Pay Attention 2014

The talented Ann Oro has developed an update to the original Pay Attention video I created back in 2007.

As I watched her updated version, I was struck by how many things have changed in so little time.

Since 2007, I’ve taken a new position in a new school district. This alone has translated into many changes in my professional life, along with changes in the way my former employer now operates. With me moving on (and obviously other natural and understandable shifts due to the passage of time), I’m afraid those remaining in the Jordan School District lost interest in maintaining the vision and direction we had co-created before the split. As a result, the original Pay Attention files and attribution page are no longer available in their original locations.

Some of my biases and philosophies about education have also changed since 2007. For example, even though the opening sequence of Pay Attention salutes the concept of learning styles, my understanding of and willingness to acknowledge the notion has shifted.1 Because “there is no credible evidence that learning styles exist,” I prefer now to embrace an approach widely broadcast by Annie Murphy Paul. Instead of dividing learners into style-type categories, I teach others to focus on the fact that all “students benefit from encountering information in multiple forms.” Moreover, I stress that students differ “in their abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but not in their learning styles. Students may have preferences about how to learn, but no evidence suggests that catering to those preferences will lead to better learning.”

Howard Gardner has also since attempted to clarify the matter. In partial defense of his Multiple Intelligences theory, Dr. Gardner provided three related “primary lessons” for educators in October, 2013:

1. Individualize your teaching as much as possible. Instead of “one size fits all,” learn as much as you can about each student, and teach each person in ways that they find comfortable and learn effectively.

2. Pluralize your teaching. Teach important materials in several ways, not just one (e.g. through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play). 

3. Drop the term “styles.” It will confuse others and it won’t help either you or your students.

In addition to my change in philosophy regarding learning styles, I’m also in the process of kicking back against most claims that “digital learning” should be categorized – or promoted – any differently than other non-digital forms of learning. For me, learning is just learning; and whereas we never hear pundits discuss the importance of “digital engagement” or “digital reading” or even “digital study,” engagement, reading, and study are all often integral components of a modern and effective learning experience.

I guess I’m just tired of cliché. #clichéfatigue

At the end of the day, nevertheless, I’m still very pleased to see that people are still interested in the underlying message of Pay Attention. While I remain hesitant to continue embracing the constant “Ra! Ra! Go tech!” so prevalent in our field (at what point does advocacy for change actually impedes its progress?), I obviously still see value in using video to motivate and/or springboard conversation.

Furthermore, I continue to firmly believe that teaching students to learn with technology is one of the most important critical skills any school can help students to develop. If teachers still aren’t using technology to teach, hopefully they can at least appreciate the value technology brings as an enabler of learning! My favorite phrase these days is simple: How hard have you tried to learn?

Too many teachers - still today?
Too many teachers – still today?

Finally, I’m so happy that Ann took the time to update Pay Attention! I greatly appreciate her willingness to reach out to me, and encourage teachers everywhere to share it widely!