CPA: If you don’t have it your students probably do!

Finding a new word or phrase that so perfectly captures an idea is always exciting. My best find over the past few weeks has been CPA: Continuous Partial Attention.

Of course one problem is that this isn’t really a new phrase-it’s attributed to former Apple and Microsoft employee Linda Stone, who says she came up with the term in 1997. I spent a very interesting 24 minutes listening to the audiocast of her discussion of this whole idea. Here’s some of what she said about how we operate in the anywhere/anytime/anyplace/always on world.

Stone started her audiocast by asking some very interesting questions about the impact of technology on our lives. She says that CPA isn’t a positive or a negative aspect of living in the 21st century-she calls it an adaptive behavior that is really “post multitasking”.  Stone says that multitasking came about from a desire to be more efficient.  I don’t know about you but I’ve patted myself on the back more than once when I manage to multitask without messing up any of the tasks. Stone goes on to say that continuous partial attention is motivated by a whole new desire-the desire to be a “live node on the network.”  Media specialists spend a lot of time on the concept of time management. Stone says this:

Managing time is all about lists, optimization, efficiency, and it’s TACTICAL.  Managing attention is all about INTENTION, making choices as to what DOES and DOES NOT get done, and it’s STRATEGIC.  Managing time is an action journey.  Managing attention is an emotional journey. (

Wow! I really love the idea of seeing attention as “the most powerful tool of the human spirit” (also from Stone’s wiki). It certainly gives me some new ways to think about how to manage my own attention and how to work with students whose world view is all about CPA.

Other sources:

Word Spy definition with some relevant quotes

How the Google Generation Thinks Differently

(Some) Attention Must Be Paid

Continuous Partial Attention–Not the Same as Multitasking

I hope everybody’s school year gets off to a great start and that you manage to devote more than a little of your attention resources to doing some new and exciting Web 2.0 things to reach our learners where they live on the network node!

Judi Repman, Georgia Southern University


Posted on August 18, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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