what gets your attention? (part 1)

'Distraction' photo (c) 2008, the prodigal untitled13 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/I’ve posted about attention before, albeit as one component of a larger video discussion on 21st century literacies by Howard Rheingold: http://techteachlearn.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/howard-rheingolds-vlog/. Rheingold considers attention to be an essential social media literacy that we must develop and nurture. Read Rheingold’s discussion of how he tries to cultivate “mindfulness” in the classroom in this EDUCAUSE Review article from 2010: “Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies.”

The topic hasn’t gone away, though, whether we are teaching face-to-face or online. Faculty are still bothered when students seem distracted by their personal technologies in the classroom and wonder if they have students’ attention online, as well. Lynda Weinman’s EDUCAUSE 2011 session, “The Changing Role of Educators in the Digital Age,” stuck with me out of all the sessions I attended, even though I can see how it supported a few of the more popular session speakers’ ideas (Seth Godin, Anya Kamenetz, Danah Boyd). You can find many of the presentations and/or resources here: http://www.educause.edu/Resources/Browse/EDU11/41762

Weinman’s session description did not sound like anything very new, promising to discuss how to be more of a facilitator and less of a “‘sage on the stage'” (there’s a time-worn phrase). She distributed flash drives to each session participant with resources, like this annotated PDF of her slides: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/41589476/changingrole_educators_annotated.pdf. i perked up when she brought up the idea of attention and referenced N. Katherine Hayles and her article on “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes,” (PROFESSION 2007).

You are probably skilled in deep attention, being able to sit with a novel and get lost in it, devoting all your attention to it. You wish your students could do the same, but you wonder if they are even able to do it, and you might be right. Traditional-aged students today are more likely to be skilled in hyper attention, the ability that Rheingold describes as having all the lights turned on “to be aware of as much as possible.” Hayles nicely describes the rift between educators and students and convinces me that hyper attention is not a defect, but another cognitive mode, one that we need to address in our teaching styles.

…maybe that’s plenty for one post. I feel a Part 2 coming on after the winter break, but that will give you time to read Hayles’ article.


Categories: cognition, digital literacy, literacy, online learning, pedagogy, teaching


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