“Present, miss!” and (always) online

The structures and constructs of time have always governed how schools operate. Timetables, bells, commencement dates, holidays, schedules, and diaries are all examples of how schools and schooling have been fairly rigid and structured. Schools have been predicated by these particular rhythms of time, i.e. being ‘present’. Teachers regularly state there is not enough ‘time’ to get through curriculum or to teach children or to attend to the multiple demands expected of the profession.

When discussing concepts such as the acceleration of society (Wajcman, 2015, 2008), the age of distraction (Hassan, 2012), the attention economy (Goldhaber, 1997) and iTime (Agger, 2011), theorisations surrounding temporality are occurring.

The fundamental nature of time means that we are constantly negotiating it, are ‘in’ it, are using it, are spending it, and are wasting it. Increasingly, the way time is passed is closely aligned with neo-liberal presuppositions. Capitalist constructs of productivity are linked to how effectively people are using their time to achieve.

Regarding this project, we seek to explore how analogue practices surrounding the structured notions of time are being newly mediated by digital technology and digital practices. We are interested in exploring the nature of ‘digital time’ in schools and conceptions surrounding the use and understanding of time.

Judy Wajcman claimed, “technologies change the nature and meaning of tasks and work activities, as well as creating new material and cultural practices” (Wajcman, 2008, p. 66). Therefore, we seek to explore how analogue practices and technologies are being reshaped by digital practices and technologies. In what ways are digital technologies reshaping constructs of time? What is it about time that is really implicated with the use of digital technologies? How are digital technologies reshaping understandings about and use of time and vice versa?

Digital technologies and ubiquitous online access have enabled and produced different temporalities and practices which need to be taken into account when exploring the assemblage of practices that construct a school. Given the dramatic changes in temporality produced by digital technology, there are (mis)assumptions about the correct use of time embedded which reproduce binary distinctions between work and play, and productivity and waste, which no longer reflect social practice.

Therefore, we are interested in describing the social time created by the social practices evident in each of the three schools. We want to know how time is experienced, understood and defined. As teachers and students have the ability to be ‘always online’, how does this impact on other aspects of students or teachers’ lives such as health, sociability, education and productivity?

Specifically, of interest are the following questions:

  • How is time spent by participants in and for school (and how is digital technology implicit in this?)
  • What are the temporal contexts of ‘doing school’ through/with digital technology?
  • How does digital technology fit/shape the rhythms of the school? (e.g. the lesson/’period’, the school day, the school week, academic term, semester and year, ‘time at school’)
  • How do students and teachers experience and negotiate the demands of online distractions and interruptions?
  • How are digital technologies implicated in the accelaration/decelaration of school time (speeding up/through, saving time, wasting time, time-off/time-out, always-on)
  • How is time presented/displayed/ through digital technologies?  (e.g. online calenders, on-screen clocks, time elapsed/remaining, hour-glass and time-out icons)
  • How is time talked about in relation to digital technologies?
  • Where are digital technologies implicated in instances of temporal control within the school context?



Agger, B. (2011). iTime: Labor and life in a smartphone era. Time & Society, 20(1), 119-136.

Goldhaber, M. H. (1997). The attention economy and the net. First Monday, 2(4), available at http://firstmonday.org/article/view/519/440 (date accessed 29 September, 2014).

Hassan, R. (2012). The age of distraction: Reading, writing, and politics in a high-speed networked economy. London, UK: Transaction Publishers.

Wajcman, J. (2015). Pressed for time: The acceleration of life in digital capitalism. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL.

Wajcman, J. (2008). Life in the fast lane? Towards a sociology of technology and time. The British Journal of Sociology, 59(1), 59-77.