Modernism Redefined: Making Meaning in the Classroom

Eric D. Whiteside, English, Northwest School of the Arts

(Abstract PDF)

(Unit PDF)        


The goal of this unit is to create a wiki site that will allow visitors to explore various aspects of life and thought during the time period that most of us would refer to as Modernism (1880s – 1940s). The site will be comprised of short essays: researched, written, edited, and revised by the students that will then be linked to each other on a website made by the students.

The purpose is to get them to move past the canonical definition of Modernism and to get to the roots of what shaped those thinkers and artists; to get them to begin to question and make connections between what was going on in the broader culture, and even everyday life, that had an influence on how these thinkers and artists thought and created. In order to create this, the students will work on their research skills as they spend time exploring the intellectual history of academic disciplines and their major thinkers. From this they will write short research pieces that will be edited by peers and revised collectively. Then they will act collaboratively to decide where there are areas of overlap between the disciplines and the ideas of various thinkers. Out of these collaborative discussions will come the literal links on the wiki site. By making use of the open-ended nature of the Internet, this unit seeks to get the students out of the typical classroom scenario and engaged in the collaborative construction of knowledge that is rapidly becoming the hallmark of 21st-century skills.