Attention Spans and the Value of Print

During the days of dial up, only one window was open on our computer screens. We would wait patiently for the research to pop up, focusing our attention on other important matters in the meantime. In other words: I got more homework done back in grade school and high school. Sure, I was fascinated with the novelty of the chat medium (IRC days anyone) and fan websites, but I got higher grades and utilized the Internet for my academic advantage.

Is it high speed broadband or Facebook’s fault that students are reported to have lower grades? Essentially, no it’s really the students’ faults. After all, no matter how much technology is provided, a strong willed person can refuse and focus on the matter at hand. Nonetheless, the opportunities endlessly present themselves to the youth. And the youth are ever so vulnerable and always prone to distraction. Although schools are utilizing the Internet to catch their students’ attention, an appropriate balance between work and play has yet to be established when kids use the web.

From my experience, Philippine schools have yet to use the web medium to their student’s full development. I won’t mention any schools, but whenever I asked my students from my tutoring job for notes, they would simply say that it was posted in the school website. I would look at their notebooks and barely understand what was written there. Some didn’t even have anything on their notebooks since at the end of the day, the powerpoint presentation would be uploaded in their school account. Instead of complementing the learning process, the local system continues to spoon feed them. These are high school students, who have yet to develop proper thought organizing and comprehension techniques. Even though I studied in a University with a progressive web system, it was never used to spoon feed them with notes.

Another problem with the net: multi-tabs. Although these are useful for work involving multi-tasks, limiting attention spans are absolutely necessary for kids. By allowing them to focus on several things at the same time, they can no longer fully comprehend one subject at a time. They are forced to comprehend so much that they forget to fully understand the matter at hand.

Many may say that magazines or books will become oblivious. But as I was enjoying the latest TIME issue in my living room, I realized what the soft copy medium will never have: your full attention span. It’s been a long time since I actually read an article and really appreciated what was written there. You can turn the page back and still focus on the article at hand. There’s no other tab to click on.

Instead of making “old school” media oblivious, why can’t we complement their advantages and disadvantages with the progression developed from newer media?