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

    Digital Connection & Human Psychology

    Digital Connection & Human Psychology


    In this lesson, you will consider the effects of constant digital connections on human psychology. You'll also have an opportunity to develop some of the big ideas you want to tackle in your argument essay.

    In this lesson, students will consider the effects of constant digital connections on human psychology. They'll also have an opportunity to develop some of the big ideas they want to tackle in the argument essay.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Find the article “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” on the Psychology Today website. Share it with your students. If you do not have Internet access in the classroom, you can print and distribute the article.
    • Decide whether you will have students work independently with the questions on Rutledge's article or if you will have them discuss it in their museum exhibit teams.
    • For students who have difficulty finding an interviewee, you may wish to identify a willing member of the staff they can interview.

    Annotation Skills

    • Make sure your students have the tools they need to annotate. If they can't annotate on the tablet, you may wish to print and distribute the article. They can use sticky notes, if necessary.
    • Read aloud and model the process of reading and annotating the first paragraph of “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” by Pamela Brown Rutledge. Be sure to point out Maslow's original “hierarchy of needs” so students can effectively compare it to Rutledge's proposed model.
      • ELL: Be sure all students, especially ELLs, understand the meaning of a “hierarchy of needs.”
    • If you feel it will be helpful for your group, you can continue to read aloud through the second and third paragraphs and model the annotation process for the class.
      • SWD: Based on the annotating skills demonstrated by SWDs in Lesson 1 , model an annotation or two, as needed, before they read and annotate on their own. Emphasize that a reader who has strong annotating skills can further his or her understanding of the text he or she is reading. This suggestion can also benefit your entire class.
    • Be sure to make time for students' questions on this process before moving on. Students will need to be able to shift smoothly to doing their own annotations independently.
    • Then let students finish the process themselves.


    Follow along as your teacher models the process of reading and annotating the first paragraph of “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” by Pamela Brown Rutledge.

    • As you follow along, make your own annotations.

    Open Notebook

    Later in the unit you’ll need to engage in this process independently, so make sure that you understand the process and get your questions answered at this time.

    Social Networks Reading

    • Let students work independently with “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses.”
      • SWD: As needed, provide students with partially completed graphic organizers to help with the process, and encourage them to check in throughout the process, or if they are feeling “stuck.”
    • Give students a chance to ask questions and about the reading.
      • ELL: Be sure that ELLs are engaging in the reading successfully. You can group any students who need extra help and work with them as a way of supporting them during the reading process.

    Work Time

    Read “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” by Pamela Brown Rutledge.

    • Annotate the article, noting passages that make major claims or counterclaims and responding with a few thoughts of your own.
    • Find any confusing passages and write down any questions you have.
    • Choose at least three examples of evidence Rutledge uses to support her points. Write an annotation for each in which you evaluate her use of evidence. How convincing is it? Why?

    Open Notebook

    Share any questions you have with your teacher.

    You Have a Choice
    Determine how you will approach the work:

    You can choose to work independently, work with a partner, work with a group, or confer with the teacher.

    Notes on Digital Connection

    • This activity can take place as a small group conversation instead of as individual note taking if you want to give students more opportunities to interact with their museum exhibit teams.
      • SWD: For students who need extra support with note-taking exercises, you can provide them with a note-taking organizer that includes space for answers to the questions posed and corresponding spaces for notes on the discussion.

    Work Time

    Once you’ve had a chance to ask and answer questions, use “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” and these questions to write about the effect of digital connectivity on human psychology.

    • What digital tools do you use to increase your sense of being connected to others?
    • What social tools do you find the most helpful? Why?
    • What social tools do you find the most addictive? Why?
    • If you like to go on Facebook or text message, how does this article bring a sense of understanding to why you do?
    • What goals are easier to achieve because of our increased capacity to connect digitally?
    • How might this article help you respond to Digital Immigrants in your life?

