Saturday, June 25, 2011

what gives you pleasure?

This morning, we finished my week long video shoot of building small cabinets. It's been an intense week. After teaching last week in Kansas City and this week in my own shop, I am ready to unwind. In addition to demonstrating for the camera, I've made three new cabinets, including the maple cabinet with hand-cut dovetails shown above. The angled doors turn the cabinet from a simple large box to a more interesting cabinet design. Next I'll make a decision about pulls, do the final sanding and hinge the doors. This morning we recorded a few closing lines and a few techniques. Gary will come back later in the year to finish the last remaining techniques which we didn't have time for in this session and we'll do voice overs to fill in places we've overlooked or where sequences need additional introduction or transition. About 12 to 14 hours of video will be edited down to about 90 minutes. My work on the DVD is done for now.

Researchers have noted that video gaming, and time on-line increases the brain's production of neuro-hormone dopamine, a pleasure related chemical that lures human beings into sustained effort, while overcoming difficult or uncomfortable circumstances. This relationship is described here. What we do that requires alert, sustained mental engagement produces dopamine which then causes us to feel the sensation of pleasure which then lures us do it again and again, even though we've done it before. Some educational researchers believe that the relationship between video games and dopamine dependency is a tool we should be using in schools, even though we know there are also proven relationships between screen time, anti-social behavior, poor motivation for learning, and severe health effects.

The use of intense human activities to induce feelings of pleasure and accomplishment is nothing new. In fact, the dopamine created in response to video gaming is the same pleasure creating experience as that of applying oil paint to canvas. The rush of sensation may be faster in one than the other. But is there a difference in outcomes? Can each be shared equally for the betterment of man? You tell me.

Is our human purpose merely that of seeking pleasure in the form of chemicals rushing through the brain, or is there something more we could be sharing with our kids? Slowly made perhaps, more slowly shared and longer lasting?

Make, fix and create...


  1. I get pleasure when I let my students work creatively in my classroom. It's liberating actually. Unfortunately, all of our PD revolves around getting kids to do well on tests- maybe so the bosses can get their dopamine fixes from looking at those animated graphs that are supposed to indicate whether or not I did my job.

  2. I don't think I've ever talked to any teachers who are satisfied with the current conditions. Social Studies teachers are concerned that there are no concerns with civics. Science teachers are concerned that the NCLB legislation has nothing to do with science. Administrators aren't having much fun either, as they are being challenged to meet guidelines that can't be met trough teach to the test methodology. Kids drop out and then administrations and school boards try to hide that by counting in their graduation statistics those children who fed up with schooling go on to get their GEDs. It is not a happy set of circumstances.