Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Attention probes caught my attention

In Howard Rheingold's #change11 session today, Attention was the first Net Smart literacy covered. And well placed at number 1 it is.
As we went through the session, some of his pointers made sense and helped me make better use of the Collaborate session. His point was about multitasking (and I suppose attention-wandering).
He described having "attention probes" in a class or lecture situation - devices to ensure that attention is where it should be - for achieving concentration, mindfulness and metacognition. This is an important point since if attention is not there, learning is not going to be there. We have tried some experiments with this (having computer stations facing back wall with swivel chairs, or "close screens: commands for laptops) but ultimately it is the learner who should be monitoring their attention. What techniques are there for use in classrooms? Any ideas?
Rheingold used the term Infotention for this type of attention to task. Here is his list of points for training yourself and others for improving this skill (his point is that though multitasking is difficult, combat pilots and others do it, so it is a matter of training and it becoming instilled):
  • Make better, faster microdecisions:
    • Ignore or attend?
    • Open a tab for later?
    • Tag or bookmark for much later?
  • Match attention to toolset:
    • Spatial arrangements
    • Keep goal(s) visible (piece of paper in a visible place, even)
    • Start small, cultivate habits
I tried this during the session, having a plan on how to deal with links that came up in the chat (going back into the Collaborate session is PAINFUL to get these on the recording) and how to keep notes on the snippets (yes, pen and paper). And then, put it all together in a blog post so that it sticks in my mind a little better and may help others by reading another version.
"Attention to intention is how the mind changes the brain" says Rheingold. It worked for me.


Unknown said...

I use "attention probe" to describe small exercises that help people learn to cultivate an awareness (mindfulness, metacognition) of where and how they are deploying their attention. Ringing a chime at random intervals then noting where your attention is, for example. Or the instructor asks people to put their left thumb on their desk when they see the instructor pick up a pen with his right hand. Just examples. I'm looking for more.

George Hobson said...

Howard - good to have examples, thank you.
The standard techniques of classroom management can be used with smaller groups - where students know that someone will be picked to summarize at regular intervals, for example.

onewheeljoe said...

"Keep goal(s) visible (piece of paper in a visible place, even)"

This is one I'll try. (I'm doing it now...respond to 3 blogs before making notes for a new post...) I think it would be interesting with students if they had their goals written and then scored their work toward the goal quickly, holistically, each time they were prompted, by a bell maybe.