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focus@will combines neuroscience + music to boost productivity and tune out distractions!
Apps like this are best approached with an open-minded skepticism. Open-minded because we're just beginning to see work on attention tools; skeptical because any mention of "neuroscience" raises the possibility of what has been called "neurobullocks" -- knowledge about the relationship between neural and attentional processes is very often nowhere near as precise as promoters would have us believe. Nevertheless, this is on my list to try out. I'll welcome feedback, both positive and negative, from anyone who tries this.
I concur with Howard Rheingold's advice that consumers be wary of claims to boost attention and productivity. At the same time ,improving attention is a very useful skill in these daze of distraction. We are just learning more about what works. Share your review of this and other such apps with Howard.
"Through this study, PARC identified a phenomenon we call “channel blending”, which, in contrast to multi-tasking, is the blending together of interactions and content across multiple channels, devices, and places into a single, coherent conversation. We identified a gap in current communication technology, which generally supports one-to-one or many-to-many interactions, assuming that each person is alone in a space with a single device. Yet we found that many interactions were conducted among small groups of people of 2-6, who often connected with multiple people in each space using multiple devices, sometimes re-sharing content they previously shared over another channel. We showed videos that demonstrated channel blending, and pointed out how a “pivot person” usually had to do a lot of work to integrate the comments and content coming from multiple sources to make sure everyone was included and engaged in the conversation."
Researchers at PARC, the place that brought us the personal computer as we know it, conduct research that further complicates the picture of multitasking. It isn't so simple as "multitasking is bad, focus is good," or "using mobile communication devices distances people who are face to face." Channel blending brings together these issues.
The debate team at my school began using Evernote last year for collaborative research. As students find sources, they dump them into … Continue reading »
IFTTT to Evernote can be a powerful team infotention tool (Diigo groups is good for circumstances in which you want to attach comment threads to bookmarked material, add sticky notes, etc.)
Not a basic tool necessarily but a great tool if you want to link various social media engines.
Note: This is the third in a series of posts I’m committed to writing about filters; I started with the principles of filtering, and will proceed to blow up each of the principles in as much detail as makes sense at this stage.
And more about filters from JP Rangaswami
In earlier posts towards the tail end of last year and early this year, I committed to writing a number of posts on filtering. The background is simple:
Filtering is essential to the info-handling side of infotention, and JP Rangaswami is one of the few people I look to for deep and broad thinking about infotention issues (Harold Jarche and Robin Good are others who immediately come to mind). Consider adding his blog to your RSS aggregator: confused of calcutta: a blog about information
Filtering at the local level is a great idea, like real educational transformation happening at the local level. What are the likelihood either will happen? The serendipity point is so true in both technology and learning.
Jane Hart describes her daily personal knowledge management (or PKM) routine. It's an inspiring yet practical workflow for information curation. Or information wrangling, as I like to call it: I ...
Bryan Alexander takes off from Jane Hart's personal knowledge management routine to describe his own method of handling information overload, which he calls "information wrangling." He works through channels and sources daily, reflects, and shares. Alexander details each of these processes in his blog.
This blog goes through how to manage the huge amounts of information coming in each moment through our digital channels. The author shares her personal knowledge management routine.
Helpful way to structure what we each do more informally
Could be a quick research tip for students: seek, sense, share.
"Blair identifies four “S’s of text management” from the past that we still use today: storing,sorting, selecting, and summarizing. She also notes the history of alternative solutions to information overload that are the equivalent of deleting one’s Twitter account: Descartes and other philosophers, for instance, simply deciding to forget the library so they could start anew. Other to-hell-with-it daydreams proliferated too:"
I've scooped before about Ann Blair's book of pre-modern info-overload -- and what was done about (http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300112511). This is a nice short musing about today's information overload discourse.
We need to know how to wisely use information or it becomes inert in the words of Alfred North Whitehead.
Digitize Post-It Notes, record audio, snap a photo of anything and easily share anything from Evernote on your smartphone.
The benefit of Evernote is realized by it's availability on all of your communication devices. It's great to have help when you are operating on the smaller interface.
Data Mining Reveals the Secret to Getting Good AnswersMIT Technology ReviewAccording to Alexa, the site is the 3rd most popular Q&A site in the world and 79th most popular website overall.
I can't imagine what coding was like before Stack Overflow. These days, problem-solving in coding involves knowing the right question to ask in order to find an answer. It's not just coding. Knowing how to get good answers to questions has become a primary infotention skill now that search engines are so much more intelligent and Q&A sites like Stack Overflow and Quora have become popular and useful.
