I am an MTV child. I was a middle school kid when MTV hit the airwaves. I stayed up to watch "World Premier Videos."
When I was in college in the late 80's, a professor of mine noted that he heard when making a music video, the creators attempt to change the scenes every 3 seconds in order to hold a viewers attention. I never forgot this, and have always thought of ways to incorporate this fact into the classroom.
We live in a world that has gone far beyond MTV.
Cell phones give people 24/7 connection with each other.
Twitter and texting encourages conciseness.
Websites link us from one page to another creating a journey for us that by the time we have completed our "surfing" of the topic we last looked up, it is far different than what we originally intended to learn about.
And too often we expect attention spans somehow to miraculously increase when students enter the classroom.
Too often we feel safer running classrooms "the way its always been done".
Our job is to reach kids, get them to think, and sometimes doing so "isn't safe".
A friend of mine was a recreation director at a Bible camp, who created crazy games in order to get kids attention and get them involved in the camp.
Some of the older counselors questioned some of his decisions as a little immature. (As if middle and high school kids need to play and interact like they are adults)
One of the head pastors of the camp, a man well into his 70's, encouraged him to continue what he was doing b/c the kids loved it, and people's problems were stylistic rather than ethical or moral. He also was realistic about "living on the edge", that it would provoke naysayers. In encouragement, he gave my friend this bit of advice (that my friend paraphrased as):
"If you ain't being rebuked, you ain't doing your job"
It does not mean to seek out trouble.
It is a call to be innovative to the point that people question what you are doing because it isn't the way its always been done.
Be creative, try, dont worry about failure.
Be an innovator in the classroom.
Your job is to reach kids.
Don't plan lessons and activities that fall into the comfort zone of your fellow teachers.
Plan lessons and activities that excite and motivate kids to learn.
I've been a teacher over 20 years, I try something new every year.
I am NEVER satisfied.
Just because we've added a smart board and iPads to a classroom, doesn't mean that we've innovated if they are just being used as the modern equivalents of the overhead projector and notebook.
Thinking back to the constant changing of scenes in MTV videos, it is something I am trying to do in the classroom. I try not to have my class start an activity on the bell and end the same activity on the bell.
NEVER spend your whole class lecturing.
Don't say, "when I was a kid, I could sit through 45 minutes of a lecture". Or "in the past, people could sit through hours of lectures"
You didn't grow up in their world.
Why fight the lack of attention, why not find ways to work within it?
In the future, I'll tell you some ways I attempt to do that.
Don't hate change, embrace it.
It's the adventure of life.
But what do I know, I'm a child of the MTV generation.