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Institute for Writing and Thinking presents

New Kinds of Attention: Teaching with Writing in a Digital Age

Friday, April 19, 2013

"My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski."
—Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains,” the Atlantic, July/August, 2008

Like it or not, we have all become digital citizens—spending much of our days navigating the Internet, World Wide Web, text messages, e-mails, and tweets. But we’re still learning how to integrate this new flood of information into our lives. As teachers in the classroom, how should we think about the student who has five windows open on her screen while writing a paper? What kind of attention is this—and can it lead to the deep engagement we’d like our students to express through their work? When multiple streams of information are available at the click of a mouse, how does this change the way students write, think, and develop their own ideas? What kind of attention are we now dealing with as teachers and students?

Cognitive science has shown that we learn to pay attention differently depending on the world we’re exposed to; and that what we pay attention to actually changes our brains. Our use of the Internet has changed how we focus. At the click of a mouse we can immerse ourselves in completely different worlds—move from the latest research on an infectious disease, to the causes of World War I, and a YouTube video of a recently attended party. In this conference, we explore how teaching might respond to these new brains and modes of focusing. If we see students as distracted, how might we use writing to help them focus on the skills they’ll need beyond school? If these new modes are an opportunity, how can writing support students as they develop novel ways of thinking and being in the world? And what can we learn about this new world from our students, who are more likely to be born into it than their teachers?

The conference consists of small group workshops, led by Institute faculty associates, and a plenary session featuring a keynote speaker and discussion.

For more information, call 845-758-7484, e-mail jsmith@bard.edu,
or visit http://www.bard.edu/iwt/conferences/descriptions/?listing_id=7882531.

Location: Olin Hall