Revisiting the topic of attention span

Spread the love

We are adapting to the attention spans of our students. Can’t work for twenty minutes without playing a videogame? We’ll find you a computer game to teach you math. Can’t read for 15 minutes straight? Some educational theorist will advise schools to break instruction into 10 minute sound bites. Lecture is becoming less and less fashionable, replaced by strategies designed to help students uncover information for themselves.

Eduhonest: Damn, education can be nuts nowadays. How are students supposed to uncover what they don’t know? Teachers are told students need to go online to research topics. But sometimes students don’t have the vocabulary to understand the on-line explanation.

From Wikipedia: “A volcano is an opening, or rupture, in the surface or crust of the Earth or a planetary mass object, which allows hot lava, volcanic ash and gases to escape from the magma chamber below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are generally found where tectonic plates are diverging or converging.”

It’s tough to read the above if you don’t know what rupture, crust, planetary mass object, lava, magma chamber, tectonic plates, diverging and converging mean.

Students also sometimes have trouble uncovering and sharing what they DO know, or at least expressing that knowledge to one another. As Student A tells Student B that stars are dust and rocks that are on fire, a teacher has to figure out how to intervene in this latest think-pair-share gone awry. Since that teacher has maybe 30 some students, many of these scientifically novel explanations will go unchallenged.

Eduhonesty: Maybe we should try to force the little nippers to sit in their seats, take notes, and actually focus on the material. Sitting and taking lecture notes is good practice even if it’s not fun. Students should not be providing instruction. They certainly should not have to figure out important portions of their curriculum for themselves — at least not in elementary and early middle school.

You can’t build skyscrapers with toothpicks.