Think of something you love to do. It might be playing or listening to music, craft work, reading novels, watching great movies on Netflix or at the cinema, painting, or playing sports. Or imagine you are on vacation, with absolutely no obligations. That’s a nice thought isn’t it.
Consider now how you can completely forget about time when you are in the midst of doing what you love. We can be so involved in a project that “time” (clock time) seems to recede into the background. We experience durations, not time. We flow from one state to another. Our experiences flow from one to the next. We feel our natural bodily rhythms that are influenced by interest or external events. Durations feel short when we are are highly engaged, and yet can feel like they drag out when we are anticipating something. Think of the child having to endure a long car ride — the duration for the child feels much longer than the adult driving. Durations feel like they speed up or slow down. Our continuous flow is not demarcated with discrete beginnings, ends, or interruptions. Our durations are not being measured.
Clock time is different from duration. Clock time is a construct based on an external time mechanism. Clock (time) mechanisms are tools of rationality. and a sensitivity to discrete sequenced uniform units. Clock time superimposes spatial constructs on our lived durations distorting our lived duration by forcing us into mechanistic actions.
Consider how any activity will be influenced by superimposing clock time on the durations we experience naturally. As soon as we objectify our activities by measuring them and imposing time constraints, the purpose will have to take into account these forces (these constraints). For example, imagine you want to enjoy an afternoon shopping for clothes. You have no deadlines, nowhere you have to be at any particular time. Now, impose clock time on your shopping afternoon. You will monitor the time you are at any particular store and the duration you are there. You will find that you have to divide up the lengths of time spent so that you can ensure that you are able to get to all the different shops you wanted to. When you try on a piece of clothing, you become sensitive to the time. Someone is in the change room and they are taking too long. There are pressures imposed because you are acting in line with the sequenced of the mechanical time.
Think also of how clock time changes our sensory experiences. Our natural bodily rhythms begin to change to accommodate the mechanical structure. Our rhythms become standardized, bound to the regularities of the discrete time units. We begin to feel like the durations are no longer our own, but rather forced into an external format. Our rhythms become public, shared with other people following the same schedule (store closes at 6:00–everyone out). Our rhythms become mechanical, no longer flowing with our natural experiences of durations.
I have added the sensory experiences of rhythm to our Sensory Frame.
Developing a depth and breadth of understanding
We are continually learning. Our brains learn naturally. Neuronal cell assemblies activate and wire together as we experience the world. This wiring together of neuronal cell assemblies is different for everyone. It depend on many factors. It is not something that can be imposed from the outside. We are not machines.
Experiences of Time
Let me see if can give you an example of two experiences of time.
Try this if you will.
I have one of my favorite piano pieces here that was written by 19th (early 20th) century composer Erik Satie. Close your eyes, try to relax, and listen to the piece. It is only a few minutes long.
You should have felt something regarding time while listening to this piece. If we think of this experience in terms of past, present and future, as you listened you were situated in the present at each moment. The bit of the melody that was played prior to your present, flows into the present. The sounding notes and chords give meaning to the sounds you experience in the present. There is a flow. A flow that moves you into a future present that seems to feel right. Even if you have no familiarity with the song, you are familiar enough with the chord progressions and sounds of the piano that it feels right somehow. Even if you do dislike the melody, it feels sensible.
But what happens when we take the same experience and start to chop it up a bit, as one does with forcing schedule on lived events? What does it do to the flow of our lived experience? Do we begin to feel distracted?
Have a listen. This is shorter.
Your sensitivity to this ‘time’ experience will help you understand something very significant about schooling. It has to do with a spatial understanding of time and a lived experience of time. Even in this very short example we can feel the loss of flow. The fragmentation. The disruption. The abruptness of ending. Once familiar with the song’s melody, the notes played end up feeling out of context because the chord progressions are, at times, out of sequence. There is a lack of coherence. If you were enjoying the melody, you might have felt agitated. You might have felt the violation of the natural order of the piece.
We experience the disruption in our phone or video calls when our connection is poor and our signals freeze momentarily.
