CU Immigration TV: Public Access Radio and Television for Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

When you think of your students doing oral presentations, do you automatically assume that you'll have them prepare PowerPoint slides about a topic, stand at the front of the class, give the presentation to you and the classmates, then maybe quiz them on the content?

You don't have to do it that way, you know.

As I've written here many times before, it's popular to talk about using authentic language and authentic resources in the language classroom. I'm all for that, too. But I'm also very interested in some things that I don't hear people talk about:

  • Authentic purpose. Giving our students something to do in our courses that is not just a learning exercise, a hoop to jump through. (Which is not to say that our students aren't learning a lot when they do these academic exercises for the purpose of getting a grade. Yes, they do. But they could learn more. Learn differently.) So, for example, one semester my student's final exam was to create five "pins" on our Pinterest board so that they could provide relevant information to next semester's students. To give them a kind of "leg up" on what they needed to know to succeed in the course. Yes, they were graded on their pins. But they were also creating the pins so that they could help next semester's students.
  • Authentic audience. The students who sit in the classroom and listen to the other students' oral presentations aren't there because they're inherently interested in the topic or the speaker. They're there because they signed up for the course. What if that student standing up there presented the information to someone who needed it? Who had an inherent interest in the topic?
We have a wonderful Independent Media Center in downtown Urbana, Illinois. We have public access radio and television shows going on there often. 

Do you have one in your town? 

Could your students present on one of those shows? Even if it is in English, could they develop expertise (in Spanish) in your course, then share it with a wider audience?

The video at the top features students from a graduate course in urban planning, given by Prof. Stacy Harwood.

My student Alli Gattari and I recently went on the show, too. (I'll post the video when it is available.) Alli was a natural! She truly came off as an expert in Spanish in the Community and particularly about unaccompanied migrants in our town.

Give it a thought. You might be nervous. Your students might be nervous. But they will share their information with an authentic audience. With an authentic purpose.


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