Tech in schools, how much and how often?

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As you know we have started our campaign to have cell phones put away for the day in middle schools but today let’s have a conversation about non-cellphone computers in schools—all the computers, iPads, Chromebooks and such.

The question is not should computers be in schools but for what use and how often, and how much.

For what use:

Clearly, there are lots of ways students use computers in schools, such as doing research, designing the school newspaper, creating presentations, and more. What do your kids and students find most useful, interesting, and impactful? When I talk to students and ask about the things they do in class on screens that they find really interesting, they often tell me about the videos they watch as a classroom--interesting stories and such. They tell me about using Quizlet and searching on Google.

The Education Week Research Center just did a survey of 500 principals, assistant principals, and school deans. They were asked their opinions about the use of technology both in and out of schools. 56% of those surveyed said they believe paper and pencil are better for learning new math skills. And 88% said that screens are best used for conducting research and investigating a new subject. What do your kids and students think?

How often:

Knowing how much students should use computers in school is a hard question to answer. The legislature in Maryland recently passed a bill requiring the Department of Education and the Health Department to develop best practices for safe use of digital devices in schools. 

Some of the ideas Maryland is considering are to have students take breaks from the computer, say every 20 minutes, and requiring that student’s devices be left in the classrooms during breaks. Natasha Singer writes in The New York Times:

“Several pediatricians warned that heavy digital device use in schools or for homework could have unintended physical and emotional consequences for students, including vision problems, interrupted sleep and device compulsion. In particular, they noted that some classroom learning apps used powerful, video-game-like reward systems to engage and stimulate students, making it difficult for some children to turn them off….So far, however, there is little concrete evidence on the potential health effects of digital learning tools for students.”

For this week’s TTT, let’s talk about the best use of as well as the appropriate amount of screen use in school. Here are some questions to ask your kids to get the conversation started.

  • What do you think is the most innovative thing you do with technology in your classroom?

  • Do you think using the technology is helpful for learning? Do you think it ever gets in the way of your learning?  

  • What types of health problems do you think you can have from all the time you spend on screens—neck pain, posture, eye strain?