|courtesy of Nanette Saylor via flickr|
The first skill he talked about is attention. I really appreciated this idea and the examples of how to view attention as a skill that can be developed in respect to social media. It could be argued that attention is the fundamental building block of reality. Observation, which is a form of attention, is tied very closely with reality at the quantum physics level. Often, our attention shifts very quickly with us even being aware of it.
So what makes it a crucial skill in the world of social media? We have a limited supply of attention and there's a seemingly infinite amount of information and potential for connecting with people which means we have to make choices about what to pay attention to. The nature of our networked, always on technologies mean that we often have multiple activities vying for attention at any one time. Although Howard's review of the research suggests that although most people are not effective multitaskers, he wonders about those that are. Undeniably, multi-tasking is becoming more acceptable in many situations as social norms evolve to adapt to ever present mobile technologies so Howard has been working on ways to develop the skill of attention.
To this end, he has created what he calls attention probes which he describes as ways of becoming aware of where you are deploying your attention. He enlisted the help of some colleagues and students to develop and try some different ways of doing this. The most basic exercise he introduced was simply asking everyone to close their eyes and remain silent for a few minutes while observing their thoughts. This is a basic form of meditation. Howard also referred to it as a form of metacognition.
Some other examples of attention probes that Howard described include ringing a bell at random intervals which signals each person to take note of whether or not they were thinking about the material being covered. Each person places a color coded sticky note on a sheet to denote whether their attention was on task, on something tangentially related, or unrelated. In another example, each time the instructor held a pen in their left hand, each person would put their thumb on their desktop.
Making judgements about the quality of what you're paying attention to is what Howard calls crap detection. It's his second social media literacy and here's a great blog post he wrote about it. The other literacies he talked about were participation, collaboration, and network know-how.