"The most consistent and least controversial finding in the literature is that working memory training programs produce reliable short-term improvements in both verbal and visuospatial working memory skills. On average, the effect sizes range from moderate to large, although the long-term sustainability of these effects is much more ambiguous. These effects are called near transfer effects, because they don’t transfer very far beyond the trained domain of cognitive functioning.
What are far more controversial (and far more interesting) are far transfer effects. One particular class of far transfer effects that cognitive psychologists are particularly interested in are those that show increases in fluid intelligence: the deliberate but flexible control of attention to solve novel “on the spot” problems that cannot be perfomed by relying exclusively on previously learned habits, schemas, and scripts."
A cornerstone of infotention is that attention and cognitive skills can be improved through training. Most research into this claim is recent, and as with all scientific research, there is some controversy. This article provides a good mary sof recent research that appears to support the efficacy of "brain training."
This is an additional view of "fluid intelligence" along with Gardner's multiple intelligences. Many theories that considers a "far transfer effects" are related to Krashen's Input Hypothesis, i+1 and Affective Filter Hypothesis. Dr. Krashen's theories are based in language acquistion but I consider them more in regards to learning and cognitive training.
Keep tabs on the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives with two new congressional vote Triggers, now part of The New York Times Channel.
IFTTT ("If this, then that) is definitely a power tool on the info-tool side of infotention. You create "triggers" for events (such as, but not limited too, keyword searches and RSS feeds) and then make something happen -- a tweet, an email, a bookmark, a Facebook status update. Automatically tweet Instagram pix you or others take, or send them to Flickr. These combinations of triggers and actions are socially shared as "recipes" -- roll your own and/or shop for existing recipes. This particular recipe for keeping track of selected congressional votes is just one example -- this blog has new ones often (as do other users).
Once accused of being absent-minded, the founder of American Psychology, William James, quipped that he was really just present-minded to his own thoughts.Most recent studies depict ...
Most of the talk about attention and media has been about the deleterious effects of distraction; most certainly, there are many instances in which this is the case (in particular, the horror of texting while driving). Much of this discussion and general discourse has looked at the wandering mind as a distraction from focal awareness, a perhaps pleasurable but inevitably counter-productive foible. The author of this literature review in the Scientific American blog takes exception. It depends on context. Indeed, mind-wandering may be essential.
"By catering to diminished attention, we are making a colossal and unconscionable mistake. The world is a complex and subtle place, and efforts to understand it and improve it must match its complexity and subtlety. We are treating as unalterable a characteristic that can be changed. Yes, there is no point in publishing a long article if no one will read it to the end. The question is, what does it take to get people to read things to the end?
The key point for teachers and principals and parents to realize is that maintaining attention is a skill. It has to be trained, and it has to be practiced. If we cater to short attention spans by offering materials that can be managed with short attention spans, the skill will not develop. The “attention muscle” will not be exercised and strengthened. It is as if you complain to a personal trainer about your weak biceps and the trainer tells you not to lift heavy things. Just as we don’t expect people to develop their biceps by lifting two-pound weights, we can’t expect them to develop their attention by reading 140-character tweets, 200-word blog posts, or 300-word newspaper articles."
I have one very small but very important difference with the thesis of this article. Where the author says "we can't expect them to develop their attention by reading 140-character tweets..." I would insert the word "just," as in "we can't expect them to develop their attention just by reading 140-character tweets..." Attention and attentional skills are vulnerable and trainable along a spectrum of infotentional situations. And 18 minute videos about big ideas are a legitimate form of cultural expression, with a legitimate place on that spectrum. Where I do agree with the author is with his main prescription -- yes, I require my students to blog and tweet. I also expect them to spend hours each week reading longer and often considerably complex texts.
I like Howard Rheingold's comment about this article.
"I have one very small but very important difference with the thesis of this article. Where the author says "we can't expect them to develop their attention by reading 140-character tweets..." I would insert the word "just," as in "we can't expect them to develop their attention just by reading 140-character tweets..." Attention and attentional skills are vulnerable and trainable along a spectrum of infotentional situations. And 18 minute videos about big ideas are a legitimate form of cultural expression, with a legitimate place on that spectrum. Where I do agree with the author is with his main prescription -- yes, I require my students to blog and tweet. I also expect them to spend hours each week reading longer and often considerably complex texts."
I agree that we need to focus on developing these attention skills - not just in school - but also in positive 'out of school' circumstances. I think of some of the individual sports in which I have been involved - either directly or through family members. As an avid rock climber in earlier days, I used to reflect on how in the 'zone' I could be - just how I could enter that 'state of flow' that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi espouses. I needed to very much 'attend' to the task at hand - not just for obvious reasons of safety! In fact, the more I attended to the rockwall problem in front of me, the more successful I was in achieving the climb. If I let my attention wander, then success often eluded me. (Mihaly would likely agree with me on this one - as he was also a climber in his younger days!)
