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Defining the Problem, Wait Times & Splash Screens

Stick with me. The quote is longer than a sentence or two but well worth the exercise. The idea: thoughtful attention to defining the problem can be the key to the solution. This sounds almost banal until you read what's below from this excerpt from (via 37 Signals) "Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track” .

Defining the problem of elevator waiting times

Below is an interesting story about a building where tenants were complaining about long elevator waiting times. The solution shows how the key to solving a problem is often defining the problem correctly in the first place.

A classic story illustrates very well the potential cost of placing a problem in a disciplinary box. It involves a multi storied office building in New York. Occupants began complaining about the poor elevator service provided in the building. Waiting times for elevators at peak hours, they said, were excessively long. Several of the tenants threatened to break their leases and move out of the building because of this…

Management authorized a study to determine what would be the best solution. The study revealed that because of the age of the building no engineering solution could be justified economically. The engineers said that management would just have to live with the problem permanently.

The desperate manager called a meeting of his staff, which included a young recently hired graduate in personnel psychology…The young man had not focused on elevator performance but on the fact that people complained about waiting only a few minutes. Why, he asked himself, were they complaining about waiting for only a very short time? He concluded that the complaints were a consequence of boredom. Therefore, he took the problem to be one of giving those waiting something to occupy their time pleasantly. He suggested installing mirrors in the elevator boarding areas so that those waiting could look at each other or themselves without appearing to do so. The manager took up his suggestion. The installation of mirrors was made quickly and at a relatively low cost. The complaints about waiting stopped.

Today, mirrors in elevator lobbies and even on elevators in tall buildings are commonplace.

Where are the waiting times in a classroom?
Ignore the teacher or students being late to class or from break (which is inexcusable). I am talking about the 'other' waiting times. The transitions, for example, the answering of the non-relevant question that only means something to the teacher and that particular student? Or What about when there is only the teacher pausing and conveying and perhaps there are students who got the message the first or second times and now they are 'waiting' for the teacher to finish.

The wait times are very short and intermittent but still wasted. What are the other 98% of the class doing? There is boredom attached to this waiting.

What can we do?

Internet web pages which have uncomfortably long load times utilize a 'splash screen' to get our attention off the fact that the website is still loading. Where are the 'splash pages' for a class while the teaching is still loading? How can we wrestle back some of this 'other' waiting time and put it back into learning?

I suggest having a splash screen to entertain/educate/remind/focus the rest of the class. A chart, graph might be good but I think a compelling image, something that could be a metaphor for what your teaching content is for the session. Honestly, even if it were not relevant, a wonderfully compelling picture will energize the idling mind. It needs to be big enough to be seen from the back. It could be a quote written on the board in large font that compels. Just these two classroom 'splash pages' would be a good start.