I’ve been collecting and returning almost all my classwork electronically for the past four or five years. Last semester I started thinking about something that was missing from the classroom — the ritual of handing back papers, of looking the student in the eye, of hearing the student say “Thank you!” (I would always shoot back, “Thank yourself, you did the work, I just wrote down the grade.”)

“To print a paper is to finalize it.” That three-inch
Blackboard window represents analysis interminable. You do your
futzing, I do mine, you do more of your futzing, I do more of mine,
lalalalalalala…. It’s a Kabuki dance, a chatterbox chachacha, a
movable type minuet… That’s why the student rightly says that text
shifting “weakens students’ grip on the fundamentals of structured writing.” Ain’t no grip when ain’t nothing to hold onto.

The physical paper with the professor’s hand upon it is a presence.
It is a shared human object in the real world which expresses the
student’s “ideas and craft” and the professor’s reactions to those
ideas and that craft. You both hold it. You both reckon with it. It is
an emblem of mutual and embodied humanity.–University Diaries

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