Using technology to teach literature has been a hot topic for years now. Here are some ideas and things to think about if you're considering adding some extra tech to your classroom.

Make sure the tech serves the lesson—and the student.

Does the technology you use help students understand the text better? Or does it help them understand the technology better?

The primary concern when using technology to teach literature is that it should help your students meet the learning objectives you've set for them. That's the case whether you're using computers or just books, pens, and paper. If you use a specific technology in your classroom, there should be a specific justification why that technology is essential to the lesson.

But there are secondary concerns, too.

Teaching with technology that students understand and use themselves on a regular basis could help them engage more thoroughly with the texts you're teaching.

Author and teacher Jordan Shapiro offers this on thinking critically about modern forms of media:

“I don’t advocate for games in the classroom because I think it’s important that people learn about video games [. . .] I do it for two reasons: one is to engage in contextualization; the other reason has to do with fostering a critical way of thinking about media and especially interactive media. Whether you play video games or not, nobody in the world is going to get through the next 20 years without having gone through some kind of education into the digital, interactive, procedural process.”

Engaging in discourse about new forms of media—not just video games, but also graphic novels, fully interactive hypertexts, etc.—will better prepare students to think critically about these forms of media and how to analyze them as texts. This could be important for their future success as these forms of media become increasingly prominent.

Crucially for the literature classroom, most traditional methods of literary analysis can still be applied to works in these new mediums, meaning that many of the skills they develop by analyzing the new forms of media can also be used to study traditional texts.

Or you can teach a traditional text alongside a reinterpretation of that text in a newer medium, as with this choose-your-own-adventure-style game based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. This could lead to all kinds of great discussions and textual analysis—and could help your students develop a new understanding of just what makes Shakespeare's original text so powerful.

Use the internet to your advantage.

Harness the power of the internet and yoke it to your teaching wagon by setting up a forum or comments section in which you and your students can discuss the books you're teaching.

There are a couple distinct advantages to this approach:

  • You can ask your students questions or post comments anytime.
  • Answer a student's question once, and it's there for everyone to see. Students with similar questions get their problems solved at the same time, saving you time and effort.

Of course, there are some things to be careful about:

  • The internet can be a notoriously toxic environment. Make sure that when you set up your forum, the only people who can access it and post comments to it are you and your students.​
  • Privacy concerns. If you're unable to restrict access to only you and your students, then anyone who knows your forum's web address can access it—including harassers and bullies. Students should be advised to provide as little personal information as possible. You may want to have your students use nicknames or "handles" rather than their real names.
  • To make sure you and your students are the only ones who can post comments, you'll all have to register accounts with the website hosting your forum. A more minor concern than the previous two, but it's still something to think about.

Use technology to enhance traditional reading experiences.

New programs and reading platforms offer you quite a bit of flexibility in how you deliver teaching content to your students.

Take the Actively Learn platform, for example. It allows you to embed questions, comments, and annotations into an ebook's text. Your notes are sent through the internet directly to your students' copies of the ebook, allowing you to give them remote support anytime.

Your students can also write their own notes and ask questions, and they can also answer questions and comment on notes that other students have written. The Actively Learn platform basically extends your classroom beyond the walls of your school.

How have you been using technology in your classroom? Do you have any success stories you want to share? Any challenges you're facing?

We'd love to hear from you—let us know in the comments.