Father Neuhaus summarizes "the Technology Policy" of the new Wyoming Catholic College in the February FIRST THINGS: "The premise is that the most powerful piece of technology is the human brain, and it works best when engaged in reading, listening, conversation and prayer. Therefore: There will be no television sets on campus; classroom notes will be made the old-fashioned way; no private Internet access, and limited public access; no cell phones period. All these are replaced by books both great and good galore."
Father Neuhaus doesnt endorse this approach himself, but he is intrigued by it. Its close in some ways to my personal approach as a college teacher. I only very, very rarely will show a film; in class I never used power point or any other such electronic teaching tool; I never give an assignment that depends on drawing anything off the internet or web, and I tell students that they have no right to expect that I will answer their emails. I will admit the existence of and even talk about TV shows, movies, and maybe even blogs--demonstrating my personal media literacy (and in part my personal weakness or ADD), but only in the context of talking about books. Im less tyrannical than WCC, by both necessity and choice, about what students should do on their own time, and, as Ive said before, theyre probably better off with some selective TV and film viewing. But its important that they not confuse such pop culture, pop Cartesian recreation with their real education. (Their real education is what allows them to see the significance of their recreation.)
Now the WCC approach might be criticized for depriving students of the wisdom of blogs, Facebook, on-line papers and journals and such. But from the perspective of genuinely higher education all that stuff is at best harmlesss but time-sucking amusement. Higher education, as Tocqeville says, should be about what you cant learn on the streets or on the screen in a high-tech democracy.
It will be interesting to see how WCC does on the assessment and accreditation front.
Could a learning outcome be to help students kick their compulsive habits when it comes to computers, TVs, and iPods?