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

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