3 Things: Describing Attention, Illusion of Explanatory Depth, Meaningful Signals


As the summer slides by and the new school year awaits in the near distance, I’ve all but let go of trying to imagine or predict what is to come. Better to remain open and prepared for inevitable change.

We’re experiencing what psychologist Robin Hogarth calls a wicked learning environment – information is hidden, feedback is non-existent, delayed or inaccurate. Most alarmingly, it’s very easy for wrong ideas to be reinforced in these environments. As such, I’m keeping a wide focus and doing my best to separate the signals from the noise.

Here’s 3 Things I’ve learned this week and some incredible content I’ve discovered.

I. Describing Attention

The ways in which we describe attention are fascinating.

I recently tweeted this out: “Attention is the currency of learning.”

Mike Hobbiss replied:

  • In English, attention is something we pay.
  • In Spanish, attention is something we lend.
  • In French, attention is something we make.
  • And in Farsi, attention is something we do.

How do you talk about attention in your classroom or community? How might language shape how we view the relationship between attention and learning?

II. Illusion of Explanatory Depth

Ever read an article or book and then when attempting to share what you’ve learned you can barely muster a sketchy summary? Or when you have an elaborate idea for a piece of writing mapped out in your head, only to run out of ideas after a paragraph?

This happens to me all the time and I’ve learned it has a name – the illusion of explanatory depth. In general, we overestimate our understanding of what we know. The best way to counter this is to practice retrieval – summarize a book in your own words or share what you learn with those around you.

III. Meaningful Signals

It’s easy to mistake luck for success, and success with immediate outcomes. Pay attention to the quality of your mental processes, seek out meaningful signals, and filter out distracting noise.

“Whether you’re a poker player or a scientist (or both), remember: the ego tends to ignore the luck factor in success…evaluate success by the quality of our mental process during a situation, not just by the outcome.”

Maria Konnikova

Source: What the world needs now: lessons from a poker player (Nature)

Top finds from the week:

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (PBS Episode)

Optimizing Concurrent Classrooms: Teaching Students In The Room And Online Simultaneously by Ted Ladd

“Listening to a lecture in person can be boring. Listening to a lecture online can be lethal…as a rule of thumb, any monologue that persists for more than two slides or five minutes should be pre-recorded.”

iAddiction by Scott Galloway

“The weapons are our phones and tablets, and the bullets are social media firms headed by sociopathic oligarchs. And now, we may have a new menace preying on young men: online trading platforms.”

What I Think About Drill in Teaching by Dr. Castelino

“I realised that by using discovery/research/”fun” lessons, I was overloading my students’ working memories with the dreaded result of them not remembering most key facts. And if they could not remember those key facts, they could not then go on to understand more complex concepts.”

21st century skills – so last century! by Harley Richardson

“Advocates of 21st century skills don’t help matters by arguing that teaching children how to be creative rather than teaching them facts will provide companies with a future source of ideas and fresh thinking. This solution is actually part of the problem, as it downplays knowledge, the very thing which enables people to make creative connections between ideas.”

Have a nice weekend, and keep your mask tight.

Jon Gustafson | Twitter

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3 Things: Describing Attention, Illusion of Explanatory Depth, Meaningful Signals

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