Robert M. Schwartz
If you are a teacher of English it is almost a certainty that you have
semblance of Shakespearean know-how; you at the very least have a framework, were it in your curriculum (and it is probably in your curriculum), for teaching a Shakespeare play. The nature of your job, however, does not guarantee any type of knowledge, much less a good grasp on, modern communication technology. And who could blame you? It moves as fast as any other electronic industry, introducing new “apps” (computer and smart phone/tablet applications) almost every day – new ways to communicate, sometimes at the detriment of old ways to communicate. Some may lament that many of our students communicate more over text message than by actually speaking to each other, and yet this is the reality of the modern era, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down or even changing course. And so it is, in my belief, of great importance to at least have a framework for understanding the world of modern comm-tech as an educator. It will certainly help in executing a curricular unit based upon it, and it may even impress your students. Like conversational Spanish when visiting Barcelona, an educator need only know the pertinent details of this modern language to relate it well to teens. I should note that even if you
have a solid grasp on these concepts, there may still be useful or interesting information here.
The first email was sent on private servers in 1971, and the World Wide Web went public exactly 20 years later in 1991. AOL Instant Messenger and Google were launched in 1997 and 1998, respectively. The short half decade between 1999 and 2004 saw the advent of blogging websites Blogger and Word Press, as well as Friendster (a social media precursor to Facebook), LinkdIn, Myspace and Facebook itself. Youtube, a social video-streaming website, and Twitter followed quickly after.
The latter, a website where posts of 140 characters or less altered the landscape of social media and indeed media itself, will be the basis for the modernization of many of the upcoming lines from
(If Hamlet had a Twitter account, might this modern twist on communication have saved anyone from madness or murder?).
SMS (short message service) messages are text communications sent over computers and smart phones or tablets. Text messages, according to mashable.com, are used by 81% of mobile phone users worldwide, and “texting” is the most utilized data application in the world. The first text message was sent in 1992 – when there were no keyboards on mobile phones – so the sender had to use a PC to create the message. The message was: “Merry Christmas.”
Most teachers are familiar with text messaging as the most ultra-modern scourge of classroom management. However hopefully, with these strategies, students might be able to utilize this obsession to engage in, instead of to distract from, the analysis of great literature.
“Blog” is a term which evolved from several phrases. The concept of “logging on the web” became a “weblog,” which finally became the vulgar “blog.”
Awkward moniker aside, blogs have come to comprise a huge portion of what people, especially teens, read as web content. The websites Blogger and Word Press, mentioned earlier, are among the most popular places for any user to blog; however the phenomenon has caught such a wave that the most popular are seen as legitimate (for the most part) media news sources. Examples include The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, Gawker, and the above referenced Mashable. Hamlet always had quite a bit to say – we can, and will, prompt our students to imagine what it would have been like had he this type of resource.
Twitter is explained by Jessica Hische in a blog offshoot webpage entitled “Mom This is How Twitter Works.” Hische explains that it is a social networking tool found online and uses posts consisting of 140 characters or less. The posts usually consist of things users find interesting or useful or entertaining, some using it as a sort of news feed and others simply to update their friends and family on what is happening with them.
The website (which is a great, far more detailed resource for teachers as a crash-course in the use of Twitter), goes on to explain the idiosyncrasies of exactly who sees what posts, which can be manipulated based on the users’ intention. To tag another user in a tweet, one must use her “username” which is what any given user chooses to be known as on twitter and is preceded by an “@” symbol. Therefore if Hamlet self-identified on twitter, his name would be @Hamlet (hence characters of the play, when referred to with regard to their twitter accounts, are all simply @ + their names).
So if a character wanted to tweet to another, but
to that person (it would not show up on the sender’s personal feed), he would simply refer to the person by his username. For example:
@Hamlet: “@Horatio, don’t tell anyone about my #AnticDisposition”
Hamlet does not want anyone to know that his antic disposition (might be) feigned, so he would only want to tell Horatio. In fact, this is
a secret that Hamlet would more likely choose to use Direct Messaging – the “chat” aspect of Twitter where users speak
to each other and nothing is “posted” to any other user.
However if there
something Hamlet wanted to share that he wanted all users (who follow his account, and/or the account of those he mentions) to know about, he could add a character (usually a period) in front of the username he is referring to:
@Hamlet: “We that have free souls, it touches us not. Come see #TheMouseTrap .@Claudius .@Gertrude”
This way, users who follow Hamlet, Claudius
Gertrude will understand Hamlet’s thrust at the King and Queen.
Hashtags, seen in the above examples, again described in detail on Hische’s website, serve to put a label on certain tweets with the specific purpose of other users being able to see who is tweeting about the same topic. They start with the “#” symbol, and can be used to popularize a phrase for a concert or gathering, make a topic more popular, or even to apostrophize a joke.
If the cast of
had twitter accounts, most of their hashtags might be used to add Shakespearean dramatic accentuation, or as a “trending” (important) topic (as they are used in examples throughout this curricular unit).
Now, with this knowledge, we bring the students to Shakespeare, instead of the other way around.