Our world is constantly changing. With it, our attention has shifted to the digital aspect of our lives and the technology around us. In Now You See It, Cathy Davidson outlines the issue that we all deal with: attention blindness. She refers to a very common video that most college psychology classes show to test our tendency to focus on the object/task we are told to concentrate on. I specifically remember watching this video of two groups of people dressed in black and white playing with basketballs freshman year. I also remember completely missing the fact that a gorilla entered the picture and I was not even able to pay attention to how many times the individuals in the white shirts passed the ball. Not only did I feel idiotic, I felt as if I was the only one who couldn’t pay attention to what was going on in the video. However, with the relief of finding out that I wasn’t the only one, my professor explained the idea of not being able to focus on more than what the task asks of you.
Attention blindness, as Davidson describes, is that exact notion. “We think we see the whole world, but we actually see a very particular part of it… We’re not nearly as smart as we think we are” (2). For one, Davidson reaches a key point—not all of us see the same thing. And not seeing the same thing makes it necessary to work together to scope out what the other has seen. In fact, what I see in a room setting can be completely different from what you see. Because this world we live in is rapidly changing, it doesn’t allow us to keep up and get used to the “now.”
Davidson discusses multitasking, and it’s positive effect on working collaboratively. However—I believe it was about two or three weeks ago in my professional writing (WRT 307) class—my professor, Ty O’Bryan, mentioned multitasking in class. He doesn’t believe in it. Rather, he calls it “polytasking,” in which we can do many things separately but at the same time. Poly, meaning single, refers to one specific thing. The term that Ty came up with simplifies the idea of multitasking. We do not have the ability to work as a computer does—performing two tasks simultaneously at once. Instead, we perform one task, stop, and start another task later to return to the first. Frankly, if the television is on and I’m trying to write a paper, I’m more likely to get completely distracted by the show I’m watching for about ten minutes before realizing I have stopped writing my paper. There really isn’t a full-proof way of working on two things at the exact same moment.
Speaking of school, Davidson also discusses education and its lack of modernization compared to technology. “It’s shocking to think of how much the world has changed since the horse-and-buggy days of Sleepy Hollow and how little has changed within the traditional classroom in America” (71). Education is mainly based on aptitude tests—tests that test your self-knowledge and your knowledge on the subject that is being taught. However, it tells those who are not sufficient in these tests that they are either 1) stupid and a failure, or 2) that they will not succeed in life. I was one of those kids.
I graduated with a 4.05 GPA in high school—my AP credits allowed me to score higher than the usual 4.0 max. However, when it came to performing well on standardized tests like the SATs and the SAT2, I did not perform up to my standards. This was not because I was not smart. It was because like many other kids, I could not focus my attention to something for so long. Because our education has remained ancient, kids with similar issues fall behind in the backseat and go unnoticed, even though they are capable of going above and beyond. We are still teaching ancient ways to learn that do not have a complete success rate.
So why is there a race to the finish line when it comes to technology, but not education? Why haven’t we incorporated our new tactics to learning? The World Wide Web and I grew up together. I specifically remember my father coming home—he was and still is a computer engineer—and telling us about new developments in technology. Obviously, I was too young to understand what was really going on, but I learned step by step how to write emails, chat with friends on AIM, what having a blog was like, and even learning simple HTML codes for web layouts at a very young age.
Davidson suggests that we incorporate our new skills into our school systems. I’ve heard of schools that provide iPads to their students and teachers to use textbooks digitally rather than spending hundreds of dollars on books. Apple.com even has a page referencing their iPad usage in classrooms to help further today’s learning. “The iPod experiment was an acknowledgement that the brain is, above all, interactive, that it selects, repeats, and mirrors, always, constantly, in complex interactions with the world” (69-70). This is a proactive way to incorporate technology into education. Students will be able to learn at a more familiar pace; let’s face it, our newest generations are probably excelling more at texting and working an iPhone than doing well in school. While forming a bond between school and technology, teachers will be able to keep the attention of their little multitaskers whose minds are always wandering to technology anyway.
Kali Relina Mehrotra
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