The design of the classroom from 1750 to today







The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange 

The design of the classroom is a technology, and you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Architects can make that look more, and less, typical. But the point is the instruction, the interaction in the classroom, not that it looks more like a circle or more like a square or whatever else.

(via NPR)

Bottoms up


Attention works like a loose gate. We can’t always control what information sneaks in, nor can we parse the data so it makes sense coming out.

We grind away at the information life throws at us, some of it tangible and worthwhile but most it nonsense.

Like a Google search, the stuff worth keeping is like finding a needle in a haystack. When we discover something of value, it sticks. We share the knowledge with others, recasting it as our own.

Yet, our minds remain terrible RSS readers.

It’s impossible to unhear and unsee things — conversations, teacher’s lessons, tweets — without getting sucked into the commercialization of attention. The public sphere promotes mindless chatter, so rationalization sinks to the bottom.

The race to admiration prevents the interrogation of ideas. The noisy flood of information buffers thought until finally, the chaos settles to the bottom. And pieces of clarity return.

U.K. schools dismiss the traditional clock face


The U.K. is eliminating analog clocks from student classrooms because kids can’t read them.

Says one professor from the Times Educational Supplement newspaper:

“It is amazing the number of students I am coming across in year 10, 11 and in sixth form who do not know how to tell the time. We live in a world where everything is digital. We are moving towards a digital age and they do not necessarily have analogue watches anymore and they have mobile phones with the time on.”

Of course, kids in the UK can’t be the only ones who need digital clocks to tell time.

Generation thumbs in the USA can’t seem to either, as Jimmy Kimmel highlights in the video below.

Just as Google replaced the 3 x 5 index card, the iPhone silenced the tick-tock. At least adults and children can agree on one thing about time: it never stops.

Why some children struggle to hold pencils


According to doctors, you can blame tech for children’s inability to hold pencils. Apparently all that screen time is doing nothing to strengthen their thumb, index, and middle fingers which work together to form one’s basic writing technique.

How to hold a pencil correctly for writing, #tech, mobile, students today
Illustration via The Guardian

Generation thumbs

Having grown up with perpetual swiping and speaking in images and emoji, the next generation is obviously going to encounter difficulty with old ways of doing analog things. Do they even teach cursive writing in school anymore?

We speak in images. But at least early cavemen knew how to draw with their version of a stylus.

Read Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say

Life is not a contest


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They say that the best way to learn anything is to teach it to someone else. But the teacher, often a parent, pushes an agenda that demands high achieving results. As a result, children sprint into adulthood without having explored all their curiosity.

Parents could benefit more from their children’s sense of wonder. Children remind adults about the importance of questioning and playing again.

Somehow along the way of building a praiseworthy resume and jumping through hoops, we lose sight of what it means to be human.

Life is supposed to be challenging, without the pressure of running around a racetrack like everybody else. The point, rather, is to try stuff just because.

As adults, we stop dreaming and become working automatons instead. Life may be a contest, a Darwinian struggle, but there’s no doubt that there’s more to it than collecting accolades inside a cubicle.

Read High-Pressure Parenting

‘Sitting is the new smoking’ 


via giphy

On the contrary, sitting is not the modern plague. It’s just the scary metaphor health practitioners use to remind us to get up and move every once in a while. They recommend standing up 5-10 minutes for every 45 minutes we’re sedentary.

The tagline caught on because doctors grew concerned that people weren’t active enough, even kids. Instead of shooting hoops, children were playing NBA 2k inside while their parents slaved away answering work emails on their digital devices. Everyone was gaining weight and increasing their chances of diabetes and heart disease.

While it’s true “the design of the human being is to be a mobile entity,” marketers sell fear.  Did you know that taking ‘10,000 steps’ was just a sales gimmick created in Japan?

A watchmaker named Yamasa Tokei originally trotted out the 10,000 steps thing in 1965. He made and sold a pedometer he called Manpo-Kei, which when repeated out loud mimics the rhythm of a walk. In Japanese this translates into “10,000 step meter.” Ads for Tokei’s device said, “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day!”

Like everything else in life, sitting is about balance. We sit to focus and meditate. We stand to manage emails and other routine tasks. Buy a standing desk if it helps or stack some books on top of each other and make your own. Walking meetings are also known to help jog the brain. Make what you want on the campaign for movement, but be careful to align sitting with smoking when the former is a more of a preference and the latter is a proven killer. Coffee, anyone?

How was your day?


If you ask someone how they’re doing, they’ll usually provide a short answer like “well, thanks,” even if they’re having a bad day. No one wants to go into detail about their present state because of the length of time it would require to explain all the details. The truth may sound something like “I was late to work because the kid got sick, and then someone nicked my car.”

If you ask someone about their day when they come home from work or school, you can expect the same desultory answer most of the time such as “It was ok. Same old. The usual. You know…” Even the asking can be just as routine as the answer. You could probably get a better glimpse of your kid’s day by looking at their Snapchat or Instagram.

For some parents, however, asking the common question can be a substitute for as Lisa Damour at the New York Times puts it, “I love you and miss you and would like to touch base.” Damour suggests asking your teen something more particular like status on a group project or basketball practice.

If you’re going to ask either how someone is doing or how their day was and it’s meant to be more than small talk, the interrogator’s genuine interest, the tone of voice, and specificity is just as likely to produce an honest answer. Both ways can mean it. The truth is never banal.

People need widgets


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People need widgets in order to meet other people.  The widget can be a dog, a beer, or a coffee, anything that increases the likeliness of people talking in a social setting.  People feel more confident and more engaged when they’re holding on to something and have a reason to be there.

It’s easier meet new people when we’re younger because there are simply more free time and more opportunities: at school, in organized sport, clubs, and countless other extracurricular activities.  Adults are either too busy or too jaded to participate in social activities every day.  That’s why they may go online and socialize on Twitter and Facebook instead.  It’s quicker, easier, and can be done from the couch.

People are social animals whether or not they prefer to be social.  We identify ourselves in comparison to other people.  At the end of the day, we seek validation. The central question we all ask is “Is anyone listening to me?”

Thinking Wordlessly


Words lack meaning without an image. That’s why language is so hard to learn. Learning leans heavily on layers of reference and emotional connection.

To truly understand something new it has to have an attached value. You’ll want to use it for something meaningful. Just trying to remember something to pass a test never sticks in the long-run.

Rote memorization fabricates memories but it doesn’t create interconnecting neurons. If you strip away words completely all that’s left are images.

Images elucidate meaning, obviating the need for words. Communicating and remembering in images removes the bias of speech. Can you think without words? Cavemen did.

Slow Learners


We often define “smart” at how good someone is at memorization, learning, and standardized tests.

But the real world requires alternative intelligence, and most importantly, meaning.

What motivates you? Is it the grades, money, the autonomy, the ease or challenge of the job?

Passion pushes intelligence to a level beyond knowing what everyone else knows. Passion spurs innovation, creativity, and deliberate deviation from the norm.

Why do what everyone else is doing when you can change the odds?

“Most men die at 25… we just don’t bury them until they are 70.” – Benjamin Franklin

Stay motivated and work on stuff that interests you. That’s intelligence.

Teaching to the test…


undermines knowledge and education.  Memorization kills creativity.

Information is just one step one in doing the work.  The most valuable knowledge comes through random experimentation.  What if?

Not every question needs a right or best answer.  Life is much more complex than the SATs.  

Pre-programming is for robots.  Think beyond gathered information.  Rise above the answer and be open to possibilities.