Rigorous work or play exercises the attention muscle. Go for it.
One of the most fun and useful things I’ve been doing lately is automating small processes I do all the time. It took me a while to work up the courage to dive into automation, as it always seemed like a really difficult, technical thing to do, which should be left to programmers. Luckily, there [...]
Automating repetitive processes, including those you use to seek, filter, tag, store, and retrieve information, can be a useful infotention practice. I've Scooped IFTTT before. This blog post is by social media management service Buffer, so the examples are Buffer-centric, but any of these automation tools can be applied to a variety of platforms, services, and practices.
Get some handy tips on how to automate every day tasks with online tools.
"Starner replied that he multiplexes rather than multitasks. Multiplexing means doing tasks that reinforce each other. For him, taking notes and having conversations are tasks that parallel and enrich each other. They are multiplexed. On the other hand, he doesn't try to manage email during a conversation or while walking down the street. That would be multitasking. "If the wearable task is directly related to the conversation, the the user's attention is not 'split' and multiplexing can be pretty effective."
As Thad Starner explained to me, distraction can be avoided by multiplexing rather than multitasking.... We have no difficulty absorbing all at once the music of a parade, the sight of uniformed marchers, bright sunlight, an autumn breeze, a pain in one's knee, the smell and taste of hot dogs, and the clasp of a loved ones's hand."
While Google Glass is what most of the world hears about wearable info-devices these days, Steve Mann and Thad Starner were experimenting with (much bulkier!) wearable devices at the Media Lab more than a decade ago. I interviewed Tharner back then. He had a head-mounted display and he also communicated wirelessly with his networks through a one-handed keyboard ("twiddler"), sometimes asking questions about conversations he was engaged in face to face. In this blog post, Kevin Kelly picks out a key passage from an interview with Starner in a book by Michael Chorost. While Cliff Nass' work pretty clearly showed that most (not all!) media multitaskers were degrading rather than enhancing their performance on their tasks, Nass, in conversation with me, noted that he had NOT studies instances in which the multitaskers were working with multiple relevant information streams. Starner calls this multiplexing. We need more research about whether everybody can learn to do this and whether it enhances or degrades performance.
I love this distinction. NCTE's notion of ''managing multiple streams of information' makes sense when viewed as multiplexing. People have been interpreting this as multitasking - and this has been grossly incorrect in my opinion
If you're not a fan of the new Google Alerts, there are several alternative tools you can use to monitor your business online.
When I am researching or scanning a topic, I like to pull RSS feeds from Google alerts and other alert services -- I like Talkwalker. Knowing how to create and tune what Robin Good calls "news radars" is an essential infotention skill for people like me who track a lot of subjects and from time to time drill down on a subject more intensively.
Note: This is a continuation of my earlier post Filtering: Seven Principles. Over the next few weeks I hope to expand on each of the principles, adjusting and refining as I learn from your comments, observations and guidance.
More on filtering from JP Rangaswami. Its often useful to read his blog's comment stream -- he has an intelligent, knowledgeable, global personal learning network.
Robin Good is the curation maestro. Content discovery is the big end of the infotention funnel -- knowing how to find information relevant to your interests and to make use of channels that bring relevant information directly to you is step one in the infotention process.
Wow, what a good structured Collection - thanks to Robin Good - his name is program :-)
Finding material can be a challenge, after all, there is so much out there. Robin Good shares some of his go to content discovery tools here.
Great resourcerces about Content Discovery collected by
[url=/u/39026 x-already-notified=1]Robin Good[/url]
"Students would frame, curate, share, and direct their own "engagement streams" throughout the learning environment.4 Like Doug Engelbart's bootstrappers in the Augmentation Research Center, these students would study the design and function of their digital environments, share their findings, and develop the tools for even richer and more effective metacognition, all within a medium that provides the most flexible and extensible environment for creativity and expression that human beings have ever built."
Doug Engelbart's Augmentation Research Lab created the foundations of most of today's mind-amplifying tools in the 1960s, using a bootstrapping process that applied metacognition to the design process: They designed tools for thinking -- word processing,point and click computing interfaces, hypertext, for just three of many examples -- then studied their process of using them in order to design the next generation. In this short essay, Gardner Campbell compares the pedagogy of student self-publishing to the bootstrapping/metacognition process of the Augmentation Research Lab. I'm requiring my own students to set up and configure their own WordPress blogs on their own domains on servers in the cloud.
CopyPaste is the original multiple clipboard display and editing software.
