For teachers of high school students, it is often tempting to dwell on the drawbacks of modern technology and to become frustrated or discouraged by students’ dependence on such technology. Indeed, I know many teachers who proclaim themselves Luddites and who see their roles as educators in competition with smartphones and social media, fighting a seemingly impossible battle for students’ attention.
While I understand and have felt this frustration, I realize that the progress in smartphone technology is unlikely to be reversed. Students’ fascination with their devices is not an obstacle that can be overcome. It is therefore the duty of teachers to make virtual lemonade, so to speak: although we may long for the days when students could be expected to sit attentively in a classroom, gazing forward at a teacher without a world of infinite distractions and escapism in their pockets (or in their hands, concealed under their desks), we must recognize and take advantage of the tremendous opportunities offered by such technology. Most students have access to a device that allows them literally endless options for entertainment, over which they have a sense of ownership, because they dictate its pace and selection. It is necessary, therefore, for teachers to stop viewing technology as necessarily an impediment to learning. Instead, we must decide how to best incorporate digital technology into our curricula and determine how it may be used to enhance our students’ involvement with the world, rather than isolate them from it.
The challenge, then, is to redirect students from the escapism offered by ever-present connectivity, and to repurpose that technology as a tool for connecting to meaningful social movements, thereby bridging the gap between students’ virtual worlds and the real one in which they live. This unit asks students to consider the possibilities and recognize the enormous potential of their devices, for better and for worse. This will happen over three phases: one in which the students explore speculative fiction and discuss its implications and connections to real, contemporary issues, a second in which connections are made to specific, current issues of social justice, and a final phase in which students will use the technology at their disposal to purposefully engage with their communities. The first and second phases of this unit may be sequenced and taught as independent (albeit connected) units, both of which build background knowledge to be implemented and acted upon by the project-based learning approach of the third phase. The timeline for this unit, therefore, is flexible, as the first and second phases may be shortened according to the teacher’s discretion.
- Within a society, it is each individual’s responsibility to contribute to that society in ways that will benefit others.
- Technology, including social media, has both the capability to create barriers between individuals, as well as the potential to bring people closer together.
- Speculative literature, especially (but not limited to) science fiction, provides perspectives on possible future worlds based on current trends.
- Technology can be used to facilitate tangible progress and social change in the world.