The beauty of watching a recorded etmooc session, means that I can stop half way in and respond to ideas whilst they are fresh before returning to the session. As I write this I am 26 minutes into Howard Rheingold’s session – Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation, Collaboration & Network Know-How.
The discussion is currently focussed on how we pay “attention to intention”. Whether some people are genuine “super taskers” and whether they were born this way or have somehow developed the skill. Some people within the chat admit to being able to multi-task but as Alec Couros @courosa asked is this actually just “continuous partial attention“!
I would love to say I am a “super tasker” but in reality I just like to have my hand in everything and I am constantly seeking information. This means that my reader is exploding, my tabs are often in excess of 20 and I stay up late reading and sorting. This I don’t begrudge, because I love discovering and sharing my learning, plus there are just not enough hours in the day to see the latest goat screaming clips!
Using Diigo and TweetDeck to filter and keep organised has had a huge impact for me. I also have a TO DO list on my notes shared between my phone and iPad which keeps me on track for the things I have prioritised. I find it helps me keep focused on the important tasks.
There is no doubt I am a busy person and fairly organised, but can I actually attend to two tasks that require more than motor memory at the same time with precision or appropriate attention? Sure I can cook dinner, hold a conversation with the kids, and pay bills on the phone at the same time, but these are things that do not require real attention for me because I have done them numerous times. If I was cooking a meal I had never made before and needed to follow a recipe, having a conversation with someone I was unfamiliar with and finding an alternative insurance plan online, would I do any of these things successfully? I think not! I think it would result in disappointing and possibly unsavoury meal, a disconnected conversation of which I would remember little and a search I would have to complete again!
Some of the participants asked for strategies to become better at mindfulness/attention. Howard suggested a couple of “probes” to engage students in class.
I have always played word games in the car with my own kids. When they were little it was “I-Spy” and remembering the previous guesses and clues was essential. Lately it is more word association games, where a topic is chosen and you have to name things related or within that category eg. names of dinosaurs. If a name is repeated, that participant is out!
My children and I are fairly competitive in these games and we enjoy playing them whilst travelling to and from school. I had never actually made the connection that these little games could actually improve their attention.
Is there something to be said for some of the games we play in early childhood that contribute to our attention state or our ability to focus on what is important?
In this TED talk Richard Gill (Australian Composer) talks about the role of music in education and gives a live example of evoking attention with his audience participation.