This is the part when the professor looks at your work and says, “You’ve clearly done your research and know what you’re doing, but why is it relevant?” That lovely little “so what?” is what drives our curiosity and how we ultimately grasp concepts. I can dump facts and anecdotes on you all day, my dear readers, but I can almost guarantee that you quite simply will not care unless I tell you how all these theories and facts can be put into practice. What does that actually look like in the classroom? How can teachers implement Connected Learning techniques into their lesson plans and show that these techniques have merit?
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has listed a series of lesson plans, strategies, and ideas on their website that may help shed some light on the matter. I spent several hours going over these plans, ranging in grade level from kindergarten through grade 12, and have selected just a few that give a better idea of how Connected Learning looks in a classroom and how teachers are already implementing these ideas with today’s students.
What Did George Post Today?
- This lesson plan combines curriculum with something students use everyday-social media. Students gain background knowledge on pivotal persons from the American Revolution through research. This may sound pretty standard, but it is what the students do with this research that is unique. The information they find is complied into a PowerPoint presentation centered on Facebook posts. Students create a mock Facebook page for their person of interest and write posts that this person might have theoretically posted about the Revolution. This lesson plan pulls on a media with which students already find themselves familiar and incorporates already chosen curriculum in such a way that students are more likely to receive it.
The Blog of Anne Frank
- When it comes to blogging for a class, I was honestly taken aback by the idea. I rarely work on my computer as it is, let alone constantly posting for homework purposes. Yet I have recently started blogging, and have discovered what a powerful tool it can be. This lesson plan focuses on the Diary of Anne Frank, but also on how politically charged writing is spread in today’s world. After reading Frank’s work, students are asked to look at how news and political writings were spread during World War II. This can involve the usual research and papers, but afterward, students are asked to examine how that has changed in today’s society. How has social media and the internet contributed to the spread of news? Students look at blogs, news sites, Twitter, Facebook, and other media sources and discover how modern media impacts the spread of information in comparison to the media outlets of the 1940s. Students end up exploring not just the historical implications of media, but also the impact our connected world has on today’s news sources.
Using Microblogging and Social Networking to Explore Characterization and Style
- This is a lesson plan I can easily see myself using in my own classroom. The novel used in this example is Emma by Jane Austen, a book prized for its stylistic examples and its character development. Students explore this through social media posts. They select a character that they can post as, and are required to post in character to a mock Twitter or Facebook page. To create an accurate post, students must analyze the character, how the author wrote the character, and the unique voice and style of the author. Grading can be based on the authenticity of the post’s language, characterization, and evident knowledge of the character. Students are once again using a media with which they are already familiar to explore something that they normally would not try to delve into. They also have the opportunity to do a small genre study on microblogging, which is just a smaller, more concise version of what I am doing here, often posted to Twitter or Facebook. Now, you are knocking out social media competency, character development, author style, voice, and a genre lesson in a single unit!
Each of these lesson plans focuses on advancing the student’s knowledge in a subject by utilizing platforms with which the students are already comfortable. This requires a lot of technological competency (vital in today’s society), an ever expanding knowledge of a variety of subjects, and a flexibility of teaching style. Connected Learning looks at everything as a chance to further a student’s learning, social media and technology included. Yet these plans do not let computers dominate the lessons or pawn off the work on the computer system. Each requires a balance of instruction, hands-on application, and technology. These plans are designed to be inclusive of all potential learning platforms.
Connected Learning is surprisingly easy to implement. You just have to be willing to do the work.