How to Teach in the Age of Continuous Partial Attention

I gave a lecture on digital media to a public relations class at Pepperdine University yesterday.

A few of the students had laptops and the campus provides wi-fi, so they were looking at their screens through much of my talk.

I’m sure whatever it was they were looking that was much more interesting than I was.

It made me think that if I could have surfed the Net during class when I was in college, I’d probably have learned a lot less.

The state of continuous partial attention can’t be good for knowledge transfer and retention. And one has to wonder how this will impact the future of edtech.

Andy Lark blogged an InformationWeek article about how CEOs are asking people to “disarm” (or leave their blackberrys and laptops at the door or in the off position) during meetings, which seems like very good idea.

In his book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman argues that anything you do that makes you genuinely happy requires your complete focus and attention.

I love writing. I could write forever. Time and space disappears when I write.

In fact, he argues that it is the surrender of your complete attention to an activity that allows you to find your flow, which he says is the place where time disappears, you are committed to the activity at hand and you lose yourself in the moment.

And you can’t do that with one eye on the screen, or your trigger finger on the click wheel.

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