Digital literacy is different from print literacy. How do we balance the trade-off?

My job includes teaching students to read long, complex texts (novels, play scripts, and academic texts.) My job also includes asking students to write researched essays that are longer documents than many of them at first seem comfortable reading. Years after they graduate, students often thank me for what I’ve taught them, and say the effort was all worth it. Buoyed by that feedback, it would be an easy thing for…

C.S. Lewis: “On the Reading of Old Books”

Gearing up for teaching a new “American Lit 1776-Present” course. I’ll be at the office, sitting at my desk all day, wearing long pants instead of shorts. Not a screw gun or a stage platform or a digital camera within reach. This essay offers some well-phrased arguments for reading classic literature. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were…

Picture of the Pevensie children arriving in Narnia, from the 2005 movie.

Why the British Tell Better Children’s Stories

If Harry Potter and Huckleberry Finn were each to represent British versus American children’s literature, a curious dynamic would emerge: In a literary duel for the hearts and minds of children, one is a wizard-in-training at a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands, while the other is a barefoot boy drifting down the Mississippi, beset by con artists, slave hunters, and thieves. One defeats evil with a wand, the other…

Portrait of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, biting his lips as if pensive or nervous.

 The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley

Because what he never managed to grok then was that the company he created was destined to become a template for all of humanity, the digital reflection of masses of people across the globe. Including — and especially — the bad ones. Was it because he was a computer major who left college early and did not attend enough humanities courses that might have alerted him to the uglier aspects…

Image of a trunk decorated with Virginia Tech designs and labeled the text "Just Visiting"

The Problems of Real-Time Feedback in Teaching Writing

Sometimes my students get nervous because I ask them to learn writing by, you know, writing. For some other subjects, it makes sense to ease students into the work, having them memorize facts to recall for points on multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank quizzes. But writers gotta write. That means taking risks, and occasionally stumbling. In a journalism course, of course we go over how to attribute quotes with a neutral word…