How much you learn depends on how long this takes

That’s what I’ve started saying to people who say ‘I want to be a writer.’ I say, ‘Great, get bored.'”

Neil Gaiman

Why does anyone do worksheets?

Doing the worksheet has to be the best option.

And if your options are either (1) do the work, or (2) sit quietly, sitting quietly gets boring pretty fast. Yes, you have the sharpen your pencil-talk to a friend-get a drink routine, but that’s over soon enough too.

It’s not really even in our control: the human brain is hard-wired to seek novelty and avoid boredom. New things give us hits of dopamine, the same neurotransmitter activated by cocaine, and that feels good for our brains.

So we do the worksheet, because it is marginally more interesting than doing nothing at all.

How long does it take to get bored?

When we’re not ready to work, we go through a series of distractions basically until we get bored enough. This is true even if you enjoy the task you need to complete, and even if you want to do it.

Now add the internet and social media into the list of options.

How much longer is it going to take to get bored?

If your choices are to do the work, sit there in silence, or go on your phone, which one will you choose?

Actually, it doesn’t matter which one your higher-order thinking brain would choose. If you turn to your phone every time you feel the tinge of boredom, your brain has a dopamine-fuelled habit loop burned into it. Your brain is addicted to the dopamine it gets when you look at your phone. So even if you know you should do work, you actively have to fight a chemical addiction to do it.

And this is what we are asking students to combat every day!

I think much, much less work is getting done in schools than it used to.