In these years digital media and wireless networks are introduced in upper secondary schools in Denmark. This implies new “attentional objects” like updates on Facebook or tweets on Twitter within instant reach of the pupils and teachers. Also it implies new kinds of attention (awareness) like when pupils try to listen to the teacher and simultaneously participate in online games. To this new social setting the teachers has reacted with either prohibition or unconcern. What has not been realised is that the introduction of new media profoundly challenges the way attention hitherto has functioned as a psychic prerequisite for the social interaction between pupils and teachers. New kinds of “split attention” arise and new kinds of social mediation (regulation and “use”) of psychic attention become necessary if teaching in the new digital medium milieu shall be beneficial. In this paper we qualify this interpretation theoretically through systems theory and medium theory. Further we present initial results from the action research project Socio Media Education (SME) in which we work with how teachers and pupils can handle the new attention-demanding situation, so the new media do not mean spoiled teaching, but new expanded possibilities for teaching and learning provided by the new media. Our core postulate is that the teachers and pupils have to develop social reflexion on ‘the practice of attention’ in the class, both on a social and individual level; use the new media to facilitate this reflexion and simultaneously (based on the on-going reflexion) learn to cope better with the new attention-demanding medium milieu, which means both to restrict oneself and behave more socially responsible and to develop better awareness skills (e.g. multiplexing skills). Only this (and not prohibition against Facebook, online games etc. neither unconcern and ignorance of the new media and their consequences for attention) - we argue - can generate adequate social norms regulating psychic awareness in the new digital learning environment.
Digital media; wireless networks; education; attention; multitasking; multiplexing