Current Education System Creates Short Attention Span

“It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”


I absolutely agree with the statement above, regarding how we read content online. I am guilty of this when I am trying to get an assignment or an answer for research. I think that the problem is not necessary Google or the internet, but our current educational system. I know particularly when I was preparing for the SAT’s or other reading comprehension tests before college, I was taught to look for only the most important information. I was told to read the questions first and look for the answers in the passage. If I spent too much time trying to completely understand the content, I run out of time on the examination. I typically had trouble with reading comprehension exam because of this. Eventually, I learned how to skim read and only get the information that I need for the examination. I think the root cause of this problem starts in grade school with the standards of learning assessments, where the students are trained to look for the answers rather than formulating their own.

My ability to read long passages starts to demise when Google searches became extremely efficient. I started to notice that when I do a Google search, I would quickly skim the passage for what I need. If the page looks like it has too much text and the “find” function does not produce the answers I want, I would just click onto another link. I guess I am able to determine what formats of the pages will give me the quickest answer. I move on quickly if I do not like the format of the webpage. I feel like “power browse” technique does not allow the reader to fully comprehend the content that the author tries communicate to the user. This is problematic because I selectively pick out the information that I want to retain. In a sense, it is limiting my perspective because I have a pre-filter to disregard content that would take too much time to understand.

Finally, I think that discipline is a big factor on how well I can focus on a particular topic. For example, I did not write this entire blog post in a continuous streak. I would think of an idea and started to Google it. I started to skim a couple of paragraphs, and clicked on a couple of links. The next thing I realized was that I was on Amazon. I feel like my attention span for a topic is not very long. I think my minds works like this because of the demanding responsibilities of my positions. When I was taking 7-8 courses, I would constantly switch topics when I am stuck on something. This means I that can switch tasks almost every half hour. Additionally, my curiosity tends to derail my focus. I would be reading about a particular idea, and I found something that I did not understand. I would then keep Googling until I got the answer to the side question or realizing that I am way off track. If I want to be more productive this inefficiency is something that I need to work on.

I do not necessarily believe Google is making people “more stupid.” It just hampers the critical thinking process. I remember in my undergraduate, 90% of the questions that I had can be answered by Google. However, when I started to do my research, Google was not able to provide me with the answers that I needed. Therefore, I was forced to fully read the content and formulate my own answers. Google is a great tool to find basic information, but sole reliant on it will hamper the creative thought process.



6 thoughts on “Current Education System Creates Short Attention Span

  1. I appreciate your thoughts about how at a research stage, using google can hamper creative thinking process. In my Masters, I saw a mixture of individuals using different techniques in relation to this. Some used a similar reading technique of using the “Find” function to find the material they needed. For example, when doing a literature review they would find articles they believed relevant, use the find function, and paraphrase what they specifically found without reading the abstract or rest of article for context. This technique blew up in the faces of several students, for it was later discovered that the articles they used were referenced incorrectly, counter-intuitively, or had nothing to do with their overall research paper. I think this kind of mistake will occur more and more as people depend more on this reading method.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with Meghan on this; it really matters *how* you use Google as a tool, especially with respect to the research process.

      I also liked your reference to “power browsing,” as it’s hard not to be guilty of that when you’re slammed with work and trying to get everything done.


  2. I cannot help but agree with what you have put forth as being an issue. I’m the kind of person that likes going into depths of any subject matter. For me “time” has nothing to do with my need to learn. BUT time does come in the way and there is only so much one can do in 24 hours. I’ve known people who only “power nap” and don’t actually go to bed at night. Some has to do with lifestyle…another reason is tenure. One major struggle I’ve had this semester is knowing when to stop and step away and knowing when I know enough.


  3. I think you’re hitting on some cool points. Mainly, is it we who shape technology or is it technology that shapes us? The new capabilities that Google and the internet granted us enabled an extension of our understanding of productivity. I think your recognition of the speeding up or the shortening of our attention spans correctly frames how access to the expansive knowledge network of the World Wide Web co-produces habits of researching while defining what the internet is.


  4. I really like your final sentence “Google is a great tool to find basic information, but sole reliant on it will hamper the creative thought process.” I find sometimes its more convenient to look up common constants used in my engineering equations or the molar mass of elements I don’t typically work with on google when I’m working through a problem rather than trying to go back through my notes. However, if I am stuck on a problem and need to figure out how to work though it is much more beneficial to go back and reference my notes or a text book to make sure I actually understand what I am doing. On of my biggest issues with google is the fact that it has become so easy for students to just google their homework questions and find the exact solution that they can just copy down. This completely hinders the learning process and pretty much defeats the purpose of assigning homework.


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