I cannot sit and listen to someone deliver information to me in lecture style for very long at this point. My ability to get information from the internet, switching from subject to subject at my earliest discomfort and getting it all in text seems to have ruined me for the old method. Text can be skimmed, reviewed, or held down for examination at will. Going to a 60 or 90 minute lecture many times a week for school now seems inconceivable to me. I was never good at it any any stage of my academic career, but I could at least endure it.
But perhaps not. I can recall clock-watching and tuning out well back into elementary school, and the classes I remember as intersting were math classes where we had problems to work or humanities classes where there would be at least some discussion. Teachers who let me read, write, or daydream – that worked, too. Okay, so maybe I’m not any worse at this now. It sure seems it, though.
I am less enamored of sound in general, which I imagine is part of it. I seek silence more often. I take a break from group conversation more readily. That is likely hearing-related. Though I hear folks just fine, it may be that I am losing some frequencies, destroying nuance and giving everything a blaring sound.
I have opposite impressions listening to a speaker. The first is that s/he is trickling information out too slowly, larding up with normal conversational speech filler such as qualifiers and repetitions; the second is that too much information is being imparted – new subjects introduced late in the game. This would suggest some storage problem is at the root. I can automatically structure an auditory lesson into some workable package, but once that structure is full, or new information does not fit neatly into its design, I cannot absorb more. People continuing to speak actually interferes with learning at that point, as they increase the noise-to-signal ratio. It becomes physically tiring to listen to them, straining to pick up content important enough to be attached to the scaffolding. It’s not just sermons (though no one should be going longer than fifteen minutes at this point), because I have the same impression at Grand Rounds or department meetings, with and without Power Point or handouts. Very quickly, there is not enough that is new in the speaking to attract the ear. I get annoyed. The lecturer clearly thinks that something new and important is being delivered, but it sounds like a minor elaboration to me. The mental tiredness is similar to what I experience when listening to someone with a heavy accent. One has to listen very hard, but one does not get much back.
When I have to teach, I hope it is not like that for my audience. I fear it may be. I find even professional speakers on video – presumably selected in Darwinian style for higher interest and ability – tough to listen to. Maybe my standards are just too high for speaker quality these days and I’ve gotten spoiled. Maybe I’m just getting more stupid as I age.
I have attempted at times to switch to a note-taking style, without much success. How in the world did they listen to three-hour sermons in the old days? Were they more patient, or just so understimulated during the week that the novelty gave them wings?