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A little forethought around ergonomics can go a long way toward making students happier, healthier, more focused, and more engaged.

How ergonomics impacts student success


Schools can investigate these ergonomic best practices to improve comfort for students, both in the classroom and at home

Key points:

Students are spending more and more time using digital devices, both in and outside of school. In fact, the amount of time teenagers spend in front of screens per day for entertainment alone is equivalent to that of someone with a full-time job!1 While those numbers might be lower for younger children, when in-school technology use is factored in, the total time adds up quickly.

Almost three-quarters of educators believe that physical comfort while using edtech has an impact on student engagement.2 And, over half of students report discomfort when using laptops3. Ergonomic problems are likely contributing to discomfort and sapping engagement in today’s schools.

The good news is that adopting a few simple habits, making some minor adjustments to the learning space, and choosing edtech designed with ergonomics in mind can make a big difference for students, boosting their engagement, well-being, and motivation. So, here are some of the ergonomic best practices schools can adopt to improve comfort for students, both in the classroom and at home.

Take a break

Taking breaks–even short ones 4–has been shown to help reduce stress and end-of-day fatigue, and to increase concentration and engagement.5 For example, educators could set a timer to remind students to get up, stretch, move around, relax and talk to one another for a few minutes before resuming learning, or integrate breaks organically between changes in subjects or activities. It may seem counter-intuitive, but regular breaks could help students stay engaged and learn more effectively throughout the day.

Be kind to your eyes

Just like the rest of our body, our eyes need breaks, too–frequently! Eyes work best when they’re taking in information in 3D, and from a variety of distances. But, working at a screen means that eyes are absorbing information in 2D and from a fixed distance, making them work harder. Over time, this can lead to discomfort, making it more difficult for students to concentrate.

To give eyes a well-deserved break, try implementing the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, have students look at something 20 feet away (something happening outside, or even just the other side of the classroom) for 20 seconds (enough time to hum the chorus of their favorite song). This can help eye muscles relax, preventing the onset of eye fatigue, especially during long screen sessions.6

Designating a student to be in charge of eye breaks for the day, or for a certain activity, can also help give them a sense of responsibility and ownership over their learning.

Lift it up

On average, the human head weighs about 12 lbs, and our spine, neck, and shoulders can easily support that weight–as long as we’re looking straight ahead. But when we look down–for example, at a laptop or tablet sitting on a desk or in our lap–our head tilts downwards by about 10-15 degrees. That may not seem like much, but with gravity it means that our neck and shoulders now have to support about double that weight! And, the lower down we look, the more weight they’ll need to support.7,8 While students’ heads might weigh less, their spines and muscles are also smaller and still developing, so the additional strain is still likely to be felt.

The solution to avoiding these potentially harmful downward neck postures is simple…lift the tablet, or laptop, up whenever possible or practical–for example, when watching videos or reading. Tablet cases with built-in stands are a good first step, but lifting the tablet or laptop up so that the top of the screen is at eye level–for example, using a laptop stand, or even just a pile of books–is even better. With the head and neck in a more neutral position, students are likely to be more comfortable and will be able to better focus on the content and learning. For even more ergonomic benefit, try keeping the screen about an arm’s length away to decrease eye strain.

Think ahead

Ergonomic changes could mean the difference between student engagement and disengagement. And ergonomic demands change from one activity to the next. For example, students doing activities like sketching or note-taking on a tablet might benefit from a stylus designed to fit different hand sizes and support different levels of motor skill development, creating a more comfortable and more effective experience than using a stylus designed for adults or their finger. Similarly, headsets optimized for smaller heads can help students hear without discomfort or the worry that the headset will fall off or shift if they move around, allowing them to focus on their task.

And, it’s important to remember that ergonomic demands can change from one activity to the next–while a tablet flat on the table may be appropriate for sketching or note taking to avoid awkward wrist and hand postures, it should be supported on a stand and lifted up to eye level for watching videos or listening to audio content to relieve strain on the neck and shoulders.

Considering what different students are doing most often and when lets educators adjust the solutions they offer to suit those activities. Making learning with edtech comfortable is easy once you know what to do, and a little forethought around ergonomics can go a long way toward making students happier, healthier, more focused, and more engaged.


1 The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/report/8-18-census-integrated-report-final-web_0.pdf

2 Logitech and EdWeek Research Center. (2022) The Ergonomics Equation. Logitech. https://www.logitech.com/en-us/education/education-center/whitepaper/ergonomic-equation.html

3 Harris, Courtenay & Straker, Leon. (2000). Survey of physical ergonomics issues associated with school childrens’ use of laptop computers.International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-8141(00)00009-3

4 https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190312-the-tiny-breaks-that-ease-your-body-and-reboot-your-brain

5 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/brain-research

6 https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/computer-usage

7 Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25393825/ 

8 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2014/nov/24/text-neck-how-smartphones-damaging-our-spines

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