Technology allows educators to easily personalize content for a specific audience, whether it be colleagues, students, parents, or the community. By simply changing the context of a piece of work, it can be meaningful to a different audience. Consider a how-to tutorial for students. Most likely, you are teaching them face-to-face, and the how-to is available to students for reference during and after the fact. However, if you are disseminating that same information to parents, you will have to include a video or written explanation of the “teacher talk” you used while working with the students.
Much of the literature about personalizing content for a specific audience comes from the marketing world. For example, here is a sample audience analysis for a new product that is created before the marketing campaign begins. In an article about communication and mobile devices on Rob De Lorenzo’s blog, The Mobile Learner, he sums it up nicely when he writes:
“Know Your Audience: This is an indispensable job skill today. Communicating ideas that are relevant to the target audience is not a new concept – businesses and the marketing industry have done this for generations. The difference today is that being able to access anyone and everyone on the globe through communication technologies now means that we must all now frame our communication to an audience. In order to communicate to our target audience, we must know something about them and that is where mobile devices come in. One can use online tools such as Google Forms to poll one’s audience or use Twitter to engage in conversation with them. The better one knows an audience, the better one can frame communication for them.”
The Common Core State Standards include, in the ELA Anchor Standards in Writing, a standard stating a student needs learn how to produce “clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.” In an Edutopia blog post by Rebecca Alber, she provides some ideas, by grade level, for writing projects to target specific audiences. For instance, one for seventh and eighth graders includes having them brainstorm things they would like to do to improve their school and then writing persuasive letters to the administration with their ideas.
Another type of persuasive project that can help students learn to create media for a specific audience is the public service announcement. When planning for a PSA, students should first outline these elements for their production:
- An overview of the target audience
- A single main point
- The specific action to be taken by the viewer
- How to grab the viewer’s attention
- What visual and audio elements to use
- And how to keep the PSA short (under one minute in length)
Here is a public service announcement that is an oldie but a goodie. It is meant to educate the audience to the risks of listening to loud music via headphones: Hearing Loss and Headphones. Another organization well-known for its persuasive works is the AD Council. Their content dates back to the War Bonds campaign of the early 1940’s. Here is a current PSA trying to convince viewers to consider teaching as a career: Teach- Think You Know. If you decide you want to try using public service announcements as a student assessment, an educator has compiled is a list of some PSA ideas for public service announcements you can use as a starting point and I have an page in support of an older presentation that might be useful, too.
I have been creating a little different type of personalized content lately. For two of my recent speaking engagements, the AAIM (AR) Conference and the TIE (SD) Conference, I created short videos as part of a digital storytelling presentation that might be used to introduce a state history unit.
Using the Audience Analysis idea from above, here is an outline of my thoughts:
1. Analysis: the target audience is PreK-12 educators with an interest in technology
2. Understanding: the audience is knowledgeable about the history of their state
3. Demographics: the audience is college-educated, education majors
4. Interest: the audience wants to learn more about technology in support of teaching and learning
5. Environment: the video will be shown as part of a digital storytelling presentation
6. Needs: the audience needs to learn the process of creating a multimedia product to introduce a unit
7. Customization: information to be covered in the presentation are the use of Creative Commons and the use of movie-editing software to create a video from still images
8. Expectations: the audience will learn how to find, utilize, and cite images they can use, how to put them into video-editing software, and add a soundtrack to be used to introduce a unit
My main goal was to showcase how, with the use of Creative Commons-licensed images and a song that I had permission to use, I could create a short video about a state. Creative Commons licensing allows creators of content to give explicit instructions on how their content may be used without you having to ask permission to use. The creator of content, in this instance, photographs, can apply up to four components to their permission to use their item.
- Commercial/non-commercial use
- Share alike
These slides will provide you with some additional information on each of these components.
Creative Commons-licensed images are what I am usually searching for. Both the advanced search page of Google Images and Flickr have ways to limit your search results to CC-licensed images and also those that meet your need for use (commercial vs. non-commercial, editing, etc.)
Here are links to the two personalized state videos I created.
How do you personalize content for students? What projects do you have them create with an attention to a specific audience? Please share in the comments!