digital pedagogy

Mindfulness: Creating Space in a Digital World


As we become more and more steeped in a technologically connected world, scholars are turning their attention and work toward understanding both the benefits and challenges with reading on the internet. Much of the conversation revolves around distraction, as noted by Nicholas Carr and Tony Schwartz. In the New York Times article “Addicted to Distraction,” Schwartz calls attention to “[t]he brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification [which] creates something called a ‘compulsion loop.’ Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect” (Schwartz). Ultimately, Schwartz sets out to break the compulsive cycle that he has attributed to constant connection to the internet.

Many of us can relate to the sentiments Schwartz expresses in his article, the compulsive checking emails, and clicking from article to article on the internet. We may even justify these behaviors, that we are reading something and it is entertaining, or informative etc. Schwartz, though, is concerned with the ways it shapes our life, and those of us who are compulsively using the internet have actually developed a sort of addiction to it.

As people we might have a difficult time acknowledging how the internet shatters our focus, as Carr deftly points to in his article. He writes, “[d]azzled by the Net’s treasures, we are blind to the damage we may be doing to our intellectual lives and even our culture.” Because it is often instantaneous, and always available, it is difficult to move out of that space, or that ‘compulsion loop.’ Ultimately, Schwartz commits himself to a detox ritual in order to shift his habit of mind toward a more healthy relationship with the internet.

Schwartz reveals that this was not an easy task. In fact, he did not immediately succeed in his internet detox. Eventually, he reveals that he has “retained [his] longtime ritual of deciding the night before on the most important thing I can accomplish the next morning. [Promising to work] for 60 to 90 minutes without interruption. Afterward, [he takes] a 10- to 15-minute break to quiet [his] mind and renew [his] energy” (Schwartz). This is a deliberate moving away from the allatonceness that the digital humanities often considers a strength. This shift toward technological mindfulness moves the scholar, the professional, the technologically engaged person into a slower paced environment. This new space allows for an active engagement with the digital world, but a more balanced and healthy one. How might we, as educators, incorporate some of Schwartz’s into our course objectives, activities, and teaching philosophies?


What does the way in which we use the vast resources of the internet say about us as a species? According to web lore, the internet was created for the purposes of sharing research material and data across impossible distances. From this need, the ability to transmit binary code across phone lines was eventually refined, and today we skype, Tweet, and rack up credit card debt at the speed of light.

As I attempt to refrain from engaging in “cursory reading” while moving through Nicholas Carr’s “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains,” I find it difficult to not ask this larger question, to in a sense deconstruct Carr’s issue with focus, the internet, and the human brain (1). What does this choice we have made toward frivolity, with the help of the greatest pedagogical and educational resource ever known to mankind, say about our core desires and needs? Do we need information and efficient minds, or distraction from our condition?

At the center of Carr’s argument lies the “highly plastic” human brain, and, in turn, his message becomes one of speculation. It is not a question of the path we have chosen to push our collective grey matters down, but the path we have avoided, the reasons being what they may. The computer has changed our world, changed the abilities and personalities of the common man born and raised with the world at his fingertips. Furthermore, as Carr reports, this new world is one of “skimming and browsing,” even with matters that need thorough attention. And provided the medium of perspective, this discovery and consequent change is akin to man finding fire, protein, the ear of corn, the wheel. The difference being we have no model of the pre-fire, pre-agriculture neural map to reminisce about and bemoan the lost attributes that we cannot fathom and do not miss.

The truth is that we only understand the way our brains were through our lens of being the current technological masters-of-the-universe, and we are far too close to ourselves, too self-examining of each detail, too locked into staring down our bleak futures to fret for our lost attention spans. The internet’s negative effect on the human brain is a topic for future generations to evaluate, but we do have the power of choice. For instance, what do you think the ratio is between things you have discovered through the internet versus things you have yet to discover? And, are not all studies such as this subject to those chosen to participate? Somewhere, at this very moment, someone is working to cure cancer, to discover or construct garbage-eating microbial life-forms, or building models to de-carbonate our atmosphere, using both the computer and an internet connection.


