In this blog’s feature image, the sign says “SLOW DOWN.” I pass this sign every day on the way to school. If you look closely, you can see the S and D blurring at the beginning of each respective word in the middle frame. But no worries–There’s no time to read the sign carefully, process its information, and apply its message. No time at all. And no one really cares. So we must move on. Right NOW–Let’s GO! What sign?

WHY do we go so fast?

I’m concerned about the increasing pace of life. Not just because I can’t do it all, but because I’m not sure if fast-paced learning is always the right thing to do. I wrestle with hurrying to get through too much content in not enough time, and for not necessarily the right reasons. I’m concerned that we’re settling for a mile wide and an inch deep, when the opposite could be so much more meaningful. Face-to-Face with Dr. Robert J Marzano at ASCD‘s #Empower17 Conference, I asked him: “What’s the biggest challenge schools face today?” Without hesitation, he replied:

Should we be differentiating learning opportunities more at younger ages?

What’s more alarming, is that if you try to catch up–let alone keep up–You can’t. Technology enables us to share information in larger volumes and at a faster pace than ever before in recorded human history. Most of the time, the #HamstraHighlights-Faithful would predict how much I’d be in favor of that! But not this time. I’m rethinking how we learn. I’m wondering if our education systems in place right now sacrifice meaningful, deeper (quality) learning in order to squeeze in several more surface level experiences (quantity) to meet specific criteria of lesser meaning.

A few months ago, and unbeknownst to me, my school system’s twitter chat made a change. Instead of packing in ten questions in sixty minutes at lightning speed, the @WCPSSChat moderators took it slow. Only FOUR questions in ONE HOUR.

I remember thinking at the time: “What’s wrong? Why are we not moving on to the next question faster? What’s wrong with this pace? Are people getting bored?”

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. #WCPSSChat participants had time to do the deep-processing, ask questions, and interact in many secondary conversations (where the real learning takes place). What helped though, is that the questions were intentionally thought-provoking and conversationally-igniting, too. And not only was it a complete success, meaningful conversations continued over a month later.

Most likely, to truly empower student interests an inch wide and a mile deep, would require more time than that which is allotted now to prepare for our standardized test daily learning formats–But that’s another conversation.

I understand that the world isn’t slowing down anytime soon. I understand that we need to change our educational strategies with our changing society, world, and learning needs over time. I’m just wondering if we can either take it slow or differentiate deeper.

In an increasingly-faster paced world, I’m just wondering for how long we can continue making learning experiences more student-centered and more meaningful in increasingly less time. Already stretched, if we don’t start restructuring soon, public education will eventually snap like a rubber band. And the repercussions could be vitally alarming and harmful. We owe it to our kids and the next generation to begin thinking, talking, and acting on these conversations now.