Bringing attention restoration theory to the classroom: A tablet app using nature videos to replenish effortful cognition

A. Moreno, S. Baker, K. Varey, R. Hinze-Pifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much of the research on the use of technology with young children in classrooms concerns whether programs or apps can be sufficiently interactive so as to produce learning outcomes similar to those achieved through teacher instruction and other contingently responsive interactions. The present report describes an effort to do precisely the opposite. That is, we created a technology experience intended to involve as little interaction and effort as possible, and which has no instructional purpose within the app itself. Using the principles of attention restoration theory (Kaplan [33]), we developed the Calm Spot app, which displays one, randomly selected two-minute nature video per usage, for the purpose of replenishing children's focused engagement in the subsequent live educational activities in their classroom. The present report has three aims: 1) To describe the theoretical model and technical features of the Calm Spot intervention, which includes a tablet app, physical space in the classroom, and teacher professional development program; 2) To present usage patterns and feasibility results from the first Calm Spot implementation within 115 kindergarten through second grade classrooms and approximately 2300 students in a high-poverty urban center within the U.S.; and 3) To explore, on a subsample of children (n = 414), whether Calm Spot usage was concentrated among students who need it most, i.e., those with initially greater self-regulation and academic challenges. Results indicated that a small majority of the sample (≈ 54%) used the Calm Spot regularly. In high usage classrooms, individuals with higher initial individual-level academic performance were more likely to use the Calm Spot, whereas in lower-usage classrooms individuals with lower initial academic performance were more likely to use it. Results are discussed in terms of implementation challenges, and the complexities of actualizing the benefits of a classroom component only intended to be employed on an as-needed basis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-21
Number of pages15
JournalTrends in Neuroscience and Education
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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