Using an International Videoconference in Problem-Based Inquiry Projects: The Role of Public Voice, Audience, and Positionality, pp. 6 of 14

To better understand how the students’ positionality shapes their discussions and engagement with peers and community members, I also draw upon the work of Peter Levine (2008) and his use of two related concepts: public voice and audience. Levine (2008) defined public voice broadly as “any style or tone that has a chance of persuading any other people (outside of one’s intimate circle) about shared matters, issues, or problems” (p. 121). He clarifies his definition by noting that public voice “encompasses topics beyond conventional politics” such as the practicality or effectiveness of a media application (Levine, 2008, p. 121). Rheingold (2008) further described public voice as “not just active, but as generative – a public is brought into being in a sense by the act of addressing some text in some medium to it” and argued that “in the twenty-first century, participatory media education and civic education are inextricable” (p. 103). Many would argue (e.g., Hess, 2009) that discussion in classrooms enable students to exercise important civic skills, and engage students’ public voice; however, the audiences with which students interact at school are typically their classmates and teachers (Levine, 2008). Levine (2008) pointed out that this is problematic because a student’s most immediate audience, their classmates, often ignore their public voice. Therefore, it is difficult for students to fully develop their public voice in their school community alone, and students need opportunities to further develop their public voice with new and diverse audiences.

Levine (2008) further discussed the relevance of audience in student created civic projects. Audiences outside of the students’ own school context provide a means to authentically practice and further develop their public voice with diverse peers and people. The key, however, is for the audience to be active. Rheingold (2008) discussed this distinction, “Public voice is learnable” if students could be “consciously engaging with an active public rather than broadcasting to a passive audience” (p. 104). If a school wants to promote multicultural civic engagement through the development of students’ public voice, then students need to be connected to others outside of their school community, in addition to the diverse perspectives that may be in their own school community.


I collected data using critical action research (Madison, 2005; McNiff, 2013) methods to analyze the videoconference, as well as the students’ preparation for the videoconference. I chose action research because I facilitate problem-based inquiry projects and international videoconferences on a regular basis, and I wanted to improve my facilitation of the curriculum, as well as improve the effectiveness of the curriculum for the students. This project included several critical dimensions. The participants chose projects that highlighted unfairness or injustice and chose to take action and use their voice to address these injustices. I chose to study and document the participants’ work in hope of informing and modeling methods of addressing injustice for secondary students and teachers. In this way, I hope that the participants’ work and growth illustrated in this article will encourage others to address unfairness and injustice in effective and productive ways through their school curriculum.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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