Listening with our mouths full

Are we so busy taking advantage of our new abilities to customize our own experiences that we’re missing important opportunities to listen to other people?

There are only so many hours in the day. And there is no question that technology and culture are giving us easier and more entertaining ways to do what we want with those hours. But, whether we’re using our time to text message, shop online, blog, Twitter, knit, or write the great American novel, the key factor is that we can now do it any where, any time. And we do — with less and less regard for what might be going on around us.

The paradigm reminds me of eating — if you engage in constant snacking, you never find yourself with enough of an appetite to enjoy real sit-down meals. And it’s not that the new ways of spending our time are inherently bad; it’s simply that they are being employed so that they compete with and shut out valuable traditional forms of learning.

In this post on SmartMobs, social networking authority and college professor Howard Rheingold ponders the challenge of helping students “train their attention” to appreciate a variety of learning experiences—even (gasp) non-interactive ones.