It isn’t too far a leap from yesterday’s treadmill thought to the theory of flow as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced MEE-hy CHEEK-sent-mə-HY-ee). In brief, flow is an optimal state of motivation in which you're totally immersed in what you're doing.
I’ve used the simplified graph below when helping gifted students understand their need for an educational challenge. (See the link below for the complete graphic.) In short, flow happens when a challenge you're facing is in sync with your skill level.
When I’m on the treadmill, I’m most into it when I set the speed that makes me work a little harder. During the slow warm-up and cool-down I’m a little bored; turn it up to 6 mph and I’ve got great anxiety.
Not surprisingly, most often kids report that they experience flow when playing video games. Why? The challenge is constantly increasing with each step of success.
I believe that differentiated curriculum and instruction can provide this balance between skill level and challenge that will engage students of all abilities. There's no doubt that it's hard work for teachers . . . which is why they too are in flow when it's working.