Let’s Turn Our Attention to Crap Detection

Do you recall how I made a joke about Howard citing a ton of scholars in his first chapter? Well, it was foreshadowing for his second chapter on Crap Detection.

I often cite the names of people who make scientific claims so my readers can search on my sources, and then judge their credibility for themselves.” – Page 81 of Rheingold, 2012

Howard argues that crap detection is one of the key skills that all digital citizens need to develop in order to be net smart. Luckily, it is not as hard as it seems as long as you do not comprise credibility for convenience. The approach you should take is to examine everything as though you are a journalist: triangulate! Be sure to find at least three credible resources to support the information you find online, and you should be good to go.

Let’s Turn Our Attention to Crap Detection

Intention Drives Attention

Net Smart‘s first chapter is dedicated to Howard convincing you, me, and us that Nicholas Carr is wrong in saying that Google is making us stupid. Howard’s stance is that the internet is not making us less intelligent or ruining our attention span, but there are physical and psychological impacts of information overload. In order to fully understand the impact of constant and loads of information to our minds, you can start with this list of a few of the many scholars Howard highlights:

  • Cathy Davidson is a distinguished educator, author, and innovator of learning and professional development. Her blog centers around higher education, including how to find the right MOOCs for baby boomers, but I found her quote “The process of unlearning in order to relearn demands a new concept of knowledge not as thing but as a process, not as a noun but as a verb.” from this short article as a reminder that learning is an action that we are in control of.
  • Linda Stone is a respected high technology executive with years of experience at Apple and Microsoft. She blogs about The Attention Project, which boils down viewing attention as an active practice.
  • Dan Siegel is well-established child psychologist and expert on mindfulness. You can watch him tout “brain hygiene” and how parent’s need to practice mindfulness in being conscientious, being contemplative, and being creative or listen to him discuss his concept of interpersonal neurobiology.

The reason Howard shares the studies and works from these scholars is not to showoff that he knows many of them personally but to demonstrate that attention is something we, as an individual, have complete control over. Our first step in becoming net smart is to formulate a goal on what we want to achieve and then practicing it. If you have a tough time doing this, Howard and I both suggest using the “Pomodoro Technique“.

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management approach to focusing your attention for 25 minutes on the task at hand and then rewarding yourself with a 5 minute break. I have personally used this before to get through tedious and mundane work tasks, so I encourage you to do the same if you have 1,000 tabs open every day or find yourself struggling to get through a book because there are too many online distractions. Rather than starting off your day by refreshing your news feed, write down on a piece of paper a realistic goal that you wish to complete for the day and place it somewhere that you can see it. By setting this intention and making it visible, it will help you focus your attention on reaching that goal

If you’re still not convinced that attention will help you become more effective in consuming all the information on the internet, then you should watch Daniel Goleman talk about the link between attention and emotional intelligence. He will help you realize that high performers practice internal and external mindfulness.

Intention Drives Attention

Practice Yoga Even as You Surf the Web

If Howard (I have decided that Mr. Rheingold would probably appreciate being referenced via first name rather than something more proper) has not caught your attention with his vibrant paisley blazer yet, perhaps I can convince you via yoga?

Howard and I have something in common: we both believe in mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Silence? Some form of meditation? Reflection? Meta-cognition? For me, it boils down to intention which aligns with Howard’s first and fundamental tool to thriving online: attention.

Howard points out that this is not the first time we, as a society, are going through an “information overload” (@10:30). Phew – Others have survived this!

He suggests that we can become more literate in our digital world through mindfulness (@14:24) and paying attention to what we are doing at that moment. We can even be more strategic about through matching our attention to a toolset (@16:48).

If you are overwhelmed with all that there is on the www, start by taking a moment to:

  1. Filter: Social media affords distractions, but you are in control of it all!
  2. If all else fails, follow the comic below and close those additional tabs and start with a blank page.

If you are wondering where Howard stands on multi-tasking, stay tuned for the next post where I will share some of his wisdom from Chapter 1: Attention! of Net Smart.

Note: My initial post did not give Howard enough credit about his accomplishments in life thus far. He invented the term “virtual community” in 1993! What were you doing in 1993?

Practice Yoga Even as You Surf the Web

Is Google making your employees stupid?

As part of MSLOC430 Spring 16 class, I will be sharing a few posts that will hopefully help us (or at least me) change our mindset and actions on how technology and social collaboration can actually enable us to be more knowledgeable.

Here’s a situation: a manager gives an analyst the task of creating a certain graphic for an upcoming presentation. The analyst knows that she doesn’t know how to create what she was just assigned, but she doesn’t want to risk making her supervisor aware of this. She quickly goes back and types into Google: how to create XYZ?

Do her actions indicate that she is inadequate or even stupid because she did not already know how to do what she was asked or that she should be praised for swimming into the deeper end of the pool that Howard Rheingold refers to?

Howard, a respected critic, writer, and teacher of modern communications including the impact of virtual communities, does not think Google is making us stupid. In this hour long talk at Google, Howard starts off addressing the very question (@3:20) that most of the people in the audience wants to know: Is Google making us stupid?

Short answer is “no”. He actually challenges those who think that Google is making people stupid to ask themselves how can we make more people engaged to grow someone’s skills and knowledge. Howard states technology affords but does not compel behavior, and the way we are using technology now is going to shape how we interact with it in the future.

Since this video is rather long, I will be referencing different sections with time stamps throughout the next few posts as well as share some of my thoughts on his book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, which covers the literacies: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or “crap detection”), and network smarts.

As intimidating as the concept of learning out loud (shout out to Liz Young for rising to Jeff Merell’s challenge with a resource dense and though provoking first post to her Learning Out Loud site), I am also recognizing how important it is for me to build this skill. We have deviated a little from the question at hand, so back to is Google making your employees (or you) stupid? No unless you don’t do anything with that knowledge. Howard also makes this distinction between skill versus literacy (@7:30) with the later requiring a social component to it.

Is Google making your employees stupid?