In the late 1990's, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons came up with a selective attention test. You can view it here;
You can learn more about this test here, http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/ .
In the modern day classroom, how often do we notice the gorilla moving around our room? The term teacher "withitness" refers to a teacher's ability to be aware of everything that is going on in their classroom, both visual and non-visual, verbal and non-verbal. Jacob Kounin first used the term in reference to his work on teacher group management skills. Students have coined the saying, "my teacher has eyes in the back of their head" to refer to this often innate teaching ability. It is believed that the more "withit" we are as a teacher the more effective we are at maintaining a positive classroom climate conducive to learning.
Why is this the case? It is my belief, that teachers, who are aware of everything happening around them can keep students on task and involved, are fully engaged in the learning of the children; they rarely take a moment to themselves during a lesson. These committed educators are constantly moving around the room, coaching, facilitating, scanning, probing, counseling and collaborating with students. Furthermore, when the students see that these teachers are immersed in their learning, they believe these teachers care and thus they care too!
As more and more classrooms move toward 21st century learning and the infusion of technology into the learning process, what impact does this have on teacher "withitness"? My initial opinion to this question is "nothing". The "withit" teacher is still going to be fully engaged in the learning process and reflectively aware of everything that is going on in the classroom. Before one-to-one laptop programs, the"withit" teacher was aware of every note passed under a desk, every student that was starting to doze off asleep and/or every child that was not feeling "quite right" and needed a little extra TLC. Yet, in the 21st century classroom, I am hearing about and seeing more teachers sit at their desk doing other things, disengaged from the learning of their students. Or worse yet, some face-to-face schools are purchasing programs like SynchronEyes, to allow teachers to monitor what is happening on the screens of their students from their desk instead of taking the opportunity to engage in student learning by moving around the room, asking questions, coaching, facilitating and getting to know their learners.
I believe that 21st century learning can give students the opportunity to engage in learning opportunities that were not possible a few years ago, but not at the expense of teacher engagement. If we start to foster disengaging habits, like sitting at our desk for long periods of time, we are going to miss the gorilla in the room!