"Share Student Voices & Gather Audiences with 10+ Tech Tools" (Originally published at GettingSmart.com on 12/4/12.)
Let’s begin here. Think of your three favorite, most inspirational speeches of all time. If you need a little help, quickly scan over this “Top 100 List” from Americanrhetoric.com. I’ll even give it a shot, too. Hmmm. Let me see. I’ll go with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” Lou Gehrig’s “Farewell to Baseball Address,” and Ronald Reagan’s "Space Shuttle Disaster Address.” Besides being highly emotionally charged and exemplars of rhetorical strategies, these three famous speeches share one often overlooked characteristic: People were listening. Follow me just a bit further as we imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his beautifully written speech to a crowd of zero. Yeah, just a remarkably talented and courageous leader speaking his mind and voicing the collective conscience of our nation with not a soul standing on that hot, August day to witness. No minds altered. No hearts changed. No direction taken. Or how about Lou Gehrig honoring those he was blessed to share time with and those who modeled selflessness in order to foster the growth of such an amazingly humble and accepting human? Perhaps those unforgettable echoes from the man dubbed “The Iron Horse” would not have been so memorable had no one been present that day in Yankee Stadium. No hearts to sense the sincerity of Gehrig’s words; only empty seats in a cavernous baseball cathedral. And for sure a grieving nation would not have been consoled by such a charismatic and unwavering leader if all televisions had been turned off that tragic day the Space Shuttle Challenger lost its seven courageous adventurers. Instead, a nation was comforted in mourning, reassured of its purpose, and reminded of its brotherhood. All of this because President Reagan’s voice was heard. Someone was listening. This is precisely the pivotal point my American Literature students and I arrived at following a thorough, multi-week study of rhetorical strategies and famous speeches. The audience is powerful, we concluded. Based on this very premise, students in Studio 113 decided to think out loud and hope someone would listen. In essence, they gathered an audience with tech tools.