Home > Education, World4Children > Attention please! I just stopped paying attention – to you!

Attention please! I just stopped paying attention – to you!

Image credit: Gary Olsen (Dubuque Community Schools)

No, you’re not annoying, just boring! Attention is the new currency in our world and you need to offer something in exchange if you want me to listen to you. Telling me what to do, how to do it, when to do it doesn’t cut it anymore. Teaching me old solutions for old problems doesn’t inspire me anymore. I get what I need to learn to cope in this world from other places!

Yes, I learn from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs… I learn from my neighbor who is obsessed with vintage cars and spends all his free time with oil on his hands. I learn from William half across the world who harnessed the wind to save his family from starving. I learn from Mark up in Maine pondering the question of mind while wondering if his bees have lessons for human communities.

I learn by exploring, digging, experimenting, opening, tinkering, building, hacking and playing with toys, plants, animals, rocks, wood, and all kinds of stuff — yes, even power tools!

We’re told to pay attention to our teachers, parents, elders. The common wisdom has it that without attention you won’t learn anything and become a bum. There is some truth that attention is important, but the failure in the common wisdom is the assumption that the attention is absolute, can be defined and can be instilled in kids from young age.

This assumption leads to treating those kids who never learn to master such absolute attention as failures. Or worse, medicating them till they turn into living zombies after highly paid psychiatrists label them with stickers like ADD, ADHD, etc.

Well, the secret is out! There are almost 7 billion people in the world and none of them is the same: — we all learn differently, — we all like different things, — we all pay attention to different stuff that interests us, not necessarily you!

It is time we tear down the walls of the orderly world of black & white absolutism and enter the scary but exciting and colorful new world of infinite challenges and (at the same time) infinite opportunities!

My kids are taught rules, I teach them when to break them! My kids are taught to listen, I teach them to dream! My kids are taught to behave, I teach them to have fun! My kids are taught to remember solutions, I teach them how to spot problems!

Am I the only one?

  1. December 22, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    You are not the only one and you should not be the only one. When a generation or, worse, generations upon generations, except the status quo without question, the only possible outcomes are stagnation and conquer. If the rules of your forefathers are not quesions, if the discoveries of those before you are not explord and then expanded, then you can only have standstill. Rest assured that your adversaries are not standing still. They are challenging and questioning and pushing. If you do not do the same, if you do not challenge you children to do the same, eventually whatever society you have chosen as your safehaven, will be overtaken.

    Forgive me for the overstated answer. I make a habit of writing. Sometimes maybe I write too much.


    • December 23, 2010 at 10:28 am

      Thanks so much for dropping by Tim! I am always excited to get feedback from a new reader and keen on reading your own posts — if writing is your habit, I think it is one to be constantly encouraged 😉

      I find a lot in common in your answer with the view explored by Schooling the World, a film that left great impression on me this past year and pushed my thinking around education and learning to new depths. I believe you’ll agree with Carol, the director of the film, when she says that “there is such a great impoverishment of experience and life that occurs for all of us when we are segregated by age”. We further attenuate this, in particular in the West, by separating kids from their extended family — myself being guilty of charge as an immigrant! 😦 This segregation simply doesn’t provide an opportunity to question old rules, learn from past mistakes, nor carry over old wisdoms that survive the questioning.

      Thanks again for reading my post and subscribing to my blog! I will be checking your writing as well as I find time!


  2. Kevin
    December 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    I came across this related RSAnimate video recently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U.

    • December 15, 2010 at 12:34 am

      Hey Kevin! I hope you’re enjoying the professional change — the new one, not the one I new about! 😉

      Thx for the link … I am a big fan of Sir Ken and got a chance to see the animation almost the same day it was posted (I recommend subscribing to the RSA channel http://www.youtube.com/user/theRSAorg) … actually I could swear I used the link in some of my previous posts but I couldn’t find it so it must’ve been in my pile of started-never-finished articles 😉 … well, now the readers have it here so if anyone is reading this comment I would highly recommend you check out Sir Ken’s talk at the RSA society … it is highly relevant to this post but it provides a much wider picture of why education needs shifting of paradigms!

      Btw, I love the idea behind v11n 😉 It took me some time to figure out who that might be but I remembered i18n and c14n from the old days so I could decode it 😉 Ping me if you have time for lunch or coffee and you’re at a walking distance from me 😉


  3. Ema
    December 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Hi Kima.

    No, you’re not the only one. I love this post and agree wholeheartedly with you!

