Is Daydreaming Terminally Dated?

Blaze, what do you mean by “Is daydreaming terminally dated?”- I hear you ask. Daydreaming is a natural and often subconscious process for our brain and therefore is not something that can dwindle and become dated!

Perhaps, yes. However, I beg to differ.

The Oxford definition of daydreaming is:

 “A series of pleasant thoughts that distracts one’s attention from the present.”

Of course people will ALWAYS daydream, however my fear lies with the generation of children currently in school and those who will follow. Let’s compare:

A child 10+ years ago who was bored would begin to daydream in order to amuse themselves.

What would be the difference with a child now? What do they always have by their side to distract their attention from the present?

Yes. A phone. Or an iPad, or a TV, or a games console. The list goes on.

Lo and behold, I’m writing another blog about technology. It is just such a massive part of modern life; I find that every time I write something, I still have more to say. I am not alone in thinking about the harmful factors of child dependence on tech as we can see by the most common google searches:

For those of you who don’t know, I am currently on placement in an International Baccalaureate (IB) School in Poland. A massive aspect of the IB is inquiry-based learning. This involves teacher provocation in order to spark student curiosity, discussion, debate and opinions on a range of subjects and concepts.

How does this relate to daydreaming? Well, this placement has opened my eyes to the benefits that inquiry has, not only on student agency, inquisition and independence, but also on creativity and imagination.

Technology unarguably is an amazing innovation. Technology is also unarguably detrimental to daydreaming. However, by incorporating inquiry into children’s daily lives in school, they begin to form the curiosity and inquisition that was once a natural process for people before one could google something as soon as they had a wonder or a query. Having information at our fingertips is very powerful, however, have you ever stopped to think that by diminishing this process of curiosity, that we could begin to lose the ability to form creative, independent thought processes and imaginative concepts?

Daydreaming has not only been proven to improve working memory and be a form of stress relief, but is also an outlet for creativity, with J.K. Rowling admitting that the entire plot of Harry Potter “fell into [her] head” through hours of daydreaming out the train window.

During my placement in Scotland last year, I discovered that the majority of children in my class struggled with creative writing and forming imaginative concepts independently. Upon discussion with my mentor teacher, I was informed that this had become a whole-school issue in recent years. This was not a problem effecting a handful of children, this was effecting almost every child in the school. This lead me to believe that perhaps these children’s brains being constantly stimulated with screens and electronic distractions, could prohibit freedom of thought and independent imagination through daydreaming.  Although these connections have not yet been scientifically proven as far as I’m aware, I do think that we must be mindful of the potential links here.

Whereas with inquiry-based learning, although students are also often distracted by the technology they have at home, the classroom is an environment for them to explore their own ideas. They can form creative connections on their own through student-led inquiry, rather than passively receiving information from the class teacher. They can investigate as supposed to being “spoon fed” knowledge and information.

When I came to this realisation, I was already excited about incorporating inquiry into my future practice (whether that be in an IB school or not). However, it was what I saw on a school trip that truly inspired me and highlighted the IB’s success of making inquiry a natural process in order to promote life-long learning.

We were on a weekend hiking trip. This was an optional excursion for students, parents and teachers to explore and appreciate the Polish countryside together. This was not marketed as an educational trip. Students were told it was “just for fun”. To my amazement, my students were constantly inquiring throughout the day.

“Miss, look at that. I wonder what it is used for.”

“Miss, do you know what that animal is?”

“Miss, I could craft this into a hiking stick, couldn’t I?”

“Miss, do you hear that bird? What could it be?”

“I wonder why those leaves are orange when it is Springtime.”

Inquiry is not something confined to the classroom.

It really is a way of life for IB students.

I feel so lucky to have been able to witness first-hand, the benefits of the IB. Asking questions and being curious allows for creative processes to progress and imagination to thrive. I feel so passionate about this and how we as educators, can use inquiry and provocation as a way to keep creativity and imagination alive. Since the hike, I have been incorporating morning meditations into my days of full responsibility. I am beginning to understand the benefits and arguably the necessity of giving children the opportunity to just daydream and have a moment with their own thoughts, without distraction. Through the curiosity they form and the inquisition that leads their learning, they are not afraid to ask questions, make statements and give opinions. They know that if they do not fully understand a concept, they have not failed. Their learning journey is constant and therefore, they will always have further to go and have room to improve.

