I am 50 days into a 60-day writing challenge. Initially this was conceived by Daniel Bauer of Better Leaders Better Schools as a 30-day challenge. Then, on day 30, one of the members of our writing collective, Joe Clausi of The Traveling Principal, upped the ante to another 30 days. At the time it sounded like a good idea so I threw my name in the hat. I share that to say I have spent a lot of time over the past month and a half on this laptop writing articles and it has me thinking of screen time.
The writing process has been good for me to flesh out my thoughts on teaching and learning and education during the pandemic. I don’t fashion myself a writer so at first I published articles with some trepidation. That fear has subsided, not completely, but I have really enjoyed this challenge. So much so, that it may be me who pitches the idea for the next 30 days. However, it takes time, sometimes a lot of time. It is possible for me to spend an hour or two each day writing, editing, and rewriting to share something coherent. What struck me yesterday was the increased screen time inherent in this challenge.
If you follow my work at Organized Binder or have been keeping up with my articles, you know well that I believe strongly in analog educational tools to blend digital learning environments. If you know me personally, you know I am not much for screens or social media. My kids attend a Waldorf school which nearly void of technology, our TV is so old we literally have to warm it up like a tube TV, and given a choice I would much rather be outdoors with my family in my garden or running on a trail somewhere. As I shared in this article 45 days ago, when I borrowed a phrase from my friend, Aubrey Patterson of Nohea and Warm Demanders, “I eat my own cookin’”. You see, I am not anti-technology, I just don't believe it to be the educational savior the edtech community wanted us to believe in. With that said, as educators we can, of course, do amazing things when we utilize technology. I incorporate technology into every lesson I design because I teach at a 100% online independent study charter high school. My students engage with me and access their curriculum on a chromebook, the difference is I have blended that learning space with Organized Binder.
Do you remember before the pandemic when “screen time” used to be considered a four letter word? Concerned parents were encouraged to monitor the amount time their children spent on devices, teachers would do the same, even adults heeded the alerts from their smartphone telling them how much time they spent on screen in the past 7 days. Then, in what now seems like an instant, one day in March of 2020, the phrase “screen time” seemed to disappear from our global lexicon as we rushed to distance learning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
It makes sense, we needed to get hotspots and devices in the hands of every student hoping to keep them connected with their teachers and to their education. In many schools this worked, but regrettably not all. There will be ongoing debates around whether or not distanced online learning was equitable and effective for all learners. However, one thing is certain, the amount of time students spent staring into a screen skyrocketed. As you know, there is a massive body of evidence that suggests that monitoring screen time is healthy for young and old people alike. As I reflect on our writing challenge the one thing that concerns me is my increased screen time and it has me thinking about education when we return to school in the fall.
What I am most curious about is whether or not monitoring screen time will once again become a thing in post-pandemic learning. I do not have the answer so I am writing to get your opinion. What do you think? How will screen time factor in to education as we head back to school in the fall?