Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bored, Not Dying

Did you hear this program featuring the President's point person on digital education? Karen Cator extols a number of ways in which providing each child access to his or her own computer will enhance education. After all, she argues, ask any child what she spends much of her time doing throughout the day, and she will answer "waiting." So the argument goes that if the Department of Education gives each child a digital device, it will eliminate the need for students to sit idly waiting for a lesson to begin or for a school bus to reach it's destination.
image from St. Peter's by-the-Sea School, NY
To which I say, have we learned nothing from "Baby Einstein" fraud?! And that is not even mentioning the millions of achievements in the sciences, arts and humanities that were born out of that "idle' time a person spends drifting between activities! Even the original Einstein needed time to ponder the way the world works. Can you imagine how easy it would have been for him to split the concentration that it must have taken him to say, visualize the theory of relativity, if he was never expected to wait between activities?
Harold, filling the void with the stuff of his imagination
Which brings me to the 2013 Sketchbook Project. How many artists do you think spent a good portion of their childhoods doodling in the margins of their school notebooks? If you were one of them, then you understand how 'Bored' can be a launch pad for big ideas. What starts off as idle scribbling can transform unexpectedly into a masterpiece as your mind wanders in and out of thoughts, connecting them in new ways. Instead of entering into a space crowded with bottomless information, you stroll onto a blank page, wondering lazily where you are, until you recognize the world that you've drawn around yourself.

Come to think of it, maybe the department of eduction should start providing students with sketchbooks instead of ipads ;)


  1. I love this post! I think the day our school introduces ipads will be our last day at school. Like kids need more exposure to TV/computers/handheld games/phones...How about let them have more recess each day?! They would probably learn way more that way than from an ipad. Ok, rant over! Thanks for this post, Nicole!

    1. I live in Maine, where one city HAS handed out iPads to Kindergarteners. My child is home schooled. Enough said.

  2. Thanks, Laura. I am not a luddite, but I think that the creation and maintenance of intellectual space is foundational to the development of creative innovation.

  3. Great points Nicole. I cannot believe someone has this idea. This reminds me of the Pope's Message for the 46th World Communications day. A taste: "When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds."

  4. Another passage from the Pope's message: "Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested"

  5. Great quotes. I agree wholeheartedly.


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