“Do not watch too much TV or play too many video games because it will cause learning and attention issues!” Pre-pandemic, parents and teachers were encouraged to keep the screen time to a minimum. However, during these times of the pandemic, teachers are being told to keep the students online in synchronous learning practically all school day. Educators strive to make research-based decisions; therefore, I wonder what research there is to back up this new way of teaching our students who are not in school? I also wonder if the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects during these times with the necessity to have students online so much?
As a third-grade support teacher, I push into many online lessons. As the classroom teacher teaches away, sometimes I watch the students and observe what they are doing while they are listening to the lesson. These would be the students who bother to turn on their cameras because many do not. Needless to say, eight-year-olds can be super gross and/or super funny. The faces they make and the places they stick their fingers-incredible. The students become bored and tune out so quickly. It is very difficult to have a lesson flow and go well. As a reminder, the Learning Pyramid shows us what percentage of learning is retained through different modes. Teachers should also be keeping this in mind while planning online lessons. To make matters worse, getting students to participate online is difficult. They do not seem to want to answer any questions and they seem to be counting the seconds until they are excused from the online lesson. In their 2016 article Sharkins, Newton, Albaiz, and Ernest shared from their research,
“Some studies caution that children’s use of and exposure to media, technology, and screen time (MeTS) can lead to decreases in executive functioning (ability to attend to tasks), academic performance, quality social interactions with parents and peers, and creative play. In addition, MeTS has been shown to increase obesity, aggressive and violent behavior, bullying, desensitization to violence, lack of empathy to victims, fear, depression, nightmares and sleep disturbances.”
With all these negative results, it is clear educators and parents must work together to maintain a careful balance for our children. Education is important but of course, the children’s well-being is also. A child’s attention span is short and long lessons online are not enjoyed by the teachers or students. Besides, the likelihood students are actually learning something is doubtful, in my experience. It seems to me, teachers should provide a five to ten-minute lesson then have an activity or send the students off to be productive. In a recent Facebook forum discussion in the group, Instructional Designer, a member posed the question, “Max run time for video aimed at ages 8-15? Client thinks 20-30 minutes.” Over 100 comments were given and the consensus seemed to be five minutes or less- shorter is better.
Fred Rogers’ Center Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs (2012) stated “technology is effective if it is active, hands-on, engaging, empowering, and child controlled.” Teachers should plan their students’ screen time purposefully. For instance, screen time should be used to communicate and create. During this pandemic it is especially important teachers understand the lessons they are creating should be not only in the best interests of the students’ education but also their mental health.
One surprising bit of information I found was from Scherer (2014). He shared a statement from Steve Graham, a professor of education at the University of Arizona, “Word processing has also been shown to improve the quality of student writing over longhand, even in the early grades. From first grade to 12th grade, we have the same effects. It’s basically a 20-percentile jump.” As a child, I remember being told if you write neatly, your teacher will be more apt to give you a higher grade. Now I can switch that thinking over to wordprocessing. Students can do better writing through a keyboard than with traditional handwriting.
During the pandemic, alternative forms are necessary for educating our students. We have to keep our distance and keep everyone healthy. Online synchronous learning is an option we have chosen. Parents and teachers are struggling to give the children the best education possible under the circumstances. Teachers need to plan engaging activities and minimize teacher talk time. Students need to be active, creative, and hopefully happy and healthy. So much screen time is not the best for our children; however, we do not yet have a better alternative for educating during this pandemic. We are all in this together and in the end, we will come out knowing we have done our best.
Instructional Designer Facebook Group. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/groups/201308379891017
Scherer, M. (2014). The Paperless Classroom is Coming. Time. 184(15), 36. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tth&AN=98751183&site=ehost-live
Sharkins, K. A., Newton, A. B., Albaiz, N. E. A., & Ernest, J. M. (2016). Preschool Children’s Exposure to Media, Technology, and Screen Time: Perspectives of Caregivers from Three Early Childcare Settings. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(5), 437–444.