A recent New York Times article entitled “Your Brain on Computers” looked into our ability to focus when multitasking (conclusion: you can’t really focus intensely one one thing when you have more than one thing going on, i.e., doing homework while listening to music and texting your friends.). Most interestingly, the article includes two activities that allow you to test your focus and attention.
The first activity is called “Test Your Focus” and you have to determine whether the red rectangles have rotated. Blue rectangles are tossed into the mix as distractions. The second activity is called “Test How Fast You Juggle” and you are presented with a number and a letter and have to determine whether there are vowels or consonants and even or odd numbers. (The juggling is information, not objects). It sounds simple. It isn’t, and it illustrates the fact that our brain tries to focus acutely on a single task.
In the classroom
If you have an interactive whiteboard, both of these activities would be valuable experiences for students, particularly those in high school who will swear they are hardwired to do many things at once. The article itself is a good way to begin the lesson, with the activity driving home the point about needing to keep our focus uncluttered. If your students are of driving age, this lesson should also include discussions about driving and texting.