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Turn screen time into learning time

By Pam Simon
August 19, 2019
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Screen time gets more bad press than a Hollywood star in rehab. But the fact is, not all screen time is the same. Screen time is like food: Some of it’s bad for you and some of it’s good for you, and moderation is key.

As a tech educator and mom, I think it’s important to understand the role we want technology to play in our kids’ lives. One good place to start is by reviewing the ISTE Standards for Students, which offer clear guidelines for how students should related to digital media. 
Students need to be:

Empowered learners who leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals.

Digital citizens who recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world.

Knowledge constructors who critically curate resources using digital tools.

Innovative designers who use technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating imaginative solutions.

Computational thinkers who employ strategies for solving problems in ways that leverage technological methods to develop and test solutions.

Creative communicators who communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles and digital media appropriate to their goals. 

Global collaborators who use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

ISTE Creative Constructor Lab - PD for Educators

It’s not the screen but what you do with it that matters 

I strongly believe that parent/teacher/adult oversight and involvement are key to raising successful children. If we don’t want our kids to be passive, then we can’t be passive either. We need to dive in and discover how rich, diverse and miraculous the dawn of this digital age can be — for all of us!
Here are four ways our screens create opportunities for deep learning:

  1. Find rich content at your fingertips. Gone are the days of pulling that musty encyclopedia off the shelf to find information. The internet houses a gold mine of powerful resources — print, video, audio and immersive media — for accessing information. Trivia games and internet scavenger hunts help students learn how to search for information. These exercises provide an opportunity to talk about valid sources of information and discuss how to discern fact, fiction, opinion and deception and it supports the Knowledge Constructor ISTE standard.
  2. Access easy-to-use creation tools. There are a wealth of free and paid online tools that allow children to express themselves in so many ways. Students can create animation videos using Go Animate, compose digital music using Soundation, make video games with GameStar Mechanic and learn to program using Scratch or Kodu Game Lab. My students use Super Mario Maker II to design and execute their own Mario levels and Minecraft to build elaborate structures, collaborate on projects within the games and experiment with circuitry using redstone. These resources can support the Creative Communicator and Innovative Designer standards.
  3. Choose from thousands of apps for tablets and smartphones. There are thousands of apps available on iTunes and Google Play that are productive, creative and fun. We load our tablets with puzzle apps like Flow Free and 2048, movie-making apps, 3D printing apps and word games like Scribblenauts. We project our tablet on the TV and play games like 4 pics, 1 Word or Stack the States. The kids love to play as a group. In addition, MIT’s App Inventor software gives them opportunities to create their own apps or modify existing content. App inventor platforms help children feel inventive. These tools can support the Creative Communicator, Empowered Learner and Innovative Desginers standards.
  4. Turn TV watching into an exercise in civil discourse. Although television is a passive medium, there are ways to get youth active and vocal around the content they watch. All shows, including the news, now have links to social media. Television websites, blogs and YouTube channels have comment sections. In the classroom or at home, kids can take advantage of the real global audience to improve written communication skills and practice expressing their opinions through civil and respectful discourse. This exercise supports the Digital Citizen standard and helps kids become good digital citizens.

Turn screen time into deep learning time by guiding kids to use technology to create, colloborate, develop and become good digital citizens. To focus more on the “why” of computer science, rather than the how, take a look at the Fidgets2Widgets badges, featuring videos and quizzes covering 40 computer science concepts, from online shopping to wireless technology.

Pam Simon, MSW, is a tech educator and mom. She and Sydney Ashland, a counselor and mom herself, founded Fidgets2Widgets, an innovative STEM after-school program, in 2012. Their passion and mission is to steward and mentor children through the miracles and pitfalls of the digital age. In their program, they follow the ISTE Standards for raising digitally literate youth.

This is an updated version of a post that originally published on Dec. 2, 2015.