Slowing Down

I recently watched a TED talk by Carl Honoré entitled “In Praise of Slowness”  where the author talked about a new movement aimed at getting people to slow down. Are things happening too fast, especially at the end of the semester? Do you find yourself running out of time or are students begging for extensions? Brigid Schulte wrote in her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, “Living in an always-on technology haze leads to mental exhaustion.” As we enter into the home stretch of the semester, how do we combat technical fatigue? How can we help our students slow down as well?

One way to help students is to teach them how to examine information and make decisions on what is important and what can be put aside; this skill will prove invaluable in the workplace. Knowing how to quickly and effectively sort through material can help students avoid exhaustion from information overload.

President Drew Faust offered some suggestions for slowing down in a technology driven world in her speech “The Case for College.” She recommended:

  • Build in breaks
  • Require due dates for all elements of your class to give students direction

Many students have not learned the art of time management. You will be teaching them a lifelong skill by requiring them to get organized. Due dates for even small things help them to stay on task and hopefully keep a calendar. Regularly scheduled activities and assignments can help to combat procrastination because they have many items to accomplish rather than just one large project that can be easily put on the back burner.

  • Identify times when everyone should be unplugged (including yourself)

Although I do not have any magical answers to avoid end-of-the-semester fatigue, I believe it is important to identify times that you will not be available. Students are accustomed to 24/7 access to people and information, it is important to let them know that there are times when you will be offline and unavailable. You will have more to offer your students if you schedule the time that you will be unplugged, and truly take that time to do something not technology based. Encourage them to do the same.

  • Have students use a pencil and paper some of the time

There is a growing body of research indicating that people do not read and write online the same way they do on paper. According to a study published in Psychological Science, when people write longhand, they process information better. That is not to say that students should only take notes by hand because the study also goes on to say that they found people could type notes faster and, therefore, they had more notes to look back on. There is no right or wrong answer here, the idea is to take the time to think deeply, slow down and appreciate the process of education.

Good luck as you move into final exam week.


Faust, D. (2014). A case for college. Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Keynote Address. Dallas, TX.

Schulte, B. (2015). Overwhelmed: How to work, love, and play when no one has the time. Picador, London: England.


Open educational resources (OER) are resources available for teaching and learning, at little or no cost. Virtually any material, textbooks, learning games, test banks or other learning content, can be offered as an OER resource. Creative Commons is one source of OER licensed collections but there are many others; each resource is issued a license that explains in detail how that material can be used. Some OER materials must only be used in the original format while other resources can be changed or modified. The OpenCourseWare project started in 2002 at MIT offers access to full course materials online for anyone to use. MIT’s model has been replicated by other universities around the world. OER is not equivalent to taking a course and should not be confused with a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

A fascinating byproduct of the OER movement is that open resources can be modified and improved by a broad community of experts resulting in materials that offer new alternatives for effective teaching and learning. These “living” resources also promote collaboration as modifications are made. A downside to OER is the questionable quality and caliber of some of the materials. Not all OER collections provide a mechanism for feedback and sharing of evaluations or options beyond just a digital version of a textbook. Out-of-date resources can also present a problem; the value of a resource is dependent upon being up-to-date.

A report issued by Cengage Learning (2016) related that OER in higher education has the potential to triple in use as a primary courseware over the next five years. Open educational resources are being considered at many institutions as a way to address the rising costs of education. It may not be the complete answer but many educators agree that teaching and learning is improved when resources are more accessible.