The Enlightenment Meets Social Media

What better way to make the Enlightenment come alive than to have my World History students create Blogger sites and set up a conversation on Twitter!

In our activity, students were hired by a consulting firm to bring the ideas of the Enlightenment to a modern “tech-savvy” audience. In small groups, they have assumed the identities of various philosophers (Voltaire, the Baron De Montesquieu, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Jean Jacques Rousseau) and wrote a blog post to reintroduce themselves to the world and to discuss how their ideas were incorporated into the United States of America. The posts were then shared under a common hashtag and students, as the philosophers, began interacting with one another.

For the next step, I wanted students to extrapolate the ideas of their philosophers into other historical situations. For instance, a question for Rousseau might be, “What are your views on communism and how it worked in Russia during the reign of Stalin?” To answer this question, students not only have to research communism, specifically communism under Stalin, but they also have to figure out how Rousseau would view both. Now, I could have simply asked the questions myself, but I felt that my students would get more excited to do this research if they were answering to a larger audience. I shared this assignment with my colleagues and my PLN (who then shared it with their PLN’s).

My students really got into the activity, particularly when they realized that they were playing for a larger audience. For 83 minutes (a long block) my students were in research and publication mode. Engaging with those outside of the classroom, as well as each other. I played the role of the facilitator ensuring that all students were engaged.

Overall, my students were able to form a deeper understanding of the philosophers of the Enlightenment and were introduced to both Twitter and Blogger.

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