Warning: Be careful as you read! I am trying to process how our attention span hinders or helps learning and job performance. Not clear where this blog post is going. This is definitely writing in the raw! I decided to make it public.
I wish I really could control my attention! I feel like I need to go to some AAA meeting or join a self-help group that will help manage it! Do you have that same problem? I do know that I am not the only person who can control it.
This morning I sat through a meeting and caught myself not paying attention. The principal talked about how they were using benchmark test at the end of the quarter. At that point my mind started wondering about those kids who are not able to perform well on those test. At another point the principal was telling us about his Friday school. Again I could not keep my focus but began to wonder how it might work and what parents thought. I found my attention drifted in a different direction. There were other people in the room that kept the conversation going. It was important for me to think deeply about this idea.
The same thing happened in an earlier meeting when the principal was talking about the school learning environment and how he was working toward changing it with his staff. And the fact he was being met with lots of resistance from his teachers. My mind wondered again thinking about the conversation I had with a school administrator about how we all different in how we learn. Again we need to figure out how to put our collaborative knowledge to work for the good.
And in an early discussion I had a conversation about attention and most people’s attention changes on average every seven minutes. Throughout the morning I focused on my attention and have been wondering how to control it.
As you sit through your next profession development, pay attention everyone in the room. Take notice of what they are doing. Are they texting? Tweeting? Grading papers? Staring blankly in to open space? Notetaking? Doodling? Talking? You see all sorts of behaviors, but yet most of the teachers would not permit many of these behaviors in their classroom. I wonder what you could learn from the collective thinking in the rooms!
Spend the day watching kids! Don’t watch the teacher! What are the kids doing? What are they not doing? What can you tell about their attention? I wonder if we could capture their thinking and what would we do differently if we could!
I love visiting Kindergarten classrooms especially when they are gathering on the rug around the teacher as she reads a book. Great teachers talk about the book before reading! Watching the looks on the kids faces get bigger! Then the reading starts. A kid interrupts to tell about a connection they have. Another talks about something he did with his Dad that the book reminds. Another talk about the pictures on the page! And the chatter goes on as the teacher reads! The teacher allows the chatter and I am thinking, “Wow”. This teacher understands how important it is for kids to share their thoughts! The teacher allowed the story and the picture to grab their attention! She allowed the learners to share their thoughts!
But yet in another classroom, the kids had learned that this was inappropriate behavior to talk while the story was being read and there seem to be interruptions from fidgeting and kids touching other kids and even more disruptions during the reading.
In this first kindergarten scenario the teacher promoted creative thinking. The believed that learning is social and learning happens in a network. The teacher knew how to channel their attention.
I am presently reading the book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy Davidson and her book discusses this topic of attention in the chapter about the changes in the work place.. This chapter brought me to this writing, but the point I want to make is this. I am reading this book differently from a fictional writing. I am reading the book to learn and I am very interested in information that is presented in the text. While reading, I need to manage my attention. Certain topics and cues trigger’s connection or interesting points that stops me from reading further. My mind wonders off and many times have this “a Ha” moment(s). Many times I begin to wonder and formulate questions. In order to control my attention I may highlight sentences, passages, phrases, or words or write in the margins or write on a sticky. I might even write a blog post about what I am thinking like I am doing now.
I started this book a week and half ago and I am only on page 175. Last night at 9:30 I had to put the book down to think through what I was reading. And this morning I had a conversation with colleague about what thoughts this led me to. And now I am writing this blog post.
But I think this is important to think further about as we think about the attention spans of the learners in our classrooms. As I am reading Davidson’s book I have tools in place to help me control my attention as I read. In another book I read earlier in the year Because Digital Writing Matters, I controlled my attention and thinking by tweeting my thoughts, wondering, and connections as I read.
What tools do our students have to help them control their attention? What tools do you use to help control yours?
I think this something we must address as we move into full implementation of Common Core Standards. What tools are going to give our students to control their attention and scaffold their reading when the text becomes more complex?