Tanya Leach-Haye, Contributor
Last week, after revamping some old assignments, I gave my second-year college students in Vancouver a new assignment called 'One Hundred Questions'. Taken from the book How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael Gelb, and adapted for college classroom use, this exercise asks individuals to write 100 questions they find interesting.
To do this, they were supposed to sit quietly and allow their minds to wander, while writing every question that came to mind. I explained to my students that no question was off-limits.
They could ask questions similar to these: Am I satisfied with my life? Why am I so sensitive/ competitive/angry/jealous/ vindictive? Am I happy with my relationships? Are some of these very popular singers really good singers or are they just lucky? What would I have to do to get discovered on YouTube? Why am I taking this course? What is my life's purpose? Though not prescriptive, the idea behind this activity is that great minds ask questions, so when we can notice and record the thoughts, dreams, goals, and questions that capture our attention, we can begin to focus on bigger issues like purpose and creativity.
When I excitedly told my college students about this assignment, which was supposed to be the pre-cursor to another assignment about setting goals, the news was met with blank stares; therefore, I explained the activity. Yet, still more blank stares. Hesitantly, I asked, "Is ... there ... a ... problem?"
One student piped up, "That's a lot of questions, Tanya!"
"Yes. I know. But that's what's required for this to work."
A fellow in the front row muttered, "A whole hundred, eh?! Wow!"
"Yes, Ryan. A whole hundred," I smiled.
"I don't think I can write a hundred questions, Tanya," another guy said.
"Not yet. But once you sit for at least 45-60 minutes, you'll see," I explained.
"FORTY-FIVE minutes?" another student uttered. "Seriously, Tanya?"
"Yes. I'm serious. According to da Vinci: The desire to know is natural to good men," I explained. "And I know you are one," I added, trying to not explode laughing.
Then it seemed like everyone began talking at the same time. After waiting for them to settle down, I discovered THE problem. They couldn't imagine sitting in ONE place, doing ONE activity, writing for ONE hour. They could not imagine one hour without their smartphones! What I learnt from those students that day was disturbing but revealing. Here's some of what they disclosed.
College students sleep with their smartphones under their pillows or somewhere beside them on the bed. Why not? They have to be accessible. If their phones are on the nightstand, it would mean getting out of bed often or, better yet, stretching for it every few seconds. "Who would do that, anyway?" they asked. (I'm guessing: People like me?)
Furthermore, they cannot afford to be 'unplugged'; they must fall asleep listening to some type of technology. It can be the TV (though that is really too 'old school'), but even better - their iPod. Having no technology at any time of the day or night could be detrimental to one's social life.
And, speaking of iPods, my students informed me that they cannot survive without music. They have to 'zone out' the world and listen to music. Music helps them to concentrate and study. (Right!) Music gets them 'in the mood' (No details given and none were required!) and keeps them there. ("Where?" I asked.) Walking to class without listening to their iPods would be 'waaay too boring and dull'.
the 100-question exercise turned out in Part II, next