How to Teach in an Age of Distraction

If you are in higher education, Sherry Turkle’s piece in the CHE is one that you should stop and read right now.

There are a lot of good thoughts in Turkle’s critique of the inattentive age, but two things stood out to me. One was her emphasis on “intellectual serendipity.” She argues that meeting in person and discussing a text or a project allows room for epiphanies to take place, something that is not easy to do when your interactions are virtual. The second is the need for real, face-to-face relationships within the campus community.

As a professor, I’ve been guilty in the past of focusing too much on getting through content and not enough on allowing serendipitous moments a place to occur. Allowing room for serendipity is something I do more and more often in recent years. I’ve also discovered that hallway or lunch conversations with students and faculty strengthen bonds that carry over into the classroom. Of course, there are boundaries when it comes to students, but I think faculty members can be real with them without altering the power dynamic necessary for objective assessment.

What are your thoughts? Did Turkle’s piece grab you like it did me?

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