The foundation of clock time in schooling
Time pieces are tool of rationality. They impose an external order of their own design on our lived experience.
Schooling has been designed with clock time as a foundational element. Clock time is a foundation of schooling.
What might this experience “without a focus on time” tell us about schooling? In other words, what might “timeless joyful activities” say about timed school experiences? Is there something that we do in schools that might seem to be somewhat unnatural? Is the natural progression disrupted?
John Taylor Gatto
From one of his Teacher of the Year speeches.
Here he talks about the way teachers are forced into following artificial school sequences and the impact that has on students and teachers. He begins: “The first lesson I teach is confusion.” He is not saying that he actually teaches a class on confusion. Rather, because of the disconnected content and broken sequences, students end up experiencing confusion and a lack of coherence rather than natural sequence. He continues:
Everything I teach is out of context… I teach the unrelating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests,fire drills, computer languages, parent’s nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers you may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world… what do any of these things have to do with each other? Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions.Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on them as quality in education.
The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science and so on than to leave with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality in education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess. Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek,and education is a set of codes for processing raw facts into meaning.Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences, and the school obsession with facts and theories the age-old human search lies well concealed.This is harder to see in elementary school where the hierarchy of school experience seems to make better sense because the good-natured simple relationship of “let’s do this” and “let’s do that now” is just assumed to mean something and the clientele has not yet consciously discerned how little substance is behind the play and pretense.
Think of all the great natural sequences like learning to walk and learning to talk, following the progression of light from sunrise to sunset, witnessing the ancient procedures of a farm, a smithy, or a shoemaker, watching your mother prepare a Thanksgiving feast — all of the parts are in perfect harmony with each other, each action justifies itself and illuminates the past and future. School sequences aren’t like that, not inside a single class and not among the total menu of daily classes. School sequences are crazy. There is no particular reason for any of them, nothing that bears close scrutiny. Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the 39 articles of Anglicanism. I teach the un-relating of everything, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order. In a world where home is only a ghost because both parents work or because too many moves or too many job changes or too much ambition or something else has left everybody too confused to stay in a family relation I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny. That’s the first lesson I teach.
When we are bombarded by disconnected bodily experiences, we can feel anxious, and fragmented. Here is a musical example that might elicit that feeling.
el canto de los adolescentes stockhausen.mp4
It would seem that our schedules would help us in our pursuit of learning. And indeed, in some ways they do — but that is only part of the narrative. What do I mean by a spatial understanding of time? Well, interestingly, a spatial representation of time is something that we represent visually. And when we represent something visually we experience it differently that might a non-visual representation. The schedule arrives as a visual orientation of time. We begin to think of the time line. We visually perceive time as if it were linear and that our activities should align to the linear line. When we visualize time, we can place events on a timeline. Each moment becomes a series of static states.
Let me give you another example. When you are doing one of your favorite hobbies, there are times you will find yourself not thinking about the passage of time. Of course there are times when you might think to yourself, ‘Oh, I only have 10 more minutes until I have to start preparing dinner,” and then you become aware of time in a way that is obvious. But when you are enjoying the moment and not observing the moment, your sense of time is something more akin to being lost in a song.
Our experiences can be represented visually. Schedules are made. Schedules are blocked. Times are recorded.
What does this emphasis on timing do to our experience? What does it do to our bodies? How do our bodies experience this visually oriented representation of time?
What happens to our experiences when we take something like a train schedule and apply that to our experiences?
Motion is represented in linear, static frames, and thus remembered in this abstracted form.
Think back once again to your favorite hobby. What would disrupting your activity by a time schedule do to your experience?
Imagine you are reading your favorite novel. Now imagine that there is an expectation that you read 100 words every 20 seconds. And, every 20 seconds a timer went off indicating that 20 seconds just went by so that you could keep on track.
Imagine you were having a relaxing game of golf, or spending some time on the beach with friends. And, every 10 minutes a timer reminded you that you only had a certain amount of time left to enjoy your event.
Schooled bodies are timed bodies.
