In project-based learning (PBL), the “public product” is the culminating event at the end of a project that serves as an opportunity for students to showcase their learning. In the public product, the work that students produce is presented outside the classroom walls to folks who may include community members, industry experts, local politicians, parents, and school and district administrators.
This is a powerful culmination to a PBL unit because students become motivated to put their best polish on work they know others will view. Adding a good technology-enhanced call to action (CTA) to their presentations can drive conversions and convince the people attending or viewing the student’s work to act and help in a cause. For example, students can encourage participation in environmental events such as coastal cleanup by incorporating trash or plastic waste images in eye-catching infographics. They can also make their community aware of how to act around critical social issues by using social media.
Sometimes the CTA is as simple as two words, like “Recycle Now,” or a lot longer, such as “Want to promote inclusivity on our campus and learn more about how to help? Subscribe to our class blog and YouTube channel for new posts every week!” Students can learn to develop public products with a CTA that is memorable and actionable. Suitable public vehicles for a CTA for students may include social media, articles, blogs, vlogs, websites, podcasts, and public service announcements (PSAs).
Additionally, given the topics that students study, crafting an actionable CTA is equally essential to fulfilling a project’s purpose. A student’s work isn’t complete because the project ended—there must be a follow-up. Learners need to understand that a cause they’re advocating for may not improve until they go beyond stating their knowledge about it and provide others with measured steps for moving toward the student’s desired outcome. Here’s how teachers can facilitate this.
GUIDING STUDENTS TO CRAFT GOOD CTAS
Effective PBL requires students to engage in sustained inquiry, observation, and hopefully fieldwork to help them develop into advocates for causes they’re exploring. Investigation and developing solutions should be the impetus for crafting a compelling CTA.
Begin by helping students understand what CTAs are and how they can be used to persuade people in their community to help with a particular cause by doing something specific, such as the following:
- Calling out bullying
- Recycling more
- Conserving water
- Attending a park cleanup
- Wearing seat belts
- Sharing content on social media
- Attending a presentation to learn what can be done
- Welcoming refugee students
- Voting in local elections
When students write CTAs, their words must be compelling. A good rule of thumb is to use action verbs, focus on the benefit to others, and incite curiosity. For CTAs to culminate effectively, they will need to be accompanied by presentations showcasing data, inferences, urgency, pride in student achievements, and the limitations of proposed solutions. Examples of CTAs may include the following:
- “Subscribe to Our Parent Newsletter for the Latest Information on How Best to Help Your Student(s)”
- “Listen to Our Podcast to Get Helpful Information About Teen Substance Abuse”
- “Join Other Like-Minded Students Who Want to Protect Our Environment”
For articulating their CTAs effectively to others, students should also present corresponding facts, motivation, and steps. This will require them to know the issues they’re advocating for inside and out, to prepare for the audience, to be intentional, and to accept help from teachers.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE CTAS
For teachers showing students how to incorporate CTAs into PBL presentations with technology, I recommend that you allow their creativity to take center stage but use relevant guidelines for helping improve their work. The indicators in “Creative Communicator,” the sixth standard in the International Society for Technology in Education Standards for Students, can serve as excellent guidelines for helping students communicate their CTAs using verbal skills, data, and technology in creative and impactful ways.
Let’s unpack two indicators along with examples.
Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication: The key to the public product is that the CTA and work should reach beyond the immediate community, and students can use technology tools in creative ways to communicate. Examples include the following:
- Using Adobe Spark to create and share content like graphics, web stories, and animated videos for social media posts and other digital products (e.g., blogs, articles, digital essays).
- Writing an advocacy letter to inform their legislator(s) why a particular issue is important and how it affects the environment or the local community. Students will need to tell their representative(s) how they would like them to support or vote on the issue and request a response. See this link for a helpful advocacy letter template.
Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations: The key here is that students are aware of how to create original work or add to an existing body of knowledge and use technology to do so responsibly in their CTA. Examples include the following:
- Identifying an issue in their community and researching it to determine what previous work and research exists on the topic. Students may develop literature reviews using Google Workspace to inform the CTA and next steps for finding possible solutions to the issue. Previous findings should be included and cited in their new work to establish that they have strong familiarity with the issue.
- Creating PSAs, typically using video and print ads, to persuade their audience to take favorable action(s). Public service announcements can be used to bring awareness to the CTA, encourage behavioral changes, show the relevance of an issue, or convey necessary information. Social media, Flipgrid, and YouTube are great video platforms for PSAs.
By Jorge Valenzuela