Let your students doodle in class. Encourage them to doodle in class. You might be surprised at the result.
I have a one-hour commute to and from school, and lately I’ve been listening to the radio (CBC) rather than music. I noticed that I have a much easier time paying attention to the radio when I’m driving than when I’m at home. I thought it might have something to do with the fact that I a part of my brain is preoccupied with driving, freeing up another part to listen to the radio. I’m currently teaching an Intro to Computers class and there’s a regular series on CBC called Spark that features interesting tech-related stories. The one I happened to be listening to was about how we are “so connected, we’re disconnected“.
I wanted to have my class listen to this, but I knew they wouldn’t pay attention if I simply played it in class, so I decided to turn it into an exercise. I couldn’t have them all go for a drive, so I decided to have them doodle in class. I remember getting into trouble regularly when I was in grade school for doodling. I always had the sense that it helped keep me occupied in an otherwise boring class, so I thought it was worth a try. They were going to have to put away all of their devices (phone, computer, etc.) and I would give them a piece of paper to draw on. Because I wanted to make it clear that I was not actually expecting them to take notes, I used a blank piece of legal sized paper (so it would look and feel different from what they are used to), AND to move it even farther out of the norm for them, I decided I would give each student one crayon to use for their doodling. Just one crayon – I didn’t want them spending time thinking about what colour to make things – just doodle.
The result was really quite wonderful. After the session was over, I collected and laid out their doodles for everyone else to see. It was really fun to see what they had produced. Even more fun was the reaction from the students – they really liked it and more than a few commented on how the doodling helped them to listen.
Imagine my surprise when this comes across my feed:
I plan on doing this exercise again. In fact, I’m even thinking about having several designated “No Tech” days throughout the term. I’m not ready to completely ban tech in the class. I think that’s going overboard and besides, it seems pretty hypocritical in an Intro to Computers class.
I’m starting to wonder if perhaps this tech generation has been deprived of learning how to “be” without their devices. I plan on giving them some opportunities to learn, and just maybe a few will realize there can be value in attention. Most people aren’t nearly as good at multi-tasking as they think they are.