I was just struck by this in recent discussions about instituting a no laptop policy in the classroom. It was so self-evident that maybe it’s just obvious, but I hadn’t thought about it in quite this way before. If you want to teach and run your class as you did in the nineties (or as others did in the nineties), then it makes sense to institute a no laptop policy (and obviously a no phone policy) in your classroom. Basically, in order to adopt those practices one has to recreate the technological-material conditions of the period. Now, as it turns out, those conditions in the nineties were much like the conditions throughout the 20th century, at least for humanities classes. The key materials of desks, chairs, lights, books, paper, pens, chalk, etc. had been functionally the same for decades. It’s a little naive, but still understandable, that one would misrecognize these historical conditions for absolute ones.
digital digs: the no laptop policy and the 1990s classroom. Wrong, wrong, wrong. If I tell my students to put away their laptops while we’re in class, I am not telling them to repudiate laptops, or other technologies, altogether. My policy in recent years has been to press my students to experiment with a wide range of digital technologies in their research and writing, and in many cases to encourage them to use those technologies collaboratively — but when we’re in class, that’s book time. During the handful of hours that we’re together each week, the best use of that time, I think, is to work diligently with the technology of the book. Usually that means codices, but if it’s KIndles or Nooks, that’s fine too. But class time is book time; other times are for other technologies. Why assume so narrow a pedagogy that you only allow yourself and your students to use instruments that are just a few years old?