    Open Notebook

    Thesis Draft

    • The key here is that students understand that a great thesis in a final draft begins with a working thesis. Great ideas are not typically generated in a single sitting.
    • SWD: For some students, spelling words correctly can become a sticking point during the writing process and hinder effective drafting. Remind students that their current focus is on the content of their writing; the time for editing and revising will come later.

    Work Time

    Go back over your notes and writing from the unit so far, including your notes on the articles and your immigrant experience paragraph. Then write a one-sentence working thesis.

    Your working thesis is not going to be the very best version of your argument. That will take time, analysis of evidence, and many revisions. However, writing a working thesis is an opportunity to push yourself to be specific in your thinking and to begin the process of answering a very challenging, complex question.

    Here are two examples of a working thesis, each with its own contrasting view of the issue:

    • The digital era has brought new kinds of tools for social connections, which have made our ways of thinking and connecting very different than they were before.
    • The digital era may have brought new tools for socially connecting, but we are not very different than before since we are still seeking to fulfill the same needs, just in a new way.

    Get started by making a first attempt at answering the question below.

    • What kind of human has the digital era created, and how are people who grew up digitally connected different from those who began connecting later in life?

    Open Notebook

    Thesis Revision

    • Check students' working theses to assess comprehension and progress. Students' ideas may be very broad at this stage, but they should be topical and reflect understanding of the material.
      • SWD: For some students, verbal expression can be stronger than written expression. They may understand the texts they read but are unable to show their understanding through their writing. You can verbally assess these students before looking at their written work to see if there is a discrepancy between verbal and written expression.

    Work Time

    As you know by now, it is difficult to capture a truly interesting argument in one sentence.

    • After your first attempt, spend a few minutes exploring new ideas.
      • Could someone make a reasonable argument against your thesis? If not, focus on clarifying your point.
      • What evidence will you use to support your thesis? If evidence is hard to find, you may need to shift your argument.
    • After answering these questions, revise your working thesis.

    Open Notebook

    Then share your working thesis with your teacher.

    Digital Immigrant Interview

    • Spend the last few minutes of the lesson introducing the interview assignment and letting students brainstorm ideas with the class. Some students may initially have a hard time thinking of a great person to interview.
      • ELL: If necessary, you can discuss how being a Digital Immigrant is and is not like being an immigrant who leaves home to live in another country, especially if you have students in your class who are immigrants themselves.
    • Students can certainly interview their parents, but there may be other people in their lives who can provide broader perspectives on the way technology has shaped their social and intellectual lives.
    • You can also suggest members of the school community that students might interview.


    For homework, you will interview a Digital Immigrant, somebody who started connecting digitally after his or her childhood was over. The homework assignment itself contains ideas for questions you might ask, but the first step is picking somebody suitable to interview.

    • Brainstorm with the full class for a few minutes about the kinds of people it would be helpful and interesting to interview. Who will give you interesting and unexpected perspectives? Take notes as ideas occur to you.

    Open Notebook


    • Help students plan both their night to disconnect and their Digital Immigrant interview so both are finished by the appropriate lesson. All students will need to have completed their disconnection experiment in order to participate effectively in Lesson 7 , and all students will need to have interviewed a Digital Immigrant and written about their findings in order to participate effectively in Lesson 8 .
    • If feasible, encourage students to use the microphone feature in Notebook, which enables text-to-speech.
    • Let students know how you want them to share their work with you.


    For homework, interview a Digital Immigrant, somebody who started digitally connecting after his or her childhood was over.

    Use your understanding of the articles you have read so far as the basis for your conversation, and try to understand your interviewee’s perspective. You might begin by explaining the concept of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.

    Record or write down at least three of the most interesting answers you hear. Here are some questions you can use in your interview.

    • What technology makes you the most uneasy? Why?
    • What is the strangest thing you see young Digital Natives do with their technology?
    • Do you wish you could go back to a time when people didn’t use technology to connect socially? Why or why not?
    • Do you think Digital Natives’ brains are developing differently than yours did? Why or why not? In what ways?

    Open Notebook

    You have until Lesson 8 to complete this interview and share your findings. Don’t forget that you also have to complete your disconnection experiment by Lesson 7.