As I close out the summer and get ready for my classes, here are a few thoughts related to a book I'm currently reading. The Slow Professor by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber challenges the way we think of productivity under an exploitative, corporatized, and neoliberal academic system. Among many lessons discussed in this book, which has been reviewed by Kritika Agarwal in Perspectives on History, one that has the most potentially liberating implications for professors is the advice to work at our own pace. The sad truth is that hyper-productivity, especially in terms of the publication of peer reviewed articles and research, has little payoff in academia if you are not lucky enough to be on the tenure-track. Even then, there are significant costs to being a publication machine. Why publish fifty peer-reviewed articles, some of dubious quality, when you can feel proud of ten?
Just last night I came across a reference to an article on the subject of laptop use in the classroom. Written by Faria Sana, Tina Weston, and Nicholas Cepeda, and published in Computers and Education in 2013, the article shows how using laptops in the classroom can inhibit students' ability to learn concepts from lecture. The authors came to this conclusion because after conducing experiments, they found that students who used their laptops scored lower on tests. Even more troubling than this, laptop use, they found, doesn't just distract the user; it distracts users around them, too. I know, I'll try not to exude that smug "I told ya so" feeling, which usually doesn't go over well. But it sure does feel good to have proven research justifying my policy of prohibiting digital devices in the classroom.