Sunday, December 31, 2017

How We're Wired: On Notifications, Desktops, and Lateness

I've been thinking a lot about brains lately, how we're wired, what the impact of that is on each of us. It started when I saw this photo the author Jason Reynolds shared on Instagram a few days ago of his computer desktop.

I'm not exaggerating when I share that just looking at his desktop gives me some anxiety. For comparison sake, here's mine:

I saw Jason's desktop image as I was headed to the pool with Chris. As I dove in to swim laps, it popped back into my mind. Then another image from a few years ago came to my memory. It was shared around social media a lot then and I had shared it, truly thinking it was a joke:

There was no way anyone would have over 10,000 unread emails, right? I think I shared it with the comment that I was the icon on the left. To my shock many friends began commenting that they were the one on the right, but their unread emails were numbering around 20,000 or 30,000. Seriously, I got shivers.

As I swam, I considered this. Jason's desktop. My friends' unread emails. I thought of my dad, how he and I both hate the red notification bubble on our apps on our phones. I have notifications only turned on for my email and texts as a result. If I have notifications in any social media apps, I will know when I go to said app. I don't want to see it calling to me. 

So what does that mean? Is it just the way our brains are? This made me recall a text conversation with a friend recently. Her son commented that when I picked he and my oldest up, I was always on time while she was always late. She apologized in case Luke was upset. I explained that being late gives me massive anxiety. As a result, I'm always on time to five minutes early. But I thought more about that. I have friends who are always late, you just plan on it. I could care less if anyone else is late as long as it doesn't make me late, you know? But if that's their default, and mine is to be on time or early, how did we get that way?

I swam, and swam, and swam and the laps racked up. I thought of all the idiosyncrasies we all have. At forty-three I am perfectly comfortable, for the most part, with who I am. I know what causes me to get anxious, I know how to feel relaxed. I know how I learn best, how to be my most productive. I know I'm surrounded with people who think like me, and others who have opposite tendencies. We are all successful. I don't think that my habits of keeping a clean desktop, no notifications, or being on time are "right", and the opposite isn't wrong. We all figure out what works for us.

That being said, as my pool laps were drawing to a close, my mind turned to my classroom. How do we set up learning so that everyone can work in a way they are comfortable? With the habits that work best for them? I think choice is a huge part of this - choice in what they read and write, choice in where they sit, choice in working for long periods of time or breaking that chunk of time up and doing several tasks. But what am I missing? I'm not sure. I want the environment in my classroom, in our classroom, to be one that works for all students, whether they share my tendencies or not. This isn't something I've figured out, but something I'm still thinking about. If you have any ideas on this topic, please share with us all. One things I do know is that my friend Donalyn is right when she often says, "The smartest person in the room is the room." This new year I plan on returning to the classroom and thinking about this more with my students. I'm curious to see what they notice about how they are wired.