Back to a Thursday Full of Webinars

Way back, in my 1st March blog post I indicated I’d purchased the book Brain Rules (Medina 2014) as a result of attending a Citrix-hosted webinar and that I promised I’d post something about my learning from that book. Well a little later than promised, and hopefully better late than never, here are some thoughts (and future actions) around Brain Rule #6 ‘Attention’ which link to my reflections on 22nd April on keeping online learners engaged.

Can I have your attention please

If you’ve just read that statement, I’ve hopefully engaged you to read further into this blog…

Brain rule #6 suggests that ‘while you are reading this paragraph, millions of sensory neurons in your brain are firing simultaneously, all carrying messages, each attempting to grab your attention. Only a few will succeed in breaking through to your awareness, and the rest will be ignored either in part or in full’. Further reading revealed ‘the messages that do grab attention are connected to memory, interest and awareness’.

A point Medina makes regarding the first of these ‘attention grabbers’: Memory, is that we are heavily influenced by this and use it every day to determine what we give our attention to. I understand this concept because of my memory of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and the personalised ‘map of the world’ we all create as we experience life. What I became aware of though (not a memory) was that I am probably not providing a full enough orientation to my online learning for students who may have little, or no, online-learning memory.  So providing a more effective introduction to my online materials should make up for no memory on the student’s part to help keep them engaged. This of course links directly to ‘attention grabber’ #3: Awareness, in that effective orientation provision can also lead online learners to a greater understanding of the unknown, and what is being expected of them.

ACTION FOR ME – Include accessible orientation support e.g. our unit 4 seminar orientation, and use illustration, plain English and easily accessed help functions from the start. This will also help to support the programme leaders (PL) module leaders (ML) I work in partnership with, to create more supportive online memories for students to access thus aiding their motivation to continue with the online provision.

‘Attention grabber’ #2: Interest, is where my online learning interventions should link directly to my face to face workshops. I’ve already learned that in order to build motivated, engaged attention from students my learning intervention should be integrated into the learning outcomes of the module – and perhaps even the module assessment, if I can convince the PL/ML.

ACTION FOR ME – Ensure I don’t get so caught up in the excitement of creating online interventions that I overlook ensuring my provision is truly relevant to the student’s academic learning. Also where possible/feasible, create online testing and application of new knowledge to again link to assessment within the module LOs.

Finally, for the purposes of this blog post, rule #6 suggests that Emotion also grabs our attention: as described in the adapted Community of Inquiry model (Anderson 2014) from my post of 8th March.

Medina suggest that ‘emotionally charged events are better remembered for longer, and with more accuracy than neutral events’ and although researchers have still not defined exactly what an emotion is and not everyone is emotionally stimulated by the same event, I agree with Medina that the ability to engage someone emotionally can be a very compelling method of motivating them to want to learn.

He suggests that a great example of the use of emotional motivational advertising (learning about a new initiative or product) can be found in Steve Hayden’s 1984 commercial for the new Apple computer. The advert is just 1 minute long and I do remember it vividly, along with other emotive memories from 1984. For any reader old enough – do you recall it too?

If you want to check out the emotional audience reaction to Steve Jobs 1983 introduction to ‘The 1984 Ad’ check this video out @ at 5.13 minutes in.

Jobs got a similar reaction when introducing the iphone in 2007 again using emotion, memory, interest and awareness to effectively engage his audience. A master of engaging his audience / learners?

ACTION FOR ME – If ultimately the lesson of Brain Rule #6 is ‘We don’t pay attention to boring things’ I will consider how to tap into my online learners memory, interest and awareness and undertake further research on whether, and at what point, it’s appropriate to engage my online learners emotionally?

Medina, J. (2014) ‘Brain Rules’ PearPress: Seattle

TV Advert for release of Apple Computer (1984)  (last accessed 26/4/15)

Jobs, S. (1983) keynote on Apple Computer release (last accessed 26/4/15)


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