I must use this a hundred times a day. It's the single most useful utility I have and I don't understand why it isn't part of the Mac OS. You can keep track of the last 200 items you've copied or cut to your clipboard and reuse them easily -- including multimedia. You can set up a hotkey combo to paste the top item in the stack, then delete it -- immensely useful for web work, blogging.
If you use copy - paste often (I certainly do), you know how often you'd like to paste an older item. Here ya go.
"Howard Rheingold – the author of Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (2012) – recently argued that one of the most important skills to master in today’s world was the ability to focus your attentionwhile searching on the Web. He suggests that every learner should write down the three things that they want to get done BEFORE heading online. Then, they should make conscious choices about what to click on while surfing, only selecting sites that are likely to help them move forward towards their final goal. Use this handout to help guide YOUR choices while working online today.
First the Mind/Shift: How We Learn blog published a post about some of my infotention ideas, then a teacher made this handy hand-out for students.
Howard has been interrogating digital phenomena for decades. More good insights.
"Healthy online reading habits require constant gardening. Every Internet company provides us a little plot to tend for, and that’s how they keep our attention where they want it. But the soil is pretty gross in most of them, and the seeds are tightly regulated. If we want to read healthily, we have to build our own info gardens.
The most important gardening task is deciding what to plant — that is, what sources to read — and that’s a personal choice. The topics, tone, and perspective of your information sources are for you to determine. But the bulk of the work is in building and tending the garden, and this guide will suggest some tools and methods to help. And with the gardening work out of the way, you’ll spend most of your time cooking, eating, and sharing. That’s the delicious part, and this guide will offer my best recipes."
Succinct, relevant, practical tips on online literacy skills from a skilled infotention practitioner.
"A notable example is The Nun Study that suggests that positive changes in lifestyle might help to maintain your cognitive abilities. The Nun Study is a longitudinal study started in 1986. A group of nuns took a battery of cognitive tests on a yearly basis. They also donated their brains to science.
The Nun Study confirms the importance of being physically active as you age. Physical activity, like walking four times a week, improves blood flow to all of the body, including the brain. Being physically active has been shown to increase the blood flowing to your hippocampus, the area of the brain that is responsible for memory."
I learned about "email apnea" -- holding your breath at times when you are doing your email or concentrating on composing something online -- from Linda Stone. And when I looked into the attention-training side of infotention, the intersection of contemplative meditations on the breath and contemporary neuroscience studies of the connection between breath and intention/attention stood out. Online attention is too disembodied. I moved to a standing desk a year ago and I love it. I have an outdoor standing desk and do my work standing, barefoot on the lawn, as often as possible. The studies noted in this article offer evidence that physical activity can improve cognitive function. So getting up and moving around, noticing when you are holding your breath, changing your position are essential parts of mindful infotention -- knowing where your body is while your mind is in abstraction-land is part of metacognitive awareness essential to mindful use of digital media.
Google made one of the biggest-ever changes in its search engine, as part of a shift away from matching keywords on Web pages to understanding the meaning of search queries.
Knowing how to find the answers you need swiftly is a key infotention skill (one that will become even more important when Google Glass and other heads-up displays with voice activation will make it possible to pose queries when you are away from your computer or even without taking out your smartphone). Knowing how to determine whether the answers you get are legit is a different but related info-skill: crap detection.
I went to a Google Apps For Education Summit last weekend. They did not say much about these changes, but interesting ideas were shared among participants.
You may have heard about Google Hummingbird. It's an important innovation with the Google search algorithm that understands the meaning of the search query rather than simply using the keywords - sometimes called Semantic Search. They have also announced that users can now conduct searches on hashtags.
As Social Media and Search become more integrated, Social Search will positively impact the effectiveness of Social Media Marketing
More on the changes made to Google Search...
"Significant gains in writing productivity can be gained by a combination of the right kind of practice and the right kind of tools. I’ve written about many of these tools and techniques previously, but I’ve organised all the advice here into a three step program, with links to useful resources.
Review your writing tools
Often the ‘industry standard’ software is not the best tool for the job. Take Word processors as just one example. You must move back and forth over the text to achieve flow and make sure everything is in the right place. If you can move around your documents more easily your writing speed will increase. Unfortunately the industry default, MS Word, does not, out of the box, perform this task well.
Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know this is the key reason I am a huge Scrivener fan. Scrivener is a different kind of word processor that enables you to write ‘chunks’ and move them around easily..."
This is about infotention -- "combination of the right kind of practice and the right kind of tools." I share thesis whisperer's enthusiasm for Scrivener for long projects or even short writing projects that have many moving parts.
writing faster in class is a constant battle in lectures then learning how to write faster seems like a legit tool to use in everyday life.