February 15, 2023

6 Things You Can Do To Ease Educator Cognitive Load

Erica Hartman
An illustration of a teacher sitting on a couch with her laptop

As a former teacher turned CTO, I always look at edtech from a teacher lens. My passion is automating tasks to make the end user’s life easier, whether that’s creating a data dashboard for educators, implementing a single sign-on for students, or building a community Wi-Fi program for families to remove roadblocks to accessible and equitable education.

One thing I hear constantly is the need to take things off of teachers' proverbial plates. Simply removing tasks and responsibilities is not feasible and is essentially a short-term solution to a long-term challenge. We need to go beyond removing “extra helpings” of educational fare to thinking more about easing a teacher's cognitive load. 

Teachers come to the classroom with so many things on their minds, from personal to professional. When you are the most critical component of a child’s education and your to-do list starts to look like a Cheesecake Factory menu, critical support is needed. What if we could reduce some of the teachers’ cognitive load by providing edtech tools that help them work smarter, not harder? 

Thomas Arnett, senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute, says it best: 

“When selected and implemented strategically, edtech allows teachers the capacity they desperately need and deserve to focus on instruction that can accelerate learning and spend time building supportive relationships with their students. In other words, edtech used efficiently can help teachers use their time, attention, and energy in new ways to make a bigger difference for their students.”

Here are some points to consider to help lighten an educator’s load:

  1. Don't be platform happy

When you choose a platform, stick to it. Give teachers time to learn, use, and refine it. Share best practices and success stories, and listen to challenges where teachers could use more support and resources. Initial implementation and training can be cumbersome. Learning and mastering edtech platforms takes work. It requires focused attention. Imagine learning a platform, feeling confident about using it (in front of a very judgy audience — students!), and having it ripped away and replaced with an expectation to master a new platform in a matter of hours. Sadly, this happens more often than you would think. 

Include educators early in platform procurement pilots and conduct focus groups with students and teachers on end-user experience and efficacy.

  1. Clone the teacher

Provide students with a virtual tutoring tool that reviews essays before submitting them to the teacher and allows students to ask for support in various content areas on demand in multiple languages with a service like TutorMe. Provide teachers with tools like GoGuardian Teacher to create screencasts and record lessons and lectures students can access asynchronously.

  1. Automate tasks

Give teachers a system like GoGuardian Teacher that allows them to preload tabs and content for students and save educational “scenes” of content for reuse and sharing with fellow teachers.

  1. Provide teachers with actionable, easy-to-analyze data 

Tools like Edulastic can provide critical information, which is used to create just-in-time instructional opportunities. Schools are awash in data, so the key words here are actionable and easy. It shouldn't take a Ph.D. and several hours of data manipulation to determine what students know and where they need additional support. Less time spent building assessments, grading them, and sorting through data means more time focused on lesson planning and student outcomes.

  1. Give access to varied standards-aligned content and assessment items

Teachers are amazing content and assessment creators and highly skilled at tailoring lessons to their learners’ needs. However, providing teachers with access to trusted, high-quality content and curriculum-aligned assessment items allows teachers to optimize the time they spend with their students and shortens their planning time. Providing teachers with vetted resources that are easily accessible can ultimately prevent teacher turnover.

  1. Implement after-hours coverage to students via virtual tutoring 

Virtual tutoring gives teachers time to disconnect and reset in the evenings.Tutoring also levels the playing field for students and allows educators to progress through their curriculum knowing their students won't be left behind.

Ease tech fatigue and cognitive load

Adopting tools and platforms that aid teachers in their work while lessening cognitive workload helps you show support for valuable educators and improve student outcomes, lessening burnout and creating a better classroom experience for everyone.