People don’t know what to do with their hands

Earlier this week, on our regular We Are Open Co-op team call, we were discussing virtual thinkathons. Laura Hilliger shared her experience in running sessions online that require participation and concentration. It’s always a bit difficult given that people often have multiple browser tabs open and the temptation to multitask, quickly checking email or social networks, is often too much.

Laura suggested that a good way to solve this problem is quite simple: give people something to do with their hands! Since she said that, I’ve noticed just how much in normal everyday life we do things to keep our hands occupied. The obvious example is smoking (now increasingly replaced by ‘vaping’) but a lot of takeaway coffee-drinking and mobile phone usage seems to also come into the ‘just give me something to do with my hands’ category.

I wonder how we could use this in formal educational settings? When I was a teacher, I used to give kids blu-tac to fiddle with if they found it difficult to concentrate while I was talking. It sounds daft, but it works. This, to my mind, feels similar to the way that we can often remember where we were when we first heard a piece of news or a song for the first time. It’s perhaps a kind of embodied cognition?