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Boredom and the Brain

mind-in-the-machineToday I had a chance to finally read this month’s edition of CLO. I enjoyed reading Norm Kamikow’s editorial letter, “The Real Root of All Evil,” a short treatise on boredom and learning. Part of the article references research on brain functions and the correlation of boredom to attention span. The article got my brain running in different directions, as often happens (perhaps my attention span is particularly short?), and I began thinking about a fascinating book I read a couple of years ago, Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using your Brain by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb (they have a great blog that I recommend, too). The book basically breaks down into layman terms how the brain works, particularly focusing on some of the strange ways we can manipulate the brain once we understand its wiring. For example, take this test on “inattention blindness:”

Click the following link and follow the instructions in the “Selective Attention Test” video. Be sure to watch the whole thing, then come back and read the rest of this entry (don’t cheat – you’ll ruin the fun!)…

Be honest- did you really see everything the first time? Our mind is an interesting place, indeed. But back to boredom.

The fact is, very often, the “learning” we’re put through is boring. It taxes our attention spans, or it fails to challenge, or it doesn’t motivate, or a million other things that lead to boredom. Our failings often are the result of either presenting learning the same way over and over (because of budget, resources, or whatever other limiting factor) or we swing the other direction and try to make something “fun” for fun’s sake – yet the “fun” learning doesn’t really challenge the brain after all, leading again to boredom. No new revelations there. So, the question is, What are training providers doing to avoid boredom in their learning initiatives?