Works Cited

Carr, Nicholas. “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brain,” Wired 2010. Print.


Learning to Focus: Reading Literature and Resisting Distraction

If you love the smell of the library stacks, the look of a leather-bound book, or the feel of crisp paper as you turn pages, you probably prefer physical text to reading on the web. Although there are several advantages to digital technologies that enable you to read from your computer screen, including the quick links made available by hypertext, there are also negative aspects to reading on the web. As Nicholas Carr, Christina Lupton, and Tony Schwartz note in respective articles, digital reading can quickly turn into distracted reading.

Continue reading “Learning to Focus: Reading Literature and Resisting Distraction”

In an effort to keep internet users focused,   offers help on how to keep oneself from becoming distracted. 

For example, SelfControl is an app that blocks sites for a certain amount of time that you set for yourself while working on a project.

Caballo notes that “According to research, it can be more difficult to be productive in a quiet space.” Thus, she offers music sites that provide a wide array of music from Today’s Hits, all the way to peaceful melodies without lyrics.

The Counterproductive Internet

Let’s face it, as helpful as the internet can be, it can also be incredibly distracting. Pop-up ads, Facebook alerts, that “ding” noise your email makes when you’ve received a new message; they all take away our focus from the task we have at hand. To even further complicate the matter, colleges continue to offer more and more online classes. Traditional, in-person classes are assigning projects that require students to use the internet. Thus, one can only assume that as the amount of time we require students to use the internet increases, the amount of times the student loses focus or is distracted also increases. This is a problem on multiple levels.

Not only do internet-based assignments take longer for a student to accomplish, but students are also retaining less and less information. As Nicholas Carr notes, when it comes to the internet, “Because it disrupts concentration, such activity weakens comprehension.” He later calls the internet “an interruption system.” Due to the fact that we become distracted while online, we have grown more accustomed to skimming rather than actually reading, another problem we have yet solve.

Tony Schwartz admits in a New York Times article, “Addicted to Distraction,” that it was easier for him to cut out entire food groups from his diet than to limit himself from getting online only three times a day, where he explains checking his email was “impossible to resist.” Thus, humans have become hopelessly addicted to using the internet, craving to get that extra tidbit of information rather than participating in their own reality.

Jesse Stommel finds problems in the internet-based disciplines; specifically, the Digital Humanities. Instead of “distraction,” Stommel focuses on a different problem, where the writer admits “I have never found the Digital Humanities as a discipline particularly welcoming.” Stommel urges that the Digital Humanities put more of their efforts into collaboration and community rather than “bring[ing] out the daggers” and competing with one another. Stommel thus contends that “The public digital humanities must be rooted in a genuine desire to make the work legible to a broader audience inclusive of students, teaching-focused colleagues, community college colleagues, and the public.”

As it turns out, the Digital Humanities is still in the process of working out some of the kinks it holds as a discipline, as well as a method. Not only must they resolve their “competitiveness,” but the method of simply using the internet also comes with problems of its own such as distraction and loss of retention. After these findings, one must ask, is the internet as useful for students, teachers, and DHers as we previously thought? Are there even possible solutions to these problems posed? Carr tells us that “We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.” It seems as if we are in a state of counterproductive-ness that we have yet to become aware of as a species.

Works Cited:

Carr, Nicholas. “Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.” WIRED Magazine. 24 May 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2016 

Schwartz, Tony. “Addicted to Distraction.” The New York Times. 28 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Stommel, Jesse. “The Public Digital Humanities.” Disrupting the Digital Humanities. Punctum Books, 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Framing the Literature Classroom

In Teaching and Learning English Literature, Ellie Chambers and Marshall Gregory discuss the importance of literary pedagogy as a framing system. Pedagogy not only encourages learning and growth, but it can also affect and frame course content to invite different types of understanding (14). The teaching of literature needs to better adapt to the modern world, addressing issues like postcritical thought, different student experiences, the corporatization of education, and the potential for personal transformations.

