Short attention cause of decreased interest in reading

Della Johnson | Staff Writer

You may not have the attention span to get through this article. In fact, most students don’t.

With the amount of reading being assigned to students recently, a minimized attention span is becoming increasingly noticeable. The trend continues through more than just homework, however. In class, students might struggle to focus during lectures, group work, or peer presentations.

School psychologist Michaela Kramer said shorter attention spans affect life in and out of school.

“People are definitely recognizing or feel like their attention spans are lower, or not as good as they used to be,” Kramer said. “They just have a very hard time paying attention. Then that, of course, interferes with all of these other things within school, and in life.”

In general, it can be argued that society has grown accustomed to constant stimulation, and according to research by Microsoft, the average person now has an attention span of eight seconds. School psychologist Jeff Schlaeger said this might stem from cartoons that students watched as kids.

“I remember reading studies about kids who watch cartoons during the day,” Schlaeger said. “It said that when you watch a cartoon, have out a pen and paper. Then, make a hash mark every time the picture changes. It’s in about every eight to ten seconds in a cartoon. Soon, a completely different picture is on the screen. So, kids are focusing for eight to ten seconds on one thing and then it changes. Now, with everything in constant motion and changing, that’s where our minds are.”

Not only kids’ television programs are to blame. Modern technology is also another commonly used explanation for wandering minds, said Kramer. She said it is proven by our tendency to reach for our phones when in uninteresting situations.

“Think about it — when you first start to lose interest in what’s going on around you, you just reach for your phone,” Kramer said. “So many people do that. I feel like just because we have so much access to things that are stimulating, like technology, that leads to an increased loss of attention.”

Schlaeger also commented on the different learning difficulties for students, and what the school is doing to improve their learning experience.

“The straight-up lecture and 15 minutes of information seven times a day doesn’t work for most kids,” Schlaeger said. “Now, we have kids learn more while moving, while doing project-based group work. I see that as a positive change.”

Not everyone experiences a lack of concentration. In fact, many students, such as junior and Books and Beyond club co-founder Lindsay Rogers, read for fun quite often. Rogers said she has a specific method to make reading more interesting.

“Reading is a very vivid way to relax, distress, and get into another world,” Rogers said. “You can think of how the characters look using your imagination.”

Within the past few years, the Learning Commons has replaced most paper books with ebooks, keeping only a few paper versions left on the shelves. Rogers said the modernization of the Learning Commons prevents students from getting the full experience from a book.

“Most books have been transformed into electronic additions that you can download and swipe through,” Rogers said. “But, that’s not going to replace the feeling of holding it in your hand, turning the pages, and seeing how far you’ve come and how far you’ve yet to go. I honestly don’t like it at all.”

Not just attention spans can factor into the amount of homework a student does. Sophomore Ayesha Chaudhry said it has to do with copious amounts of work that unintentionally persuade students to take the easy way out.

“In general, teachers don’t keep account of the fact that all students have seven bells,” Chaudhry said. “For example, if I were reading a book in English, I may only have three chapters, but I also have three chapters for science and for history I have to read a couple chapters. If there’s an option for a student to SparkNotes something, they will.”

Recently, there has been a shift from the classic lectures in classes. Chaudhry said students require different types of teaching on order to pay attention.

“All students are different,”  Chaudhry said. “They don’t have the time to get everything done with all of the extracurriculars and everything. Unless teachers interact with the classroom in a way that is interesting to students or their peers, it’s just not going to work out.”