Should we see our learners as our audience?
Over the weekends I spend some of my relaxing time streaming on TwitchTV. Indeed this morning I was up just before 4am to take part in the GameBlast 24hour stream on the OfficialXBoxOneUK channel – which raised over one thousand pounds for the charity – if you are interested you can still donate. When I volunteered I took the 5am-7am slot and was surprised by the number of viewers I actually had at this time. Within the world of streaming, viewers and audience are very important since maintaining high numbers can actually get you partnered and provide you with a subscribe button. But how important are the audiences within learning? Are they already captivated or should we be working on gaining more? Well that is what this week’s waffle is all about.
I used to be more involved in the post graduate programmes at university and one of the activities I used to do was to attend the initial induction day of the course which was held on a Saturday. I always used to start off by standing at the front of the lecture theatre and asking the students what they thought I taught at university. I was always surprised when there was a range of subjects volunteered with the most popular reply being subjects related to drama and/or performing. I guess they were quite disappointed when they found out that it was mathematics, science and computing! Thinking about their responses, they might have been expected, since I am always saying that teaching is like acting, as we take on certain performers and characters in order to support the learning. Anyone who works within marketing or promoting their own content will know that it is important to have a target audience in mind. However, as I stand at the front and teach within the acting persona or recording a video to support asynchronous learning – should I be adapting to the viewers/learners or relying on them to adapt to me. I have been pondering this issue for some time and this waffle is slightly different from my usual waffles. Instead of maybe answering questions or presenting an opinion, today’s waffle poses more questions which I have, as yet, no answer to. So maybe you can help?
Children as the audience – Anyone familiar with the Early Years ethos of teaching, will tell you that the starting point of the learning within the foundation stage has a firm starting point on the interests of the children. This might be what is popular that day or week, for example the weather or the events within media, or even individual interests such as favourite books or films. The learning is identified through the curriculum but how this is communicated is reliant on these interests. This is sometimes apparent throughout the school although generally, as the children get older, this emphasis on their interests as starting points is lost. When the children start school, they are seen as the audience which are actually dictating how the learning is delivered. As they progress, the topics for the learning appears to be removed from the children and are more likely to be identified by the teacher or even the whole school approach. Children are then expected to engage with the topic as the audience – despite not always having an input into the choice. I have seen topics which have been chosen by the teacher actually fail to engage the children, due to this. It is almost as if we are expecting them to go and see a film/play which they are not really that interested in, but we still expect them to be engaged and motivated. Should the topics therefore continue to be identified by the children as the audience of the learning? Or is it the case what we trust that the children will engage because of the teacher and their ability to make any ‘topic’ engaging for their audience?
Teacher knows best… – Although I tend to stream one game, I sometimes deviate from this and my audience tune into the channel to find that I am playing something different. Their responses can probably be categorised into two replies. The first one is to ask me to return to the game that they were expecting to see. When this does not happen, they tend to leave. The other response is that people are actually watching the stream not because of what I am streaming but because I am streaming it. This relates to the final point of the previous section, but also got me thinking about whether, at times, the audience does not actually hold all the cards and that, at times, the ‘performer’ can actually promote new or different topics which they feel might possibly interest the viewer. I am still persevering with my Wilson Waffling Live show and, after talking to a current student about the lack of involvement with the videos, I was prompted to survey the viewers in order to ascertain what they would like from the videos. The responses have been very interesting so far. Initially my aim of the videos was to extend learning, although from the responses it would appear that more of a focus on supporting learning is desired. When first starting to produce Wilson Waffling Live – I was assuming that I knew best what the learners wanted or needed. However, it would appear that this is not necessarily the case. The question therefore remains – should I go in the direction of the audience or maintain my current approach? If I choose the latter am I actually dictating the content rather than actually responding to the needs and ‘likes’ of my intended audience?
Audience and motivation – I’m sure that the way I learn is probably mirrored by the majority of learners. Motivation can come in a variety of forms including, approaching deadlines and the need to do well. One of the main motivational aspects of a task for me is that I actually want to do it. If the learning has a personal requirement then I can be highly motivated to apply myself and do well. Relating this to the audience analogy I would say that I am a captivated audience to the learning/task. As we progress through the education system the range of subjects studied actually gets more and more refined until, when studying at university, it is usually one subject. This of course is further segmented into modules and then eventually, when the dizzy heights of PhD work is achieved, then the focus is very specific indeed. As the narrowing of subject content happens, the motivation to learn should also increase, since learners have chosen the subject and should be engaged and motivated. Although some modules within programmes will have to be compulsory, should there be more options for the learner to engage with. Rather than creating modules and courses within revalidation from tutors’ perspective, should the learners be more involved and, along side this, more options be made available throughout the programme. In this sense, the audience for the learning would have more ‘control’ over the topics they engage with and maybe this would increase the motivation. I always remember that there were some modules at university which I really enjoyed, e.g. neurophysiology and aquatic pollution, because I had actually chose to study them, while others remained ‘unattractive’ due to ‘having’ to take them. Indeed I cannot even remember the titles of the ones which I had to take, although I do remember the lectures were on a Monday afternoon in a warm room and seemed to last a lifetime!
I think that everyone should blog. One of the reasons for this is because I think it helps to clarify your thoughts when you have to actually write them down in some form. I mentioned at the start of this waffle that I wasn’t sure of the answer to these questions and, unfortunately, even after writing this, I am still in a similar position. I am aware that I am a very unique character with maybe quite a diverse range interests. Because of this, when I am streaming, I think that I attract a similar audience which maybe excludes others. But when I am promoting learning, I am sure that I do not want to do this. Whenever you survey people I think you will always get contradictory responses. It would appear that you cannot actually ‘please’ (for want of a better word) everyone with content or topics and so maybe, generalising the audience for the learning is needed in order to ensure that content and delivery is suitable for the majority – as long as this doesn’t lead to the exclusion of others.
It might be the fact that I have been up since 3:30am and it is now 11:00am, but currently I am not sure where I stand on the issue of whether the audience (learners) should dictate the content. If you have any views on this, then I look forward to hearing them, so please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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Have fun and I’ll catch you later