The Sound School is a vocational-agricultural school located in New Haven’s City Point District. Students come to this school not only from the many neighborhoods of New Haven but from several surrounding towns as well. This leads to a very diverse student population with a wide range of student backgrounds and interests. The total student population at Sound was 318 in the 2018-19 academic year. The campus stretches along roughly a quarter-mile of Long Island Sound, and students pass between buildings to get from class to class. This open atmosphere coupled with the diversity of students and small class sizes leads to classes that allow for in-depth discussion of topics with a blending of perspectives. Students tend to enter conversations with open minds, and they listen to one another with authentic interest in learning from one another.
The Sound School has phased in a one-to-one digital policy. During their freshman year students are issued a Chromebook, which they carry with them until they graduate. This provides a great advantage when working with students on their writing. Assignments and readings can be posted to Google Classroom which provides students with instant access to assignments and assures that they can’t misplace their work. Students produce their written work via Google Docs. This allows students and teachers alike to track revisions and edits to their work and allows both teacher and student to compile a portfolio of all the work a student produces.
This unit is intended to be used as the initial unit in an eleventh-grade English class. As with all classes at The Sound School, my junior English courses are mixed ability, presenting a range of student reading and writing abilities that can often be an instructional challenge. As noted, the core text for this unit is George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. Students will read this text in print form, but the other supplemental texts for this unit will be distributed to students electronically for them to read on a screen. All written responses to texts, including journal responses and the final written argumentative essay will be produced digitally in Google Classroom.
While this unit asks students to explore the impact of digital technologies and digital media on their lives, it will also be utilizing digital technologies and digital media to convey much of the information they will be studying and to record their thoughts on that information. On the surface, this seems like a contradiction, or at the very least a bit ironic. However, class time will be given to discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the digital approach to education. Students will be asked to assess their perception of their learning in both spheres: with books, pens, and paper and with files, keyboards, and screens. Individuals can then choose whether to include this impact on their own education as part of their final argument for the unit.