Imitation. We ALL do it. Whether we realize it or not, we subconsciously follow the examples set before us, making our Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) so important. We seek out inspiration from others in our fields, and though an identical outcome is not feasible, we learn from the experience and are better for it. Emerson noted that imitation is a form of flattery, and as an educator, I constantly seek out fresh approaches to teach English Language Arts while utilizing technology from the best source out there: other teachers.
In curating projects from others for teaching ELA, I noted a common theme running through other literary classrooms and their social media use, and it involved a form of imitation. Classes all over were using Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as a means of character analysis. Whether it was from mythology, drama, novels, or short stories, students were learning about characterization by assuming the identities of the characters they had read about in class. Some teachers had even asked students to keep their character identity a secret, making it a classroom guessing game of Who’s Who through carefully crafted tweets or posts. Another unique perspective was asking students to imitate a character’s personality and visually represent it through pictures on Instagram. Students are curating boards on Pinterest while imitating a character and blogging in character on a regular basis, and it’s working.
Now, to the unassuming or critical eye, it may not seem like much, a frivolous use of class time, but it is so much more. These teachers are providing students with authentic learning experiences. Social media is a growing part of teen communication, and by combining classroom content with these platforms, students are given an opportunity to showcase their creativity and critical thinking skills through a real-world communication medium. Students are doing far more analysis in trying to represent another identity than basic worksheet questions, and I dare say that these activities will help the knowledge stick far longer than the school term.
This exploration into social media use in ELA is far from in-depth, and there are thousands of other ideas and resources available for anyone willing to take the plunge and experiment. These examples are proof that this approach is working, and while some might question an idea, we should at least be willing to try something new. Context differences are a given, but worst case scenario: we try it and move on or try it, adjust it, and try it again. Our students deserve the best we can offer them, and in evolving 21st-century classrooms, we must provide authentic learning opportunities. We must dare to imitate classroom strategies that will produce growth for our students as well as our professional craft.