APR Update: Oops, I Wasn't Paying Attention

by Deborah Gentry, Ed.D., CFLE, NCFR Academic Program Liaison
CFLE Network
Content Area
Human Growth and Development Across the Lifespan

A clever little book crossed my desk recently. Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd (2011) is a parody of the children's classic Goodnight Moon (Brown, 1947). A faculty colleague, who facilitated a campus discussion group on the book Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age by Maggie Jackson this semester, gave it to me as a gift. To me, it offers some truths. I can benefit from powering down my gadgets sooner each evening, as well as putting them aside more often throughout the day. My gadgets can distract me. Here are excerpts from the book's beginning and ending.

In the bright buzzing room
There was an IPad
And a kid playing Doom
And a screensaver of--
A bird launching over the moon
There were three little Nooks
With ten thousand books
And a huge LCD
With Bose 5.1,
Six remotes, and 3-D…….

Goodnight LOLs
Goodnight MP3s
Goodnight LCD Wi-Fi HDTV
Goodnight remotes
And Netflix streams,
Androids, apps,
And glowing screens
Goodnight plugs
And power lights
That guide us to pee
In the darkness of night
Goodnight buzzing
Goodnight beeps
Goodnight everybody
Who should be asleep
Goodnight pop stars
Goodnight MacBook Air
Goodnight gadgets everywhere

Aspects of early childhood growth and development have been the primary focus of this issue of Network and, thus, in this column I want to explore ideas for designing and delivering instruction addressing the third CFLE content area Human Growth and Development across the Lifespan. As a refresher, the Handbook for Academic Program Review Application states the following with regard to this content area:

III. Human Growth and Development across the Lifespan

Content: An understanding of the developmental changes (both typical and atypical) of individuals in families across the life span based on knowledge of physical, emotional, cognitive, social, moral, and personality aspects.

e.g., Research and theories related to: Prenatal; infancy; early and middle childhood; adolescence; adulthood; and aging.

Practice—A CFLE is prepared to:
a) Identify developmental stages, transitions, tasks, & challenges throughout the lifespan

b) Recognize reciprocal influences

1. Individual development on families
2. Family development on individuals

c) Recognize the impact of individual health & wellness on families

d) Assist individuals & families in effective developmental transitions

e) Apply appropriate practices based on theories of human growth & development to
individuals & families

As has been mentioned in previous columns I have authored in CFLE Network, one purpose of these curriculum guidelines is to provide a foundation for faculty as they design or redesign a course to fulfill this content area. From my experience as CFLE APR Liaison, academic programs with an "approved" designation typically attend to this content area in one of two ways: A singular, comprehensive course that covers human growth and development across the entire lifespan OR a combination of multiple courses that each focus on a different stage of the lifespan such that, when all are completed, the entire lifespan has been addressed.

Most every column having to do with curriculum and/or instructional design that I have written in the past has also touted the work of L. Dee Fink on the subject. His highly regarded book, Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, has recently been updated and revised. According to Fink, course design processes involve formulating course objectives and student learning outcomes; identifying the nature and scope of crucial content; determining the best ways to deliver instruction and at what pace; selecting reading and other resource materials; developing meaningful learning activities for students (both in and out of the classroom); and devising various methods and tools for measuring students' mastery of relevant knowledge and skills. A syllabus is a document of primary importance for a course in that it outlines all of the design features the instructor has thoughtfully and purposefully chosen.

Book study groups on my campus involve reading, critiquing, and discussing a particular book. Additionally, facilitator and discussion group members alike share other related resources (e.g., articles, video clips, cartoons, reviews, etc.) as well as their own observations and experiences. This was very much the case when Distracted was recently the book of choice. For example, we found interviews with author Jackson on the Internet and watched parts of Frontline's documentary Digital Nation. Here is an excerpt from the jacket of this well-researched book:

In this new world, something crucial is missing: attention—the key to recapturing our ability to connect, reflect, and relax; the secret to coping with a mobile, multitasking, virtual world. Distracted vividly shows how, day by day, our hyper-mobile, cyber-centric, interrupt-driven lives erode our capacity for deep focus and awareness. The long-term implications for a healthy society are stark…Attention is the building block of intimacy, wisdom, and cultural progress. If we squander our powers of attention, our technological age could ultimately slip into cultural decline. And yet, we are just as capable of igniting a renaissance of attention by strengthening our skills of focus and perception; the keys to judgment, memory, and happiness.

