In recent years, the amount of time that children spend looking at screens has increased. For students doing online learning, these hours have increased even further. Because screen time can have negative effects, we need to be conscious of how much time our students using screens.
Kate Anderton says that “information has emerged suggesting that more than two hours of daily screen time can create a significant risk for problems with inattention and impulsivity, such as those seen in children with ADHD.” She also notes that “frequent exposures to rapidly-changing audio and visual bombardment” have been shown in animals to prevent the proper development of nerve tracks in the brain.
Luckily, there are many things that educators can do to use screen time in a positive and effective way for their students who are learning online.
Breaks and Asynchronous Learning
- Provide frequent breaks, including movement breaks
- Have them do assignments independently (asynchronous learning) offline before returning to the screen, especially for older students
- Time when students are working asynchronously can be useful as prep time for creating meaningful asynchronous activities, which can require extensive thought and effort
Collaboration and Connection
- Consider each family, their resources, devices, and time when planning activities and assignments
- Try to see students face-to-face online every single day so you can look in students’ eyes, check in with them, and provide emotional support
- Listen to student feedback carefully, since you do not have the usual classroom cues
- Consider ways to determine your impact as an educator from afar
- Collaborate with other teachers to share ideas, observations, and tips
- Be prepared to advocate for your students regarding the number of hours spent using screens
- Consider ways to ensure that students are staying on target with their learning and are learning in ways that are deep and meaningful
- Remember that the quality of instruction and learning matter more than the medium
- Consider your own experiences as an online learner or consider taking an online class to help you understand the struggles and frustrations your students may have while learning online
- Let go of the expectation that online learning will look the same as learning in the classroom, and make adjustments as needed
As you consider screen time in your classroom, keep in mind not only the benefits of using technology but also the effects it can have on the brains of students. Reviewing the research on technology use in education can help teachers to find the balance in their classrooms between the benefits of screen use and its downsides. Teachers need to be informed by educational neuroscientists, not by technology companies who are motivated to emphasize only the positives of technology use. As teachers, we care about our students’ learning and this is exactly why we should turn to educational neuroscience before making decisions about technology in our classrooms.