what gets your attention? (part 2)

'distractions' photo (c) 2008, Conor - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/*See Part 1 of this discussion dated 12/22.

So, assuming you see evidence of hyper attention in your students–and maybe even in yourself–how do you address that in your teaching, your creation of assignments, your expectations and setting of course outcomes? What are the typical, traditional assignments in your field and how might they be reconfigured, not only to address this different cognitive mode of hyper attention, but to advance learning?

Hayles (cited in the previous post) notes that some activities, like playing video games, require both deep and hyper attention, and that young people are willing to devote the needed deep attention in order to “reach the highest level of proficiency.” But, short of trying to turn every assignment or course into a game, are there ways to attract both kinds of attention to course work?

  1. Stand your ground (at least a little) and demand more attention. Howard Rheingold is right that we must address attention in the classroom and cultivate it by making students aware of where their attention is going and asking them to devote a more focused attention to you, the topic at hand, an in-class task.
  2. Short of banning all technology for an entire face-to-face class–it’s just not practical–require periods when personal devices must be turned off, with the promise that they can be used later in the session. If you let students know your presentation and notes will be available after class for review, there is no need for them to be transcribing on their devices.
  3. Perhaps you already divide your class session into chunks of material, alternating between small presentations of material, open discussion, group work, self-check quizzes. These diverse activities worked long before the current explosion of personal electronic devices and will still work.
  4. Incorporate the capabilities of the devices into group work, asking one person in a group or the entire group to find a resource for discussion or as evidence to back up a point of view. We have the option to do instant research right there in the classroom and to discuss how to do it well. No longer just faculty show and tell at the front of the room, handheld devices broaden participation.
  5. Do you have the skills to create gamified activities from some of your traditional assignments, or is there a resource on your campus that can help you develop them? It might be just a matter of something like collecting points for achievements and viewing the course as having levels to move into, which seems like a different way of viewing what you already do, or it might involve reconfiguring the assignment itself. (We have a game-knowledgeable person at one of our campuses.)
  6. In this interesting discussion on teaching millennial students from DePaul University, you will be gratified to read that setting high expectations and offering team-based learning activities are two methods that work today: http://teachingcommons.depaul.edu/Classroom_Activities/teachingmcs.html. In short, today’s instructors, of any subject, have to spend some time teaching students how to learn in an environment that pulls at their attention from all directions.

I’m sure you have already found things that work to your students’ skill sets. What works for you or what are you thinking of trying? Do you think you need to address hyper-attention in the online classroom as well?

Categories: cognition, digital literacy, mobile learning, student-centered learning, teaching, technology

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