The New York Times Magazine published a thought-provoking article on the Attention-Span myth. The subtitle is “Can technology erode something that doesn’t exist.” The article argues that “attention-span” is not an isolated brain function, but exists in relation to the type of activity and individual preferences. Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian, agrees that there is no such thing as attention span, “only the quality of what you are viewing.”
Learning professionals also appear to agree, dating back to the 50’s. “Attention-span” has never been the make or break of a successful learning experience. Gagne defined a nine step process which covers the start to the outcome of the learning process. In the process the learner should become engaged in the learning experience, free from distractions. In my view this push factor ensures that the content engages the learner by following a sequence of instructional events.
Learning however will not occur unless there is a pull towards learning. No matter how entertaining the content, or well designed the instruction, learners need to be motivated to integrate and apply the learning.
Here are some best practices:
*Always include the WIFT(What’s in it for them) in any introduction to a formal course, or invitation to join company wide social networking tools. These days especially, learners must be motivated to contribute their knowledge and connections to a company wide wiki, or online data based of best practices.
*Link the WIFT to company goals and mission statements. Through continuous repetition of core business goals, learners can strategize how to meet these goals through learning and work.
*Link learning and involvement in communities to the overall assessment of employee performance. Performance reviews should include a definition of learning goals in relation to business needs, the method of arriving at these goals, and how each goal will be measured.
Wait a minute.. how did I get distracted from attention-span to performance reviews… I must have a short attention span!
Other ideas? Would love any feedback or comments.