We live in the age of instant gratification. If we want to watch the latest tv show or movie, we simply stream it in seconds. If we need to know how to get somewhere, we download it straight to our phones. Want to hear virtually any song in the world ever made? This can be done instantly on YouTube or various music apps.
All of this, the instantaneous wealth of knowledge that we can gain in mere moments, carries over to education as well. In the past, when we did not know something, we would have to look it up in encyclopedias or other books. This took a commitment and some time. However, now after a Google search, anything you have a question about can be answered quickly.
All of this really is almost a miracle, how we can have such knowledge in a matter of no time. But on the other hand, with such technology available, it has decreased the attention span of almost virtually everyone on the planet.
Children’s Attention Span
According to experts in childhood development, a reasonable attention span for a child is two to three minutes per year of their age. If a child is ten years old, their attention span on a topic or task is then thought to be 20 to 30 minutes. However, it used to be longer.
With the advent of smartphones and other technological devices, if a child or adult is slightly bored, they pull out the device and mess with it instead. When was the last time you were able to watch a whole movie without checking your phone for the latest text or posting on social media?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavior disorder diagnosed for kids in the United States, with millions of children under 18 being labeled ADHD. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 11 percent of all children ages 4 to 17 years old were ADHD. As this statement was issued in 2011, there is an excellent chance that the numbers are even higher now. Compared to 30 years ago, the number of children with ADHD was only 3 to 5 percent, so the numbers are growing dramatically.
As a society, we are being faced with children not be able to keep their minds on a subject for an extended length of time.
Using This Information as an Educator
As a teacher who has a whole classroom of students who are constantly trying to maintain their focus, you can do things to ensure a shorter attention span does not get in the way of education.
Every teacher has their own style of presenting a lesson. This may mean discussing what is expected for 10 minutes with the class before starting the lesson. On the other hand, an educator’s way of presenting a lesson may be standing behind a podium and lecturing for an hour. In any case, it would probably benefit many students if the lessons or the way they are being presented could be chopped up a bit.
For instance, presenting the lesson could take five minutes. Then letting the students discuss their background knowledge of the topic could take another five minutes. Next, the teacher could lecture the students or read out of a book for five minutes. Finally, an assignment could be handed down (one that uses technology since students tend to focus longer when using devices), and the students could do some learning independently. Again, this is just an example. But trying to present lessons based on a student’s strengths and weaknesses should be something we all aspire to.
Let the Students Lead the Lesson
While some educators are not precisely in favor of handing the keys over to the students, it is a great way to keep their attention. Have the kids present lessons to one another where the teacher acts as the supervisor and keeps everything on task. Students have a way of tuning out their teachers if they hear only from them. By letting their peers lead the lesson, they may be able to maintain focus better.
Just Be Aware
Educators do not have to change the way they have been teaching for decades because of shorter attention spans. They just have to be aware of the schedule to don’t have one activity take a really long time.
On the other hand, as teachers, we can’t just accept short attention spans either. Being able to maintain focus is something that needs to be taught just like anything else in school. It really is a fine line that educators need to master.
Let iAchieve Help
If you have a teaching staff who could use professional development to present lessons for children with less than ideal focus, iAchieve can be of assistance. We offer professional development on topics that should interest any teaching staff.