A 'wearable' educational tool that can be clipped onto a student's notebook and support them as they struggle to learn a concept.
What is it?
A ‘wearable’ educational tool that can be clipped onto a student’s notebook and support them as they struggle to learn a concept. At moments of frustration, the clip provides subtle encouragement to the student, motivating the student to persevere. On an environmental level, Grasp acts as a subtle beacon to the un-tapped educational resource of peers, aiming to destigmatize ‘not knowing’ and instead create a learning environment that supports collaborative learning.
How is it used?
Grasp is primarily used in a classroom setting, or any social learning environment where there are multiple students together. It can be clipped onto any notebook and, by monitoring pressure in a notebook (such as vigorous erasing, crossing something out, or banging with a writing utensil), Grasp understands when a student is struggling with a concept. It emits a comforting light pattern that reassures the student that this is ok—it’s all part of the learning process and their brain is slowly changing to learn the new concept—they should stick with the lesson and keep trying. The light pattern also serves as a subtle beacon to others in the class, a signal to collaboratively reach out and help explain a concept to their fellow student. At the end of a lesson, Grasp can be transferred to another notebook or clipped onto a student ID badge or even clothing.
What technologies does it incorporate?
The main technology in Grasp is a pressure sensor that registers a student’s writing and erasing in a notebook. A low-power transceiver allows each Grasp clip to also receive data input from nearby clips and communicate with them, nudging peers to reach out and help each other. For feedback, Grasp communicates subtle information back to the students through a series of LEDs. Ideally this small system will be optimally programmed for the lowest required energy. Our current prototype is running off a small coin cell battery, however, we envision that the system could potentially be powered by a few micro solar cells to maximize the life of the product.
How does it work?
Grasp aims to support students as they struggle to learn a concept, creating a positive behavior shift towards persevere and collaborative education. Grasp works through two main channels: subtle encouragement and peer-to-peer learning.
Channel 1: Subtle Encouragement
Education research has shown that success in school is not directly correlated with general intelligence. Rather, one of the most important factors to educational success is a student’s ‘grit’—i.e. how likely the student is to stick with a lesson and keep working until they have learned a subject and completed their work. Perseverance. Rather than let frustration cause a student to give up, Grasp aims to encourages a student to persevere. One of the most effective ways of shifting this behavior is simply to teach kids that their brain can change, and helping them to develop a ‘mindset for change’. In tests with students in the U.S., students were more likely to stick with a challenging subject after learning how the brain works and how it is constantly changing and making new connections (Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit, TED Talk). This is one of the central tenets of the Grasp philosophy. The initial packaging & introduction to the product educates students about the way their brain works and then Grasp continually builds on this concept. Each clip provides reassuring light feedback at times of frustration to remind students that frustration is just part of the learning process—their brain is still ‘on’, working to learn a new subject.
Channel 2: Peer-To-Peer Learning
Often we need more than just perseverance to learn something new, we also need guidance. In the current Indian education system peers are an un-tapped wealth of guidance for struggling students. In many schools, teachers are overburdened with large class sizes and illiterate parents cannot help at home. We observed that students are already helping each other (last minute homework completion before class, or teaching younger siblings at home). Grasp builds on this existing behavior, aiming to make peer-to-peer learning a fundamental resource in any learning environment. Indeed, explaining a concept is one of the best ways to learn a concept. By nudging a peer to reach out and help another, Grasp aims to destigmatize ‘not knowing’ and instead create a learning environment that supports collaborative learning.
How It Works
Grasp can be directly clipped onto any surface with an edge, though it is primarily designed to clip onto a writing surface, such as a notebook. Once clipped onto a notebook, Grasp registers pressure (such as vigorous erasing, crossing something out, or banging with a writing utensil) and translates this data into a measure of a student’s ‘struggle’ with the current lesson. This data is further translated into feedback through the LEDs along the spine of each clip in two modes: direct, subtle ‘Encouragement’, or a ‘Message’ that somebody nearby might need help. When in ‘Encouragement’ mode, Grasp emits different intensity and duration of feedback depending on the user’s level of struggle (and their history over the lesson, i.e. has the student been struggling a lot over the past few minutes, or is this just one moment). The behavior of the light also maintains a slight random touch that ensures the feedback is never 100% predictable, keeping the student intrigued. The basic principle, however, is that when Grasp is in ‘Encouragement’ mode, the student could possibly need some help and nearby peers can glance around the room, see an illuminated Grasp, and reach out to help that peer. A completely different pattern (ex: a different color) is triggered when a Grasp is in ‘Message’ mode. In this mode, nearby Grasps communicate amongst each other and message the student that somebody nearby is struggling and might need some help. This feedback should be one consistent pattern that never changes and can be clearly distinguished from the ‘Encouragement’ mode feedback.
The First Introduction
We envision that Grasp would become just another school essential, part of each school’s kit of uniform, notebooks, etc. Ideally Grasp would be introduced by a teacher as part of a lesson about the brain. Grasp would be introduced as a personal tool for each student as their brain learns and grows over the course of their education, and the initial packaging could also educate students about how their brain works and reinforce this initial learning. The teacher could also explain how educational it can be to explain a concept to a peer and set classroom guidelines that encourage peer-to-peer teaching (when not in a lecture). We envision that the cost of Grasp could be incorporated into annual school fees (and bought at a low cost in-bulk for a school), but then that each student (family) should pay some very small, nominal fee at the point when a student receives their Grasp to create a sense of ownership for each student. Perhaps students could even personalize their own Grasp.
Who uses it?
The primary users of Grasp are Indian students in Standards II, III, and IV (6-9 year olds). This is the age when Indian students start to fall behind the national learning targets, and it is also the age when students are developing their social skills. Many are shy to reach out to peers or express that they are struggling with a concept. Each Grasp clip has a direct, one-to-one relationship with the student who owns it, but then it can also be used in a wider sense by the peers in the surrounding environment.
Other people in the environment, including teachers & parents are secondary users and can use Grasp to learn additional information about how the learning process is going for a student.
Why does it help?
Grasp helps a struggling student by providing encouragement in moments of frustration and by nudging peers to reach out and help each other. Grasp increases self awareness and raises general sensitivities about helping your fellow peers. It builds a culture of collaboration and sharing of skills from an early age. Grasp also helps overcome the obstacle for a student of verbally expressing their frustration and challenges, allowing them to instead subtly signal their struggles to a peer.
Francesca Desmarais, Arunima Singh
These pages have been pulled directly from applications submitted to the Wearables for Good Challenge in 2015. They represent the work of the individual teams and have subsequently not been edited.