Modern Technology Can Enhance the Teaching and Learning of Classic Literature

by Olivia Sanderfoot, age 16

A common characteristic of the modern high school curriculum is a canon of classic literature: a list of books all teens must read before they enter adulthood. But each school year, as perspectives, technology, and entertainment change, the stories of those classic novels become less accessible to today’s teens.

High school English teachers are forced to find ever more innovative and engaging ways to enlighten their students about the wonders of Faulkner, Austin, and Steinbeck. They are faced with the challenge of pushing their students beyond the simple enjoyment of a story and toward a true understanding of the text and the ability to critically analyze that text at the high school level. And technology is giving these teachers a helping hand.

Few high school students are unfamiliar with technology. E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are not only the social norm, but are now becoming necessary to communicate with peers about group projects and social events. Many teachers have discovered that this new technology is the key to helping high school students navigate their way through classic literature.

While new methods are still being developed, many teachers have started to employ blogs and forums for online discussions. New-and-improved books on CD and recent movie adaptations of classic novels are used in some curriculums to help students feel like they’re inside the story. Instead of a folder, students submit assignments via virtual “drop boxes.” Electronic copies of course materials are also often available online.

This use of technology is beginning to change higher-level education as more colleges and universities use online resources.

New technology not only helps high school students understand the classics, but also gives high school graduates a chance to tackle them in an easier format. Several websites now send online members serialized stories or novels through E-mails or RSS feeds.

An extremely popular site,, created by author Susan Danziger and her husband Albert Wenger, sends subscribers daily excerpts of classic novels via E-mail. Members not only pick the book they wish to read, but decide how much of the novel they wish to receive everyday. In addition, e-readers such as the “Nook” from Barnes and Noble make buying and reading classic novels easy by allowing customers to electronically download books.

As technology changes the literary world, it’s important that teachers and administrators continue to update their curriculum and teaching methods. By embracing these changes, educators can still teach the same canon of classics to a more digitally entranced population.


As usual, I appreciate your thoughtful discussion of current issues in literature and education. I agree that integration of technology is an inevitable transition that many educational systems will have to embark on. There are certainly benefits to the use of technology: the appeal to the younger generation and perhaps the utility of easily accessible resources and forums for debate. Do you have any thoughts, anecdotal or research-based, on what potentially negative consequences might be from a shift towards more electronic forums to discuss literature? – Andrea L. Gilmore , Madison, WI (2010-11-20 15:42)