Lessons Learned from a Chalkboard: Slow and Steady Technology Integration (Bradley Emerling)

After reading this article, I understand how purposeful Japanese teachers are in the technology they are using. I think this mentality is beneficial for approaching everyday life as well. There’s no need to rush to get new technology just for the sake of it. Technology should be a supplement, not a replacement for already viable methods of teaching, learning, living.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Bradley Emerling is Principal Research Scientist at Pearson Research and Innovation Network. This commentary appeared in Teachers College Record  on April 13, 2015.

Last winter, while observing and recording classroom lessons for a research project in Japan, I was surprised to hear a sound I had not heard for many years—the sound of chalk. Over a three-week period of observations in Saitama prefecture, I captured 17 classroom videos from various subject areas across 1st to 12th grade. Every classroom I visited was equipped with a large green chalkboard. There were few computers, few projectors or smartboards, and no other visible forms of 21st century technology in most of the classrooms. Japanese colleagues and researchers confirmed this was representative of the average K-12 classroom in Japan. In January 2015, the Tokyo Broadcasting System reported approximately 75% of Japanese classrooms still use chalkboards as the primary medium for presentation of lesson…

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Paving the Way for Focus

If focus means being fully in the moment, I must do everything in my power to clear my internal distractions and clutter that block my way (i.e. negative self talk, living in the past, worrying about the future).

The first step is to determine which THINGS I need in my day-to-day life. Backpacking trips have taught me that I’m able to live off the contents of a backpack for days at a time, and I love that. Over the course of my life, I’ve stockpiled things, only to have to worry about all these items that I don’t actually need to survive. I find that the less I worry about accumulating things, the more conscious I am of how little I actually need in my day to day life.

One of those things that I don’t actually need every minute of the day is my smart phone. It is actually an exercise in self-control for me to not use my phone for even one whole day. But I’ve found that going off the grid is freeing, because I choose when to look at my phone, and it isn’t constantly beckoning me to check on it. I can set aside a specific time to look at it, which might be during my lunch break, or at night before I go to bed.

I find that without my phone, I’m more likely to be 100% focused on whoever I’m with or whatever I’m doing in a given moment. I think it’s because by removing myself from the possibility of constant communication, I’m forced to communicate with the people and the nature around me, even when I’d rather zone out and distract myself with my smart phone.

I do want to stare at digital screens less. The less I passively consume, the better. Sometimes it’s painful to be mindful about what you are doing or consuming, but I know that I benefit from intentional living. The more I worry about what has not yet happened or things that already happened, the less I will experience the moment, because I will be concerned with things I can’t do anything about. The only time I have is now.

As soon as I’m not attached to things, as soon as I’m doing and loving more than I’m complaining or thinking, I’m living a rich, joyful life.

I want to volunteer, explore, do meaningful work every minute of every day. Every minute sounds unreasonable, but I think that sometimes meaningful work just means seeing the beauty in the situation I am in and fostering positive thoughts and ideas.

Because the only thing I can control is my mind. Just like how full, intentional breaths in yoga pave the way for relaxed, focused control of my poses (for example, I was able to hold a headstand for more than 10 breaths today!), focusing on quieting my mind will give me the strength to focus in any situation.

This quote sums it up pretty well: “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius