act that can only be taken as an exception to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As a result, we are providing notice of the court order and directions to anyone wishing to object.

Please be advised that CDE will notify parents or students of whom are required to disclose information and those individuals may object directly to the court regarding this disclosure using the PDF link below:


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