In schools we are timed bodies. We become highly sensitized to time. Time can become our focus. Students are expected to attend school a certain number of days a year. Classes are built on a time schedule with classes having specific duration. Tests are timed. Bathroom breaks are timed. Arithmetic drills are timed. Recesses are timed. Lessons are timed.
Natural durations are disrupted, ruptured. And we feel that disruption physically. Our natural states of motion are disrupted. Continuity of action gives way to discrete acts. Acts that are ready for review and abstracted from experience.
The following short video will give you a bit of a background on the history of timing devices. As you watch, ask yourself how mechanization breaks up time into discrete bits.
A Briefer History of Time: How technology changes us in unexpected ways
Now that you have a bit of an understanding of the mechanical devices, let’s have a look at time more deeply by watching the following documentary from the series How We Go To Now. You will notice some questions below.
An understanding of our representation of time will give you insights into our schooling practices. Even though Steven Johnson won’t state specifically those connections to school, they will soon become very obvious to you. It will help you understand schooling practices in very sophisticated ways.
Please note: You will be accessing WOU’s Films On Demand when clicking the link or image below. You will have to sign in using your WOU login and password.
Questions (Second Set) Continued
7. (Starting at 7:30 minutes in the documentary) : What do Galileo and the alter lamp (pendulum) have to do with how we now experience time?
8. (12:00): What did Maritime Navigation have to do with the way we structure our experience of time?
9. (17:00): What did clocks mean for health care?
10. (18:00) How did the clock contribute to the industrial revolution?
11. At (28:15) Steven Johnson says:
Thanks to a crazy idea, a transformation in how we experience time now takes place. With more and more people carrying watches, we start to synchronize our actions. Before wide access to time-keepers, battles were started by the unreliable “boom” of a cannon. The Civil War battle of Vicksburg in 1863 is the first ever initiated by the synchronization of watches. This forever changes the way we fight.
Watch ownerships spurs an obsession with punctuality. It becomes a social virtue to keep good time, and people buy watches for their children to enhance their chances in life. Cookbooks evolve from never using time references to now offering recipes which timed instructions. Team sports start to form national leagues, which run on much stricter schedules, allowing masses of people to attend at a fixed hour.
Time gives us the power to organize and improve the efficiency of our lives, but there’s a deep irony here because the more we start to own our own time, the more time starts to own us. We can finely tune our schedules, but we’re constantly worrying about them and getting anxious about being late. So not only do watches liberate us, but they also start to enslave us.
So, question, how did we get to a global system of standardized time? Allen was largely responsible for the change in 1881.
Two threads to keep in mind as we move forward. First, the new emphasis on the division of time played a role in the development of the industrial revolution — something that will have a enormous impact on the way we understanding schooling. Second, the emphasis on scheduling and the way schedules were visually constructed influenced the structure of schooling.
Questions (Second Set) Continued
12. List 10 ways that our current perception of ‘time’ influences present day schooling. This might include the structure or organization of schooling, the way curriculum or lessons are organized, the way teachers teach, the way students are expected to learn, etc..
Please remember, don’t submit these questions yet. They are not due until you are finished Week Five Part 2. So keep them and add them to your Second Question Set.
We have been focusing on two strands of thought: one, what are the foundations of education; and two, in what ways are schools contributing or hindering the educational pursuit? We determined that being educated involved developing a depth and breadth of understanding. And if schools are concerned with educating, they must help students develop a depth and breadth of understanding.
If we are trying to understand how one develops a depth and breadth of understanding, it is worth considering how duration and time factor into this.
To develop a depth and breadth of understanding we have to wire together many different neuronal cell assemblies. These cell assemblies help us ‘re-experience’ previously experienced events. To wire together enough neuronal cell assemblies to understand the cinnamon bun, we have to activate a variety of different neuronal cell assemblies in such a way that they allow us to perceive the cinnamon bun. Depending on our past experience, we might be able to activate neuronal cell assemblies that make the four causal modalities meaningful — purpose, person, material and form. In addition, if we have had sufficient experiences with cinnamon bun we will activate neuronal cell assemblies that allow us to have sensory experiences (taste, proprioception, smell, etc.), and context experiences (such as bakery, kitchen, soccer field, classroom). If we can get these neuronal cell assemblies firing (vibrating) long enough, and often enough, our brain will physically wire the cell assemblies together. The more often we get the neurons activating, the stronger the connections will be and the better the memory (ability to relive in the future) will be.
