Spinning Blocks

I consider myself a smart phone user, in the sense that I don’t use a smartphone. What with all the babble on addiction , sleep deprivation, and brain changes , I am afraid to. And the phone I do have I don’t use much.

In fact the main reason I keep it around is the pleasing sound of finality it makes upon closing. When I hear that plastic on plastic snap it immediately brings me back to where I actually am, as opposed to my friends who are constantly tethered to a place where they actually aren’t.

I have something you don’t have.

Of my 3 favorite non-vocalized sounds each is at a different level of technology. The first, as described above, I’ll call a high-tech sound (but isn’t really high-tech). The second, described next, is a no-tech sound (but isn’t really a sound); and the last is decidedly low-tech.

I can hear my students think. No, I don’t have ESP (although I knew you were thinking that). If we think of sound as vibrations propagating through a medium impacting a sensory organ (a reasonable definition) and slip in “or lack thereof” after vibrations (dubious), then we get close to my meaning. Semanticians will say, “No, no, you’re watching them think.” but they’d be wrong. I feel it in my ears, not my eyes, just as you can hear the following (silent) clip in your ears.

click me

This lack of sound sound that I hear (?) when children’s brains are churning brings me great joy when I see (?) it in my classroom. Qualitatively different from the deafening silence of disengagement, the sound of thoughtful effort is even more satisfying than a quick correct answer which, while useful as a diagnostic, may simply reflect guessing, or that the question was too easy. It certainly doesn’t indicate any hard thinking was involved. And if you believe, as I do, that learning requires hard thinking, then you’ll understand why I ask young children difficult questions and give them lots of time to chew, and watch their faces scowl with effort. As I watch I imagine the gears turning inside their little heads and can almost see wisps of smoke escaping their little ears. And when the answer is wrong I often gain a valuable insight into how they are thinking; and when the answer is right their little scowls transform into beacons of joy; because they know it was a hard question and that they figured it out all by themselves. Of course, they don’t know it but that sustained effort is making them smarter; and when I see it I praise it and allow myself the indulgent fantasy that I am helping to create little Curies and Einsteins.

continuing reading on Compelling Games