Over the last year, the recommended screen-time guidelines for young people (like you!) in North America have changed. The recommendation used to be that kids should only spend two hours a day in front of a screen, but the new guidelines aren’t about strict time limits. Instead, they ask that families discuss screen time together.
There are a lot of reasons for this change, but one of the biggest is that technology is becoming a larger part of today’s classroom. Asking you to spend only two hours a day in front of a screen won’t work if you’re spending four hours with one at school, right? (We all deserve a little me time with a screen, after all…)
New generation, new world
Many parents can still remember a childhood before computers, where TV was a reward after homework and chores were completed. Now screens are not only in classrooms, but many students have their own devices, too. You can understand why some adults would feel a little anxious.
But for young people in school now (hands up, anyone born after the year 2000!), technology like smartphones and tablets are just a part of the world. Should schools reflect that?
We interviewed four teachers to get their thoughts! Check out their interviews below. But first: Credentials, please…
- Jeff Szpirglas, Teacher Gr. 2, 4-6, and children’s author
- Diana Maliszewski, Teacher/Librarian
- Diana Hong, Teacher Gr. 4/5
- Denise Colby, Centrally Assigned Teacher (Gr. K-12)
Are you using tech regularly in your classroom?
DM: Yes, but I do not use "tech for tech's sake." I make it purposeful.
DH: Our students have never known life without mobile phones, tablets, and computers. As an educator in the digital age, I feel obligated to provide a learning environment that prepares them for the current workplace.
JS: I use tech in the classroom for a variety of reasons. I've really started to embrace Twitter as a tool for students and parents. Technology is also hugely helpful as an aid [for students] when writing.
Can you give us some examples of the types of tech you are using?
DM: Last year, my Grade 1–4 media students made YouTube videos to teach other students the definition of media in multiple languages. To complete this project, we used various apps/programs (StoMo, iMovie, Movie Maker, other stop motion animation tools, WeVideo, etc.).
DC: My last class loved having all their work on Google Drive. They were able to find and organize their work easily and collaborate on projects at home and school.
What are the benefits to using tech in the classroom?
DH: Most students see technology as a learning tool. The novelty of having iPads in the classroom has worn off, and they're more mindful of how technology can help, or hinder, productivity.
DM: My students are proud of their accomplishments. I heard a Grade 4 student bragging to a new student that he had made a film that was on YouTube. The boys and girls are keen to see how many hits their YouTube video has—some are convinced they are going viral.
JS: Students will help each other out to solve problems in order to duel each other [within a learning game]—I've been fascinated by this social and collaborative aspect of play that comes out of students working on computers.
What are the drawbacks?
JS: There are challenges. Research, for example, is always tricky when students have trouble casting a good search string on Google, or another search engine. They may not know how to read the content, or even understand if a website is reputable or not. Because I teach in a primary classroom, I'm not typically dealing with the challenges of students using social media in the classroom.
DH: There are, more often than not, more students than devices in the classroom. But we all find ways to tackle that challenge by borrowing from neighbouring classrooms, or using activities that allow all students a go at using the devices for their tasks.
DC: When tech doesn't work, students can become discouraged quickly. One strategy I used to address technology frustration was to create a 'trouble shooting' anchor chart. Sometimes solutions were concrete, like restarting the computer. And sometimes they were more perseverance-oriented like, take a walk and get a drink (in response to what to do if a computer is taking a long time to start up). Either way, it gave students agency for solving common problems.
DM: Often we teachers expect that, because students have been exposed to technology all their lives, they can use technology purposefully. That's not true. Students need to be taught how to think critically about the tech tools they use and the information they find online in this era of "fake news."
Now it’s time for your thoughts!
And there you have it. How do YOU feel about technology in your own classroom? Do you use it enough? Too much? Do you have a favourite program for learning?
We’d love to hear about it!