Somebody recently accused me of being too technological. I am not actually sure how this is possible, since my dissertation is about how we are always technological. . . like the school someone was telling me about recently that was having an “anti-technology meeting.” Seriously? Are they going to ban paper and pencils? Those are technology. Better not drive to the meeting, cars are technology. Come to think of it, better go barefoot as shoes are evil technology as well . . . but that issue aside, I get the thrust of the comment. So, I thought I might go over my favorite Low Tech objects for academic work—things that are not computer “stuff.”

  • Glass Top Desk: Okay so my whole desk is glass and metal, but the point is that the top is glass. Even in you have a wooden desk you can get a glass or Plexi-glass covering. Why? Because a glass desk makes for one large dry erase surface. Forget needing to write things on pieces of paper that get lost everywhere, just write straight onto the desk. This is great for taking quick notes and I find it helps me to keep my desk clear so that I can see my writing surface. Somebody walked in my office the other day, thought I had defaced my desk. No, I explained, its just the ultimate note taking surface. (I keep multiple color pens handy as well, I find visualization is often helped by changing colors.)
  • Fisher Space Pen: This is a small light weight pen that can write anywhere anytime. Apparently developed for use in the Space Program these pens can write upside, and in zero-gravity. While I don’t plan on teaching on the space station anytime soon, this does have its side uses. Primarily this pen does not leak, I never have to worry about the pen exploding due to a change in pressure, like taking a flight to a conference. (In fact I first learned about this pen from a pilot, who swore by them.) Also it is compact, so it fits easily in a pocket. Which really it the crucial piece, since you never know when someone is going to say something you need to record, or inspiration will strike. (I used to know someone who carried around a Sharpie precisely for this purpose. He was a songwriter/fiction writer and afraid that a great line would strike him at some moment when he didn’t have paper. So, he would always have a Sharpie and just right straight on his skin. For me though, the Fisher Space Pen seemed like a better option.)
  • Post It Notes: Not the big post-it notes, but rather the small ones. I use them to flag pages in books when I am reading, especially useful if you are reading a library book in which you cannot write.
  • Running Shoes: I am serious about this, the best cure for writers block is a good run, plus it helps me get out in the sun away from the computer screen. (I am not the only one, Pedagogical Gregory Agrees).