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.
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
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.
This might be a good time to bring up the problematic narrative that often accompanies the idea of task-switching. Understanding this will be valuable to us on at least two levels. First, we might get a better idea why sustained focus on projects might be beneficial when we are trying to wire neuronal cell assemblies together. Second, we will be in a better position to educate ourselves because we will, hopefully, be able to resist the narrative that suggests to us that multi-tasking (or task switching) is something we are good at and should pursue.
So, how many of us believe that we are good at multi-tasking? How much better would we learn if we understood the importance of being attentive on what we are learning?
A Little Lesson on Multi-Tasking — Educating Yourself
In this part of the lesson I would like to share with you the importance of focusing your attention. I am going to try to convince you to put your phones out of reach, and to turn off your social media when you are studying. I am going to show you ways to raise your grade point average. And I will show you ways to study so that you aren’t simply going through the motions — such as reading a paragraph or page four times and still not knowing what the author is talking about. I will also share with you the Feynman technique — a way of studying that will help ensure you leave university with the best education possible. Finally, this is important because if you do become a teacher, your priority will be to help your students learn as much as possible. It is important to practice what you preach.
As you know, one of the biggest issues we face as students and teachers is that when we are distracted, we don’t remember what we are learning, and we won’t learn well. Multi tasking is distracting. Recall our word game. When you didn’t understand one of the words in the sentence, you didn’t know what the sentence meant and you didn’t have strong memories. Task switching has a similar outcome. If you don’t hear a word in a sentence, that is similar to not knowing what a word meant. No recognition, nothing firing upstairs.
Unfortunately, there has been a narrative that suggests that people can multi task (or task switch). There is even a narrative that many people believe that suggests that young people are able to multi task better that older people. Don’t be fooled into believing this.
But is multi-tasking really a problem? Can’t we learn to multi-task?
The research shows that people don’t really multi-task well. Our brain doesn’t really do two tasks at the same time. Rather, it switches back and forth. And, as a result, there are always things going on that students aren’t aware of as soon as they switch to another task–whether it is listening to some music, opening a social media app, texting, or thinking about something different. The result is not remembering as much, and not learning as much.
For you as a student, this is a problem. When you are a teacher, this will be a problem for your students.
Today we will try to develop a better understanding of how multi-tasking (or task switching) is detrimental to learning.
We attend to one thing or another. We don’t attend to (or pay attention to) two things at the same time.
We can feel our attention shift from the faces (white) to the vase (black). Shift your focus from one to the other.
Learning and memory. Hmmmm. I wonder what attention has to do with memory?
Effects of Multitasking
Short term memory has a small capacity. Does this say anything about multitasking?
The Myth of Multitasking Test (NEW)
Why the Human Brain Can’t Multitask
Can You Really Multitask?
Digital Lives – The Science Behind Multitasking
Even though many people believe that they can multi-task (task-switch) well, why is multi-tasking actually a detriment to learning?
Inattentional Blindness. Really?
Perhaps you have seen just how selective your attention is.
Joanne Cantor: What Research Says about Multitasking
Can You Get Through This Multitasking Test?
Peter Doolittle: How your “working memory” makes sense of the world
What effect does multi-tasking or task-switching have on one’s working memory?
Where does that leave us? What do we now know about the foundations of education and schooling?
We should have a better idea now as to what is necessary to become educated. We have a sense of the importance of understanding the causal modalities. We know the importance of using all of our senses. We recognize, also, the importance of recognizing different contexts when trying to understand anything. We know that our bodies are organisms and not machines and need to experience the world in many ways to develop the neuronal web assemblies that account for our ability to dwell within situations. We also know that the foundational aspect of time plays a significant role in how we come to develop a depth and breadth of understanding.
Next day, we will consider reality. Really!
Until next time 🙂