Mark Bauerlein is making a prediction:
As more kids grow up writing in snatches and conforming to the conventional patter, problems will become impossible to overlook. Colleges will put more first-year students into remedial courses, and businesses will hire more writing coaches for their own employees. The trend is well under way, and educators will increasingly see the nondigital space as a way of countering it. For a small but critical part of the day, they will hand students a pencil, paper, dictionary, and thesaurus, and slow them down. Writing by hand, students will give more thought to the craft of composition. They will pause over a verb, review a transition, check sentence lengths, and say, “I can do better than that.”
The nondigital space will appear, then, not as an antitechnology reaction but as a nontechnology complement. Before the digital age, pen and paper were normal tools of writing, and students had no alternative to them. The personal computer and Web 2.0 have displaced these tools, creating a new technology and a whole new set of writing habits. This endows pen and paper with a new identity, a critical, even adversarial one. In the nondigital space, students learn to resist the pressures of conformity and custom, to think and write against the fast and faster modes of the Web. Disconnectivity, then, serves a crucial educational purpose, forcing students to recognize the technology everywhere around them and to see it from a critical distance.
I hope he’s right, because this is already what I try to do in my classes. Though (as you can see) I blog, I tweet, I tumbl 4 ya, I set up blogs for some of my classes, I receive and respond to student writing electronically, and I even use Wikipedia, during class I focus almolst all of my attention on the reading and annotation of paper codices. Because I think those are technologies worth knowing — not the only technologies worth knowing, but important ones, ones with which all college students need considerable facility.
But will educators come to recognize, as Bauerlein predicts they will, the value of these tools and the power they yield of achieving a “critical distance” on other, more recent, technologies? I would like to agree, but I doubt it. Educators by and large equate “technology” with “very recent electronic technology,” and passionately believe that all problems have technological solutions. I can't imagine many of them doing what they would call “turning back the clock.”
But I devoutly hope I’m wrong. The people best equipped for navigating our world are those who have knowledge of multiple technologies, and multiple kinds of technologies. The Luddite and the techno-celebrant alike are crippled by the narrowness of their technological equipment.