Continue reading “Framing the Literature Classroom”

Being and Text

Texts have been physical entities for a very long time. For centuries the written word has been physically represented on a surface, something to hold the text that the reader then interacts with to gather meaning from the words. Michael Witmore, in “Text: A Massively Addressable Object,” addresses—no pun intended—the sea change in textual representation that digitizing has ushered into the world and this change’s effect on textual “ontological status” (Witmore 1).

The “massive flexibility in levels of address” is an intriguing way to look at texts and the codes of language that allow for this “provisional unity” of the argument (1). Down to single letters, and as large as entire genre’s, these unities, give texts this “susceptibility to varying levels of address” at the heart of Witmore’s concept (1). In other words, digitization has brought new thought toward the reader’s function and the process of textual engagement, and whether or not that reader is human seems to be beside the point.

As we’ve written about previously in this blog, the human brain functions astonishingly during the act of reading: the speed of what Witmore terms the “continual redisposition of levels of address” as well as the mind’s imaginative force (1). Witmore writes of utilizing the computer’s ability to parse, to divide, to “address” texts by what they are programmed to recognize, and, in turn, uses this to study textual and linguistic structure. One aspect of language is its malleability. Conceptually, the composition and creation of physical texts can be understood in mathematic terms, much in the way a computer understands one or a thousand texts, or words or letters and numbers for that matter. But, how can we benefit from more than just pattern recognition and text mining? How can we pose ontological questions to texts and to ourselves as human beings seeing text in much the same ways only on smaller scales? Thought experiments involving text are one of digitizing’s byproducts that may be the future of the humanities.

Works Cited

Witmore, Michael. “Text: A Massively Addressable Object.” Print.

*image courtesy of

Can I use First Person in my Paper?

Often in undergrad, I avoided using “I” or the first person point-of-view in any formal paper to be graded. It felt wrong to adhere to a style that I was taught in high school to avoid at all costs but not using it started to make me confused. If this paper is my own personal views (supported by hard evidence and research), why shouldn’t I explain my own understandings and how I got to them? Presenting my thoughts through third person was a challenge. I didn’t feel a connection with my intellectual thoughts presented in a formal academic paper; it didn’t feel like my own.

Sheridan Blau finds that letting students adopt the use of “I” helps them feel more of a producer rather than a consumer thus creating a more engaging atmosphere. Blau mentions “It is difficult to read a collection of scholarly or professional articles in any branch of the humanities or in many of the social sciences and in such professions as the law (including legal opinions written by state and federal judges) without noticing the judicious use of the first person, when it is called for and when alternative structures would be infelicitous” (158). So, if we are writing papers for a humanities class, wouldn’t it make sense to mirror the professionals and use first person as well? Well, of course.

Though, first person seems to be acceptable for these academic papers, it is not just an easy way out of creating a formal paper. Thoughts and ideas formulate from the evidence and research that should be present in the formal paper. The only way to create intellectual words on a page is through insightful thought gathered from observing and researching information. By intersecting the use of “I” and incorporating research and thought, students are able to gain a stronger connection to their work, thus creating pride and interest in their creation of a formal paper.

Works Cited

Blau, Sheridan D. “Writing Assignments in Literature Classrooms: The Problem.”The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003. 151-63. Print

Early English Class

The Princeton Prosody Archive is an ongoing digitization of works studying verse and language that houses pedagogical materials from as early as the middle of the sixteenth-century. With titles such as John Hart’s An orthographie, conteyning the due order and reason, howe to write or paint thimage of mannes voice, most like to the life or nature. or Robert Robinson’s The art of pronuntiation this archiving endeavor provides access to a part of the English language’s history that could easily be lost or overlooked. The science of how we speak and write has been a part of publication for five centuries and this collection holds some form of the study of prosodic systems, metrical laws, versification, and grammar from all five.Princeton Prosody Archive

*image courtesy of

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