Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, January 23, 2009

teaching people how to use books

David Parry at academhack, in a post called “Teaching in the Age of Distraction,” writes, “Let’s be clear: I think wireless access in a classroom is at this point a necessity, any space which purports to be about the sharing and construction of knowledge that does not have access to the internet seems to me to be a severely crippled space.” (Parry is a PhD in English, but his grammar and syntax are shockingly bad. He’s especially prone to run-on sentences. I don't understand or approve, and I wouldn't trust him to grade a student paper, but hey, in other respects he’s a smart guy.)

Anyway, it’s just silly to make such a blanket statement. I spend a good deal of time talking to my students about technological resources available to them, and trying to get them to use those resources well and wisely. I think it’s pretty clear from this blog that I am anything but a Luddite or techno-skeptic. But I do not want any internet access in my classrooms. I forbid laptops in the classroom altogether. I teach literature, and I believe that my primary job in the classroom is to instruct students in better use of the technology of the book. There is no more evidently false assumption than the assumption that people — even academically successful people — are comfortable with books and use them well.

Every class I teach is focused in one way or another on helping people understand how books work and how to get the most from them. We can unplug for three hours a week or so in order to pursue that goal, can't we?