Insights is a SmartBrief Education Originals column that features perspectives from noted experts and leaders in education on the hot-button issues affecting schools and districts. All contributors are selected by the SmartBrief Education editorial team.
More administrators and teachers are choosing technology specifically designed for developing learners. Why? Because when it comes to boosting student engagement, physical comfort matters — thus comfortable edtech matters. The more students can use technology that is made for them — and the classroom — the easier it will be for them to focus, participate and learn.
Nearly 3 out of 4 educators recognize that a student’s level of physical comfort while using edtech impacts their level of engagement in learning, according to a recent survey conducted by Education Week and Logitech. However, less than half of students are “very comfortable” physically with the technology they use in the classroom. That comfort gap has a lasting impact on learning environments.
Without technology built for growing minds and bodies, students may experience pain, fatigue and distraction. Students need products that will support their unique physical and cognitive development. Mainstream products often don’t do the trick. Considerations around the tangible features of products such as weight, shape or size are important, but so are the ways tools directly enhance learning by enabling creativity and minimizing distraction. Ensuring comfortable edtech tools can aid learning this way.
How to choose comfortable edtech tools
Administrators, teachers and leaders can introduce comfortable edtech for students by evaluating technology with an eye toward developing learners.
1. Find tools designed for students
Many tools are not designed with students in mind but they should be. Education leaders can start by looking for tools where companies have collected input from students, using surveys, focus groups, and testing, to inform their design. Incorporating the student perspective can identify unique needs students have because of their physical, cognitive and emotional development. Growth can impact where a student holds a stylus or the way they type. Recognizing these factors can make a big difference.
2. Choose tools that support ergonomics
As more classrooms adopt instructional practices that fit students’ learning needs, choosing edtech that supports students’ physical needs is another piece of the puzzle. Posture, grip with styluses or even the weight of products can play a role in whether students are physically comfortable. The good news is supporting ergonomics can often be as simple as selecting the right accessories for technology purchases.
3. Consider the impact of audio
Classroom noise has become a persistent but overlooked distraction for developing learners. Among students ages 8 to 10, high ambient noise leads to ‘significantly worse standardized test results.’ Younger students more quickly reach the limit of their cognitive load, which is the mental resources used in working memory to perform a given task. Noise can contribute to cognitive load, making it more challenging for students to complete an assignment, take an exam or listen to a classmate or teacher. This can be especially challenging in self-paced learning or flipped classroom environments. Finding edtech, such as headphones, that reduce noise and are the right fit can make sure all students can be heard and have the ability to interact with others.
4. Use technology to give a clear picture
In addition to being heard, everyone in a classroom should be able to see and be seen. Videos are becoming a more popular instructional tool, as teachers recognize their value in improving accessibility, enabling asynchronous learning, and connecting in hybrid learning environments. But when students can’t see a teacher, it can impact their learning. According to research, when instructors appear in videos and students can clearly see body language cues and eye contact, there is better student engagement. Choosing webcams and video conferencing equipment that emphasize a clear picture can decrease distractions.
As technology becomes a lasting feature of today’s classroom, paying attention to the needs of learners who are still growing will be more essential. When administrators and teachers choose technology that is designed for students, they will enable learners to feel supported, comfortable, more engaged and excited, no matter their developmental stage.
Grace Lee is the head of design for education at Logitech. Grace is a leader in design and is passionate about creating user-centric education products that delight students and teachers.
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.