After hearing from my students on a regular basis that they easily identified their smart phones and social media usage as their number one distraction and enemy of focused attention and time management, I decided to introduce them to the Bored and Brilliant Challenge. I learned of this idea from NPR’s wonderful radio show, Note to Self, hosted by Manoush Zomorodi. The essence of this challenge is based upon the assertion that our culture today promotes constant connection with technology, and consequently we rarely have any good “down-time” for wondering, daydreaming and relaxing into deeper thinking. Furthermore, it appears that this constant connection and jumping from one bit of “shallow” information to the next trains the brain to not be satisfied with focusing intently upon one task at hand, like studying for a test or writing a reflection paper. Here’s a link to the radio show that thoroughly describes the Bored and Brilliant Boot Camp Challenge: http://www.wnyc.org/story/bored-and-brilliant-boot-camp/
So, we narrowed down the focus to three days to make it workable for us and took the challenge. On day one of last week, my students were asked to “Put it in your pocket.” They were not allowed to access their phones as they moved from place to place on campus. Day two was “See the world through your own eyes,” and students were not to take any photos on their phones all day. Day three was “Delete that App!” Students were required to identify their favorite social media app (Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and delete this app for the entire day.
After submitting their reflection papers on what the challenge was like and how successful or unsuccessful they were in complying with the demands of the challenge, we book-ended the experiment with a class session conducted completely in contemplative silence. During this class session, we explored being bored and brilliant by spending time outdoors simply daydreaming by the fountain in the Quad and then returned to our
indoor classroom to color and draw.
I really enjoyed watching my students relax into their disconnected daydreaming and it warmed my heart to watch them pick up their crayons and color with abandon like they were in kindergarten. Only time will tell if this experimental project will benefit my students long-term, but it is certainly clear to me that they are looking for relief from their constant connection with technology, and possibly the permission and acceptability to seek it.