Teacher Tap

Information, Technology and Authenticity


hikingPeople will stick to a fitness program that has meaning. Planting a garden, participating in a "walk" for a cause like diabetes research, and hiking to a historic site are great exercise as well as productive experiences. Authentic activities are those that are perceived as genuine, real, true, worthwhile and meaningful. When planting trees, young people might wonder: Which plants are native? How deep should we plant them? How much water do they need? It's mental exercise with a purpose.

Authentic Activities and Information Fluency - As you plan lessons, consider how young people use technology as an integral part of an authentic activity such as evaluating web-based information to make a decision or communicating an expert to solve a problem.

"Authentic learning involves exploring the world around us, asking questions, identifying information resources, discovering connections, examining multiple perspectives, discussing ideas, and making informed decisions that have a real impact. An authentic learning environment is engaging for students because the content and context of learning are accepted by the student as relevant to his or her needs and deemed by the teacher as simulating life beyond the classroom." - Callison and Lamb (SLMAM, 2004)

What's authentic? Visiting an art museum or creating art is a more authentic activity than reading a textbook about art. However you can't always go on a field trip and you may not have the supplies for the art project you have in mind. Consider ways that technology can fill in the gap.

Go to NoodleTools: Authentic Audiences for ideas.

Use Primary Source Materials

Consider how to balance fiction, nonfiction, and primary source documents as you investigate historical topics.

dragonwingsthe earth dragon awakescrack in the edge of the world

Web Resources

Analyzing Primary Sources

Other Primary Source Document Lesson Ideas

Explore primary source materials. Select a topic and consider the primary source materials that might be used as part of a springboard activity.

Go to Scrapstarters for other ideas including book starters such as Al Capone Does My Shirts.

Authentic Assignments and Assessments

Examine your curriculum and think about ways to incorporate authentic assignments and assessments. Use the following ideas to get you started.

Alternative Versions and Views

Encourage young people to "think different." Look at the world from a different perspective. Ask students to transform a traditional work into something new. Look for a different view or a different way of thinking.

Modern Shakespeare. Compare the original Shakespeare with a modern version using No Fear Shakespeare from Sparknotes. Identify a scene that's not available in a modern version and write your own. Create your own "audio book" in Microsoft Word.

Different Perspective. Explore artists and musicians, poets, historical events, scientific discoveries examining different perspectives and different views. Use Ellis Island Records for the traditional way of thinking. Use Angel Island for a different way of thinking. From what other directions did immigrants arrive in the United States? Look at your own community. How was it formed? Create a document exploring different perspectives. Record audio of the different "voices" represented.

Civil War Literature. Let's explore the combination of Literature Circles and wikis. Check out a project under development called WikiLit. Go to the Civil War Literature wiki for an example of a "wiki starter". Brainstorm ways that you could use the power of Web 2.0 to teach a unit on Courage and Responsibility: The American Civil War focusing on the impact of the war on the Midwest.

Civil War

Geographic Locations. Visualize the geographic location of places discussed in class using Google Earth. Go to Google Earth. Explore Google Lit Trips - A Different Way to Read Great Literature.

Graphic Novels. Read the award winning graphic novel: The Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan. Write your own graphic novel set in Baghdad. Use the Comic Life software available for the Mac. Export your graphic novel as web pages. See a sample page - Bombs, Barbed Wire and Baghdad.

pridePride of Bagdad

Technology Ideas

Other Alternative Versions and Approaches Ideas


Use illustrations, charts, timelines, and other visuals to help young people make comparisons and show relationships. Seek out opportunities to compare some aspect of the student's world to the world beyond school, the historical world, or other cultures.

The Food We Eat. How does the food we eat arrive on our dinner table? Does it come from the grocery store ot the drive-through? Compare the way you eat with how people ate long ago. Track your food from farm to table. Ask young adults to consider the carbon impact of eating foods "out of season."

Local and National. Create your own polls and surveys to collect local data. Compare your findings with national or international data on topics such as recycling, elections, and popular issues.

