“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
- Attributed to Ben Okri
As a child and a teenager I was always reading, devouring books similarly to how I devoured food - voraciously, getting lost in the story of the character about whom I was reading. There are many stories that I look back on with fond memories. Goodnight Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian is still one of my favourite stories of all time. I read through my mother's collection of Jack Higgins, Wilbur Smith, Robert Ludlum, my Pop's collection of Ion Idriess, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov. Each time I would be lost in the story of the protagonist, and much of my spare time was spent reading these great stories. When I then saw that Unit Ten in the Flipped Learning Level II Certification course was titled first person narrative, I was naturally curious as to what it was about.
Ryan Hull is a Year Seven Social Studies teacher in Kansas and he was increasingly finding that his students were heading to Wikipedia for their research and were simply copying and pasting without actually engaging with the knowledge through analysis. Ryan's process was around having them use that knowledge that required them to think about it differently, to analyse and synthesis is it into a different form by having them write, initially, journal entries of particular historical figures reflecting on certain events, and then by having them write scripts for and record interviews with or as those characters.
The concept that Ryan spoke about which intrigued me the most, however, was using what he terms a creative use of social media. Social media is a tool like any other; it can be incredibly useful in the classroom or it can be a hindrance, it comes down to how we use it. There are many tools out there that allow you to create fake social media accounts (a great consolidated post of some of them by Gayle Pinn can be found here) and these can be used to generate exchanges between historical figures, timelines or recounts of historical events (such as the @RealTimeWWI and @RealTimeWWII twitter accounts).
I think this is interesting from how it can be used in History, using historical figures and events as the inspiration, but also for other subject areas as science (maybe a day in the life of the moon, or have some of the elements from the periodic table talking about relationships), for Geography (have a mountain talking about how it has changed and shrunk over time (interesting relationship here perhaps with PE and how we grow?), or for English with various characters from set texts interacting with each other (an interesting take on using Twitter to write stories is here).
I think that the use of first person narratives in the classroom is not a new strategy, however, the use of fake social media accounts presents an opportunity to integrate responsible use of social media into the discussion.
If you use fake social media to have students write, create, or respond to historical figures or events, I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Thank you for reading.