Attention! Can I have your attention please!

Ok, so attention and multitasking…  I am horrible when it comes to multitasking.  You all know by now how I Google big words that I don’t know when I’m in class.  I hardly ever just work on one thing at a time.  I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD, but it’s probably a pretty fitting diagnosis.  I’m qualified to diagnose others with ADHD, but I don’t think I could do that for myself.  Anyway, (my point exactly) multitasking…  I will start on one assignment and then think about something that needs to be done on another and soon find myself bouncing between 3 or 4 different projects at once.  And the worst part is that I know the inefficiency of multitasking (aka polyphasia for those who also like to google big words).  I know that for each additional task added on to your workload that performance in each significantly decreases.


We can see in The Myth of the Disconnected Life the dangers of paying attention too much to the wrong things, such as focusing so much on one’s phone that you trip and fall into a fountain.  It would appear that the obsession with technology is not a new phenomenon.  I appreciated the story of how obsessed people were with the Kaleidascope in 19th century England.  That article talks about how people were mesmerized by it.  If you are interested in the origin of the word “mesmerized,” it has somewhat of a similar origin based on Franz Anton Mesmer.

One of my favorite videos for attention is this one:

So as you can see, sometimes we need to be more aware of how much attention we are paying to the events in front of us.


As I’ve been looking at these articles for the week and writing up this blog, I am reminded of where our blogging started out this semester.  We started with networked learning and how technology affects education and then moved on to mindful learning.  We have also covered methods of engaging the imaginations of digital learners.  It would seem to me based on this week’s readings that finding a good balance among these topics is important.  Technology can greatly facilitate learning, but focusing too much on technology (i.e. not being mindful of our surroundings) can lead to someone walking into a fountain!  I’m in favor of taking a digital Sabbath now and then because I greatly appreciate being disconnected now and then.  As much as technology is an integral part of my daily life (especially being a student), I appreciate disconnecting from time to time because I find myself noticing so much more about my surroundings.  The last vacation I was able to take was a cruise, and I was amazed how many people bought the internet package and were on their phones the whole time.  For as much as I multitask, I go on vacation to get away from the rest of the world!


I can see how the majority of the topics for this semester are related to attention in one way or another.  Inclusive pedagogy in itself requires quite a bit of attention to detail.  Taking time to recognize and be accepting of diversity does require time and energy, but it can create a learning environment well worth the extra attention.  Critical pedagogy really seemed to be an adjustment to attention on the part of the student.  Instead of having to sit and listen to the professor lecture for hours (hard to pay attention), students are more engaged with each other and thus able to better pay attention.


Ok, so true to my own multitasking, I was able to tie in how many of the different topics of this semester are related to attention (and add in a few tangents as well).  I think the main item I’m taking away from this is that technology can be a great tool that helps us accomplish so many tasks at once, but BALANCE is still an important concept to rely on.  We have to be able to take some opportunities to pay attention to ourselves, our own well being, and take a break from all that is out there for us to focus on at once.  As seen in the video, trying to pay attention to too much can cause you to miss out on what may be more important.

10 thoughts on “Attention! Can I have your attention please!”

  1. I definitely feel a kindred spirit thing here regarding the entirety of your post. I wanted to focus on one thing though. You mention how taking a Digital Sabbath from time to time can be good, but will people let us? I feel like if I step away from my phone for more than 3 hours I come back to texts like “Where are you? Are you mad?”, voicemails from my mom envisioning my death, and then demanding emails from my academic department piling on work. I would like to address the third one I mentioned. While I like my field, it does not save lives if you will. I cannot understand why there has to be such an immediacy in work and responses. Why do I get an email at midnight on Saturday demanding I do something that has no urgency to it, but yet they expect me to do it by 1 am Sunday? If I suggested a Digital Sabbath, then they would tell me I do not take my work seriously. It is just the opposite. I take my work seriously, but I do not want it to run my life. I do not want to be glued to my computer or phone. I would much rather run off into the fields on my weekends.

  2. Alex,

    The video made me hate myself for about 3 seconds. Funny stuff!

    A few weeks ago I was discussing a similar topic with a few policy hacks. One of them said that Trump creates distractions so that we lose focus on what really matters. I can equate the bear in that video to perjury by the top cop (the AG), nepotism in government (daughter and son-in-law), and hi-fives between fellow misogynists (O’Reilly and Trump).

    Many of us are so focused on his daily antics that we soon forget the things that are important. I appreciate your post, and I am going to share this awareness test with others so that they too may temporarily hate themselves.

  3. I agree, I used to discuss multitasking as if it were my greatest skill set now I feel like I am everywhere and with as many assignments and task that I jump back and forth with I know that I am not putting my all into each individual assignment, just doing it for the sake of getting it done, which is not a good approach. I totally agree with your last statement that BALANCE is truly key, reflexive breaks and well being is important. I think us as grad students focus so much on the end goal that we rarely take time to stop and look back and celebrate the “small” accomplishments we make.

  4. Finding balance and being able to pick out what is important is definitely an important skill to have. I am of the mindset that multi-tasking is not actually a thing, however, we are able to switch tasks rapidly. Task prioritization is essential in academia and I suppose, for a successful adult.

  5. I 100% agree that striking a balance is key. If you spend your entire day reading about what new gossip there is, who is doing what, or whatever else online you likely won’t get anything accomplished (or at least any quality work accomplished). But, at the same time pushing yourself away from technology could make things take longer or make tasks harder than they should be. Finding a perfect balance is hard and I feel it is different for every person.

    Also, I remember seeing that video years ago and rewinding it multiple times because I thought they were messing with me.

  6. This video was awesome, I can’t believe I didn’t see the moondancing bear at first! It’s crazy what you can miss if you are focusing on something else.

    I appreciate how you tie in the papers effortlessly in your post, and it’s a really comprehensive overview of a lot of issues that the posts bring up. I especially can relate when you say that sometimes you need to unplug from the world to regain a sense of self. I love going on backpacking trips, and sometimes I swear half the reason is because I don’t have to be keeping up with my email and responding to text messages. I definitely think everyone should unplug every once in a while.

  7. I’ve been having several conversations with other graduate students about self-care or the idea that you have to take time away from research, writing, etc. in order to put yourself first. Some examples I have found are:
    – Go cloud watching. The Drillfield is an excellent spot for this!
    – Oxygenate by taking three deep breaths.
    – Help someone.
    Also, here are a few sites:

  8. I definitely see how multitasking can get overwhelming, but I do agree that we must find a balance. In this fast pace world of higher education, graduate students must learn to adapt to research, school, peers, advisers, volunteer work, while also having a social life. Oh, and sometimes, we have to remember to eat. We all have been there! I think technology has significantly helped us with multitasking. For example, I can read for class on my phone while also listening to music and eating dinner!

  9. Great video! It has actually become difficult to avoid being distracted especially from using our phones. I put it away to get some work done, then I go back and find it as soon as it vibrates. Multitasking can blind you significantly from others things that need more attention.

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