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Sussex student creates fidget spinner which tells lecturers when students are bored

Putting a new spin on the fidget spinner

A new fidget spinner app, designed by a University of Sussex student, will tell academics when their students are getting bored in their lectures.

Production design student, Jade Gidney, created the app called Cadence which measures the amount of fidgeting that goes on in the lecture hall to help lecturers know when students are becoming disengaged and restless.

Cadence works by giving each student a hand-held device at the beginning of each lecture which they will play with in their hands more and more if they are getting distracted.

A screen will be displayed to the lecturer which indicates the collective level of fidgeting in the room; if three red dots appear on the display then action will need to be taken to regain students' focus on the topic being taught.

Jade says: "By using Cadence, lecturers will have a much better idea how much of their teaching is being taken in by their class. If they are teaching to a class that is totally disengaged then it's wasting their time as well.

"Cadence opens a two-way street of communication with students expressing their lessening attention through fidgeting while lecturers can respond to that and find ways to regain the focus within the room."

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Jade with her fancy fidget spinner

The 21 year old student sat in a number of lectures to observe students' fidgeting and then tested prototype wireless devices, inspired by worry stones and fidget spinners which are both worked between the hands to relieve anxiety, dating back to the Ancient Greeks.

Dr Sophie Forster, a Psychology lecturer at the University of Sussex, said: "Research shows that fidgeting tends to increase over time in lectures, as mind wandering also increases, and that fidgeting is associated with poorer recall of the lecture.

"As a lecturer myself, I think it would be useful to be able to review afterwards which points in the lecture were associated with high fidgeting and potentially look at introducing short interactive activities at those points to re-engage attention."

Jade is now looking to work with psychologists at the University of Sussex to establish a study measuring the potential of Cadence to improve attention and knowledge retention within a lecture.

While Cadence is a useful educational tool, Jade added that it could be adapted for a number of wider applications: "I could see Cadence being used in schools for pupils with special educational needs which could give teachers a better understanding of their fidgeting and the intensity of their fidgeting, which can be indicative their mental state.

"It could also be used in film screenings to establish at what points of a film the audience’s attention drops, or in waiting rooms to give nurses or employers real time data on the levels of impatience, nervousness and restlessness.”

Lecturers beware!