How might we help students with ADD to concentrate
on reading tasks?
Reading assignment isn’t a straightforward task for everyone. 1 in 10 American students has attention deficit disorder (ADD) and they have problems with staying focused, organizing their thoughts, and remembering details; which impacts reading comprehension. It makes learning by reading difficult and time-consuming. ADD is especially hard on high school students because the amount of reading increases drastically at this age. This ends up damaging students' confidence and sense of self-reliance, which leads to poor academic performance since reading is required in all subjects. How might we help students with ADD to concentrate on reading tasks?
Ground Control is a tablet application that encourages students with ADD to stay on track and transforms reading into an empowering experience. Through an integrated note-taking system and haptic feedback, this digital reading environment helps students identify and quickly recover from distracting behaviors. It can be adapted to match each individual student’s pace and preempts frustrations through peer-generated sharing and assistance. With Ground Control, students strengthen concentration and build awareness around their reading habits and become more confident learners.
1. Activity Timer
The first feature that student-user see when using the app is the TIMER. Setting a time for how long you want to dedicate to one activity creates a sense of commitment and, therefore, develops the practice of concentration. Also, timing the reading helps to break down a long activity into small chunks and makes it feels more achievable. Breaks goal encourages readers to take breaks as a reward after they are committed for 30 minutes. It also sustains brain productivity and prevents distraction.
2. Focused Interface

Most textbooks are designed to fit the biggest amount of content on one page which can be overwhelming to students with ADD. They even get anxious and jump ahead some lines, which hurts their reading comprehension and motivation to continue on the reading. The Ground Control interface is designed specifically to help focus a reader on smaller chunks of text.  It converts traditional academic layouts into an uncluttered grid, and showing only a few paragraphs per page. This makes the text more manageable, and if they get distracted they immediately know where they were on the page.
3. Highlighter
Students with ADD find switching activities helps them stay productive and most ebooks highlighting text takes so many steps. But with Ground Control, students can highlight words by just dragging her finger on the text. This ensures she’s paying attention and actively engaging with the reading. If they want to remove a highlighted sentence, they just swipe back.
4. Organized Mind Map
The mind map lets her organize her thoughts into a visual flow and mapping content is very helpful to keep readers active. Students hold down a highlighted word, and drag and drop it into a category. The color coding helps her to organize her thoughts while reading, retain new information, and makes it easy to review for tests.
5. Peer Assistance
In case high schoolers are struggling to understand, Ground Control helps them to by showing other student-users’ highlightings and encourages to make their own highlights. This prevents readers from giving up during reading in case their struggle.
6. Distraction Alert
Students told me that they usually space out in their own thought and only realize it several minutes later. When students haven’t touched the screen for more than a minute. The app realizes and prompts users to check in. If they don’t respond, the app emits an alert to call back their attention. Once they have refocused, students can categorize the event that led them to distraction because learning what distracted us is crucial to change our behavior.
7. Report
As students use Ground Control, the app collects data and generates a report where shows how long they take to read a page, what distracts them and how it impacts their reading ability. By building self-awareness, students become a more confident learner.
Categories: User Research, Product Design, Ed Tech, Inclusive Design
Time scope: 8 months
Role: Solo Interaction, Product, UI designer, and Researcher
Advisors: Kelly R. Saxton (Research and User experience Designer in Ed Tech), Eric Forman (SVA), Graham Letorney (SVA, Shutterstock)
Tools: Sketch, Principle, Invision studio, and Photoshop.
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