Do students have shorter attention spans today?

Talk to almost any educator, and they will support the idea that this technologically rich world is ‘re-wiring’ the brains of students. This makes perfect sense if you think about how the brain develops. Without a doubt, early experiences in life, wire the neural circuits. In fact, the synapses in a child’s brain are strengthened through repeated experiences, whatever they may be. On the flip-side, if a pathway is not used, it’s eliminated based on the “use it or lose it” principle.

So let’s think about the world of a toddler in an average middle class home. What are their likely early experiences, and how are these impacting their development? And for the purpose of this post, the bigger question is, “Do kids today have a shorter attention span as a result of repeated exposure to technology?”

The answer to the above question might surprise you. While it is true, that the ‘hard-wiring’ for today’s youth differs from a generation ago, there is no discernible difference in attention spans. In fact, if you think about it, there is a mound of evidence to the contrary. Kids (and even adults) will spend hours on end, focused and involved in things that ENGAGE them. (Think about the World of Warcraft game.)

What has changed are the number of demands competing for a student’s attention. In other words, a teacher is now competing with real-time interruptions via technology–From texting, to phone calls, to surfing the net, devices sometimes smaller than a deck of cards provide ample opportunity for students to attend elsewhere.


About Deb

I am a lifelong educator with experience in special education, counseling and staff development. Special interests outside of my chosen career field include entrepreneurship, investing and financial literacy.
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