From Education Week: Teaching Shakespeare with 21st Century Technology

As much as it helps to attend lectures, heed instruction, and explore themes we have not discovered ourselves but of whose salience we are assured nonetheless, the most enjoyment that Shakespeare has to offer can only be tapped through self-struggle. A kind in which the self not only struggles to develop with the help of Shakespeare’s well-spring of insight into humanity, but also in the more ordinary sense, in which the mind can stretch and exercise against a master of language. One of the disadvantages in being introduced to Shakespeare in the classroom, then, is that there is inevitably not time enough to brood and mull over his language. Against a deadline, many of the rhetorical and imaginative conceits are lost on the reader, who understandably feels alienated. A real question is whether modern technology could make this easier. This is just what Benjamin Herald reports the students of Mineola High School as having to do in a 1-to-1 iPad initiative, that tries to burnish and refurbish the classics with a manifold of virtual gadgetry to accompany. He writes,

Here at Mineola High School, for example, many of the teenagers say they’d rather read Shakespeare in print, a preference at least partially backed by an emerging body of research that suggests comprehension and the ability to dive deep into a text may suffer when using screens. Expert teachers are frequently irked by new digital tools that focus on the quantifiable aspects of literacy instruction, such as improving students’ reading levels, rather than on fostering a love of great books.


And then there are more banal technology-related hurdles, such as spotty Wi-Fi connections.

But from audio recordings to document cameras, teachers have long used classroom technologies to deepen students’ engagement with classic literature. Social media, YouTube, digital reading platforms, kid-friendly computer-programming languagesthey’re all just new ways to make old texts come alive, educators across the country toldEducation Week during a weeks-long Twitter conversation that was part of the reporting for this story.

The beauty of Shakespeare is that his works remain vibrant and relevant even as the world keeps changing, said Mary Ellen Dakin, a literacy coach at Massachusetts’ Revere High School, a former master teacher with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, and the author of Reading Shakespeare With Young Adults.

” ‘Macbeth’ is a highly unstable, incredibly complex, very dynamic text,” Dakin said. What could be better suited to the 21st century tools we have at our disposal?”

Technology might allow Shakespeare’s plays to come alive, but that is because it allows one to more easily introduce the mediums that belong to plays. As for the text, it is also necessary for students to learn how to make it come alive within the theater of their own minds, a skill that is increasingly in want now that it is supposed technology saturated classrooms will do the imagining for them.

Read his full post at Education Week

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