Ensuring a learning environment working for – not against – the learner.
GUEST COLUMN | by Gaurav Bradoo
In the rapid growth of edtech, one element has been ignored. Today’s tools often are not designed with the learners in mind. The result is a disconnect between what schools have to accept and what they actually need to keep students engaged. We see this first hand when we spend time in classrooms with educators and students to understand the unique challenges and opportunities of today’s education landscape.
Recognizing the Comfort Gap
The right edtech can help students and teachers see and be seen, hear and be heard, and collaborate more effectively. But when unique aspects of learning, such as the physical development of students, ergonomics, and classroom environment are ignored, technology can lead to student fatigue and pain. Research shows that as many as six in ten students report discomfort during laptop use.
‘The right edtech can help students and teachers see and be seen, hear and be heard, and collaborate more effectively.’
The majority of educators recognize the importance of physical comfort in learning. Recently, Education Week and Logitech partnered to survey over 1,000 district leaders, principals, and teachers about the effect of edtech in the classroom. Among teachers alone, 74% said students’ level of physical comfort while using edtech impacts their level of engagement. At the same time, only half of the educators surveyed said their students are physically “very comfortable” with technology they use in the classroom. The difference between the discomfort students experience when using technology and the significant impact tools have on engagement is the comfort gap — and it’s creating barriers in education.
In part, the comfort gap is a supply issue. As districts and schools adopted technology, for many their only choice was to repurpose tools available to the general public. The opportunity to invest in and implement products that are made intentionally for students has been scarce. The process has led to a mismatch between tools and learners, with few alternatives for educators.
Finding the Right Tools
As viable options in the education market increase, it is possible for districts and schools to find technology that truly considers students’ needs. When they do, they will reap the full benefits of edtech. It starts with considering the unique needs of students, including:
- Student growth and development – When evaluating edtech, decision-makers should not ignore students’ physical, cognitive and emotional development. The ways a seven-year-old, a seventeen-year-old, and a thirty-seven-year-old use and interact with technology are significantly different. Growth may impact everything from how students sit or grip a stylus to the strength of their fingers to push buttons on a keyboard. In the Education Week and Logitech survey, 16% of high school teachers and principals say their students experience back pain or fatigue when using edtech. Even features that may seem small — the position of a keyboard or the grip of a stylus — can make a big difference.
- Ergonomics –Very few education decision-makers think about ergonomics. According to the same survey, only 5% of school and district leaders who influence edtech purchasing say that ergonomics significantly impact the hardware accessories they buy. When ergonomics are ignored, it can lead to discomfort and hurt engagement. Students need accessories like mice and keyboards that support good posture for growing bodies. They also require products that fit their level of motor skill development. Tools that are heavy or awkward to hold exaggerate the comfort gap.
- Classroom environment – Contemplating the environment where learning is occurring is also a key layer to design. For example, the volume of an average classroom regularly hits 77 decibels. By contrast, the World Health Organization recommends classroom sound levels not exceed 35 decibels. Classroom noise can take a toll on students, including leading to significantly worse standardized test results. There is a need to minimize ambient noise created by technology or from students using technology. Headsets can reduce noise, increase engagement and help students be better understood by edtech apps.
Technology is a powerful addition that can increase student engagement, personalize learning, and open new levels of creativity. But to fully realize its benefit, schools and districts need education-first tools. That means considering every detail — from the color to the fit — to ensure edtech is working for students and educators, not against them.
Gaurav Bradoo is the Head of Product and Portfolio of Education at Logitech. Frequently sharing his knowledge in podcasts and at conferences, he is an advocate for designing education products for and with students as a way to boost student engagement and outcomes. Connect with him on LinkedIn.