(Photo credit: https://bit.ly/2BIj9zV)
One thing I’ve noticed recently is a high level of insomnia happening. People waking up at 4.00am and just not being able to get back to sleep because of overstimulation by technology. This eventual burn out is not from overwork, but from over-curiosity. There are hundreds of thousands of people dropping daily from information overload, but not because they are being forced to engage with it, but because they seriously want to know more about what they are searching.
This all came about because I found a podcast that was offering ‘free boredom’. More about this one later, but let’s firstly look at our over-curiosity plight in today’s world.
Our curiosity is an endless infinite cycle, and the internet totally knows that. You click on one thing you are interested in, and it tweaks your interest to something else, and you move your interest to there, and that too has some other specialised tangent to take you on, and you move there too. Most people’s threshold is about two switches, but that is only for those who are seriously keeping their mind in check. What if we are doing this for pleasure….the amount of times we can move to something else ‘of interest’ is just relentless. Our curiosity gets honed and manicured to get to the very point we are looking for (in some people), but in others, it just becomes an ongoing roller coaster taking them all over the internet and can completely turn an already lack of focus into some giant monster of a problem.
According to Terry Heick in his article on The Impact of Technology on curiosity https://bit.ly/368fXvp , this desire to have our curiosity tweaked and satisfied comes from something called the ‘information-gap theory’. We feel a need to know something, seek it out and get the knowledge we need and move on. Sounds straight forward right?
Well yes, but what markers do we intrinsically use to know how much knowledge is enough knowledge? When we used to use books and research papers, the parameters were easy, we could simply go as far as we could go in that period of time. E.g. walking to the library, taking out two-three books on the topic, finding our answers that were satisfying and then moving on. To take out another 20 books on the topic was just not a feasible option timewise, so we used out time and energy as our parameter. Now there is now walking to the library, there is no taking out 20 books and going to the index and so on. We can do all of this in the luxury of our own bedroom on our laptop in a matter of 15 minutes. And we can go a lot further than we could with the library. So, what parameters do we have now?
Terry Heick goes on to explain that the core problem for future learners is not finding the answer online but being able to distinguish what is ‘worth understanding’. There are the usual principles that help people hone what they want to digest and how, like moral boundaries, social boundaries, financial restrictions, and so on. But nowadays even within this, there feels an endless access to possible answers.
And here lies a critical new development for future teachers.
When we teachers were in our early years of training, the key was that every lesson must have an objective outcome. What should the student know by the end of this lesson. These objectives were always clearly defined and the measuring tool for evaluating the outcome was also clear. This process, together with a great curriculum, made teaching a pleasure. This is not going to change. But what has to change is the processes that students go through to digest the available information ready for them.
It used to be easy for us teachers to hand out something to read, the student would read it and answer the questions based on that reading. Are we as teachers now going to tell the students, the reading I’m giving you is just the start, you need to find the rest on Google? That’s like saying – ‘okay, I’ve shown you how to jump, now jump off the cliff!’…really not feasible, particularly for the younger learners.
Ultimately, I see that the role of curiosity in learning was always problematic for the teacher, because it was always up to the teacher to make their lessons interesting enough to keep the students curious. Now that job has almost flipped upside down with curiosity having run wild out there on the internet and trying to contain it in the classroom in a focused and legitimate way is the next challenge.
This then leads us to worth looking at dealing with over-curiosity in the opposite way, by looking at and honing it’s opposite – boredom. Boredom is seldom talked about as an important part of our life, but in fact it is the very thing that forces us through frustration into action. Then this action forces us to get answers…and so the curiosity and desire to know more gets ignited.
This is where the ‘FREE BOREDOM’ podcast comes into play. It’s really about learning how to get to sleep. A British guy has created a podcast called ‘Let me Bore you to Sleep’. https://apple.co/2Pnpc52 . In this podcast Jason Newland masters the art of speaking in a totally droll and pointless way which if you listen to it long enough (hard to do because you will fall asleep), you will notice he is doing something very interesting to our consciousness….I’ll let you listen to make your own decision.
I would even make the next leap of conjuncture to state that perhaps in the future it is the role of the teacher to in fact truly ‘bore’ the student so that their desire to get focussed online gets honed in a much more defined way.
Teachers boring students is nothing new…of course. Yes and I can hear you laughter now, but all joking aside, let’s consider it in a whole new way. Perhaps in future it may in fact be the role of the teacher to do that but know exactly how in the end to bring it back to the student and their focus on and offline.
A teacher’s ability to ‘ignite boredom’ may well be the unsung hero in the future of learning.
Something to think about.