Understanding Our Audience – CUT!!

More often than not, as educators, we would hear rants and complaints from fellow educators about the current generation. Here’s the thing, our audience will continue to be dynamic – so we have to continually accommodate our perspectives to understand our audience better. As current and/or future Science communicators, here are 3 ideas:

  1. C – Changing our perspective

More often than I’d like to admit, it is a challenge to view the world from the perspective of my audience. Sometimes I do wonder why does a group of students interpret a message differently from another group.

Here’s an example.

Read the following text message and guess the children-friendly, comedy and drama movie (hint: highest grossing Pixar film until Toy Story 3 took over in 2010)

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Think a bit harder now.

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Yes, it is Finding Nemo! So, the point is, the same message can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Thus, our instructional methods have to be very specific. We can also pre-empt common misconceptions and address them from the start.

  1. U – Understanding the audience

My audience, and most likely ours for the near future, is made up of mostly digital natives. Simply put, digital natives are those born into technology – not those who witness the technology being invented.

Our terminology and choice of words may be different from each other. Phrases like ‘wind down your windows’, ‘hang up the phone’, ‘dial my number’ and ‘click on the radio buttons for this survey’ may not make sense to them, but it makes perfect sense to us!

We are moulded by very different experiences, and yet we are expected to communicate with this audience well. A viable step is to understand why certain errors or misunderstandings happen.

e.g.

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These symbols for radiation seem easy enough for us to identify. But evident from some answers given by some of the Sec 1 students (in my school) in 2014, they gave a different answer!

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They actually identified the non-ionizing radiation as ‘PODCAST’ instead!

Why? (Other than the obvious lack of revision) Perhaps, it is something more familiar to them.

Our audience may also be underrated, as we are always bombarded by negative views on them. We can also understand them better by appreciating what they have to offer!

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It may always be easier to blame extrinsic factors for moulding our current audience into what they are today. But, it is important to remember that distractors have existed far longer than organised education system has. Just that, this time around, the distractors are almost as dynamic as our audience.

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Sleeping in class? It’s so 1960s!

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  1. T – Tone of delivery

With the same message, the tone of delivery matters. The face-to-face (F2F) time matters in shaping their attitude, especially if the frequency for F2F time is high.

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Fret not if you find it challenging to understand our current audience. Based on the word search ‘teenagers’ on Google, the first page results imply that most of the adults don’t either!

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If you still think that you were a better teenager than our current audience, think about all of your worst days (bless you if you had none!) and think about how much worse it could be if you had the technology of today. Think about the issues our current teenagers have (self-esteem, bullying, cyber-bullying, social expectations). They are MUCH more hardy than we make them to be. Have faith in our current and upcoming audience!

“Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” George Orwell.

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