Looking forward to presenting at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention 2010 in Orlando this November. My presentation is part of a panel session to share my Macbethbook project, a parody social network students build in a wiki that is a mashup of Shakespeare's Scottish play and Facebook.
Shakespeare’s theme of versions of reality (appearance versus reality) comes to the fore as students consider versions of self that a social network user puts online. They imagine what "versions" of characters are known among the dramatis personae of "Macbeth."
Using a wiki as the platform for this collaborative project, provides verisimilitude to the look and function of an actual site. In role, students post online journal entries, photos, videos, links, and email among characters from the play that demonstrate their understanding of characters, relationships, action, dialogue, and language. As they examine the thematic implications of appearance v. reality, they realize how social networking fosters varied representations of self in virtual and real lives today.
As recently as December 2009, researchers have noted that 93% of American teens use the Internet and of that number 73% use social networking (Lee Rainie, “Networked Learners,” Pew Internet & American Life Report, 2 Dec. 2009. Web.)
In creating a mock social network for the characters of "Macbeth," students analyze how social networks function: who sees what, what may be shared, hidden, revealed, invented, honest or hypocritical. Traditional literacy skills serve new literacies of working with digital media is a requirement as students construct a social network from the ground up, composing writing, taking photos, making videos, and uploading these to the site, and then linking to “friends” for viewing.
Session participants will be given the opportunity to imagine the social network of "Macbeth" from character points-of-view to add interaction and illustrate the students' learning process of this inquiry-based approach.
Out of a complex intersection of classic literature and contemporary technology come practical lessons of living literate lives. One lesson is the imperative that students come to understand the social relationships and multiplicities of persona in Shakespeare’s play. Next comes the lesson of how we tend to segment our “selves” among our social relationships, yet ultimately must reconcile these selves in one whole human being. Third, there is a recognition that social networks function at once virtually and in reality. And finally, students’ discover that their versions of themselves on offer to others—virtually or in reality—need to be critically selected with agency and be consistent with how they identify themselves—each as a one whole human being.
"Macbeth" is tragedy of a man and woman becoming monsters caused in part by a each separating his or her “self” until he or she became less than human. Thus, this project underscores how teachers and students may live literate and whole lives together, particularly when it comes to representing ourselves in social media.
If you are headed for NCTE 2010 in Orlando this November, look for Session I.25 at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, November 20.