Talking the Talk


Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
Penguin Press, October 6, 2015

In Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle bemoans the effects of technology on children, noting that students today are markedly less empathetic than those of the past. Constant digital engagement, according to Turkle, makes children less available for in-person conversation and less able to practice reading the cues in the expressions and gestures of others. Turkle rejects the assertions of some scholars who state that hyper attention will replace the “deep attention” that used to characterize academic work. Instead, Turkle asserts multitasking is a myth, and she chronicles several professors who, having come to ban laptops and other devices from their classrooms, now report greater student engagement. Turkle interviews students whose schools have issued them iPads in an effort to make learning more efficient. These students report an opposite effect: fractured attention as they use the device to surf the web and respond to texts and posts on Facebook. Turkle tackles efforts to shift classes to online environments, as well. She finds mixed results, highlighting how such environments cannot yet provide the real-time, in-person milieu for students to have the messy conversations and intellectual give-and-take that have always been the cornerstone of academic life.

Submitted By: Laurie Piette, Rodeph Sholom School, New York, NY

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