Going forward, I feel so encouraged by what I have seen in my school so far. Twenty unique and creative inquirers with a genuine enthusiasm to learn and expand their knowledge. Of course, they do have their moments. Of course, sometimes converting decimals to fractions does not seem like the most interesting thing in the world to them all- but that’s okay. The point is that they possess a growth mindset and are therefore well on their way to life-long learning.



13 thoughts on “Is Daydreaming Terminally Dated?

  1. Derek Robertson

    I would contest your assertion that technology is ‘unarguably detrimental’ to daydreaming. In fact, I think it has made my daydreaming even better because the dreams that I dream up have some place for me to go and explore them now. The other day I was in an intense meeting and someone used the phrase ‘a stone’s throw away’. My daydreaming mind made me ponder on what the origin of that phrase was. I stumbled across and found out that it came from the days when a stone’s throw was a distance of safety away from an enemy. My daydreams inspired by what Google Earth offers my inquisitive mind keep happening as do so many other avenues that my random daydream thoughts, (some that get discarded some that I hold on to) travel down.

    I dare a criticism that your post is overly deficit in its view of technology. Is it technology that you think is the problem or our use of it? Are we living in world of consumption and trivia where the access to all questions is so immediate that the results of wonder becomes common place and devalued? Are we becoming desensitised to how utterly amazing the world is and how wonderful it is be alive?

    Recent debates about screen time and whether phones and devices need to be limited for young children or even banned in schools are ones that we need to have on campus (and online through blogs like this) however I do think that their research of people such as Professor Sonia Livingstone can help us debate this further from an evidenced base perspective.

    Going away to have a think about your argument a bit more.

    1. Blaze Lambert Post author

      I used the words “unarguably detrimental” as having a phone to look down at is a quick fix when one has nothing to do. Therefore technology is reducing the amount of daydreaming people do as it takes on the role of “distracting one’s attention from the present”. However having said that, it is also most definitely very useful and a powerful tool for us. All in all, technology is an amazing innovation that we are often lucky to have. However, I do notice that many people have a lot of dependence on it and this overuse and reliance for some is where the problem lies I think.

  2. Gillian Bartle

    Blaze, this is a nice thought provoking reflection. It made me think about daydreaming and being bored. Whether either can be defined, located, measured, or why either would be, is to be sidetracked a little. To have no time for daydreaming is, arguably, akin to having no time for being bored. There is research literature (forgive me for not posting some) which tries to find out whether the constant stimulation from the phone, tablet or TV screen restricts the opportunity to become bored, which may allow other ideas or notions to enter a person’s field of action. Your examples of going outside, walking, being together, have deeper implications for those who, for some reason, do not experience this from birth. The experiences you reflect on are so easy to create, keep spreading the word and doing what you are doing. I see no reason why some kinds of technology cannot be embedded into this learning opportunity, or played with outside just for fun! Thank you for the posting.

  3. Michael Bartle

    Blaze, many thanks for sharing this and your journey.
    I see technology as a privilege, a positive landscape to explore, dream and create. Do drones allow youngsters to dream of flight in the same ways kites enthralled youngsters for centuries? I don’t know.

    Like yourself, I have often marveled at primary school children’s career aspirations and dreams: to be a doctor, pilot, astronaut, etc., and then 4 years later when asking S4 pupils at career events the same questions… “I don’t know”. What quashes those dreams. Is it technology, I am not sure that can be placed at one door. Is is more about learning to be digitally creative to add to our curiosity. What made you decide to use the picture of Whitepark bay? It made me think of the walks along the Antrim coastline…

    Thanks again and enjoy the rest of your placement.


    1. Blaze Lambert Post author

      Yes, I must reiterate that technology is most definitely something that we are privileged to have. I think we definitely can use it as a tool to spark and encourage creativity. That is how it should be used, however we cannot guarantee that that is how it is being used. Tech itself, is not the issue; but people are not perfect, so I doubt we will ever be able to use it perfectly and avoid the negatives that may come along with it. I think all we can do is be more mindful of its power and ensure that we create balance and variety within education in order to properly equip future generations. I have pictures of the North Coast as my general blog banner as I’m from around there. I’m constantly striving to learn more about the world and inquire about global issues, but like to be reminded of my roots when I’m writing my blogs 🙂

  4. Linda Lapere

    Blaze, this is a wonderful thought-provoking post! Derek and Gillian’s comments have echoed my own ponderings as I was reading. I think it is children’s use of technology which possibly has an impact on them not experiencing boredom and, as a result, becoming a bit more creative and purposeful with their chosen activities to amuse themselves. I’m delighted that a walk in nature has been such an eye-opener and positive experience for you and your learners (and I bet Alexia will be equally as pleased).
    Your post and my ponderings took me to linking this to “Der Spielzeugfreie Kindergarten” (the nursery without toys) and is summarised by the Independent here: – is it more than technology which is decreasing some children’s imaginations and creativity?
    I look forward to seeing how your IB experiences continue to mould your educational philosophy!

