Attention Span Lost and Found

blocks3Can the use of digital devices really be blamed for a decreased attention span in our children? Some have called this the “Distracted Generation”, but is it fair? Somehow, hanging this generation’s lack of attention span on a device seems like revisiting the complaints of generations past. Echoes of “Put that book down and get to your chores!” to “Turn that radio off!” or “How can you sit in front of that TV so long, and you can’t sit still and listen in class?” are familiar to many who have grown up meandering through the rules of an adult world. Paying attention is challenging, and not only for children.

In many normal ways, dealing with distraction is part of the journey through childhood and beyond. That’s not to say there aren’t more concerns and so-called distractions today. Whether it’s apps and games on digital devices or more toys or activities in front of a child simultaneously, learning to handle distractions requires patience and the knowledge that an attention span is a very unique thing.  Not everyone fits into the same mold. It is also important to remember that intelligence has nothing to do with attention span. Some of the most intelligent people can be the most distracted. I’ll bet you know quite a few, or maybe that’s you.

For educators dealing with a classroom of students, the need to engage individuals and, at the same time, the entire group is a challenge. It has always been a challenge. Today, using the right mix of technology, along with appropriate and stimulating apps and software can help to hold those wandering thinkers longer… and on a good teaching day… through most of a class with few reminders. Teaching what we think students need to know can be modified, using digital devices, to add what students want to know. When that is done, distraction is the least of our worries, and attention is placed where it really should be—on scrambling to provide more opportunities for engagement.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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