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The Power of an Authentic Audience

December 23, 2015

As a teacher I never accounted for the power that an authentic audience could provide for my students.  Various tech tools, like Blogger, allowed me to expand my students’ vision beyond the traditional four walls of my classroom and provide a critical and authentic audience for my students. This past school year my students blogged about their experience in Psychology and in particular their Psychology Fair experiment.

Carl Sandburg High School’s Psychology Fair provides a great authentic opportunity for psychology students to show and reinforce the knowledge gained over the past year along with the freedom to explore their passions in the field. Over the course of a month, student experimenters research a psychology topic and design an experiment to present to their classmates. The fair usually has around 25-35 experiments, and up to 1,500 students participate as experimenters or subjects each year.

In recent years the addition of technology to the Psychology Fair has been a huge success. Student blogging, for example, has brought a whole new dimension to the experience. First it has allowed students to express their ideas to the public through the whole three week process instead of just the day of the fair. One senior noted that “blogging gave me a feeling that I was contributing to the field of psychology.” Second, it has allowed students to publicize and elicit feedback about what they are doing in class with outside readers, whether it be from classmates, parents, the community, or across the country. The addition of people outside of the traditional classroom walls looking in on the process has forced students to become more professional in the process and also added more authenticity to the experience.   

Chromebooks, iPads, and student devices have allowed for experimenters to bring their experiments into the online world. This has allowed for new experiments, quicker experiments, and more subjects to be tested in the allowed time. The ability to share and collaborate the documents using digital devices has allowed experimenters to more quickly build experiments and analyze data in real time during the fair. Pair this with Google Forms and QR Codes which have allowed for easier collection of data and the ability to tie this into Google Sheets has allowed for safer storage of data and easier analysis of the data after the fair. Using Chromebooks and iPads has also had a green effect on the process: this year’s fair was the greenest by far, with only 200 pieces of paper used throughout the whole three-week experience.

Feel free to stop by our Psychology Fair blog for a visit:


Desi Vuilllaume is a high school Social Studies teacher outside of Chicago, Illinois.