Is Boredom the Answer?

Cross-posted on the PLP blog

My contract with AT&T is up in a few days, and, because of all the dropped calls I seem to have in my house, I swore I would switch back to Verizon as soon as I could. (We don’t have a land line.) I figured I would purchase the Verizon iPhone and simply change services.

But I also recently bought an iPad and carry a monthly data charge for that. So I’ve been wondering…should I carry two devices with data charges? Yes, I know. The iPad is big. Who’s going to pull that out when a smaller phone will do the trick? And I need to be connected all the time, right?

I’m not so sure anymore.  My focus lately has been learning how to balance my time, be more in the moment, and less “on.” My tendency to click, click, click means I don’t pause to reflect as much as I should. And, even more, I don’t allow myself to be bored.

Standing in line at the grocery store, I check email. Waiting for the vet to come back into the office, I pop twitter up to read and respond to the latest. Riding along in the car to Richmond, I click on my iPhone Kindle app and read the next chapter in “The Social Animal” by David Brooks. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I am becoming conditioned to respond to the rewards of consuming information wherever and whenever I want it.

In a post on BNET by Laurie Tarkan, Genevieve Bell, the director of interaction and experience research at Intel, said engaging with mobile devices  “is the promise that you’ll never be bored again, you’ll never have to be anywhere without something to do.”

And, yet, there is a downside.

”Boredom is linked to creativity. You have your best thoughts in the shower, when driving, painting fences, and weeding the yard,” she says. Other researchers have stated that boredom is central to learning and creativity.

On the flip side, when you’re constantly consuming information via your devices, you stop processing the information and developing your own ideas. You have less time to think about what you’re consuming. To be effective in most jobs, you need to stop and reflect……

Tarkan lists several ways to be bored, and they make sense. For example, she says “stop being obsessed with doing,” and ”be bored with others.”

But, sadly,  I’m thinking I may need a more disciplined approach, and that may mean letting the iPhone go. It’s not that I don’t find value in all my curating and consuming. I do. But I’m wondering if spending less time with my face in a device will ultimately yield deeper, more reflective thinking and create sharpened connections to what I am learning.

Anticipating some sense of loss, I am trying to prepare for this. And then I think, “Geesh, it’s just a phone!”

Does any of this resonate? Do you allow yourself to be bored?


Money and Time: Can we get around these?

Often teachers say the biggest barriers to getting sound professional development are money and time. First, let’s change the phrase “professional development” to “professional learning.” (I wish I could remember which of my great Dublin Dallas PLP cohort teachers shared that phrase with me, but alas, I can’t.)

If we really want to learn–and we should–then it’s pretty simple, isn’t it? We make choices.

This tweet from @newsfromtengrrl today reminded me of a few ways to do that at little or no cost:

ISTE Unplugged: During the regular ISTE sessions, these presenters have signed up to share their passions with you on elluminate. From the wiki: “All ISTE Unplugged sessions will be streamed live through Elluminate and recorded as well. (To make sure your computer is configured for Elluminate, go to The broadcasting is taken care of by a volunteer there. All sessions slots are 30 minutes long–20 minutes to present, with 10 minutes for transition and short Q&A.”

reform symposium: You don’t have to leave your couch for this one,either. From the site: “RSCON3, will take place from Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31, 2011 and we hope you will join us for what promises to be our biggest yet global online conference for everyone concerned with education. With more than 65 presentations and 12 keynote speakers it is sure to be an incredible event!” Read my curated posts from my RSS feed and links from twitter. I try to include only those reads I find most interesting to me.

Powerful Learning Practice Action Research: Ok, I know I work for PLP, but where else can you find great research, links to examples, and specific details about how our Peeps collaboratively examine their own educational practice. And if you want to cough up a few bucks, check out the e-courses, too. They are getting rave reviews.

The K12 Online Conference may be from last fall, but there’s plenty to catch up on. Plus you can find the details about K12 Online 2011, too.

