We are pleased to unveil more details today about Focusable—a new tool to find focus and develop your optimal learning experience. Focusable is in private Beta with a plan to open to public Beta in August 2022. During and after Beta, it will be free for teachers and students. Paid plans for advanced user and institutional applications will come later this year.
We live in an attention economy. Each year, the world gets more and more gamified to retain your attention. We find ourselves in an all-out war to control our own attention—struggling to recover from constant dopamine depletion. The pandemic has only accelerated this, and if anything, given us a glimpse of what the future may bring.
Control of attention—or more specifically focus—is the foundation of all human progress, productivity and joy. And as we have started losing this war, we are seeing how the loss of focus affects society at large. To preserve a positive future for humanity, we must prepare our next generation for this challenge. We need to teach them the skill of focus.
Here at Swivl (makers of Focusable), we have a history of innovative classroom tools. They have been used in hundreds of thousands of classrooms around the world. And like everyone in our position, we’ve been trying to make sense of the impact of the pandemic and what that means towards the future of education. But like everyone, we have had a hard time seeing the forest through the trees. Things have been…messy.
Without the clarity of forests, we just started tinkering.
While we were tinkering, we also were dealing with our own substantial changes. Our work shifted from in-person to fully remote. And while we were able to do this with relative ease, we still had challenges. Technology overload strained everyone. Being on Zoom for 8+ hours a day is exhausting. And we could feel it pulling at our ability to focus on work and perform as a team.
Many of us started turning to mindfulness and self-regulation techniques to help find focus. Meditation. Breathing exercises. Cold showers (yes, this is a true story). Lo and behold, they helped. And it isn’t just us, the scientific support for these activities is growing daily.
One day while we were tinkering with yet another remix of our existing tools, it dawned on us. What if the methods we were using to self-regulate could be built into learning tools themselves? Meaning, instead of self-regulation being explored as a side project by creative teachers—build it directly into the learning experience.
That was the day Focusable was born.
At its core, Focusable is a productivity tool. But it is unlike any other productivity tool you’ve ever seen, much less any other learning tool. It includes learning documentation, assessment and social tools you need to support any learning activity, combined with tools to help self-regulate, find focus, and progress towards an optimal learning experience (i.e.; Flow in structured learning).
How it Works
For each learning activity, students start a Flow. A Flow is where all the tools are contained to construct their own personalized learning experience. The first tool you encounter in a Flow is a timer. All activities in Focusable are timed in short increments. This helps build awareness of how time gets spent and emphasizes a focus on the process, not the outcome.
Students document their work as timers conclude and set new goals with Bursts, 3 rapid-fire images of you or your work paired with 30 seconds of audio.
After a deep breath, students return to work.
At any time during work, on-demand self regulation activities are available to manage stress, anxiety, or just the normal struggles that come with finding focus. The Beta version of Focusable includes breathing and visual exercises, but there are many more on the way!
You can encourage and assess with tags, and engage in asynchronous and live conversations within the Flow to promote immersion in the learning activity. Immersion is one of the clearest signs of optimal experience, and we’ll be exploring ways to further promote and understand when it occurs.
When students are done, Flows get wrapped up into interactive visualizations that both show how work has progressed, and how it has progressed relative to others in classes or workgroups. The visualizations are designed to show how learning activities change student brains—a way of priming them for a growth mindset.
How to Use It
The beta version of Focusable is ideal for any independent learning activity that requires focus by students, ideally from third grade and up.
This includes examples like independent reading and writing, book studies, homework and projects.
We’ve honestly had to ask ourselves, what activity couldn’t benefit from at least 5 more minutes of focus? As we progress through our Beta, we’ll surely learn about many more that do.
And we’re already working on broadening Focusable’s capabilities to enable group work, both in and outside of class.
Even though the product isn’t publicly available yet, there is a part that we think you can already use—the name. You see, we chose the name Focusable for a reason. We’re big fans of mindsets, but not just grit and growth mindset. The broadest definition of a mindset is a belief that can change how you experience the world. And your beliefs can affect you at all levels, right down to your DNA.
At one point in our process of discovery, it occurred to us that the skill of focus could also be considered a mindset. That if you believe you are focusable, perhaps you are. Or, perhaps you are more so than you were before. So we picked this name in order to provide our users with a regular mindset intervention without even clicking a button within the service.
Interested in clicking buttons too? We’d love to work with you as a Beta tester. Sign up from our homepage.