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Ian O'Byrne

Researchers Explain Complex Ideas in Three Minutes or Less (3MT)

I have my students end one of my classes with an Ignite style talk discussing what they learned that semester. Actually, I frame it as "what was your story this semester." 

The end presentations were inspiring, moving, and human. 

I might start my upcoming classes with having them identify a research topic, and explain it in this format. 

I do have to explain that I'm teaching teachers...so it's terribly germane. :)

Ian O'Byrne

The Organized Mind: How to better structure our time in the age of social media and constant distraction

The debate about attention and the pelthora of online and digital media ranges on as these Internet technologies become even more ubiquitous in our lives. 

With this there is a concern that this level of attention is making our thinking process function at a more superficial level. This argument takes many forms...from the "Google is making us dumber" discussion, to the "all kids will have/get ADHD when they're adults" framing.

I think there is a possible balance in these perspectives, and an opportunity to think about the natural state of the mind. Furthermore, I don't believe that there is anything substantially new or different from the texts and tools and the adoption we've had in the past.

In examining this argument, the bookmarked site came across my newsfeed. Several quotes jumped out to me.

We can’t truly think about or attend to all these things at once, so our brains flit from one to the other, each time with a neurobiological cost. Once on a task, our brains function best if we stick to it. To pay attention to one thing means that we don’t pay attention to something else. Attention is a limited-capacity resource.

This sense of attention provides opportunities to think, debrief, and focus on one element at a time. Attention is a valuable commodity in pedagogy. Whether the classroom is online or face-to-face, there is a need to focus on the learner, motivation, and garnered attention.

This daydreaming mode constitutes a distinctive and special brain state of great creativity. It exerts a pull on consciousness; it eagerly shifts the brain into mind-wandering when you’re not engaged in a task, and it hijacks your consciousness if the task you’re doing gets boring.

As I get busier, and busier, I've lost the time needed for just daydreaming, or goofing off. I found the pleasure for this recently as I was drawing illustrations for a block post on blockchain. These opportunities to let the brain rest, and regain creativity may come in these new opportunities to rest, and let the brain regain stasis. The brain needs to wander.

Daydreaming or mind-wandering, we now know, is a natural state of the brain. This accounts for why we feel so refreshed after it, and why vacations and naps can be so restorative. The tendency for this system to take over is so powerful that its called the default mode. This mode is a resting brain state, when your brain is not engaged in a purposeful task, when you’re sitting on a sandy beach or relaxing in your easy chair with a single malt Scotch (Glenfarclas, neat, please), and your mind wanders fluidly from topic to topic. It’s not just that you can’t hold on to any one thought from the rolling stream, it’s that no single thought is demanding a response.

As I stated earlier, there is a need to focus on attention as a commodity, and allow the brain to wander. In this we're possibly identifying opportunities to bring the brain back to stasis. There are opportunities in surfing the web, listening to music. Build and creating in digital spaces. I'm recently finding opportunities for this in daily meditation.