At the beginning of the digital boom there were utopian hopes that digital technology would be the great equalizer with idealistic hopes for society. However, that quickly evolved into apocalyptic predictions and realistic concerns which have continued to plague teachers and parents. This unit will attempt to have 8th grade students examine the effects that these handheld computers, also known as smart phones, are having on their lives. Overall, the unit will facilitate a critical evaluation of the effect of preoccupation with digital media, and encourage the students to creatively explore and question what the future may hold for them.
The unit will progress through five parts. Part I will introduce the topic of utopia via studying the early use of the term and researching historical utopian communities as well as Luddites. The guiding questions for Part I are: What is a utopia? How can technology change society? How is the concept of private property related to utopias? Part II will facilitate self-reflection and writing about students’ own digital use. The essential question is: How is digital technology impacting my life?
The third and fourths parts of the unit brings a literary analysis of both nonfiction and fictional texts into the discussion. Part III will introduce middle school students to theories about the physiological and psychological effects of the amount of time many teens spend on their phones, as well as watching larger screens and playing video games. This nonfiction information will be presented as content for them to develop and practice literacy skills. The essential questions are: How are digital technologies impacting young people in our world? Does digital technology facilitate private property in a positive way, or impact private property in a negative way? Part IV will explore literary analysis of dystopian literature. The essential questions are: How is technology being exploited in this literary dystopia? Is digital technology facilitating the sharing of property more equally? Part V is an opportunity for students to turn their minds and keyboards to imagining what the future holds in store. The essential question is: How do I envision the role of digital technology in a future society?
While the unit is designed to be taught in a small K-8 school, with academically and ethnically diverse students who are reading considerably above grade level, it could easily be adapted to a variety of grade level and school settings.