Our student blog has had 53,473 visits from 34,492 unique computers in 102 different countries since August 1, 2007. Is that student improvement? Who knows, but it's a heck of a lot of student writing, reflecting, thinking and conversing that would not have been done otherwise.
As a Drama teacher I used to lobby for public performances of all major assessment pieces. As a general rule the students responded to a public audience by rising the standard - whether it was because of the extra bar they had to reach, or the pressure, I can't say, but the authenticity of the situation was important to them.
I find the same things with my English classes, give them a real audience and it's no longer so easy to accept "well it's good enough for my peers", now the question is "What will my mum think of this?" or "What if someone I've never meet reads this, what will they think of me?"
When my computer and creative writing students give speeches or live presentations, they use eye contact, voice control, and body language to engage their audience. They use technology, props, and visual aids to enhance their live presentation. But these devices are not the focus. The goal is for them to be able to engage a live audience and keep their attention. I think they understand that a live performance is a life skill that will benefit them. There's no editing, no anonymity, no time delay, no place to "hide." It's more raw. I want them to be able to communicate face to face, on paper, AND electronically, so I try to teach them to do all of these.
I teach fourth grade and we are immersed in an onging service-learning project. We have added to our historical society's archives, documented family histories on the internet, and so much more. These young learners have benefited so much from seeing a purpose in the "real world" for their learning. Sharing what we learn with a larger audience validates every skill for the students! We know we need to "get it right" because what we are doing is important beyond the walls of our classroom. Service learning has changed the way I teach more than any other trend in education (after 20 years)...it means that the students are doing REAL work..and technology just makes it that much easier to share.
The internet makes the real world even larger for us...but even reaching out to our local community has done wonders for student performance and the quality of their work.
It has also occured to us as we search for (often destroyed or lost) primary documents that we can now preserve our findings for future generations with technology...we are also reaching audiences who aren't even born yet!