    1. Blaze Lambert Post author

      Very interesting article Linda! Technology is the example I have used but I would definitely say that there are many things distracting from creativity that we should be mindful of. A toy sword is a toy sword and a scalextric track is a scalextric track, whereas a cardboard box can be whatever you want it to be!

  5. Lynn Boyle

    Blaze, Thanks for giving me a post to ponder over and to enter into a few of my daydreams.

    I do worry when there is debate and discussion over a contemporary social position which cannot be undone nor deliberately ignored by the masses of education. By this I mean that despite some of your points, the issue really isn’t about a positive or deficit view of technology, but more about childhood opportunities. Opportunity to walk, play and be outdoors can mean so many different things to different communities. Inner city education will be almost non comparable to the wonderful conditions for learning you are experiencing for example. As a child I was not ‘book curious’ but very practically curious and I baked, did amateur woodwork and garden play simply because those opportunities were available to me, how I wish I had had the internet alongside this to open my world up and to learn things beyond my curiosity. I see technology as another string to the education bow and the serendipity it offers is beyond anything I could have imagined as a child.
    Perhaps we can all call for experiences for children through well managed services wherever children are situated and to ignite and fan any curiosity wherever there is a spark. I am unashamedly positive about childhoods, in the fact that they are never repeatable, never quantifiable and can only be swept along with the current society and all that goes with it. Long live day dreaming in all its senses, today I will mostly be day dreaming about long walks in a wood whilst sitting for the entire day in front of a computer screen.

    P.S I do have to strongly object to your images in your post, the babies in front of the laptops are overly negative and not really representative of the majority of families surely, but are used again and again like a Daily Mail headline to force us into thinking these babies are the ‘norm’

    1. Blaze Lambert Post author

      I’m very grateful that we have the opportunity to use tech in such a positive way in most cases, however the issue I have is how reliant many people are on it and I therefore fear the effects this could have for them in the long-run. I hope that in my future practice, I will be able to use tech to my advantage and promote the benefits as well as educating on the potential detriments. I do agree that the images I have used here are not representative of reality for the most-part, however, I have included them for means of provocation. If the digital age continues to progress at a significant rate, could this soon be reality? Could children as young as this soon be as reliant on screens as teens are today? On public transport, babies and toddlers with a tablet in front of them keeping them occupied seems to have become the norm for many. Again, I’ll reiterate that this in itself is not the issue, but that I simply hope future generations do not let tech take over their thoughts, imaginations and lives as technological distractions become almost unavoidable.

  6. Richard

    Very interesting post – made me think about how our thoughts wander, and if this is a natural process of us thinking and therefore learning? I have always been distracted by random thoughts and new ideas (possibly the novelty effect at work?), and am sure many people are, so I wonder if technology can help this? Over lunch today a chat about football led me to investigate record high scores, and took me to a club playing in Victorian era Scotland called Dundee Harp, who apparently played for a season at Magdalen Green. Without technology (and my phone) I wouldn’t have been able to execute this enquiry (inquiry?) so quickly. What do you think?

    1. Blaze Lambert Post author

      I agree that the internet is a great tool for education and has allowed how we inquire to really evolve! It can definitely be used to support and further our thought processes and I would be lying if I said its not something that I use almost every day. I just worry about how reliant so many people are on it. The internet is a great quick fix to solve problems and questions, but I do think it is overused. A few months ago I decided that when I go on leisurely weekend trips with friends from now on, I will try to just drive until a signpost points me in the right direction and if I seem to be very lost, I will stop and look at a map. I cannot emphasise how confused and stressed so many of my friends become that I do not have a satnav route up. We have no time restrictions and no real plan, yet the thought of us not having a computer showing us the way has them uneasy. It is this reliance and self doubt in our own ability to think for ourselves that is what I want to discourage in my future practice. (Also, I believe the UK spelling is ‘enquiry’, however all IB documents use ‘inquiry’ so I’ve adopted that spelling!)


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