Notice I say vibrating long enough and often enough. It takes time for neuronal cell assemblies to wire together. It takes time, and repeated experiences to strength the connections. Can you imagine what would happen though if we continually disrupted the cell assemblies from vibrating, or continually pointed out an unrelated set of experiences. For example, if you were trying to learn about cinnamon buns and somebody kept interrupting you and drew your attention toward a basset hound, you would wire together cinnamon buns and the person interrupting you about basset hounds. If someone continually interrupted your neuronal vibrations with, say, clock time, you would wire together cinnamon neuronal webs with someone continually telling you to look at the time.
We learn all the time. Our brain does that naturally. Sometimes we aren’t learning what we think we are learning though. Especially if we are learning to associate the wonderful cinnamon bun with someone continually talking about time.
A foundation of education is having uninterrupted durations to experience and reflect.
In what ways are schools contributing or hindering the ability for students to have uninterrupted and lengthy experiences?
Last day we looked at the influence of ‘clock time’ on our experience. We considered the difference between ‘time’ and ‘duration’. Duration is the way we might describe our experience of time without an external mechanical mechanism in the background structuring our actions and experiences. ‘Time’ on the other hand is the structured format imposed on our experience.
Schooling has long used ‘clock time’ as a foundational aspect. What does this do to the school experience? How have different institutions addressed ‘time’?
The Foundation of Time
For much of our schooling history, and still today, ‘time’ has been, and remains, foundational. When we start thinking about how time constraints and pressures structure our school days and activities, we find many examples of how the materials, purposes and forms can be transformed to accommodate time.
In the ‘learn more’ block below I list 85 different ways ‘time’ and schedules influence our work in schools. Before you open the list, can you easily think of 15?
Top 85 Time Constraints in School
Time influences the length of the school year.
The amount of months and days required to spend at school each year.
Length of school day
Length of each subject taught (at any grade level)
Classes are divided as equally as possible so that the classes are around the same duration.
How much homework is given-a target of roughly X:XX amount of time spent working at home
Students are expected to focus on one subject for a certain amount of time
Lessons are often stretched or compressed to fit in a certain amount of time
How long we spend in a lesson. In my class that I interpret in, typically we spend the morning with language/reading and afternoon is math. But what is stopping us from doing language/reading all day?
Time can influence semesters. Some schools use trimesters, quarters, or semesters.
Time teaching vs. exploration. Traditionally there is more time where the teacher is speaking or directing students to do something instead of students leading the learning
Teachers estimate how long it take for students to learn something or to do an activity?
Time influences whether teachers will start a new lesson or not. Even though the next lesson may go with the flow of the previous lesson, if our time is ending soon teachers will cut short from teaching the lesson and not begin a new lesson.
Classes are deemed to be ahead or behind based on a time schedule.
Students are deemed to be ahead or behind based on a time schedule.
Teachers are expected to monitor ‘on-task’ time.
Many classes use lectures or presentations due to being able to cover the most amount of content in the time they have.
Students are expected to learn a concept and remember that in 5 weeks for the midterm with little review due to only having so much time to teach the content that will be on the test.
Common saying: “The time you spend in the classroom should also be the same amount of time you spend studying for the class.”
Students expected to know certain subjects according to our grade (time).
Students are given a set time for homework and are expected to hand it in the next day.
Homework should be done at home after school hours and it should not be turned in past the due time.
Due to the limited set of periods schools have, teachers may feel pressured into lecturing as much material as possible to students. As a result, students may feel overwhelmed by the amount of material that is being thrown at them in “a short amount of time”.
