Improving the quality of my life, one power button at a time

by Mr. Sheehy

Questions I’m asking, even as I continue to publish writing to my blog and chit chat with my family and friends on Facebook: Is this Internet distracting me from something better? If I didn’t have the Internet at my house, how far would that bookmark have moved through the book I’m reading? Would I have so much trouble getting through the one monthly journal to which I subscribe before the next one arrives?

Is one reason I feel my daughters are so much smarter than me that I’m the one flitting away perfectly good time checking my email for a response to that other email I wrote and checking Amazon to see that their Christmas presents have now moved from Kentucky to Ohio (and how that took three days to get there, I can’t fathom)?

Peggy Noonan says it bluntly:

In America, you don’t have to worry that kids won’t go online, you have to worry the minute they do. The Internet is not a gifted teacher, but only another limited resource. There is no sign, none, that the Internet has made our nation more literate, or deep, and many signs it has made us less so, u no?

idk, i say shes rite, but i ❤ peggy nunan

Indirectly, the topic comes up again on Alan Jacob’s new blog, Text Patterns (and that blog is as close to a must read as a blog can be if you care about the intersection of literature and technology), and he passes along his insightful commenter’s perspective on the Kindle:

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think the contemporary world is so furiously enamored with the written word that we can regard an innovative way to access it as a suspicious luxury rather than an urgent necessity.

Reading is good, but can our students read?

Everybody in the country is writing books but only a fraction of that number is interested in reading them; while the Chinese work, we workshop. There’s no bigger folly than writing instruction displacing “literature” in college English, though this seems to be what’s happening—not because you can’t teach writing, but because there’s no point in teaching writing when you haven’t reproduced the art of reading. (spotted on Jacobs’s tumblelog)

I submitted two proposals today to present at a local technology conference. The topics I chose are things I’ve done before (and thus I will not have to create entirely new presentations),  but the next time I design a presentation, I might consider choosing a topic like this: Taking it back: Reordering your life in the age of the Internet. I could structure it on the AA model, or as a self-help class. I’ll use practical ideas, like those Mark Bauerlein mentions in this interview about his book, The Dumbest Generation. One of his ideas, for example, is to make your kids turn everything off for an hour a night. Imagine that–one hour of time to fill with something other than a phone, TV, or computer. A few months into it, and our students might not fear a classroom where the teacher doesn’t play music while they read.

Heck, I’m going to up the ante for myself. During this week and the Christmas break, I’m going to leave the computer off for two days for every one day I turn it on. The only exception will be if I have to unload photos from the camera to make room for more.

Call it the beginning of my preparation for that next presentation, or call it a determined effort to improve the quality of my life.

Thanks for reading.

PS–the day after writing this, Alan Jacobs addressed some of the same topics in a post about writing environments. Ultimately, however, I am not strong enough to resist the tools on my computer to be disciplined even with a text-only editor open.