Educators and trainers face competition for attention from mobile devices and social networking services. Of course, prior to the development of these technologies, we faced a similar challenge of attention – but day dreaming is far hard to detect than someone posting comments on Facebook or Twitter.
Designing Choreographies for the “New Economy of Attention” is an interesting discussion of attention and distraction. You may not agree with their core argument – that we need to choreograph technologies that are under the control of learners (such as back channels) in a manner similar to how we organize more traditional classroom components – but the approach of blocking software and banning mobiles/laptops in classrooms is simply not sustainable. Today’s reality of connectedness is dramatically different from what existed even ten years ago. Banning is at best a short term solution that will isolate and agitate the very group education is expected to serve. The battle for control of information and interaction has already been won by “the individual”. Organizations, governments, and universities that have not yet recognized this may continue to limp along for a while…but their current stance is not tenable.
Laptops and wireless devices are increasingly present in academic settings. Rather than assuming that their presence “takes away” from an established order of attention, we are seeking to understand how they reconfigure that order in ways that might allow for new methods of engagement. In practice, with the introduction of networked technologies into the traditional academic setting, the attention of individual audience members is redirected from a single stream of speech to the presence of other audience members interacting with a global network of ideas.