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Attention Probes

In Net Smart: How to Thrive Online Howard Rheingold advocates bringing mindfulness into our classrooms and online activities via "attention probes." I've documented a few here.

Mindful breathing

Use an alarm to take one minute to simply follow your breath; that's all you have to do. If your mind wanders, that's okay, note that it wandered and kindly bring your attention to your breath.

When completed, did you notice if your mind wandered? Where to? Food, stress, your gadget?

Online intention

Prior to going online set an intention for your online activity (e.g., "I'm going online for 10 minutes to look up something we discussed in class yesterday.") Set an alarm; when it expires, take note of what you were actually doing.

Laptop limit

Only five people may have their laptops open at any given time; if someone else wishes to use a laptop, they must ask another person to close their own.

Monkey mind

When a designated person randomly rings a chime, write down what you are thinking (anonymously) on a yellow post-it if it is relevant to what we are discussing, orange post-it if it is tangentially related, or red post-it if it is totally unrelated.


Determine N, the number of people in the room. The group must collectively count from 1 to N with each person speaking only once, without overlapping with another, and not permitting more than a second of delay between speakers. (Otherwise, start again at 1.) It is surprisingly difficult.

Give it a try a few times, then try again with everyone's eyes closed.

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