Now You See It
How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century
"As scholarly as [it] is . . . this book about education happens to double as an optimistic, even thrilling, summer read." —The New York Times
A brilliant combination of science and its real-world application, Now You See It sheds light on one of the greatest problems of our historical moment: our schools and businesses are designed for the last century, not for a world in which technology has reshaped the way we think and learn. In this informed and optimistic work, Cathy N. Davidson takes us on a tour of the future of work and education, introducing us to visionaries whose groundbreaking ideas will soon affect every arena of our lives, from schools with curriculums built around video games to workplaces that use virtual environments to train employees.
Attention blindness is key to everything we do as individuals, from how we work in groups to what we value in our institutions, in our classrooms, at work, and in ourselves. It plays a part in our interactions with inanimate objects like car keys or computer screens and in how we value—and often devalue—the intelligence of children, people with disabilities, those from other cultures, or even ourselves as we age. It plays a part in interpersonal relations at home and in the ofﬁce, in cultural misunderstandings, and even in dangerous global political confrontations.
For the last decade, I’ve been exploring effective ways that we can make use of one another’s blind spots so that, collectively, we have the best chance of success. Because of attention blindness, we often arrive at a standstill when it comes to tackling important issues, not because the other side is wrong but because both sides are precisely right in what they see but neither can see what the other does. Each side becomes more and more urgent in one direction, oblivious to what is causing such consternation in another. In normal conditions, neither knows the other perspective exists. We saw this in the summer of 2010 when an explosion on the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sent nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Some people reacted to the environmental disaster by wanting all offshore oil drilling banned forever. Others protested about the loss of jobs for oil workers in the area when the president of the United States declared a six-month moratorium on oil drilling to investigate what had gone so disastrously wrong. It was as if neither side could see the other.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can learn how to share our perspectives, we can see the whole picture. That may sound easy, but as a practical matter, it involves ﬁguring a way out of our own minds, which as the gorilla experiment so perfectly demonstrates, is a pretty powerful thing to have standing in the way. Yet with practice and the right methods, we can learn to see the way in which attention limits our perspectives. After all, we learned how to pay attention in the ﬁrst place. We learned the patterns that convinced us to see in a certain way. That means we can also unlearn those patterns. Once we do, we’ll have the freedom to learn new, collective ways that serve us and lead to our success.
What does it mean to say that we learn to pay attention? It means no one is born with innate knowledge of how to focus or what to focus on. Infants track just about anything and everything and have no idea that one thing counts as more worthy of attention than another. They eventually learn because we teach them, from the day they are born, what we consider to be important enough to focus on. That baby rattle that captivates their attention in the ﬁrst weeks after they’re born isn’t particularly interesting to them when they’re two or twenty or ﬁfty because they’ve learned that rattles aren’t that important to anyone but a baby. Everything works like that. Learning is the constant disruption of an old pattern, a breakthrough that substitutes something new for something old. And then the process starts again.
This book offers a positive, practical, and even hopeful story about attention in our digital age. It uses research in brain science, education, and workplace psychology to ﬁnd the best ways to learn and change in challenging times. It showcases inventive educators who are using gaming strategy and other collaborative methods to transform how kids learn in the digital age, and it highlights a number of successful innovators who have discarded worn-out business practices in order to make the most of the possibilities difference and disruption afford in a new, interconnected world.
"In her galvanic new book, Ms. Davidson, one of the nation’s great digital minds, has written an immensely enjoyable omni-manifesto. Rooted in . . . rigorous history, philosophy and science, this book . . . doubles as an optimistic, even thrilling, summer read.” — Virginia Hefferman, New York Times
"A remarkable new book Now You See It offers a fresh and reassuring perspective on how to manage anxieties about the bewildering pace of technological change. . . . Her work is the most powerful yet to insist that we can … manage the impact of these changes.” — Anya Kamenetz, Fast Company
"The author takes us on a journey through contemporary classrooms and offices to describe how they are changing—or, according to her, should change. . . .Now You See It is filled with instructive anecdotes and genuine insights."
