How to Teach in an Age of Distraction


How to Teach in an Age of Distraction

By Sherry Turkle October 02, 2015

At MIT, I teach a seminar on science, technology, and memoir. Enrollment is capped at 20 students. The atmosphere is intimate. We read memoirs by scientists, engineers, and designers, and then the students tell their own stories.

Some of them have lived hardscrabble lives. During one recent semester, their stories were particularly poignant. One had escaped with his family from the former Soviet Union. Another had overcome deep poverty; there were many nights when he had no choice but to sleep in his car. And yet, through all of this, these students had found their way to science or engineering or design. Sometimes the inspiration had come from a teacher, parent, or friend. Sometimes it came from fascination with an object — a broken-down car, an old computer, a grandfather clock. The students seemed to understand each other, to find a rhythm. I thought the class was working.

Then, halfway through the semester, a group of students asked to see me. They admitted to texting during class, but they felt bad about it because of the personal material being discussed. They said they text in all their classes, but here it seemed wrong. We decided the class should talk about this as a group. In that discussion, more students admitted that they, too, texted in class. They portrayed constant connection as a necessity. For some, three minutes was too long to go without checking their phones. They wanted to see who was in touch with them, a comfort in itself.

Memorizing the digits of Pi


The following poem is in Katharevousa Greek and yields π to 22 decimal places: Ἀεὶ ὁ Θεὸς ὀ Μέγας γεωμετρεῖ, τὸ κύκλου μῆκος ἵνα ὁρίσῃ διαμέτρῳ, παρήγαγεν ἀριθμὸν ἀπέραντον, καὶ ὅν, φεῦ, οὐδέποτε ὅλον θνητοὶ θὰ εὕρωσι


The Great God applies geometry forever; To define the length of the circle using its diameter, He produced an infinite number, Which, alas, mortals will never find in its entirety.

Alumni prove career potential of humanities education


Alumni prove career potential of humanities education

People always asked Linta Kunnathuparambil what she was going to do with her degree once she graduated. If her family wasn’t asking, friends or other adults who were simply looking out for her asked. They didn’t know what she could do with a bachelor’s degree in Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations.

She didn’t know either, until she found out about information studies halfway through her college career. Kunnathuparambil graduated in 2014 and is now a library assistant at the Getty Research Institute, where she started working as an intern the summer after she graduated.

America- land of opportunity

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate:

I wish it were the case that America was the land of opportunity, but we have become one of the nations among the advanced countries with the least opportunity. In the United States, the life chances of young people are more dependent on the income and education of their parents than in almost any other advanced country.


Joseph E. Stiglitz: A Nobel Laureate Reflects


Joseph E. Stiglitz: A Nobel Laureate Reflects

One of America’s leading economists discusses taxes, growth, the minimum wage and basic fairness.

By Jon Healey

Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz won a Nobel Prize in 2001 for his work on how disparities in information shape markets. What makes him a favorite among Democrats, though, is his work on disparities in income. He has written two books about it: “The Price of Inequality” in 2012 and “The Great Divide” this year. A former adviser to President Clinton and to the World Bank, Stiglitz recently spoke by phone with Jon Healey, an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Times, about what is causing income inequality in the United States and what can be done about it. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.