Educators today often complain of the difficulty of retaining students’ attention in the classroom and of stimulating their interest in traditional elements of the curriculum.
Young adults, accustomed to highly visual, interactive media platforms like the internet, gaming consoles, smartphones and so on, often struggle when confronted with reams of text to be absorbed in a passive way. The challenge for many students becomes even greater when trying to engage with Shakespeare, whose works contemporary students often perceive as inaccessible or irrelevant.
Educational thought-leader Marc Prensky has argued that today’s students, having been raised in a digital environment, assimilate information differently to most adults:
“They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age…as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors…. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite... They are used to the instantaneity of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets, a library on their laptops, beamed messages and instant messaging."
(Marc Prensky, 2001)
So how do we ensure that Shakespeare's works—a resource so rich in literature, philosophy, psychology and human life itself—are not lost to these "digital natives"?
The Shakespeare In Bits series aims to address this potential disconnect by blending technology and content in such a way as to provide a richer and more stimulating learning experience. The graphics, audio and text combine to provide users with multiple cognitive inputs while the incidental rollover notes, clickable in-line translations, character bios etc. also provide a degree of interactivity that keeps the student more fully engaged with the text. Importantly, this approach also allows the students to interact with challenging words or phrases in their original context, without resorting to blanket modern 'translations'.
The combination of animation, audio, and text delivered by each Shakespeare In Bits title also allows students to process information in a way that best suits their learning style. Multiple intelligence theorists such as Howard Gardner have argued that traditional educational methods best suit learners with a strong verbal or logical-mathematical intelligence. With Shakespeare In Bits, learners with a strong visual or kinesthetic intelligence are also catered to through the visual and interactive elements of the software. Other influential thinkers, such as developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, have argued that active participation and social interaction can maximize learning outcomes in the classroom. Cognizant of this, Shakespeare In Bits allows students and teachers the flexibility to use the product on their own in a self-paced environment, or in a more collaborative way via a projector in the classroom, or in a lab setting.
Whatever your technological set-up and student needs, we believe there is a way for you and your students to enjoy a unique learning experience with Shakespeare In Bits!