Today’s information technologies provide instantaneous access to vast amounts of information, opening up wondrous new possibilities in education, commerce, and entertainment. But these opportunities are not without cost: the easy availability of information can turn into information overload; the presence of multiple communication sources and devices may lead to the fragmentation of attention; and the ease of acting and communicating quickly seems to encourage a pace of interaction that is unsustainable and counterproductive.
The content of a tweet from Howard Rheingold posits ideas many of us, who have been advocating for the vastly increased use of technology in education, have been reflecting on for a while now. In a word, balance.
What courses does your school run that effectively assist students to manage contemporary life?
Schools have a range of lessons in an array of subjects that deal with personal well-being, health and even digital citizenship. However, I wonder what is available for students that is contemplative, in the way Levy is advocating for his tertiary students?
Of course, there are what Celia Lashlie calls ’30-second moments’ that are important at school for students and teachers. Some of those moments develop into ongoing mentoring and advice. I have seen many students over the years return to see their teachers, long after graduating from school, such was the importance of the bond.
Recently, a student experiencing grieving and loss came to my office about her struggles coping at school. She was undergoing counselling but was feeling helpless in the face of modern life. Wherever she looked there were reminders of her sadness. Friends being kind on Facebook, text messages, photos and just an overwhelming sense of loss that was manifesting itself physically. We all understand what she meant about her anxiety becoming physical and I recommended some simple breathing techniques, discovered via teaching and using Yoga Nidra for a decade with classes (as much to assist with creative writing as anything else).
After chatting with her parent, who I sought permission from to support her daughter further with this method, the student is now using this technique regularly. My experience is that students love this practical process and find it useful in some unexpected ways. Kids who love skateboarding and surfing have been particularly enthusiastic about the creative visualisations of their sport that they can engage while meditating.
What does your school do to encourage balance?
Our students are encouraged to drink water, eat a healthy breakfast and sleep 9 hours each night. We run a breakfast club. The school, especially the principal and deputies, are quite obsessive about this message. A few years ago we discovered that more students in Year 11 had missed breakfast before an exam than eaten something healthy.
Our school advises parents to charge digital devices in a central location and to limit screens in bedrooms to ensure proper sleep. We have discovered that over 90% of students who are suspended from school have missed breakfast or never eat it. We address this issue directly with parents and the student.
The explicit teaching of maintaining life balance and the importance of seeking our human tradition of wisdom, across a range of disciplines, is as important as it has always been. Maybe more important in a world that is 24-7!
What courses does your school run that effectively assist students to manage life? What courses would you like to run?
It is important that all of us, including this blogger, reflect and act positively to ensure we strike a good balance in life.
You can listen to more of Professor Levy’s ideas about wisdom here (2008).