Chris Adcock
English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

The Role of Technology

The Role of Technology


In this lesson, you will develop more ideas about what it means to be connected and about the role technology plays in shaping your relationships and the ways you think.

In this lesson, students will develop more ideas about what it means to be connected and about the role technology plays in shaping their relationships and the ways they think.


  • Read the lesson and student content.
  • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
  • Watch the video. Consider whether you will pause for note taking, show it twice, or make other modifications.
  • Find the article “Are you a Digital Native?” on the Newsweek website. Share it with your students. If you do not have Internet access in the classroom, you can print and distribute the article.
  • Consider whether you will make time for one more Whole Group Discussion at the end of the lesson or whether you will use the class time to help students get started with their writing prompt.

Snapshots Small Group Work

  • Help the students develop coherent impressions of what they're seeing. Whatever strong impressions they can build now will help them reflect on the claims made in the materials they will encounter in this unit.
    • SWD: Be aware of how well SWDs are working within their group and make adjustments as necessary to help them be as successful as possible.


In small groups, share your snapshots and discuss them. As you discuss, consider the following questions.

  • Do people of different ages use technology in different ways? How so?
  • What common elements do you see across all the different snapshots?
  • Are the people in your snapshots connecting to others? How so?
  • Where do you see yourself fitting into these snapshots?
  • Do you sit in a group of peers and look at your phone?
  • Do you prefer to shut off your devices or put them away when you’re with others in person?
  • Do you let calls or text messages interrupt personal conversations?

Digital Divide Quick Write

  • Encourage students to think of a specific instance to write about here, rather than general feelings. At some time or another, they have almost certainly felt like the knowledgeable one in an exchange like this or like the one who didn't know anything.
    • ELL: If it would be helpful for your students, you can allow time for ELLs to discuss and organize their thoughts with a partner before writing their reflections. Allow ELLs who share a primary language to use that language when working together and to use a dictionary (or dictionaries).

Work Time

  • Write about a time in which you’ve felt like you and another person were speaking differently about technology, almost like you both come from different cultures. Maybe you were the knowledgeable one, or maybe you were the one who needed help.
  • What did it feel like to be in your particular part of digital culture?

Open Notebook

Medieval Help Desk

  • Visit different groups to help the conversation stay on track and to help students add to their notes from the previous activity. The idea here is to have them develop a specific personal opinion on their place in digital culture.
    • ELL: Let students know before beginning that the video is in Norwegian with English subtitles. For those who may struggle to keep up with these subtitles, remind them that they can view it more than once so that everyone has a chance to watch it and gain a true understanding of what it is saying.

Work Time

In your small groups, watch the Medieval Help Desk video and then spend a few minutes talking with your group about it. The video is silly, but most people have found themselves on one side or the other of a conversation like this. Your familiarity with technology can put you on one side or the other of a big cultural divide.

As you talk with your small group, make notes on the questions below.

  • Do you ever feel like the technician in that video? When?
  • Do you ever feel like you have to explain something absurdly basic to somebody who’s unfamiliar with a piece of technology? How does that feel?
  • Do you ever feel like the man who doesn’t understand how to use the book? When?
  • Do you ever feel like somebody is explaining something absurdly basic to you, but you just don’t get it? How does that feel?
  • Do you ever feel like you speak one language when it comes to technology and a person you’re interacting with speaks another? Or like you come from two very different cultures?
  • What does it feel like to be in your particular part of digital culture?

Open Notebook

Digital Native Reading and Annotation

  • Depending on your students' reading ability and speed, this activity may take more or less time. The writing activity that comes next can be saved for homework if you choose to devote more time to reading or if you want to have a quick share with the full-class in order to check in with each group's understanding and progress.
    • ELL: Due to the vocabulary and the level of abstraction of this reading, it might be a good idea to ensure that ELLs are working with students who have high English language proficiency. Monitor that ELLs are engaged in the activity.
  • Understanding the differences between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants is essential to this unit.
  • For many groups, it will make sense to stop and explain the idea of a metaphor here, using the Digital Native/Immigrant concept as an example. This is also a good moment to point out that the two aren't totally separate categories but that many of us find ourselves on a continuum somewhere in between.
    • SWD: The metaphorical language (“Digital Native/Immigrant”) in this reading may be challenging for some SWDs. Check to ensure students can understand and apply the meaning of this metaphor.
  • Here's an easy definition you can share with your students: a metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things for the purpose of illustration. In this situation, familiarity with digital tools is compared to a country. Younger people have grown up in a world full of digital devices and are therefore “natives.” Older people grew up without these devices and have come to them later in life, like “immigrants.”
  • You can also model the process of finding and annotating a passage if you feel your group would benefit.

Work Time

Continuing in your small groups, read “Are you a Digital Native?”

Read the article individually. When you finish, begin writing your response to the following questions until every member of your group finishes.

Once you’re all finished reading, discuss your responses to the questions and continue updating your notes on your place in digital culture.

  • How does Small think using technology may change our brains?
  • Do his findings surprise you? Why?
  • What is a Digital Native?
  • What is a Digital Immigrant?
  • Are the two categories completely separate, or do you see places where they overlap?

Open Notebook

Digital Divide Entry

  • If there’s time, you can let students begin this writing process, but if you chose to devote more time to the small group work or to a full-class discussion, this entry can be written for homework.
    • SWD: The list of questions provided may be overwhelming for some students, especially those who struggle with writing tasks. You can reduce the number of questions for those students as needed.
    • ELL: Make sure that ELLs have access to a bilingual dictionary as well as monolingual dictionaries in English and their primary language.


Over the last two lessons, you’ve collected a series of notes and impressions concerning your understanding of the effect of technology on the ways we connect to each other. You’ve also begun to construct some ideas on your own place in the culture of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.

You may answer any or all of the following questions as you write.

  • Do you think of yourself as a Digital Native? Why or why not?
  • You are probably more familiar with certain technologies than many of the adults in your life. How does that feel?
  • How does your relationship with technology make you more effective or less effective in achieving your goals?
  • Many people aren’t totally Natives or totally Immigrants when it comes to digital issues.
    • Where do you think you fall?
    • How much of a Native are you?
    • How much are you an Immigrant?

Open Notebook

Digital Connection Log

  • Make sure that students know that you will be reading their entries and everything they write must be appropriate for school. You could have students share their entries with their small group members or have them share only with you. Explain that this connection log will serve as a point of comparison when they disconnect from technology for a future lesson.


  • Finish and polish the writing you started in the previous task and share it according to your teacher’s instructions.
  • Make a log of the digital connections you make from 6 p.m. until you go to bed.
    • Keep track of the approximate number of text messages you send and receive, the amount of time you spend on social sites, and the kinds of connections you make there.
    • Also keep track of how many people you connect with over the course of the evening.
    • Keep your log in your Notebook; it will serve as an interesting point of comparison to the evening on which you disconnect.

Open Notebook