Clarity vs Chaos in the Education Space

For many minimalism is about being in a space with as few things possible.

It is a destination, an ultimate ideology.

I’ve never been too fond of ideologies or getting into stuff like this. In fact by day five I could already feel the rabbit hole looming and that was when I decided to step back and rethink the whole innocent ‘space’ concept.

I decided to pursue my mission, but not as an ultimate destination - a room with next to no things – rather a journey of exploration to see how far the notion of minimalism could transcend into even day to day life and processes.

The topic for today is The Education Space aka the way we learn.

I had been reflecting on an experience where I was working with two siblings and the usual banter and light-hearted sibling rivalry.

A simple game, I got the two of them to tear some paper into small squares, write the letters on them and then the game was to move the letters around as fast as you could to make as many words as possible.

Simple fun. Very stimulating. Completely engaging.

When suddenly there was a split second moment where the younger sibling was putting some letters together and the older sibling was rushing to do the same, letters were flying everywhere, and the former abruptly froze and it was as if their brain momentarily stopped thinking.

Obviously it was only momentary and things were quickly buzzing again, yet it still made me stop and reflect: what actually provoked it and are there things I could have done differently? And on a higher level could there be a connection between chaos vs clarity and how that works in the education space?

It’s true that every single one of us are different. For some of us we cannot function if our house is not tidy, cannot cook a meal if the kitchen is not clean or if there are dirty dishes in the sink, even one. For others they seem to function just fine despite being surrounded by mountains of ‘chaos’. They seem to have an ability to filter out all the visual ‘noise’ crowding in around them and focus exclusively on the task at hand.

Which is why it is so important to both understand what might work for us and what might not while still maintaining a certain openness to new possibilities.

I remember many years back, I had signed up for a professional course which I was incredibly excited to be accepted onto, but within the first twenty minutes I was already at the point of walking out of.

The full ins and outs of that will feature in other writings, but for now the element which will never leave me was that of a man sitting to my left. We were expected to listen to the teacher and pretty much write down everything we heard. That was the class. And so I remember the man next to me writing as fast as he could everything the teacher said.

Except I could soon see that what he was writing was not only one stream of haphazard text - aka little to no paragraphs or separations distinguishing ideas – he also struggled gravely with his spelling, often writing phonetically with words which had a radically different meaning. How on earth was he later going to be able to learn that lesson?

It is an episode I will be writing about in detail in the future, but suffice to say at that moment I wanted to cry and leave.

In a different situation, this time a young man I was working with who for whatever it is worth decided he wanted to explain complex mathematics to me. As he wrote all the algebra and fractions and x’s and y’s across the board I couldn’t help but wonder how closely packed everything was presented and little to nothing lined up.

A third example takes me back to university. Again an incredible amount of note taking. I would sit class after class in total awe, completely impressed by all those students who literally took note of every single idea falling out of the professors mouths. And yet for all the writing going on, at the end of class, or before big assignments, there was always a beeline to one, occasionally two, student(s) to ask them for their notes.

What is it then that each of these examples have in common?

One word.


Clarity, not in the words themselves, but clarity in the space.

Notes which are allowed to breathe because of the space which is allowed to flow around them.

Activities which become spontaneous because of the space allowing one to see the result in the flash of an eye.

Formulas which become immediately visible because of the space which creates a logical guided pathway from one step to the next.

Space can be a small thing or a large thing, but whatever its size, where it is placed is the most important. Its’ absence creates confusion, its' presence creates clarity. Learn how to use it in any learning situation and the education space will take on dimensions we never imagined possible.

Try it.

Tell me what you learn.

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