All of our minds have wandered at meetings and we've opened up our email on our handheld device, tablet, or laptop. When I do that I am generally not engaged in the content of the meeting or session. But, I also want to note that I often use a device and may look as though I am distracted or not paying attention when, in fact, I am actually more engaged than others who may appear to be listening and attending to the teacher or presenter.
First, there is simply using an electronic device to take notes. I hate writing with a pen or pencil. After about the third word, my hand cramps up (likely psychosomatic) and I stop. So, when I am typing on a device, there is an excellent chance I am taking notes in Evernote. This is evident from the blog posts that I have written from my notes after sitting in sessions at Teachers College during their Saturday Reunions. (#TCRWP Saturday Reunion - March 2013 - Laurie Pessah's Workshop, #TCRWP - Cornelius Minor Session on the BYOT Movement, or Depths of Knowledge (DOK) is More Than an Acronym!)
Second, there is backchanneling! Generally, when I am at an #edcamp or #TCRWP session (or any other for that matter) I look for others who are having a conversation about the topic behind the scenes. I find that backchanneling has provided me with a renewed ability to focus on the points that a presenter is making. When I can tweet out or use some other backchannel to converse about the topic as it is being presented, I am able to better digest the material, wrestle with it, and ultimately engage with it in a deeper way.
Third, I am often finding resources that a presenter is mentioning. There are sessions that I have attended where I have actually ordered a book from Amazon as the presenter had it up on the projector screen. When presenters mention other thought leaders, bloggers, and researchers on the topic being presented, I generally like to pull up a tab in my web browser immediately with the blog or connection so that I can easily find them when I get home.
While I realize that our students in school may not be doing the things I mention above. I think that we should find out what they are doing before we get upset. If they are productively engaging in their own digital way, then we should probably let them keep doing what they are doing. If they are just playing around and doing other things, we should probably try to figure out if it is our instruction that is lacking before we blame the devices.
How do you "pay attention" at meetings and conferences?