Recently I was leading a session around technology in the classroom when a teacher inquired, "Don't you worry about screen time?" It's a smart question. One I think a lot about. However, I'm not sure the question is "How much screen time?" instead I wonder if we should be asking, "What kind of screen time?" For example, yesterday was a day with a lot of 'screen time' for me. I woke up early and wrote a post for this blog, read a book on my phone as my husband drove us to Bowling Green, and spent time creating a list of meals for break. The reading and writing I could have done in paper formats, but I prefer to do both digitally.
As a classroom teacher I think there are different kinds of screen time. Even pediatricians are rethinking screen times as our world changes. When I see students work to make video book trailers, digital responses to their reading, or share their process in solving a math problem, I see that as a different kind of screen time. When students are creating a digital composition, reading an eBook, or connecting with experts around the world, I see that as a different kind of screen time. In my mind, tasks that could be done on paper and pencil, but the learner has chosen to work digitally as they learn, are a smart use of screen time. Digital tools create new opportunities for us to create, connect, collaborate and work purposefully in new ways.
When I'm asked this question, "What about screen time?" I do pause. What about it? Recently someone forwarded an article about student learning which included an image of every student working on an iPad at the same time. I wondered about choice when I saw the photo. These were young children, and while there may be times everyone is on a device, I couldn't help but wonder: What were they doing? Was everyone completing the same task? How long did they spend each day on devices? Did they have opportunities to work with paper, markers, scissors, and paints? Did they have choice between a variety of tools across their day? Did they have time to collaborate and talk together about their learning?
I'm excited about new digital possibilities. As someone who uses digital tools to create, learn, collaborate, and connect, I continually find new ways to work purposefully that weren't possible years ago. However, I want digital tools to remain a choice. I hope to create opportunities in which students can determine their purpose, choose their tool, and work with intention. However, I'm thinking the question is less about "How much screen time?" and more about creating balanced learning opportunities for our students. When thinking about technology use with my students I think about:
- Who is deciding when technology will be used?
- Is technology one choice among other tools in the classroom?
- Are students using technology to work in ways that weren't possible before?
- Are students working with intention as they make choices about their learning?
- Are students using technology to connect with others and create new learning opportunities?
- Is technology growing their learning community?
- Are students using technology to amplify their voice?
- Are students using technology to create and grow their thinking?
- Who is doing more work: the device or the learner? In other words, who owns the learning: the teacher, the application, or the student?
- Is technology balanced with realtime conversation, play, and other activities necessary for continued growth and development?
What are the questions you consider when thinking about screen time? How do you help balance opportunities for your students?
You Might Like:
Technology's Impact on Children's Brains
Debate Continues as to How Much 'Screen Time' Kids Should Have with Devices
As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learning, Margaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog: DigiLit Sunday. Stop by Reflections on the Teche.