Technology Ideas

Other Comparison Ideas

Then and Now Project Ideas

Explore other "then and now" websites:


Debates and Decisions

Many problems have more than one solution. Ask students to look at multiple perspectives. Collect evidence, make an argument, and come to a decision.

Technology Ideas

Other Debate & Decision Ideas

Digital Storytelling

Tell stories using text, audio, and video elements.

Oral History Projects. Select a theme or time period. Conduct oral histories with local citizens. Go to Guardians of Freedom for an example.

Technology Ideas

Other Digital Storytelling Ideas


Scrapbooking is the practice of combining photographs, memorabilia, and written narratives, poetry, quotations, stories, or other textual content into a scrapbook style album. Technology has expanded the techniques available for producing, duplicating, and distributing scrapbooks.

Scrapbook Autobiographies and Biographies. Read American Born Chinese as an example of an autobiographical graphic novel. Examine Laura Wilson Graphic Biography. Create your own.

Technology Ideas

Other Escrapbook Ideas


Public Service Announcements

From safety tips to health eating habits, there are many ways your students can express their understandings of important issues through the use of public service announcements and advertisements.

Explore examples of student produced Public Service Announcements such as Filmmaking with a Message and Student Video Gallery. Create a PSA. Check out an example at ESD112 - "Want to Stop Smoking?" Submit it to the National Student Television Award project or to your local or regional media fair.

Save The ... ! Many people don't know that animals around the world are endangered. Let's make a public service announcement (PSA) to inform people about the need to save this creature. Go to Arkive: Images of Life on Earth and explore information about endangered animals. Which do you think is most important to save? Download a QuickTime video of this endangered animal, insert the video into PowerPoint, and write a script for a public service announcement about saving this animal. As a class, brainstorm what should be included in the PSA such as how this animal is unique, how it fits into it's environment, and why it is important to save. Then, use these criteria in your assessment. Right-click the PSA (PPT) and save the Powerpoint document. Directions are in the Speakernotes. (Communication Arts, Science).

Other PSA Ideas

Also consider persuasive writing and advertising assignments:

Quick Reference

Locate the wide range of resources and information on a particular topic. Then, organize materials in a way that's easy to understand. Select the most important elements. Design a guide that provides concise access to this information using varied media including text, graphics, audio, and/or video. Projects include pictionaries, flipbooks, posters, and brochures.

Job Jargon. Create a quick reference booklet for a specialized vocabulary related to a particular profession or specialized area such as medicine, police work, information technology, sports, sailing (nautical), hunting, fishing, business, biology, music, oceanography, politics, farming, ranching, forestry, law, business, or other professionals. Each term should include an example and illustration. The origin and history of each word should also be included. Record your voice using each word in context. To deepen the thinking, terminology could be categorized in a meaningful way. Students might also defend their choices and discuss the choices made by classmates. Then, use the quick reference in writing a short story, comic, or paper related to the topic such as a crime story using CSI terminology.

Technology Ideas

Other Quick Reference Projects

Virtual Field Trips

Not everyone can go on a field trip. Create a virtual field trip to share a place that you have been. Give others the experiences of "being there."

Technology Ideas

Other Virtual Field Trips


Designing Authentic Learning Environments

Let's explore an authentic assignment that uses a wide range of technology including websites, a wiki for notes, GPS, digital cameras, and handheld devices. It's called CSI: Cemetery Scene Investigation.

Explore some other examples. Which aspects of the assignment are authentic:

In the "real world" of standards, mandates, limited time, and financial constraints, it may not be possible to make all aspects of a project authentic. However as you design the learning environment, consider each of the following areas: context, questions, activities, resources, communications and audiences, and assessment. Use the questions and examples below to enhance your use of technology in promoting authentic experiences.

Try It!
After exploring the possibilities, design your own assignment and assessment. Then, ask yourself about the authenticity of the assignment and assessment using the questions above.

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