Of course, like most of the other teachers I know who learn online, twitter and reading my RSS feed give me as much as I need or want. They are both free and I can fit my learning in whenever I have a few minutes. Here are my favorite opportunities:

  • in the car when my husband is driving (iPad connected to 3G)
  • as I eat breakfast, the morning “news”
  • after dinner–no more television for me
  • waiting for a doctor’s appointment (that handy iPhone)

I’d love to hear your favorite way to learn….


image credit: By shareski


Sitting In My Kitchen…

Some of us were talking about our “moments,” that is–when we realized our teaching lives had changed forever.
Mine was in the fall of 2007. I had been on Twitter for a few months, learning how to connect with like-minded folks about the shifts (re:Karl Fisch). I had caught a tweet from Will Richardson, saying he was going to try something new–a live broadcast on an app called Ustream.

That night, I turned on my computer and started working in the kitchen, not paying much attention. Suddenly, I heard a voice coming out of the speaker, “Go for it….Live from the heart of….”

Yikes, someone is there, I thought turning to look at the screen, dropping the dishtowel on the floor. And there they were, Will, David Jakes, and Steve Dembo, in my kitchen. They realized three of us were actually watching them,  and at one minute and 8 seconds or so into the stream, Will says, …”and scmorgan…whover that is!”

Me, hey that’s me! Fascinated, I stayed and chatted with them (well, lurked) for some time, as the conversation moved from beer to books and all about how this tool might be used for learning. Within the next few days, Chris Lehmann was walking around the halls of his school with a laptop running ustream, sharing what was happening. He even put his kids on camera, huge for 2007!

Yeah, that moment from the bar, I realized we have the power to connect and learn like never before. In January, I attended Educon 2.0 at SLA, and by spring had talked to Sheryl Nussbaum Beach about Powerful Learning Practice for our teachers.

Sitting my my kitchen that evening, I think I realized schools could be alive, engaging, and meaningful. The lens through which I saw my world had changed.

When was your moment?

In a Moment

I went to my first meditation “class” the other night and learned how powerful a moment is. A moment can win a race, change an argument, burn a pie, or cause a tragedy. In our daily lives,  we so often look to the future or analyze the past without focusing on what is in front of us.

In our classrooms, we search for bigger meaning, attempting to shift our entire teaching practice, or achieve higher scores on a random, ineffective standardized test. The quest for rigidly following the curriculum and getting to the end of the day makes us move through life in anticipation of –what?

Instead, imagine what we could do with a moment:

  • smile at an unruly child
  • give a second chance
  • write a positive affirmation on a struggling student’s essay
  • take the class outside for a break on a gorgeous day
  • share a personal recollection from your own childhood

I am learning to slow down and breathe deeply. The breathing allows me seconds more to focus on the moment and take it all in. The days will take care of themselves if the moments count. Be present.

What would you do in a moment?


image credit: By jesse.millan

Letting Go

The phrase “letting go” bounces around in my head constantly and has for years. I first realized the importance of our ability to remain detached when I read William Glasser’s  Choice Theory back in the late ‘90s. For so many reasons and in so many ways, letting go simplifies our lives. But as much as I believe in the concept, it’s tough. Human nature is such that we believe we can mold people into who we want them to be. As teachers, we try criticizing, blaming, managing–none of this really works.
Glasser has ten axioms, but this single phrase says it all: The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
Nancy Buck, who writes a blog on the Glasser site, says:
Everything that we do from birth until death is an attempt to successfully and effectively meet our needs for safety, love, power, fun, and freedom. Although we are driven to meet these needs, we do not know how to meet them responsibly – the ability to meet our needs in ways that don’t interfere with other people’s ability to meet their needs.
Glasser believes our most important “need” is for love and acceptance. That if teachers could shift their thinking in this direction, those constant battles for control would end. I’m not sure I agree with his stance on grades (eliminating all grades but A and B). I know why he proposes this, but I believe that moving away from traditional grades completely serves us better.
Despite a few other concerns with this approach, the idea of letting go appeals to me. We can spend our lives trying to change people, but in reality, we can only change our own behavior. And by letting go, we actually empower our students to take charge of their own learning, take steps to manage their own lives.
Isn’t that what we want for all of them?