Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Twitter as Newspeak?

I recently started teaching George Orwell's 1984 to my senior English class, Struggles of Humanity. They have just finished reading Part 1, and I would like to link the novel's ideas to students' lives today. Looking through my class website, I found a link to an article, "Parallels between Twitter and Newspeak," by Art Silverblatt. In this article, he makes an interesting comparison about the currency of limited language. Of course, Twitter and Newspeak have different concepts, but the article got me thinking about what impact "limited" language has on my students and their perceptions of truth.

It is very evident to me that most of my students (the "average" population) struggles while reading an extended text. They can't seem to hold on to the extended thought long enough to glean the larger meaning, or truth, from the text. Conversely: does the economy of language expressed in a tweet or a text limit their capacity to understand a larger truth?

To this end, I want to create a class lesson / activity to test this idea. I have a vague concept in mind:

  • Put students into groups, ensuring that each group has at least one smartphone available (my district has blanketed most schools with WiFi and has instituted a BYOT policy that students don't quite take advantage of yet).
  • Direct them to twitter and ask them to search on a topic (do I provide, do they choose?)
  • Have them collect a variety of tweets (copy into notes?) and then have them follow through to full story? Does the tweet accurately represent the story's "truth"?
  • Choose one to share out with the class.
Like I said: this is a vague conception of an idea. I would love to hear any feedback as to shaping this, and perhaps incorporating additional / different Web 2.0 tools.