Monday, January 24, 2011

Human-Tech Integration Experiment 1: Wall Time...

Right, so I mentioned in my previous post that I had a few ideas for teaching folks how to step away from tech as an reflexive, trained response, in order to give the brain a bit of breathing room. Taking a hot bath is fine, but we can't all just hop in the shower whenever we want, so we need some mental tricks to be able to detach ourselves at a moment's notice no matter where we are.

This trick came to me while I was sitting in the foyer of the Arts & Technology building at UTD. Basically, all the art had been removed from the wall opposite me for some reason (I think they were going to knock it in, or something). As I sat and contemplated why the wall was bare, my brain went into overdrive, answering questions and solving problems I had been pondering for weeks. This led me to consider a white wall, blank board, or other totally featureless surface as a sort of 'mental canvas.' If there is nothing there, and you stare, your brain will put something there.

So, after pondering on this a bit, I thought that a good elementary level educational tool would be 'wall time.' Basically, start with children who are beginning to interact with technology and make them take 5-10 minutes away from everything they are doing and just stare at a blank surface of some sort. Take them away from the hurly-burly of taking in information and let their minds drift with it, internalize it and wander off onto other things that need conscious or subconscious sorting.

Obvious? Maybe. But that doesn't mean that it is done with regularity or as habit. I can't count the number of children I've known who are incapable of functioning without multiple streams of info coming in, entertaining them, but not actually leaving them with any real cognitive growth. Many of them become aggressive or sullen when they are 'bored,' which is almost any time they don't have a tv, a video game and some form of instant messaging going at once.

Adults could benefit from this type of training as well, although it will be harder to build it into their daily routine as a habit. Perhaps businesses would be better off mandating 'wall time?' Maybe just taking 5-10 minutes of every hour or so to let the mind collate information can relieve stress, reduce aggression and improve productivity more effectively than vision statements, ra-ra speeches, politically correct speech codes and 'crazy shirt day' could ever do.

We'll see how it works. I plan to study it further, along with a few other ideas, for one of my independent study courses for this degree. I'd love to hear other ideas on methods of teaching folks to integrate technology without becoming enslaved by it, so pipe up if you have one...

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