— Mark Changizi, Wall Street Journal
"Her book 'Now You See It' celebrates the brain as a lean, mean, adaptive multitasking machine that — with proper care and feeding — can do much more than our hidebound institutions demand of it. . . Davidson is such a good storyteller, and her characters are well drawn." — Christopher Chabris, New York Times
— Christopher Chabris, New York Times
“Davidson has produced an exceptional and critically important book, one that is all-but-impossible to put down and likely to shape discussions for years to come.” [Top 10 Science Book, Fall 2011]
— Publishers Weekly
“Humorous, poignant, entertaining, endearing, touching and challenging. It is a book I would happily recommend to anyone engaged in teaching at any level … It is devised to convince readers that the human mind is ready for the next quantum advance into our collective future.” — Steve Wheeler, Book of the Week, Times Higher Education
— Steve Wheeler, Book of the Week, Times Higher Education
“Practice Collaboration by Difference: This idea is stolen directly from Cathy N. Davidson's marvelous book, Now You See It. . . .If innovation is our goal then we must pay careful attention to the diversity of the people around our project tables.” — Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed
“A preview of the future from an educational innovator... it is becoming clear that our minds are capable of multitasking to a degree far beyond what the 20th-century assembly-line worker or middle manager was trained to do...[Davidson's] points are worth pondering.” — Kirkus
“There is an emerging consensus that higher education has to change significantly, and Davidson makes a compelling case for the ways in which digital technology, allied with neuroscience, will play a leading role in that change.” — William Pannapacker, Chronicle of Higher Education
“[Davidson] makes a provocative case for radical educational and business reforms. . . . Davidson's call to experiment with digital schemes that turn students and workers into motivated problem solvers rings as clear as a bell atop a little red schoolhouse." — Bruce Bower, Science News
“The book's purpose and strength are in detailing the important lessons we can glean from the online world. If Davidson is right, 21st-century society will move away from categorizing people based on standardized tests, which are crude measures of intelligence at best. Instead we will define new metrics, ones that are better aligned with the skills needed to succeed in the shifting global marketplace. And those who cannot embrace this multidisciplinary world will simply be left behind.”
— Brian Mossop, Scientific American
“Davidson's claim that mono-tasking (the idea that a person can focus on one single task at hand) is an unrealistic model of how the brain works, seems strikingly persuasive. Davidson also calls for a reform in education . . . [that] helps kids become multitasking, problem-solving thinkers."
— Sophie Duvernoy, LA Weekly
“The technological changes around us are of unprecedented proportions... In this book Cathy Davidson integrates findings from psychology, attention, neuroscience, and learning theory to help us get a glimpse of the future and more importantly a better understanding of our own individual potential." — Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational
— Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational
“Now You See It is simply fantastic. Only Cathy Davidson could pull off such a sweeping book. It is about so much more than just education or even learning. It is about a way of being. Her book and stories are incredibly important for the true arc of life learning and for constantly becoming!" — John Seely Brown, author of A New Culture of Learning
“Cathy Davidson has one of the most interesting and wide ranging minds in contemporary scholarship, a mind that ranges comfortably over literary arts, literacy, psychology, and brain science... Her ambitious and timely book is certain to attract a lot of attention and to catalyze many discussions.” — Howard Gardner, Harvard University
"One cutting edge of educational practice is participatory learning…and one frontier of brain research is what is happening to our attention in the always-on era. Cathy Davidson is a natural to bring together these neuroscientific and educational themes." — Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and Net Smart
— Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and Net Smart
“Now You See It starts where Malcolm Gladwell leaves off, showing how digital information will change our brains. Think Alvin Toffler meets Ray Kurzweil on Francis Crick's front porch. We need this book.”
— Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs
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