    • December 14, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      Thanks Maria so much for checking on my blog and providing support! It is humbling to know you took the time to do it despite the struggles with the cancer treatment!!

      As we’re struggling to figure out what’s best for our kids, I hope we’ll keep a clear sight of what’s most important, to give them a chance to shape and invent every aspect of their live, starting from friends, learning, passion.

  4. December 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    GREAT post Kima!!

    That’s exactly why I love organizations like TED & the99percent.com and your World4Children “idea” (;)).

    Not sure if you watch Indian Cinema or not, but here are 2 GREAT Hindi/Bollywood films centered around education:

    Taare Zameen Par (about a misunderstood dyslexic child)

    3 Idiots (3 college students realize what “education” truly is)

    If you haven’t seen these, I’d highly recommend watching them. They’re 2 of my all time favorite films (Hollywood & Bollywood)!!

    Let me know what you think once you’ve had a chance to watch them :).


    • December 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks Parin!

      sorry I haven’t replied before — I also feel bad I haven’t had a chance to take a look at the newest posts on your blog, which I promise to do real soon! — but things are crazy busy lately on all fronts 😉 … I am surprised I could pull the new post about public schools, which honestly was done in many many small chunks, whenever I could steel some time from something else 😉

      I’ll admit I haven’t watched many Hindi/Bollywood movies — thinking about it I don’t watch many movies in general as we gave up TV in our home for almost 2 years now and if I get to go to cinema it is with my older daughter watching an animated movie. I’ll also admit I haven’t rented a DVD since moving to Canada over 4 and a half years ago 😉

      The few Indian movies I had a chance to watch made impression on me with the music and the color — it was as if Hollywood and other movies are done in black and white compared to them. I also remember as a kid they always made my mother cry!

      If I do decide to rent some DVDs in the future, I’ll keep in mind your suggestions! 😉

      Looking forward to meeting you in the New Year!


      • December 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm

        No worries Kima!

        I was wondering why the post comments where getting shorter ;-). I’ll keep an eye out for your insightful comments. 🙂

        Definitely. I’ll give you a shout once I’m back in town.


  5. December 10, 2010 at 5:43 am

    I have been guilty as charged Kimo.. In an attempt to preserve the “Indian” roots of the family, I have been forcing myself and my 6 year old to attend Hindu sloka(Sanskrit verses) classes.. and classes where they teach Indian mythology in the form of picture stories.. I feel pathetic when I sit in those classes with him, because I dont like the way they are teaching, but I keep telling myself that it is better than nothing at all! 😦

    • December 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm

      Haha … luckily or not we have no opportunity to take our daughter to Macedonian language school … to avoid the risk of embarrassing myself as a teacher I decided to go a round way … by exposing her to many languages and inspiring her to learn several I hope she’ll be motivated to add Macedonian to the list … once she’s inspired the hope is I can’t fail the task in helping her 😉

      Thx Rachana for taking the time to read and comment! I hope everything works out well for your deadline on the 18th at your work!

      • December 12, 2010 at 9:17 am

        Thanks Kima, I can see how you are tricking the daughter.. He he, if she fights it now, she will realise later that it was only for her good! Multilingual kids can think and act their ideas and emotions in far more different ways than monolinguist kids.. So, they are better at education and artistic expressions.. I think there is a study out there proving this!
        Also, it is interesting to see your reader Parin’s advice.. I say take it up in your leisure.. Of course, there is an option of learning Hindi to watch the movies or get a DVD with English subtitles.. 😀

        • December 14, 2010 at 11:12 pm

          Hehe … I have been reading a lot about the question if consciousness, i.e. rational thinking in particular requires language or not and though there’s more speculation than any solid findings, it seems that language does play a role in how we think so you may be right, multilingual kids may have an edge

          I remember reading interesting anecdotal stories about multilingual people and one was particularly funny … the guy learned French by the time he learned Algebra in school and then his parents moved and he continued his studies in English … though today he is good at calculus in English, he has to think in French to do Algebra as it takes him a long time to do the same calculation if thinking in English 😉

          As for learning Hindi … who knows, I might one day 😉 … or maybe someone will invent a Babel fish in my lifetime so I could just stick it into my ear and watch a movie in any language without subtitles at all 😉


          • December 15, 2010 at 7:06 am

            He he.. You crack me up!

