I recently saw this TED Talk: Joshua Foer: Feats of memory anyone can do. Personally I think that the talk was titled badly. It sounds great: Memory Feats!
But, while the talk was about memory feats, it seemed to be about something much more important - how we can all consciously use our memories better.
My students have TERRIBLE memories. I try to tell them things and I can't understand why they don't remember them. But, Joshua Foer makes it really clear and for a reason that I should have realized myself. Students don't remember things because they aren't really paying attention.
Attention span is such a huge discussion point in education. In my credential program we learned that attention span grows about one minute per year and tops out at about 12 minutes. That's why I try to keep my talking to the class as short as possible. But, how do we engage them from the beginning in listening? How do we make it clear that what we are saying matters?
Here's the failing that I see on my side, on the teacher's side: I have been under the failed assumption that students already KNOW that what I'm saying to them is important. But, that doesn't make any sense at all. Even when I stop to think about it for a second I realize that's wrong.
Example: I'm watching television, my wife wants me to help her figure out what we're going to have for dinner. My brain is engaged in the show, but subconsciously I know that I should give her the benefit of the doubt that what she has to say is important. However, it's still really hard to pull myself away from one thing to focus on another.
IS THERE A SOLUTION? Can we train our students somehow, at the beginning of the school year, to recognize the importance of what we have to say? Can we also train ourselves to make sure to only say things that are important? It's a fine line to walk and it's a lot to ask, of both sides.