The perception of ‘time’ influences the structure of how schools arrange the curriculum for students. School might prioritize having students take taking classes, such as economics, over others like art if there is limited time availability in the school’s schedule.
Students may be preoccupied by the clock more than learning a subject Students may be forced to consume and regurgitate information within the span of a school year Student schedules are often centered around their classes (periods).
Time influences the amount of time for electives.
Student Start/End Times
School start times are coordinated with parent working schedules. Kindergarten may have different start times. Policies are in place for start time when there is inclement weather. Students are expected to remain in school for a certain number of years before they can quit.
A Bachelor’s degree will be about four years, A Master’s degree about two years A Doctorate degree from approximately three to seven years.
Certain times learning subjects for all schooling. Some subjects are thought to be better for students in the morning, or right after lunch, or at the end of the day.
Graduating in a certain amount of years — class of 2020.
Most curriculums have a “timeline” for how long each subject and lesson “should” take. Textbooks often contain sequenced timelines.
In a preschool setting, time is allotted before the classroom day starts to setting up the environment, preparing snacks/bottles, organizing paperwork, and planning activities.
Small group rotations that are broken down evenly so students can have an equal opportunity to engage in the activities for the same amount of time.
How long classwork/group assignments take.
What an appropriate amount of time it is for students to have reading time. How long it takes for the class to quiet down/get their attention
Bus schedules Student drop-off times by parents.
Attendance times monitored Attendance taken by teacher at beginning of class
When we eat . How long we get to eat Time for breaks-snack, recess, lunch How many breaks do children need to feel rejuvenated?
Transitions between topics within class are often timed. Bell schedules (time between bells) How much learning time is lost as a result of transitions. Students in sports and the arts are often given time in and after class. Students walk halls at carefully designed and executed intervals. Students have a certain number of minutes to gather their things, get to their next class, go to the restroom, get water, get their new books, and be in their seats. Sometimes, if break times are not complied with or conformed to this timed experience, teachers and students may be penalized and experience consequences.
Words read per minute (can qualify a student for Sp. Ed.) Speeches or sharing of ideas/presentations Time limits for tests? Some students work faster than others. Quick/timed math assignments. Timed math tests Standardized Testing (time limits) PE Class uses time for fitness testing Taking tests at a certain time. For standardized testing in school you are required to take it whether or not you have covered all the material yet in your schooling.
Time as an incentive — oftentimes teachers will gives students “extra recess” time for a reward to doing what we have asked of them or for being engaged in the subject. As a reward, students may be given time at the computer. Time can change depending on a student’s punishment.
Time schedules for life skills program, Time schedules for support specialists and times to connect with and work with students Pulling students out of the classroom for 20-30 minutes of individualized instruction, leaving them to miss out on the opportunity to participate in the group instruction of the class.
Prep time, teachers are only allotted a specific amount of paid prep time. Teachers must complete all other prep where we can squeeze it in throughout our day, or complete outside of school. Teachers will monitor the time they are expected to work during their time away from school.
Students dawdling between classes, needing the bathroom right at the start of class because they were talking with friends instead. “Turn and talk to your neighbor for XX seconds” and then students are either left waiting, because their conversation was too short, or cut off because their conversation was too long
Planned meeting times for parent or student conferences
Dances and games Plays and concerts Sports
When we think of the ‘educational’ experience, we would be more likely to think of our experiences as being a series of flowing durations. When we think of schooling, we find that mechanical clock structures and schedules become prominent. And, as you know, when a background catalyst such as time imposes its forces on the Purpose, all of the causal modalities will be transformed. The causal modalities are transformed, the sensory modalities are transformed, and the contextual modalities are transformed. When we impose time structures on an environment we might begin to notice how teaching practices change as well. Time controls the teacher, and the teacher controls students so that they meet the imposed time constraints.
Let us begin today by carefully observing mechanical time structures imposed on a typical classroom environment.
We will begin by looking at what might be considered a typical public school class on the first day of school. We will see evidence of how time structures can predominate the teacher’s actions and the student experience. Try to note, as you view this first clip, how the teacher’s actions, the students’ actions, and the activities taking place in the classroom are influenced by ‘time.’