          • December 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm

            haha … nice! Maybe we’ll see you presenting the Babel fish at TED in the near “future” ;).

  6. December 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Nice post Goran.

    When you write, “tear down the walls,” what I read is that there are no specifiable ends to education, only ever-expanding horizions of possiblility.

    Like you, I will never argue that a student’s learning is not dependent on a teacher’s teaching (teacher’s and schools really do matter); however, you touch on a great point and that is this: a student’s learning is not determined by the teacher’s teaching. Contextualize this through 50 years of research (geonomics, neurology, psychology, scoiology) and you see that learners are complex, ‘personalized’ beings. The notion that ‘learners cause learners to change’ is the game changer that should lead us to redefine what teaching is all about.

    Good teaching isn’t only about changing students but also about challenging them. As you teach your kids to “spot problems” we need to challenge our students (in the same way I need to ease my staff) into ‘noticing’ in ways they may have not ‘noticed’ in the past.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    • December 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment Gino!

      You made me remember an exercise we did during one of the preparation meetings for TEDxUBC … we did an ice breaker where everyone was supposed to answer, in one sentence, what should education look like in the near future … one response was “there would be no teachers” … the next person added “and no students!” … it made me laugh at the time at the idea of no students, but the more I think about it it makes more sense

      A teacher and a student are just labels that served a purpose maybe in the industrial model of learning, but in the future we will need to come up with better metaphors that will inspire a change in how education is practiced … a learner comes to mind instead of a student, though I would argue it should be a label that applies to both students and teachers … a mentor or coach comes to mind for the role of teacher, but again, it would be possible for the roles to change from time to time

      I’ve had some great teachers in the past that inspired love in math, physics, etc. One common thing they did well was challenge me! I remember I was trying to solve math problems back in elementary school that were not in the book (and back in those days I couldn’t google the answer 😉

      I also had some that put in danger some of the love instilled in my early education (particularly physics) … things got restored back later on, which is to the point that teacher’s shouldn’t try to change learners as the changes are just temporary and if something is interesting and inspires a learner to pursue, they’ll eventually do it anyway

      My 6-year old daughter is in French Immersion right now in grade 1 and they’re learning the alphabet … she told me the other day she is bored during that part of the day … she started reading English fluently just before her 4th birthday … my internal struggle is how to convey this to the teacher in a way that is not misunderstood … parents tend to praise their kids too much and I am aware of that … on the other side, the teachers deal with a large group of kids and have very limited time to spend with each kid personally … to top it all, the likelihood that my daughter behaves the same in class as at home is exactly 0 … it is a hard problem to solve but that doesn’t mean we should give up!

  7. December 9, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Love your last paragraph!
    I totally agree with Gary, “You have me on the why, now we need to learn the how.”
    As I read this, Angela Maiers book “Classroom Habitudes” came to mind: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/classroom-habitudes/11477871

    • December 9, 2010 at 9:05 am

      Thanks Dave! I like how Angela framed it “How to teach 21st century learning habits and attitudes” … in particular I think one of the problems with formalized learning settings is that they’re focusing on aptitude and see unfavorable attitudes as something to be coerced at best or acting as a barrier at worst

      Trying to teach, or even better inspire attitude sounds like a much better approach … even successful pre-K/K-12 programs like Montessori seem to suffer from the aptitude focus and it is quite possible that their success is due to a pre-selection of attitudes up front or filtering during the process rather than motivating certain attitudes in the process

      Ultimately, I think we’ll end up having a diversity of programs offering choice to parents and students … as long as there is an underlying focus on engaging the students in the process of shaping their learning together with their teachers, parents and even the community, I think the choice will be a good thing

  8. Gary_Kern
    December 8, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks for the post. I couldn’t agree more about the power of motivation and student engagement. I am interested to learn how to empower our students and provide our teachers more capability to facilitate, guide, provide feedback and challenge students through this journey. You have me on the why, now we need to learn the how.

    • December 8, 2010 at 11:07 pm

      Thanks Gary!

      So glad educators like you and Dave below didn’t miss the point of the article through the language I decided to use to provoke! 😉

      As I wrote to Lex, I enjoy asking questions on this blog. To seek answers, I like to engage with people like yourselves.

