About Ms. Lewis’s TwitterBot Shakespeare

This WordPress site was a part of a project I completed at the University of Pittsburgh. It evolved into a tool for instruction that I will be able to use in my teaching at the middle- and high school level.

I created a pair of Twitter Bots–twitter accounts that automatically tweet. These Twitter bots, Romeo and Juliet, serve as actors in the online production of Romeo and Juliet that I will be asking students to analyze, in comparison with the source text itself and other film and stage productions. I will also be asking students to serve as digital authors/directors and (co-)create Twitter bots of their own to present a literary text in a meaningful way. Ideally, this project should be implemented with a computer science co-teacher or consultant for maximum benefit. The justification for the project in an English classroom, an account of the composition process, notes and resources for interested educators, and artifacts including the twitter production of the scenes and the unit- and lesson plans and evaluation criteria, can all be found on the linked pages (above).

The purpose of this project is to get students interested in digital authorship specifically as it allows them to interact with literary texts. There are two main components to the unit plan that I have developed with this goal in mind. Students will read a traditional ninth-grade text, Romeo and Juliet, and alongside it they will interact with Romeo and Juliet’s “twitter bots,” twitter accounts that I set up for the characters that use a computer program to tweet the lines from the play, typically one at a time, so that students can see the play enacted in a digital setting. I am pairing the source text and the digital text I produced with other productions, too, found online and presented to the students almost entirely via the twitter bots.

As we read the play, students will work on a way to interact with it in a meaningful way using programming. Over the course of the unit, students will not only become adept readers of Shakespeare, but also of digital media, in particular the computer programming that they rarely encounter directly. They will see how computer programming can be used to alter literary texts and present them in a meaningful way with a particular interpretive agenda.

As they work on authoring their own twitterbots, they will be asked to think of themselves as authors, coauthors, and/or directors of their literary productions for the digital stage.

On this site, you will find my justification for adding this project to a ninth-grade English class’s curriculum. You’ll also find resources for educators who are interested in using this project–or some version of it–in their own classrooms. One such resource is a detailed explanation of what I found to be the most difficult part of the unit’s creation–the production of a working twitterbot program. Finally, you will find links to the bots themselves and a list of resources I used to justify implementing this project in a high school English classroom.

I hope that any educators who might be reading this will consider adding a digital authorship component to their courses. In particular, I hope that teachers who do not teach computer-related classes will consider implementing a project that asks students to think about their interactions with computers and the web they relate to their disciplines. I freely offer up these unit and lesson plans for use by any interested party. However, you should know that my knowledge of computer programming is very limited, and I can’t guarantee that I will perfectly maintain the code–and when you read my account of the process of creating my twitterbots, you’ll understand the potential drawbacks of using another author’s code. However, I can assure you that should you set out to create a computer program of your own, the resources are available for you to do it successfully, even without much background in computer programming. As I was doing this project, I came across this Edutopia article that explains the benefits of learning to code alongside your students and letting them see your frustration in the authorship process. I urge you not to let any of the possible pitfalls of implementing this project or another one like it stop you. The benefits to be had make the work and frustration well worth it!


Presentation for Computational Media Peers at Pitt: [PresentationforCompMed]


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