Day Dreams and Sleepless Nights

Among the many articles that I read this month, a few have resonated with me because they applied to education and how students learn. The first was a book on sleep, referenced in an article in the Guardian newspaper that that was published a few weeks ago: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker review – how more sleep can save your life.

To quote from this article – which is brilliant by the way:

That low-level exhaustion becomes their accepted norm, or baseline. Individuals fail to recognise how their perennial state of sleep deficiency has come to compromise their mental aptitude and physical vitality, including the slow accumulation of ill health. A link between the former and the latter is rarely made in their mind.

Another article on Facebook (yes, I do read it now and again) from the World Economic Forum, was about the Finnish school system and their drive towards schooling students in creativity and innovation: Education without the boundaries.

Another was from Fortune Magazine about jobs in 2040, roughly when our Early Learning students will be graduating: The 6 jobs everyone will want in 2040.

And, of course, yet another on cell-phones that highlighted some interesting data from recent research. So much is changing in terms of the skill-sets that our graduating students need to acquire, as well as to prepare them for a workplace that will be radically different from the one today. So, time that is given to other less-productive pursuits need to be limited. The data from the article, cited below about distracted students is pertinent.

  • College students unlock their phones at least every fifteen minutes, look at them about five minutes each time, and spend a total of 4½ hours a day glued to their devices.
  • Online conversations are teens’ lifeblood, accounting for much, if not most, of their social lives.
  • When teens have their phones taken away, they become highly anxious.
  • Phone-related anxiety is closely linked to poor academic performance and sleep deprivation.
  • About 80 percent of teens say they rarely if ever sleep well, usually because they have a smartphone at their bedside and check it before going to sleep and during the night.
  • During a 15-minute stint of studying, teens spend at least five minutes in a state of distraction.
  • Eighty percent of high-school teachers and 63 percent of elementary teachers say technology is making students less able to sustain attention.

(The Distracted Student Mind: Enhancing Its Focus and Attention” by Larry Rosen in Phi Delta Kappan, October 2017 (Vol. 99, #2, p. 8-14), www.kappanmagazine.org)

These articles mourn the negative impact of social media on study habits and the broader aspect of the lives of teenagers. The paucity of social connection among adolescents coupled with lifestyles that limit the amount of sleep that we have each night are taking their toll on the emotional well-being of our children.

However, there are some situations, as King Canute knows, that we cannot fight if we want to avoid the incoming tide, in this case, of technology. So why not harness such energy that we know all students possess and redirect them towards other activities that do promote social interaction, on a face-to-face level, and train our students more deliberately for the future jobs and lifestyles.

We completed the first phase of the conversion of the former preschool and kindergarten classrooms this summer by creating design-focused settings, where our students will be encouraged to be more creative and innovative, and required to work in teams to design products to specific outcomes and deadlines. The more I read and research, the more convinced I am in that this is the direction we must proceed. It might sound strange, but students do too much thinking these days and not enough doing; perhaps if they were to do so, we might all sleep more easily.