Screen Time and Elementary Students

If you use computers or devices in your classroom then you probably worry about Screen Time. What is screen time? How much is too much? How young is too young for screen time?

Photo by Firza Pratama on Unsplash

As a classroom teacher I think about screen time when planning my lessons. How can I teach computer skills and use technology without having students looking at a screen for too long? 

Let's start with my philosophy on technology in the classroom. Technology should not be used to 'teach' a topic. Technology should be used to enhance the teaching. What does that mean? Instead of using a site or and app to teach skills, I use technology to teach, and teach computer skills at the same time. I use the SAMR model as a guide to evaluate how I am using the technology.

And this is where my struggle with screen time begins. There are certain programs teacher must use in the classroom and these often have a time requirement, sometimes up to 90+ minutes a week. That is a lot of screen time on a substitution level program. Since I try to limit screen time in the classroom, I have to work around these requirements. How did I do that?

1. I am 1:1 with laptops. I carve out a 20 minute block of time that is for these programs. All the students work on the program they need during this time. I try to do this first thing so that the students get a break from the screen before we use it later. 

2. I don't always use a device in the learning centers. If I plan a lesson using the devices, they aren't used in the learning centers. EPIC! Books is a great alternative for students who need support during independent reading. But if a student has already been using a device, they need a break from the screen.

3. Planning! I l try to look at my lesson or activity using a device and make sure it is more than a substitution by asking a few questions: Is a device the best way to teach this? Am I teaching other computer skills at the same time? Am I using the device because I need a break? I use Google Slides a lot. For a lesson on shapes, students can learn to use the shapes drawing tool at the same time they are learning the shapes. The students are getting a math skill, shapes, and a computer skill, drawing tools, at the same time. 

4. Some days we don't use the devices at all. Yes, there are days when we don't use our laptops. Yup, I admit it. Some days the laptops stay on the cart, all day, resting those young eyes! It is just an important. 

Want to learn more about Screen Time? Check out these resources from Common Sense Media

Welcome to My Office

Welcome to my office. I’d offer you a seat, but I can’t get to my own right now.  

Show your office. I am sure they meant the office when it is neat and clean. However, this is life. This week I’ve had a huge book order from First Book arrive. This is about 2/3 of the order. My Demco supplies arrived today. Tomorrow night is our STEM family night, and I am doing Plastic Cup towers. Let’s now forget the on going weeding process. Thus the book cart. And the headphones that need a new home. And, And, And... 

Most items will be put away by the end of the week. Until then, this is it. 

I also have an office at home. It is fairly clean. Mainly because I misplaced a ring two weeks ago. Since I am notorious for taking them off while working, I cleaned my desk to look for it. 

The Dell monitor is new. I like working on a larger screen. I can scale the page to actual size. I get a true sense of placement and what the final page will look like. 

I may or may not put a Netflix show on the laptop screen while I am working. Right now I am rewatching Luther, so I don’t need it on a large screen. 

The ring was in the jewelry tray, just the wrong compartment. 

Yes They Can! Primary Students Can USE Technology!

Four years ago this district started a one to one laptop program. Teachers have to apply to get the cart. At the time I was teaching Kindergarten. I don't think very many people expected me to get the cart. But I did! I am teaching first grade now and every day they prove what I felt: Primary students CAN use technology!

Then came all the concerns:
    They can't use a trackpad
    They can't log in themselves, this districts uses a password that requires numbers and letters (at least one uppercase)
    They will drop them
    They will color, write, draw, etc... on them
    They can't do it

I will share how I addressed these concerns in my classroom.  I should also add, my school is high poverty, they don't have computers at home. It is also high ELL, with over 75% being dual language learners. 

Let's start with getting a laptop each day. They are stored on a cart and have to be plugged in to charge each night.

   This is key to the laptop use. I give my students a number, 1-18, and put it on their name tag. Each laptop has the number on the top, in a nice paint pen or chalk pen. The trays in the charging cart also have a number. My students use the same computer every day. They know where to find and where to put the laptop away. Bonus: The network will cache the profile meaning the daily login goes a little faster.  

The laptops stay on the desks. I have 4 desks pushed together, so the laptops go in the middle; leaving plenty of room to work. The students get their own laptop from the cart each morning. In the afternoon, the helpers for the day put the laptops away. It is less crowded around the cart. fewer students in one spot = less chaos.  

They know the plug isn't in all the way if the charging light doesn't come on. It is a great visual clue for them, and something they would pick up themselves. They are already learning to troubleshoot technology problems.