Home' Teacher : May 2011 Contents FEATURE -- SCHOOL DESIGN & SUPPLY 55
The best compromise is to accommo-
date the majority of students. The height of
the chair, in relation to the student and the
height of the desk, is the most important
factor in correct posture; so try to have a
range of chairs in different sizes, preferably
with height-adjustment mechanisms.
In practice, although price will inevitably
be an important deciding factor in a school's
furniture choice, u nlimited resou rces are
not necessary for a healthy ergonomic envi-
Adjust the chair and table so that the stu-
dent's elbows are at the same height as the
desk with feet flat on the floor.
For a shorter student, this may mean that
his feet do not touch the floor; in this case,
a footrest needs to support his feet to keep
the thighs parallel to the floor.
Adjust the height of the computer moni-
tor so that the top of the screen is level with
the student's eyes.
The mouse and keyboard should be posi-
tioned close together and in front of the
student. They can be pushed back from the
edge of the desk to allow the forearms to
rest on the desk to allow the student's neck,
shoulders and arms to relax more. Centre
the letters of the keyboard, not the entire
keyboard, in front of the student.
The student's upper arms should be close
to the body and relaxed; her wrists should
be at a neutral position, level with the fore-
arms. Her head should be balanced on her
neck, not tilted forward or back, with her
chin neither tucked in nor stretched for-
ward. One good posture involves the stu-
dent forming 90-degree angles in the posi-
tions: between her shoulder, hip and knee;
between her shoulder, elbow and wrist; and
between her hip, knee and foot.
Students like to collaborate. If possible,
cluster workstations together so students
can work collectively.
As a teacher, be aware of where you
stand and move, and where you position
whiteboards or projection screens. If you
want students to see you, position you rself
where they can see you and their computer
screens at the same time.
Knowing how to sit at a workstation in a
way that prevents strain on neck and shoul-
der muscles and the spine is essential to
avoid injury. Thoughtful workstation set-
up, good computer work habits and posture
awareness are simple, low-cost, effective
ways to minimise the risk.
Take regular breaks Make sure that
you r class takes a few moments every 20
minutes to stop what they're doing, stand
up and stretch to restore circulation,
relieve tense muscles, and break up peri-
ods of inactivity.
Take micropauses Students generally
type in bursts rather than steadily. Between
bu rsts, students should relax their hands,
resting them straight and flat.
Vary tasks Set diverse types of work to
avoid students experiencing long periods of
repetitive movements and stressful postures.
Use shortcuts Encourage students to use
keystrokes rather than the repetitive action
of using the mouse, trackpad or joystick,
which puts strain on hands and wrists.
Set an example You don't have to say 'sit
up straight' -- in so many words. Do encour-
age students to sit tall with back straight,
head straight, shoulders relaxed and both
feet flat on the ground. Discourage crossed
legs. Sitting correctly, there should be a
curve in the small of the back.
Let them complain Be on the lookout
for signs of computer-related injury in stu-
dents: warning signs include pain, tingling
or heaviness in the neck, shoulders, back,
arms, elbows, wrists or hands.
Tech up Working at a computer can be
hypnotic, so several companies have devel-
oped software that can monitor how much
you've been using the computer, prompt you
to take rest breaks and to stretch, provide
postural advice and suggest exercises.
Laptops are fundamentally an ergonomic
challenge because they can't be adjusted for
individuals: the keyboard, pointing device
and monitor of a laptop or tablet computer
are integrated in one unit, so it is more dif-
ficult to maintain a comfortable posture
that doesn't strain the neck, shoulders, arms
and hands. For most primary school chil-
dren the smaller size of the keyboard and
closeness of the keyboard and monitor actu-
ally gives them a better posture than using
a desktop computer setup for a tall child
or adult. However for older, taller children
it is impossible to get a good posture with
a laptop -- but using an external keyboard
and mouse gives the child the flexibility to
put monitor and keyboard in positions to
encourage good posture.
Encourage students to set up laptops fol-
lowing similar rules to those used for desk-
top computers. To minimise strain, laptops
should be used on tables or desks, rather
than actually in the lap. Using laptops away
from desks can be a good way to allow some
different, good, postures to be used and to
give some variety, as long as the laptop pos-
tu re follows the guidelines.
Encourage the same safe work practices
for use with a laptop as for use with a desk-
top computer. Ensure students take frequent
breaks, stretch, use keyboard shortcuts and
are aware of the importance of their posture.
iPads and iPods
Touchscreen devices such as smart phones
and iPads are being used by some schools
and are used by many children. These devices
have similar problems to laptop computers,
and the small screen ones should only be
used for short periods. iPads and electronic
books usually result in poor neck postures
-- like when reading any small book. Typing
into touch screens may also be more stress-
ful than normal keyboards but research on
this is currently being conducted.
Straker and his colleagues plan to develop
child-, parent- and teacher-friendly versions
of the guidelines this year, and to make these
freely available on the internet.
For references, visit http://research.acer.
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