September 10, 2010, 04:44 PM ET
No Homer on Your iPads, Please
Lots of colleges are experimenting with e-book readers. St. John’s College is fighting them.
At a recent meeting, the faculty of the liberal-arts college's Annapolis campus voted "to discourage students from loading up Homer or Aristotle on their Kindles or iPads and bringing them to seminar," said Rosemary Harty, the college's communications director.
The faculty stopped short of banning the devices, Ms. Harty said in an e-mail to The Chronicle. But professors made sure the college now has a policy that says that faculty members are "concerned that electronic reading devices also may present a distraction," and students can be asked to keep them out of the classroom.
Professors worry e-readers will draw students' attention away from classroom discussions at the college, known for a Great Books curriculum that requires students to read more than 100 texts before graduation. The faculty members, called "tutors" at St. John's, also worry that students will opt for free digital versions of classical texts. These are often older and sloppier translations, says Eric Salem, a professor.
"If the student has a 19th-century translation on their e-book, it can interfere with doing a close reading with the rest of the class," Mr. Salem said. "If we’re reading and discussing it aloud, it's often a logistical difference of literally being on the same page."
Dean Pamela Kraus insists her institution isn't antitechnology. The college has a committee exclusively looking into ways to incorporate technology in the classroom, she said.