English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Digital Natives
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Technology
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Human Connection & Digital Technology

    Human Connection & Digital Technology


    In this lesson, you will explore what it means to be connected to other people with and without digital technology. You'll also start to consider the ways that your digital connections shape who you are.

    In this lesson, students will explore what it means to be connected to other people with and without digital technology. They'll also start to consider the ways that their digital connections shape who they are.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Decide how you will group students. The groups you make today can be used for all small group activities in this unit, right through to the teams for the museum project. That can help build a sense of consistency and teamwork for the long term. However, you can also remix the groups from day to day in Episode 1 if you want to test out certain students together before locking in the museum project groups. You will probably want between four and six students per exhibit team.

    Digital Connection Quick Write

    • Cycle the students through this process of writing and discussing fairly quickly. The object is to have them develop their own thoughts so they have a personal perspective to hold up against the video in the upcoming activity. They don't need a fully developed point of view, just some initial impressions to work with.
      • SWD: The Quick Write is an important skill, but one that may overwhelm students who struggle with writing. If you have students who need the additional support, provide them with sentence starters or prompts to help them with the Quick Write.
    • After the writing time, try to get one thought from as many students as possible so they get a chance to be exposed to a wide variety of thinking in a short period of time.
      • ELL: If you have students who are more comfortable with written English than spoken English, have them submit this Quick Write to you to check for understanding.


    We now live in a digital world that allows for instantaneous connection.

    The strict definition of connected is “joined together so as to provide access and communication.” Does that definition accurately reflect your own thoughts about what it means to be connected?

    Complete a Quick Write on the question of what it means to be connected. You can use these questions to spur your thinking.

    • What people and information do you connect with using technology?
    • Where are you when you are connected?
    • What are you doing when you are connected?
    • How do you interact with other people around you when you are connected?

    Open Notebook

    Share your initial ideas with the class.


    SWD: Model different ways to annotate the text (highlighting, underlining, color coding different types of information) to allow students multiple ways to demonstrate their understanding of the task.

    • Students will note in this chapter of Walden the contrasting need for some to connect (visitors to Thoreau's cottage who leave their calling cards) and the need for others to disengage (Thoreau, of course).
    • Some students may note the parallel of Thoreau's visitors and their little messages left behind to modern day texts or voicemails.
      • ✓ Has technology made us incessantly available to each other?
      • ✓ Does this leave no opportunity, or excuse, for true solitude?
    • Some students may note that growing up in a digital society might be conditioning new impulses into our collective selves.
      • ✓ Does it even occur to many people to seek solitude or the possible benefits of periodic disengagement?

    Work Time

    Read Chapter 5 of Henry David Thoreau’s nonfiction work Walden . This chapter is entitled “Solitude.”

    As you read, annotate and answer the following questions.

    • Have you ever felt the need to separate yourself from others and seek solitude?
    • What similarities do you see between Thoreau’s time and your own?
      • What are the differences?
    • According to Thoreau, what is the difference between loneliness and being alone?
      • Has technology made it impossible, or at least more challenging, to achieve either state? Explain.

    Solitude Small Group Work

    • Circulate around the room checking in with each group. Clear up any misconceptions that students may have.

    Work Time

    Share your responses within your small group.

    • As you listen, add your classmates’ ideas to the notes you began in the previous task.

    Solitude Whole Group Discussion

    • Facilitate a Whole Group Discussion about the chapter “Solitude” from Thoreau's book, Walden. Emphasize to the students that they should take notes on their classmates' ideas.
      • ELL: For some ELLs, sharing in a large group discussion will be easy; for others, it can be more challenging. Be aware of your students’ inclinations in this first Whole Group Discussion and encourage everyone to participate, even if it’s not by speaking. Some students, for example, may be more comfortable helping other members of their group figure out what to say beforehand.

    Work Time

    • As you listen carefully to other groups’ responses, be sure to add to your notes. You’ll want to develop and record your personal perspectives on these issues because you’ll need strong, well-developed thoughts for the unit project.

    Guiding Questions

    • Lead students in a discussion of the Guiding Questions and answer any questions that they have. Students will revisit the Guiding Questions at the end of the unit.


    Consider the Guiding Questions for this unit and discuss them with your class.

    • What does it mean to be digitally connected?
    • What are the implications of living in a world where everyone is digitally connected?
    • How does the availability of instant connectivity shape our relationships?
    • What does our Internet use reveal about people's needs as humans?

    You will revisit these questions at the end of the unit.

    Snapshots of Technology

    • This homework drops students right into the mode of doing their own research and independent thinking. These snapshots, combined with others students might make or take down the road, could form the basis for artifacts in their museum exhibits. What's important at this stage is that students begin to observe and share the ways people use technology in their world.
    • Let students know that taking photographs of people in public places is generally OK, but that if a situation feels uncomfortable a written “sketch” works just as well.
      • ELL: For students who are less comfortable with spoken English, encourage them to plan ahead of time what they might say if they need to approach someone about taking a picture. Suggest that they write down a sentence or two explaining what they are doing and then practice it so they are prepared when out dealing with the public.


    • Your job for homework is to observe the way people use digital technology in your world.
    • Look for people in public spaces, and take a snapshot with a device or in writing. Try to capture a sense of the way a piece of technology can shape a person’s experience of the world.
    • Find at least three different scenes and people of different ages.
    • Share your written or visual snapshots with your teacher.

    Open Notebook