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4 Ways Technology Can Reduce Physical Pain for Students

TMCnet Feature

September 13, 2013

4 Ways Technology Can Reduce Physical Pain for Students

By Drew Hendricks

From 2004 to 2010, the numbers were in and back pain was shown to be on the rise for students from elementary to college level schooling. That may be why the American Occupational therapy Association launched a campaign to make students more aware of the consequences of overloading backpacks. A backpack should weigh no more than 10-15 percent of a person’s body weight or it could cause severe problems with posture over time.

The sad fact is that, while a majority of students are aware of this, few take the steps toward relieving that pressure. It seems technology will be leading the way, helping to lighten the load while keeping students productive.


A tablet with a keyboard means less weight to carry for a student, and it’s increasingly becoming a viable strategy. Apps like Evernote (News - Alert) enable students to record lectures, take notes manually, or record a snapshot of a blackboard for later recall. Tablets can receive e-mail, run chat programs and browse the Web. 

As use of interactive whiteboards increases, tablets give students the ability to follow along without lugging around stacks of notebooks. By eliminating the need for the spiral notebook, tablets help give students more mobility without dragging them down.

Digital Textbooks

Digital textbooks are a new concept currently being toyed with by textbook manufacturers. It’s still in its infancy, but students will eventually be able to review customized lesson plans that supplement the teacher’s instruction in class. Interactive examples will help students grasp complex problems, and Flash tutorials help teach simple processes like multiplication or a scientific experiment.

This technology will all but eliminate the need for a backpack. Students will be able to carry a tablet that can download instructional materials, highlight important concepts, and materials that are personalized to the lesson plan of the teacher.

Tangible Computing

Pioneered by the technicians at MIT (News - Alert), tangible computing associates objects with computational concepts. Put another way, students that interact with objects also manipulate data. In young children, we see this kind of behavior with things like Lego’s Mindstorm set. The Mindstorm sets are small, programmable pieces of hardware that children can use to create robots. Children are also able to program commands, like how to walk or how to respond to objects.

Tangible computing may also help ease back pain by getting kids moving around more. Students who may not be able to properly communicate the back pain issues they face can use tangible computing to help relay some of that information to physical therapists like Mahir Reiss who specialize in back pain. In the future, the “Internet of Things” may be able to relay statistics about how students sit through a desk, and correct for posture.

Communication Apps

Applications like Skype (News - Alert) represent a small step forward in learning. In the business realm, Skype connects professionals. In the classroom, Skype and its ilk allow students to learn and build things together from anywhere on the planet. This means that more students will interact with students across the globe, but in the future it may cut down on in class instruction time.

Aside from a heavy backpack, uncomfortable “one size fits all” seating can contribute to poor posture. Freeing students up to pursue their work outside of the classroom will ultimately lead to less stress on the back.

Technology may not play a direct role in decreasing student back pain, but as more of our technology becomes wearable and accessible, students will find themselves carrying the tools to productivity on their person.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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