In a programme on the BBC in 2005, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, evoked “a gentler, calmer approach to life in a world which has become frenetic”. He continued, “The aim seems to be to go ever faster, but, I often wonder, how much faster can we all go?”
There is, in my opinion, something of a mantra running through our lives, one that focuses on, or rather demands, that we seek to attain more and faster. The river of experiences and consciousness that flows through our lives, is moving at a faster rate than ever before.
Take a moment to step back from reading this and ask yourself:
- Am I reading this in a concentrated way or ‘skimming’?
- What is the likelihood that I will read it to the end?
- How many times have I checked my mobile in the last 5 minutes?
- What else have I thought about in the last 2 minutes?
You get the point.
What is actually going on inside our heads?
A study by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry in 2005 concluded that constant interruptions can have a similar effect to missing sleep. We have all heard the various estimates of so called ‘concentration’. Let’s look at some of the things we use on a daily basis. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp, the myriad of apps we can download to our mobiles. Each serves a purpose, perhaps fulfils a need but nearly all require attention. This is where we can see perhaps the 1st impact as “In the age of information, patience is minimal.” I’ll say it again “all of them require attention”.
So perhaps what is changing is not our ability to concentrate but rather the demands being made on our capacity to do so? Is there a sort of fragmenting of our time and concentration?
So I suppose that we all recognise something here; that we (must) multitask. Multitasking is a computer term indicating the ability to rapidly switch between tasks to give the impression of doing several things at once (National Instruments).
How does this map onto the world of education though?
National education systems generally deal in certainties. Systems are set in place so that students can find the answers. Consider the base of the omnipresent Bloom’s taxonomy. What is it? “Remember”.
Now let’s look again at this flow running through our lives. Where is memory in all of this? One could argue that we actively move away from memory. In fact, I don’t need to know I can google it. I’d be lost without Outlook. Savour the experience? No need, just take a picture and post it (check out the excellent and thought provoking Black Mirror episode entitled “The entire history of you” by the way).
Ah but wait. If memory/concentration is negatively impacted by an increasingly demanding digital flow, shouldn’t we ask who controls the stream of interruptions mentioned above? Answer: we do. Or should I say ‘we should do’?
So beyond its’ traditional role; education offers a much needed respite. We learn how to use our minds, store what is essential and to be critical in how we use what we are taught and what we are told.
It is I believe, the role of the school to not only help students achieve but also create an environment for you to achieve. Lessons need to be demanding but also varied. Questions to be encouraged. Mistakes accepted. A critical appraisal essential.
As has been said many times before, we are moving at an increasing pace towards a future that we simply can’t predict and will inevitably be part of Embrace technology but also take full advantage of what personal development can offer.
Don’t ‘be developed’, do the developing yourself.
That’s what a school should offer.
International Baccalaureate Coordinator