The Case for Mr. Robot: Using Connected Learning to Combat Social Anxiety in the Classroom

Every semester I struggle with students who are terrified of speaking up in class. So, when I think about connected learning, I think about “Mr. Robot.” More specifically, I am reminded of the titular character, who plays a confident hacker behind the guise of his online alias but is unable to muster even basic social skills when faced with a real person. The Internet offers him enough anonymity that he can say what’s really on his mind.



Now, I’m not directly advocating that my students try to overthrow the government. But I am happy to be able to offer them a digital stepping stone as they learn to speak up and speak out in the traditional classroom. Maybe my shy students are really good at using social media and the Internet; maybe they even have a blog, tucked away behind a creative alias. It makes sense to use those media to help students learn how to speak the language of my discipline and apply class concepts to topics and issues that are already of interest to them. (For example, not only was I able to type up this blog post while catching up on last week’s episode of the show in question, but I now have a great, current example to use when lecturing on social anxiety in class.) They are easily able to access resources to bolster their arguments, increasing their confidence. They can find support from and common ground with others, potentially taking learning to locales far from Blacksburg (Scott Rosenberg said it well: “blogging is a conversation”). Best of all, they have opportunities to practice social interaction in a way that feels “safe.” It might be easier to Tweet an article link or share a relevant GIF than to stand up in class, Dead Poets-style, and ask the world to critique your thoughts and opinions.

I’m well over my word limit, and now I turn to you in the comments.

How could we use connected learning in creative, exciting ways to engage students who “hang back” in class?


Filed under Contemporary Pedagogy

4 Responses to The Case for Mr. Robot: Using Connected Learning to Combat Social Anxiety in the Classroom

  1. kelleyjwj

    I appreciate your perspective on connecting the “hang back” students. It reminds me of what Connie Yowell said about missing the starting point in our approach to education – the way we engage students in the experience. I know that my natural bias to pull those hang back students into the classroom norm will persist, even as those norms shift and perhaps for some actual good reasons, but I think your approach might bring them along to more various forms of engagement naturally. Thanks for sharing.

  2. How could we use connected learning in creative, exciting ways to engage students who “hang back” in class?

    — You’ll get your answer on Wednesday!!!!

    Also, I really enjoyed this post. I think the shy students are often the ones with the most to say.

    FYI – There is no word limit.

  3. Anne Hilborn

    I really like this idea, a method that gives shy students a way to fully participate in class, and encourages discussions outside of class. I’ve been in numerous discussion classes as a grad student that have sputtered and never really worked despite all of our best intentions (including those of the professor). Incorporating a flexible writing component that can take all sorts of formats and shapes might be a way of getting students to share the ideas and thoughts that for whatever reason they did not want to speak up about in class. I was a big believer in the benefits of discussion based classes until I attended too many unsuccessful ones, and effectively leading discussions where everyone gets a voice is one of the big challenges I see/fear in my teaching future. Creating discussions that are more than just sitting in a class talking and incorporating media to allow more people to express themselves will make things easier/more successful for a wider variety of students as well as for me as a teacher,

  4. A Brown

    I enjoyed your post. I definitely think that connected learning would be a good tool to get all types of students involved in class discussions. I always disliked classes where I would be graded on how often I spoke. What if a few students dominated the conversation too much, or some students take longer to process their thoughts than others? You brought up some great points!

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