How learn long you are able to pay close attention to what you need to listen to or to understand is known as an ‘attention span’. Sadly, the ability to listen for more than even five minutes for your average child born in this dot com era is becoming rarer as there is a widespread and constant demand for more and different pieces of information — let alone the fact that what is available has not been consumed yet, we just want more.
Most YouTube videos or WhatsApp social media clips are very short; usually less than a minute long but they spread like wildfire and are watched by so many people. They get this attention because they are the best fit in terms of content — they have colour and fast moving pictures and time management. On the contrary, on average, a standard lesson is 55 minutes and is full of verbal instructions mostly. If you compare the engagement components in both, you will agree with me that a typical lesson taught the usual way will lose against a YouTube video session hands down.
So having discovered the sorry state of the mind of most of our students, how can we improve them, so that they can be able to pay attention for the required time? One effective way is to encourage the love of reading. Reading does wonders for the brain, why? Because as the brain reads the story, it processes the words and interprets them, it is strengthened and can concentrate for a much longer period of time.
Equally effective or even more so is the act of letting the mind free up space by removing the clutter that is so distracting and prevents full focus on a single thing from happening. Of course this would require practice, especially for the younger pupils, but it can successfully be incorporated into lessons, either at the beginning or at the end, or even at both times — the benefits are untold. For the adults, we believe that we are superhuman, somehow able to open up different tabs on our desktops or phones and attend to them all — instead we end up doing little or nothing substantial as we keep moving from one to the other, in the process, lessening our ability to stay on task. In that situation where we overwhelm the brain, we add listening to music using earphones and effectively drown out the formation of logical thoughts and then wonder what happened to our attention span?