“There is No Such Thing as an Attention Span”

If you were to believe Bing, using the Internet is making us a bunch of babbling idiots that spew random words out of our mouths.  And you wonder why they aren’t making headway against Google? Last I checked, accusing your target audience of being dimwits wasn’t the best way to win them over as customers.

But it is just not us morons that use Google. Children are also being adversly affected, as attention spans are constantly being withered by each new tech toy we inflict on them.

Or are they?  Virginia Heffernan raises some interesting points in her New York Times article “The Attention-Span Myth“:

But the fact that the attention-span theory makes news of what was once considered ordinary or artistic behavior is not what’s wrong with it…. Instead, the problem with the attention-span discourse is that it’s founded on the phantom idea of an attention span. A healthy “attention span” becomes just another ineffable quality to remember having, to believe you’ve lost, to worry about your kids lacking, to blame the culture for destroying.

Heffernan doesn’t make a slam-dunk case – probably because it is obvious that she doesn’t set out to make one. The goal of the article is to make one think.  That last part of what I quoted is what really grabbed me.  I wonder if all the education-revolution advocates out there realize that once they get their revolution, that education will still end up being just as bad as it is now.  We accuse universities of not changing with times, when they obviously are.  Headlines tell us that people don’t find degrees as valuable as they used to, when in fact research proves that record numbers of people actually do think they have great value. We believe every asinine headline that comes along, even going to the point of holding conferences around half-baked theories of the “failure” of higher education.  I’m beginning to believe that the real problem in education is not the universities themselves, but the so-called reformers that steal headlines by flapping their jaws about things that just aren’t true.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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