Life as we know it has been transformed, including school. As a country, we have been forced to adapt while learning and working from home during a global pandemic. Excessive screen time is not a new concern, as studies have shown it causes eye strain, insomnia, and other issues.
Many students are experiencing more screen time than ever before as they learn remotely. Providing kids with opportunities to close their screens is key during an era of virtual learning. During this unprecedented time, a compassionate and flexible approach is crucial. The goal is to maintain a healthy balance of time spent on-screen and off-screen.
Not all screen time is equal.
As with most things in life, quality over quantity. An hour spent discussing a Bible passage with a teacher and classmates is better spent than an hour playing video games by oneself. Active engagement is significant. Rather than lecturing, pick an engaging activity or discussion. While screen time should be monitored, students are able to connect with their classmates and form social bonds during video calls, which is beneficial in a season of limited social contact.
Focus on learning first.
Before focusing on technology, think about the concept that you want your students to learn. Review your vehicles to teach a lesson, as a screen is only one method.
Lessons can take place in a variety of formats off-screen. Do not overlook a classic notebook with a pen or pencil for completing assignments and handwritten homework. Reading paperback books or printed articles gives students’ eyes a break.
Take advantage of your students’ five senses to create engaging lessons. While students have eyes, they also have ears. We recommend utilizing a variation of podcasts, audiobooks, and pre-recorded read-alongs.
Schedule off-screen time.
Dividing video lectures into three sections is one way to incorporate off-screen time. The sections encompass time to discuss a new subject, time off-screen to work on the subject, and time at the end for questions and reflections. Your institution may have a scheduled school day in which students should stay on the video chat but can periodically work off-screen to complete assignments. As a teacher, you will stay online as a resource to your students if they have questions.
If your students are online for the majority of the school day, you could encourage parents to exclude screens from free time. Any outlet that does not require a screen is a wonderful idea.
Studies show that giving your eyes short, frequent breaks throughout the day will alleviate eye strain from staring at screens. Make these breaks into a game. For instance, every 15 minutes, turn on your students’ favorite song and tell students to get up and sing along. Or, if they don’t like to sing, tell them to stand up and recite their favorite Bible verse — anything that helps rest their eyes for a few minutes.
Make a point to incorporate activity throughout the day. Suggest your students take a break by having lunch outside or going for a quick walk. Ask them to start the day with a walk each morning, or end the school day with a stroll to the park. Whatever method you choose, 30 minutes with an elevated heart rate is recommended.
Taking notes on paper is a great way to break up the monotony while giving the eyes a break. Plus, writing is proven to help with retention. Anytime your students are engaged with video tutorials, make sure they have a notepad and a pencil for notes. The quick break from the screen will give their eyes some reprieve and provide them with areas of focus after the lesson is over.
Now is the best time to utilize hands-on learning and assign projects. There are a vast array of projects students can complete at home or in the local community, while following CDC guidelines.
As long as you’re prioritizing a balance between screens and other activities, remote learning will continue to be a wonderful alternative during the pandemic.