I have included some time stamps of examples below the clip.
Classroom management – Week 1, Day 1
1:52 “Period Three, it is great to see you.”
1:55 “I need about three and a half more minutes.”
2:00 clicking timer
2:05 “You can see the amount of time left.”
3:15 “If you finish with the survey early . . ”
3:21 Notice on white board Period Time Schedule
3:24 Notice clock on wall
4:05 It is okay if you don’t finish everything. Take another minute . . .
4:20 Notice Home work schedule on white board
4:49 finished with the survey. Twenty more silent seconds . . .
5:54 Notice timer on wall above schedule.
6:00 We’re going to rip it on four. . . . one, two, three . . .etc.
6:55 “We can’t waste time.”
7:44 “When I say go.”
7:56 “right now.”
8:16 “When I say go. . ”
8:20 “Period One today, 23 seconds the first time . . Period Two did it in 24 seconds, . . ” etc/
8:47 “We’ve got to beat them . ”
9:08 Notice recording time.
11:20 Homework for tonight, due on Tuesday.
12:00 “You have two things due Tuesday.”
13:55 “That as to be to me by Wednesday.”
14:05 “You have to have this binder by Tuesday.”
17:00 “You’ll get homework center on Tuesday.”
24:50 ‘In total silence for 10 seconds.”
25:05 “Now for the next one minute . . ”
26:00 “We have about 27 more seconds.”
26:10 “If you’re finished early, think about the next column.”
26:15 “Take eight more seconds, stay silently writing.”
26:27 Notice timer.
That’s enough. I am sure you get the idea.
What do you notice here? Is there a narrative playing out? Do you think that there is a narrative that has become so imposing that many people won’t even recognize the imposition of mechanical time? Is the narrative incomplete?
There is a narrative here that is oriented toward time. The narrative is a classroom management narrative that uses adherence to time as a necessary component of structuring what is done in class.
Question Set Number Two (Continued)
13.The teacher is obviously focussed on time. How do you think this focus on time has influenced how he treats his students?
What happens when ‘time’ recedes into the background
Let’s look at some other examples of classroom environments that have deliberately removed the focus away from time and placed individual exploration and project work at the forefront of what is being done.
What happens to school when the focus on time is loosened? What is the result when we loosen the regimentation and loosen the scheduling?
Big Picture Learning
Innovations High School and Big Picture Learning
Learning Through Internships: Connecting Students’ Passions to the Real World
How does Big Picture Learning define personalization?
Advisory: Building Relationships for Student Success
Project-Based Learning at High Tech High
Question Set Number Two (Continued)
14. Mechanical time seems to play a less significant role in High-Tech High than it does in the first Classroom Management video. What do you notice about the way teachers interact with students? Give some specific examples.
Projects and Project-Based Learning: What’s The Difference?
Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning
3:14 “We would never put four kids together at a table and say, ‘Here’s a task, get it done during this time period.”
Notice how the teacher has given up some control, becoming more of a facilitator rather than a director or manipulator. Students take more control.
Think for a moment what would happen in each of these previous project-based video clips if we imposed a strict time regimen onto the environments.
This is not to say that we lose all sense of time. But, you will notice that the emphasis is different. Projects draw students into the educational durations, the flow of experience. Neuronal cell assemblies are given time to be nurtured.
Projects and explorations can not be formatted to fit the same ridged set time constraints we saw in the previous video.
Learning Requires Attention and Duration
Learning takes focus. The neurons we are hoping will wire together won’t fire and wire together without our being focused on that which we are trying to learn. So we might wonder, what happens when our lived durations are continually disrupted? What happens to student learning when a teacher continually expects that we turn our focus toward a mechanical time experience? This rather rapid succession of ‘do-this” and now ‘do-that’ is a form of task switching. “Do-this, do-that, follow me with your eyes, do-this, do-that, look up here, do-this, look at me, do-that, do-this, in one minute do-this, now ‘do-that.’ ” Task-switching at its finest.
Have a great day! Until next time.