The learning activity I have explored is role playing, with the use of Social Media tools. The learner’s group for this activity is a High School literature class, focusing on the 10th to 12th grades. The novel that will set the stage for the activity is Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and the Social Media tools used will be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flikr.
The choice of Brave New World is based on its unique dystopian view of the future. It is a controversial school library book, and has been banned on more than one occasion. For the school reading lists that do include Brave New World, creating an activity that allows students the freedom to explore the novel’s themes with modern day social media tools offers a level of inquiry that is very new and distinct to our own technological age.
For a very brief refresher on the novel, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Brave New World was written in 1931, and published in 1932. It is set in London, in the year 2540. It anticipates the developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to profoundly change society.
The protagonist’s name is John Savage, an outsider who cannot accept the ways of the “World State.” The antagonist’s name is Mustapha Mond, a leader and strong proponent of the World State’s values: “Community, Identity, Stability.” The price that has been paid to uphold these values is the loss of art, literature, and scientific freedom, as well as the traditional family unit and the practice of religion. There are 23 primary and secondary characters in the novel, and a number of background figures, too.
Digital Learning Environment
Facebook will hold the center of this project. It will be the gathering place for all posts and information that the class and the instructor share.
Prior to reading the novel, each student will be given the name of a character in the book. They will be instructed to take notes about the character as they read, as this will help them in their role playing efforts.
Once the class has finished reading the novel, a closed Facebook group page will be created by the instructor, who will be the administrator. Students will join the group and work within the Facebook group page, so content can be monitored by the instructor.
The goal of this lesson is to bring students to a deeper level of understanding regarding this novel. They will be visiting a dystopian future, and will read about ideas that do not fit well into our current world-view. What is considered a healthy way of life now will be outlawed in the novel, and the “World State” may cause some anxiety and worry to high school students.
The familiarity of media tools like Twitter and Instagram will help place the student’s mindset back in the present and give them opportunities to express themselves in clear, familiar ways.
This lesson does have a “live” component to it. Depending on what the students post, and how they respond to situations presented by the instructor, they may begin to veer in new directions with the novel’s storyline. They may re-interpret events or people. They might have a new appreciation or a stronger disapproval of a particular character. The instructor will need to be a moderator, and monitor what is occurring on the group page.
Students can post photos, links, article hyperlinks, artwork, music and other online media. They will have Facebook conversations between their characters, and will stay in the role of their character as they select the media they want to share.
The Instructor will post challenges to the class. There will be puzzles that need to be solved, using locations and circumstances that were in the novel’s storyline. The choice of answering questions or solving problems with text or a media post will most often be at the discretion of the student. Use of all media tools is required but there may be instances when an Instagram photo will be a better choice, as opposed to typing a message.
Students can be instructed to form small groups and to work on activities in a group environment. The instructor can set up a debate between these groups, and ideas from the novel can be argued in debate form.
Alternative endings to the novel can be discussed. A section of the novel can be broken into sequences that students will be assigned to re-write. Some students may take an “uplifting” approach to the tale, while others will bring in a Star Wars jet fighter battle to the scene. It could be very amusing to read, once all the segments are put together again.
The point of these activities is to allow the students to understand, then re-imagine Huxley’s Brave New World. They are not able to do this if they don’t know the novel’s world, when they begin. The early activities re-visit the novel’s characters and locations, while later activities open up the opportunity for students to use their creativity and imagination. Well known media tools allow them to express themselves and to share their ideas with their classmates.
The primary assessments for this lesson include:
- Students stay “in-character” in their posts. Their role playing shows a level of comprehension with the novel’s plot.
- The student’s ability to further their character’s goals. Do their actions support the perspective of their character?
- The use of all media tools listed. The student creates a variety of social media messages to express their ideas.
- The student fully participates in the Facebook group page with written and media posts.