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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Should there be screen time in the classroom?

This is a question that has been coming to my mind often this year and I keep pushing it to the back and continue on. It is not that I want to ignore it, I believe this is a valid question and one that I debate in my own home as well as the classroom, but I am not sure there is just one answer.  I was reminded last week by Bill Ferriter as he spoke at a district workshop, that using the tools available to us (what many refer to as technology today) should be about good teaching and what is best for students.  I try to be cognizant of this as I plan lessons and provide my students choices (to some extent) in the activities they do, ways they show their learning,  and where they work/who they work with. It is not about creating lessons for the latest tech tool, but rather which tool will best support the learning and connections of my students.

My students are 6 years old. They are energetic (13 boys / 7 girls). They are active. They can be loud. They are creative. They are impatient. They are sweet. They are demanding. They love to learn! They deserve to be provided the opportunity to learn in a way that is best for each of them in each circumstance. Often, but not always this involves using a screen of some sort.

  • We practice letter formation on the iPads, but we also practice on personal white boards and paper

  • We listen to authors and illustrators tell about their trades online, again we also look at paper books and have real authors/illustrators visit (though usually only once per year as it can be difficult to arrange)

  • We communicate with other classes to share our learning on google hangout and Skype. We have also used the 'snail mail' to communicate and arranged a face to face visit at our school with a couple other grade one classes from our district.

  • We share our learning and tell our story on our own blogs. Yes, this takes a commitment of time for grade ones to learn keyboarding and build the skills to navigate the blogging platform, but students help each other out of necessity (and a desire to share their story). Read hear about my first experience with Kidblog last year. We are currently loving the Draw&Tell app for the flexibility to add photo and voice at the same time. Students also have paper writing books that they record their thoughts in.  

  • We teach each other how to use the new tools whether they are digital or otherwise.

  • We use manipulatives to build and explore mathematical relationships and then students can record their learning on the iPads.

  • We use drawing apps to create art, but we also use a lot of paint, play dough, plasticicene, paper and glue, fabric etc.

I believe the answer is different for every classroom and each teacher and each student. It is about balance and choice. It is about knowing your students. It is about taking risks and learning along side students. It is exploring. It is asking questions. It is using the tools available to you.  There are many screens in my classroom, but I am always questioning the purpose of using them.

I would love to hear your opinions on the issue of screens.


  1. Thank you for your wonderful thought provoking post. I too struggle to make sure that I have balance in the classroom between technology, hands on activities, group work and written activities. I agree that it is about balance and choice. What activities to give up and what activities to keep. The day goes so quickly and sometimes it is hard to fit in everything that you want to do. When I first started teaching a wonderful administrator gave me excellent advice. She told me to always ask yourself "why" and "what is the purpose" when planning activities. I enjoy working with you and sharing ideas with you. You keep on inspiring me to be a "risk taker".

  2. Lora, as it has been said over and over again technology is a tool, and only a tool. Good teaching, with mindful thought and solid pedagogy can help a student do amazing things with that tool. While I love the opportunity I've been given to integrate technology into my classroom I try to keep a clear focus on the learning and not the technology. When you do that I think a better balance comes out. Listen to your gut, talk to others, talk to your students. Some where in there you'll find the answer that's best for you and your learners. And reread your final paragraph, it's a good one.

  3. Thanks for this blog... it is clear that it isn't about the technology, it is about the learning... and that is the point! Tools disappear in the service of learning... we use whatever we need when we need it... and we help our learners (whatever their age) to do the same! Please keep reflecting on your practice and sharing it!

  4. Thanks so much for the comment, Anne. Your presentation on Friday in Kelowna really resonated with me. I am thinking deeply about making the assessment for learning more visual for my young students. We will begin tomorrow by building an anchor chart together on what good readers do. I like the visual of the target for self assessment. Ultimately I would like to build a continuum for reading with my students that has a permanent place in our room. I look forward to further connecting with you about this!

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