School is going bankrupt in the attention economy

We’re in an attention economy. Social media companies literally pay millions to get a few more minutes of your time.

So what about school, and all our requests to sit quietly and “Pay attention!”? Would you pay to get students’ attention?

Notice that it’s called “paying” attention? There is a cost to paying attention. You can’t do it for that long. Paying someone or something our attention is really a gift: the gift of our time. When you choose to pay attention, you are saying to the speaker that you trust them to not waste your time.

But are we careful not to waste students’ time? Is listening to a lecture about a topic like how to use a microscope or how to add fractions the best use of a student’s time? Is memorizing formulas a good use of time? Is learning the same thing as everyone else in their class at the same time the best use of anyone’s time?

Social media companies are doing their very best to get me to compulsively check that little blinking light. And you want me to pay attention because you asked? Because if I don’t pay attention, I won’t know what to do? And if I don’t know what to do, I won’t do well on this assignment? And then I won’t get a good grade in the course, so I won’t get into a famous college, and I won’t get to spend $50,000+ for a piece of paper?

Why should I?

We need a better strategy.

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