Out into the world that is. This is a class in public speaking and so I’m taking the “Public” part seriously. One of the things I tried to do this semester is to get my students to engage in a wider public beyond the classroom. Two parts to this: get them into a different physical space; and/or get them into a different and bigger digital space.
The assignment that gave them the opportunity for a different physical space was the Trump Tower, “Learning as Protest” event, aka the Only-in-NY assignment. The assignment that required them to be in a different digital space was the “Equity Unbound/Twitter” discussion. They also had the option of jumping into another twitter discussion or one on the NYT online.
You’d think that our students are super-digital-literate and have already been out there in those spaces but it’s not the case. There are definitely a few who have their own youtube channel or display their art in online communities. But, from what I can tell (and students who are reading this please correct me if I’m wrong), most of them aren’t doing that much communication publicly—beyond their circle of friends through your basic social media sites.
Having said that, the twitter experiment was a little bit of a letdown. The goal was to get them in discussion with others and so we hooked up with the Equity Unbound blog (#unboundeq). But that discussion didn’t seem to happen. I will claim a small victory, however, in getting them into the twitter realm.
Moving into the Trump Tower space, however was more of a success for those who engaged (eight students). First, they managed to get to this really weird, ornate and politically charged lobby of Trump Tower. They met the guy in charge, Jeff Bergman, and his regulars and chatted with them a little. Then they got up the gumption to read out loud while being videotaped for Jeff’s public facebook page. Really, I felt like that was success enough.
But then people really liked the readings through facebook and Jeff kept them prominently displayed. And one of the readers caught the attention of the National Center for Transgender Equality and asked his permission to put his reading on their website. He said yes.
So this is something I plan to work more on in coming semesters. The world is a better place when my students are participating in it.