This past Thursday, I was Skyping in to an introductory course spending our requisite time plodding through Saussure’s semiotic basics.  Having studied this ad nauseum in a Cultural Theory course last semester, I felt my attention waning more than usual.  So while still listening to the course lecture, I traveled over to Twitter to see what was happening in this century.  After scanning my favorite #edtech, I began retweeting items that I thought would be useful to my meager audience of 76 followers.  Then it hit me.  Oh no…..the prof is one of those 76 followers!!!   Surely she would see the time stamps and realize that I was busy tweeting away right in the middle of class.  How to save face?  Do a specific “tweet out” to her with the pithy “what would Saussure tweet.”   Instead of a nasty-gram, I got an equally pithy reply.  Whew……..

Gordon and Bogen (2009) write of  “the economy of attention” and I find this an interesting paradigm.  Since I am up to my elbows in semiotics, I could not help but do a discourse analysis of the terms we use to describe the inequitable allocation of attention.  As I was reading, I was reminding of Freire’s (   )  banking theory  as well.  Why do we see a cognitive function in terms of a material commodity?  It that is the case, can I “borrow attention” or “loan attention”?   Can I charge interest on it?  (Now that could really supplement a teaching salary.) 

I know that I can’t save it up for a rainy day or tuck it away for retirment.  So why do we look at it in the present as such?  

In the Cultural Theory course we discussed Walter Benjamin’s (1936) belief in the value of distraction with regard to mass consciousness in the age of film.  What about online learning? Significant contemplation goes into the creation of distractions by the masses for the masses.

I have always had what people referred to as a “short attention span” in the 1980s.  If I were in school today, I might indeed be riddled with Ritalin.  Fortunately, I had understanding parents and a fairly good filtering system to know when to keep my mouth shut and just check out into my own world.  Even in my mid-40s,  I find it difficult to do just one thing at a time.  I just get too bored.  The distractions provide the momentary detachment that allows me to gain a glimmer of objectivity to evaluate my own cognitive processing. 

I have always been amazed by educators who try to fight against the “distraction” of technology in the classroom.  So what if they are on Facebook? 

I have a FB account just for students to friend me. So when I was forced to monitor a computer lab at a language school (basic equivalent of study hall monitor) and was threatened that I need to enforce the “use our really boring overpriced ‘drill and kill’ software” rule, I would merely go onto FB and IM the offending student that if s/he didn’t pretend to be using the software, I would post a warning on the status update and the parents/DHS/FBI/CIA/INTERPOL would know they they are messing up. 

You can’t beat ’em, so you had just better join ’em.