"The attention span of human beings is now less than that of a goldfish..."

Do you agree? See if you can last to the end of the article for the facts....

About a year ago, I started production of my final film for university. It was to be an animated piece and the goal was making it something that I would be proud to look back on. Things were progressing, albeit slowly, but there was a looming prospect over the horizon and its name was Adobe Flash.

For those who don’t know, Adobe Flash is one of the quintessential animation software tools available online. It’s a pretty amazing piece of kit that some people have used to create incredible works of art, but it also can be immensely frustrating to use. Drawing felt restrictive and cumbersome to me and I was not confident I could produce something that looked good with the tools provided. After using it frequently in college and again in my later years in University, I was dreading using it again.

Back in my college days I enrolled in a crash course in Photoshop that showed me the basics on how to use the application. It was my first real experience of e-learning and I left feeling all the better for it. It became my go-to for creating digital art and it wasn’t long before I learned that you could create animations with it as well. The problem was, I didn’t know the first thing about animating on Photoshop. Glancing through the glut of tutorials on the subject, I felt uneasy about whether I would find one that I would learn anything from. Many guides I’ve watched have lost my attention within minutes, so I was hoping I would find something that showed me how to go about the animating process.

In retrospect, I think this brought to my attention how bad my attention is. From a personal stand point, if I have questions needing answered and the solution doesn’t present itself right away in a video or written article or comment thread, I tend to close out the tab immediately, searching for somewhere else that might have a more upfront approach. This is a pretty bad habit on my part, but it is almost instinctive and I’m aware that I might find the answer if I stuck around for five minutes or so.

According to a study by Microsoft Corp., the attention span of human beings is now less than that of a goldfish. Since 2000, the increase of screens that we have with us at any one time has shortened our concentration to around 8 seconds, compared to 9 seconds for goldfish. (1) This most likely explains why some e-learning out there fails to grab the attention of the viewer, although I understand everyone responds differently. According to Gallup research, however, in 2014 only 31.5% of U.S employees were engaged with their work, with younger workers being the least engaged overall. Overall a “majority of employees, 51%, were still ‘not engaged’ and 17.5% were ‘actively disengaged’ in 2014 (2).

In my line of work, despite willingness to learn new skills and develop myself, there are times where I click out simply because it doesn’t resonate with me and there’s no consequence if I do. If I don’t connect to e-learning from an artist’s point of view, it only means I’m potentially missing out on some useful tips and guides on improving my art. I can come back to it. I can try again elsewhere. There is just little consequence to not taking part in it.

In education however, it’s (mostly) compulsory. In schools across the world, technology is implemented in the classroom.

Out of 89% of who download mobile phone apps – 50% are for educational purposes (3).

Videogames such as Sim City and Minecraft are being used as teaching tools to engage kids in a range of subjects (4) (5). In the midst of its renovation, Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland replaced many of its old exhibits with new e-learning experiences. Children can interact with many of the exhibits now at the click of a button and learn new things while doing so. So why not bring some of the joy we see in educational e-learning, into the adult world? It has to be fun, or it fails.

As we keep improving technology and integrating it into our learning and development, the question comes up. Will our attention spans get shorter? Kids grow alongside the technology and are more involved with the online world than ever before. Is it a blessing or a curse? Only time will tell. In the end of my search for tutorials on Photoshop, I found one that was everything I was looking for; it was fun and engaging. In one hour I had learned the basics of animating within Photoshop and in the end produced a film I was happy with. I was incredibly fortunate to find a tutorial that worked for me. I’m glad that I triumphed over the goldfish.

By Rob Small

1) http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/

2) http://www.elearninglearning.com/2016/statistics/?open-article-id=5800899&article-title=7-statistics-that-prove-mlearning-is-essential-&blog-domain=growthengineering.co.uk&blog-title=growth-engineering

3) http://www.elearninglearning.com/2016/statistics/?open-article-id=5800899&article-title=7-statistics-that-prove-mlearning-is-essential-&blog-domain=growthengineering.co.uk&blog-title=growth-engineering

4) http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/08/glasslab-launches-educational-simcity-version-for-fighting-pollution/

5) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-35341528