Online classes open the opportunity to give your attention away to something other than your Zoom class. Whether that be your phone, your laptop or any other distraction, as a generation we are struggling with deep attention versus hyper attention. Since Saint Joseph’s is going back to full on campus instruction, we wanted to ask students to reflect on how their concentration and how ways of learning have changed in the last year or so. 

The Generational struggle:

N. Katherine Hayles who is an English professor at University of California and the author of Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes” talks about the “Generational divide” in the way we learn and requires stimuli. A previous article done on HawkChill about “The Effects of Screen Time on Attention” is consistent with Hayles theory that integration between society and technology causes us to be more susceptible to hyper attention. What is Hyper attention or deep attention you might ask? Deep attention is the concentration on one task or objective for a prolonged period of time, like reading a book. Hyper attention is when you are taking stimuli from multiple sources at once, like using your phone, while watching TV, while in class all at the same time. 

Students In a Zoom Breakout Room – Taken by Bill Oxenford

We asked students from all different grades to reflect on Zoom learning and how they feel about going back to full on-campus classes next year: 

Interview with Students: 

Do you find yourself using your phone more often during zoom classes rather than in person classes? 

Shannon Moran (Sophomore) – Yes I think that zooming classes has allowed most students to become more easily distracted by other things including their phone 

Kait Kiefner (Freshman) – I do not find myself using my phone more often during zoom classes rather than in person classes. I try my hardest to treat zoom classes the same as if I were in person. It definitely can be tempting, but I usually turn my phone off completely during classes to avoid the impulse to use it. 

Do you think you will have trouble concentrating when class goes back to full in-person instruction? 

Caroline Minnucci (Senior) – Yes i think it will be difficult going back to regular classes. 

Shannon Moran (Sophomore) – I think that having classes fully online is challenging because it is hard to connect with the professor and the information and it could be hard to stay interested in the class

Kait Kiefner (Freshman) – When classes go back to fully in person I don’t think I will have trouble concentrating. I think I will be able to concentrate even better. Out of all my classes this year, I enjoyed my in person classes the most because I felt a sense of normalcy again which made me eager to learn and participate. 

How has your learning changed because of Zoom? What about Zoom changed it and why? 

Caroline Minnucci (Senior) – Zoom changed my learning in the sense of how I absorb it and how I am able to access class info more conveniently, I can watch lectures back, and professors are more care free. 

Shannon Moran (Sophomore) – Learning has been hard on zoom because it’s difficult to stay engaged especially with other distractions. Zoom has made learning more flexible and there are pros but it can be discouraging if the information isn’t making sense and you can’t ask the teacher in person and form a personal relationship 

Kait Kiefner (Freshman) – Because of zoom, I find myself doing the majority of my work through my laptop whether that be quizzes, homework, tests, etc. Not that it is a bad thing, but it is definitely a huge change from when I would be using paper and pencil everyday. I think it’s amazing how we have utilized technology in such an extraordinary way, but it was definitely something I had to adjust to regarding my learning habits. 

Picture of Barbelin Hall Tower – Taken By Cailyn Kiewe

These questions and their results from SJU students are consistent with Hayles’ claim that as a generation we are more likely to seek more dopamine. As SJU junior Caroline Belgian says, “I have a hard time finding my classes interesting and interactive. I can tell my professors do not enjoy zoom so their attitude reflects the class taught.” Since classes are going back to in-person, some students are going to have to readjust their learning abilities they have developed over the last year or so. Moreover, while Zoom has allowed classes to continue in spite of the pandemic, many still feel Zoom creates many problems, glitches, and obstacles to learning. Rosa Menkman illustrates this concept well in the “Glitch Studies Manifesto”, where she explains that these problems call attention to the characteristics, or materiality, of the media we use to learn. Through the process of identifying errors, we as students can more effectively critique and engage with how we are being educated. This criticism can then allow us to refine our education and become effective media critics. Thus, it’s important for SJU students and everyone else growing up in this technological based society to be aware of how technology has affected our ways of learning & interacting with each other.