      I am about to register a non-profit World4Children and organize a TEDxKids@BC conference next year, so I hope they will be good platforms to go after some answers. I will need all the help I can get for that, so the list is open 😉

  9. December 8, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    And then there were 3. 3 is a crowd, and has power.

    Great post! Totally agree.

    • December 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      Hahaha … thx Dave!

      Beware, though, the film that dimposs references below starts with the following quote:

      “If there is devil in history, it is the power principle” ~ Mikhail Bakunin

      Let’s use the power for good for once! 😉

  10. RM
    December 8, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Our education system hasn’t changed in years. Why is that? Our children are this country’s future. Everyone else has drastically changed their education system and embraced technology and they are surpassing us in technology, more students staying in and graduating college. Wake up people! We need to be open minded about technology and education. Our teachers need help with all the piles of paperwork for county and state benchmarks and tests. This is how they are teaching our children everyday! The whole system needs to be overhauled and technology introduced in an effective way that will engage students,interest them and teach them in ways that they are familiar with off campus. Technology is the answer and it takes administrators to think outside the box to see that. Technology software companies like Axiologix Education http://bit.ly/9xyYZb are positioning themselves at the right time to help in this education reform.
    Great post, very thought provoking!

    • December 8, 2010 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks for your reply! I agree technology should play a big part in the future of education. Many speakers pointed in this direction at TEDxUBC earlier this fall! But technology can’t be the complete and only answer, can it?

      We’re talking about an environment in which the distinction between the student and teacher roles dissipate to a point at which they may not even be easily recognizable. We’re talking about lifelong learning instead of a system of schooling to a certain age, followed by work with the occasional knowledge upgrade as required by the job position. We’re talking about inspired and personalized learning that focuses on the learner and the problem space instead of the subject and the solution.

      Technology can offer great tools to aid education, but I somehow think the human aspect is more important and should not be forgotten as we’re cramming more hardware in the schools, without reforming anything else!

  11. December 8, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I forgot to mention the title of the doc is “Human Resources – Social Engineering in the 20th Century”. If the link is not working properly, search for it using Google (try “Human Resources” separately from the rest of the title, etc.)

  12. December 8, 2010 at 7:31 am

    I thought you might appreciate this new documentary. About 30 minutes or so into the doc there is a section on education (Gatto and one other commentator). It is a compelling documentary on how we got to be where we are today, much like the much longer “The Power of Nightmares” and “The Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis (which I strongly recommend). Can be streamed or downloaded. As in the aforementioned docs, this doc is not for the fainthearted.

    • December 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm

      Thanks so much for pointing to this documentary! I watched only the first 3 minutes and already find it engrossing — hope to finish it tonight! I read about the experiments John B. Watson has been doing on babies, but watching on film gives me the shivers!!

      I really like the power of films, in particular documentaries, to inspire, provoke and get people thinking. After the experience at VIFF watching Schooling the World I keep thinking what other stuff we humans are doing that is a product of a history of arbitrary choices, rules that stopped making sense long ago, or simply ignorance?

      Keep sending references like these … I am always eager to expand my perspectives!

  13. December 8, 2010 at 7:26 am

    No you are absolutely not the only one. I am the other one. That makes 2! And 2 is a lot. We have to dig deeper into our values, to find more powerful forces of life. All is there, we only have to discover what lies beneath.

    • December 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm

      You’re right Lex, 2 is a lot! If species get endangered, preserving 2 could save them and bring the glory of the herd back! According to Matt Ridley, new ideas are born when 2 existing ideas have sex 😉 I am reminded of Fahreinheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — if Matt was writing it, he might have described an orgy of ideas sparking when Guy meets Clarrise and saving the world from oblivion 😉

      My goal with this article and the blog in general is to provoke, inspire, ask questions. Even if something looks like an answer or a suggestion, it is just a question in disguise. To me, finding new questions is inspiring, as it can be food for my thoughts and can open doors to exploring new depths. Finding an answer signifies an end, while a question could be an exciting start of a wonderful trip. A discovery process what lies beneath as you describe it!

      Thanks so much for reading this post and for spreading the provocation on Twitter among people in the Netherlands! It is amazing to see how can a simple article touch people across the world 😉

  1. March 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm
  2. March 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm
  3. December 10, 2010 at 10:17 am
  4. December 10, 2010 at 4:27 am
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  6. December 9, 2010 at 2:23 am
  7. December 8, 2010 at 12:31 am
  8. December 8, 2010 at 12:16 am

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