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Digital systems, such as phones, computers and PDAs, place continuous demands on our cognitive and perceptual systems. They offer information and interaction opportunities well above our processing abilities, and often interrupt our activity. Appropriate allocation of attention is one of the key factors determining the success of creative activities, learning, collaboration, and many other human pursuits. This book presents research related to human attention in digital environments. Original contributions by leading researchers cover the conceptual framework of research aimed at modelling and supporting human attentional processes, the theoretical and software tools currently available, and various application areas. The authors explore the idea that attention has a key role to play in the design of future technology and discuss how such technology may continue supporting human activity in environments where multiple devices compete for people's limited cognitive resources.
This chapter addresses how an attention-management system can provide personalized support for self-regulated learning and what the effects of this support are on learning. An attention-management system can provide personalized support by capturing and interpretating information from the student's environment. A framework is proposed that will interpret the information and provide dynamic scaffolding for the learner. The essential elements are diagnosing, calibrating and fading scaffolds to the context of the learner. An intervention model supports self-regulated learning processes. In two studies, we have found evidence that an attention-management system can effectively give form to dynamic scaffolding. Dynamic scaffolding has a small- to medium-sized effect on students' performance and a small effect on students' metacognitive knowledge acquisition.
E-learning has incrementally changed education in recent decades. Many new tools and instruments have been introduced to support existing educational practices. Yet only on a small scale have we seen transformative processes in schools. The large changes which have taken place in other sectors have not yet been achieved in education. This can partially be explained by the fact that e-learning solutions are not yet flexible enough to cater for learners' individual needs and demands. We see personalization in many sectors today, but education still seems to hold on to the ‘one size fits all’ paradigm, even though we know that personalized education is more effective than standardized education (Bloom 1984).
In recent years it has been increasingly recognized that the advent of information and communication technologies has dramatically shifted the balance between the availability of information and the ability of humans to process information. During the last century information was a scarce resource. Now, human attention has become the scarce resource whereas information (of all types and qualities) abounds. The appropriate allocation of attention is a key factor determining the success of creative activities, learning, collaboration and many other human pursuits. A suitable choice of focus is essential for efficient time organization, sustained deliberation and, ultimately, goal achievement and personal satisfaction. Therefore, we must address the problem of how digital systems can be designed so that, in addition to allowing fast access to information and people, they also support human attentional processes. With the aim of responding to this need, this book proposes an interdisciplinary analysis of the issues related to the design of systems capable of supporting the limited cognitive abilities of humans by assisting the processes guiding attention allocation. Systems of this type have been referred to in the literature as Attention-Aware Systems (Roda and Thomas 2006), Attentive User Interfaces (Vertegaal 2003) or Notification User Interfaces (McCrickard, Czerwinski and Bartram 2003) and they engender many challenging questions (see, for example, Wood, Cox and Cheng 2006).
Remembering planned activities, resuming tasks previously interrupted, recalling the names of colleagues, sustaining focused performance under the pressure of interruptions, ensuring that we don't miss important information…these are only a few examples of critical activities whose performance is guided by attentional processes. This chapter proposes that knowledge about attentional processes can help us design systems that support users in situations such as those described above. The first part of the chapter gives an overview of some of the essential theoretical findings about human attention. The second part analyses attentional breakdowns and how those theoretical findings may be applied in order to design systems that either help avoid attentional breakdowns or assist in recovering from them.
Current information and communication technologies concentrate on providing services to users performing focused activities. However, focused activity is no longer the norm. Users are often interrupted, they switch between the contexts of different devices and tasks, maintain awareness about the activity of distant collaborators and manage very large quantities of information. All this results in high cognitive load that may hinder users' overall achievements.
In order to address interaction in a more realistic manner, we have been working on the development of systems that are capable of supporting the processes that govern human cognitive resources allocation: attentional processes.