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?