Is the university over?

by David Alm August 16, 2014

Minerva — hardly a word you’d associate with higher education. It sounds more like a brand-name medication designed to treat anxiety — Minimize your nerves with Minerva! Or maybe a South American root that generations of indigenous populations have used to cure everything. But no. If a 39-year-old entrepreneur named Ben Nelson has his way, the word Minerva will not only […]

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How Gary Coleman taught me to read

by David Alm April 11, 2014

There’s an episode in the final season of Diff’rent Strokes in which Arnold (Gary Coleman) acts up in class and is challenged by his teacher, played by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, to teach a lesson one day. His topic is to be A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and he doesn’t want to do it. But he forces […]

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Writer’s block? There’s an app for that.

by David Alm June 15, 2012

Writer’s block is as much a part of being a writer as banging your head against the wall in frustration when publisher’s don’t return your calls. I jest, but seriously — it doesn’t matter how successful you are or what kind of writing you do; if you’re a writer, you’ve been stuck. Not anymore, if […]

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Smell like you read

by David Alm June 12, 2012

There are perfumes inspired by flowers, spring rain, and even sex. Well, maybe not sex, but you can buy pheromones in a bottle, to be spritzed on like Chanel No. 5 on a Saturday night. Add “freshly printed books” to the list of come-hither scents available for purchase at Macy’s. (Disclaimer: I haven’t confirmed that […]

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The book vs. the app — a tired, boring debate

by David Alm April 24, 2012

I’ve come around. No longer do I wish to disparage apps and technology in favor of books and reading by kerosene. To be fair, I’ve never done the latter, but I do own a lot of books and I don’t plan on getting rid of them. One thing I don’t own, still, is an iPad […]

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To wire or not to wire

by David Alm October 24, 2011

Last week the New York Times ran an article about an Indiana school district that has dispensed with textbooks, pencils, and the o ther antiquated tools of primary education. Instead, each desk features a laptop computer. The logic is that, being the 21st Century and all, kids need to learn how to use technology. A […]

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A lament on Steve Jobs — the man, not the god

by David Alm October 7, 2011

I learned of Steve Jobs’s death the way millions of people probably did: by turning on my MacBook. There, on the Apple homepage, was a photo of Jobs and the years 1955-2011. I was shocked, but not terribly so. His cancer and departure from Apple in August were never secret, and everyone following the situation […]

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The paradox of global education

by David Alm October 3, 2011

When I started college, in 1993, there was a notion going around that education was subversive. It allowed those of us lucky enough to be studying the liberal arts to engage with serio us texts, ask serious questions, and develop critical perspectives on the world. It allowed us to exist, mentally at least, outside the […]

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What are you reading?

by David Alm September 26, 2011

One of the arguments against e-readers is that you can’ t see wha t other people are reading anymore. It used to be that you’d spot an interesting-looking person on the train, or at a cafe, or wherever, and take a minute to check out the cover of their book of choice. Now, all you […]

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The digital quadrangle

by David Alm March 22, 2011

I recently designed a syllabus for a course at NYU on writing for digital media. Unlike most of my writing courses, which focus on journalism, this was meant to have broader appeal: marketing, advertising, blogging, and public relations were included in the weekly readings and assignments. And the university had a unique request: try to […]

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Our digital ruin, a certain fate

by David Alm February 22, 2011

I have a very bleak outlook on the future of education, reading, thought, and human experience. But I’m not an especially dark or pessimistic person. My view is colored by the rise of one thing, which seems to be steamrolling a lot of other things out of existence: digital technology. It’s not a new outlook, […]

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