Confusing attention span with focus
Posted May 26, 2015on:
A few months ago, I read this TechCrunch article and realized how quite a few people do not distinguish between attention span and focus.
It is common to hear adults say that kids have short attention spans these days. They are wrong.
Attention span has been, and always is, fleeting. It is the way we are biologically wired to survive. A neurophysician or a cognitive scientist might call this our short term memory. We need this to quickly process the assault of stimuli on our senses.
Focus is what happens after we scan and prioritize what to concentrate on. Learners have not lost the capacity to concentrate and dedicate time and effort to a task if they are emotionally invested in it.
This is why the same child who can seem to stare unblinkingly at a computer game screen for 30 minutes suddenly cannot seem to sit still for 30 seconds when presented with worksheets.
Both the worksheets and computer game get the child’s attention for a split second. But only one, the game, earns the child’s focus because it is associated with pleasure, fun, or meaningful challenge.
The point here is not to blame attention span but to concentrate on what provides focus. A teacher cannot compete with games, but she can make the school work more meaningful to the child.