Participants of book study groups on my campus are also encouraged to ponder applications to the courses they teach and seek feedback from each other as they draft plans for new lessons and learning activities. So it was for me as I participated in this recent book study effort. I thought of applications for Content Area III courses. Here are a few I came up with.

  1. For any growth and development course, use the first day or week when course policies and practices regarding the presence and use of cell phones in the classroom are addressed as a teachable moment. Show a segment of Frontline's Digital Nation documentary that best addresses the impact of multitasking in class. The first part, entitled "Living Fast" has some feature segments that could be helpful. Consider utilizing these insights as a rationale for your expectation that students power down and put away their cell phones, computers, and/or tablets unless you specifically call for use in order to carry out a purpose-driven, content related task, such as conducting a quick information search or engaging in a poll [Poll Everywhere].
  2. For early childhood, young child, and adolescence related courses or sections of a comprehensive course, have students read scholarly works, watch documentary video segments, and/or listen to an invited guest presentation about the impact using new technological gadgets appears to be having on brain development. Have students search out point and counterpoint positions regarding evidence that the brains of "digital natives" are being "rewired" by such use and the possible consequences. Have students analyze the opposing viewpoints individually, in small groups, or as an entire class. (Note: Frontline's Digital Nation kicks off with three segments that address brain "wiring" and development issues.)
  3. Via readings and other means, expose students to information about when and how habits and addictions are formed. They should also delve into the impact bad habits and addictions have on individual and family well-being. Have students search for current perspectives regarding whether or not some teens and adults are becoming addicted to electronic gadgetry. Discuss various options for countering bad habits and treating addictions.
  4. Utilize, in part or full, Distracted as a supplemental reading for a course. Four or five other course relevant books could be combined with Distracted for purposes of a "literary circle" assignment. Once formed, small groups of students choose one of the specified books to focus on. Over the course of the term, each student in a given group reads the selected book. On three occasions, class time is used for group members to gather together to, in a semi-structured way, discuss facets of the book (Gentry, n.d.). Either each student or each group can conclude the experience by preparing a review of the book. An example review of Distracted prepared by students at a Midwestern university is referenced at the close of this column.
  5. Assign students to observe young children, age 2 to 6, from a Friday at 4:00 p.m. until the following Sunday at 10:00 p.m. and record in written notes the kind, frequency, intensity, and duration of the children's interaction with electronic technology (e.g., that noted in Goodnight iPad). Ask students to summarize and share their findings with classmates and, after some class discussion--which could well include comparison and contrast with course content, compose a written reflection of new insight and application to personal life and future career.

Each time I prepare a column for this newsletter, I am intrigued by the idea of how many and who may read it and, in turn, what their reactions will be to it. Few people contact me in response to a column. I certainly would be pleased if some did — you can email me. Tell me what other instructional applications have come to your mind on this subject. In closing, let me say that while writing this piece, my cell phone rang twice, the landline phone rang once, a UPS deliveryman knocked on the door when leaving a package, a nearby tablet buzzed multiple times indicating a new email message had arrived, and I was tempted to use my Life360 app to see where my husband was in his journey to and from a faraway destination. I did my best to not be distracted and to remain focused. I had only moderate success.


Brown, M.W. (1947). Goodnight moon. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers.

Dretzin, R. (Producer). (February 2, 2010). Frontline: Digital nation. [Documentary]. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation. Recording retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/us/

Droyd, A. (2011). Goodnight iPad: A parody for the next generation. New York, NY: Blue Rider Press.

Fink, D. L. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gentry, D. (n.d.). Literary circles. [Discussion and reflection activity]. Retrieved from Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars, Teaching Family Policy webpage http://familyimpactseminars.org/index.asp?p=2&page=tfp_activassign

Jackson, M. (2008). Distracted: The erosion of attention and the coming Dark Age. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Pinshower, P., Mara, M., Latham, S., & Ericsson, K. (Producers). (2010). A 21st century interpretation of a book also written during the 21st century. [Video class project]. Normal, IL: Self. Retrieved from http://students.english.ilstu.edu/kaerics/eng239/final_project/video_content.html