Techs & Balances

“Yes, kids love technology, but they also love legos, scented markers, handstands, books and mud puddles. It’s all about balance.”   – K.G. 1st Grade Teacher 


In my classroom, there are eight Ipads making it a 2:1 student to iPad ratio. Still with a 2:1 ratio it’s important to be aware of the challenges of unnecessary use and it’s pivotal that I explicitly stress a balance early on.  As a Kindergarten teacher, I understand that the majority of my students are using an iPad for learning for the first their very first time.  My job as an educator when it pertains to rolling out these digital devices relies upon, the emphasis on balance, the promotion of ownership and shared responsibility,  and finally, deliberate and delicate approach dedicated to unraveling the misconceptions with both students and parents.

Each our classroom iPads have two student’s names stickered onto the back. The Ipads are enclosed in Kinder friendly and Kinder proof colored coded cases. Even with a 2:1 ratio, the students are still able to develop a sense of ownership over their devices. For starters, they have agreed to all signed the responsible use agreement / Ipad essential agreement that we came up with at the beginning of the year, agreeing to be respectful, responsible. In additioneach student also has their own personal folder on their device. That folder is used for them to store their iTime work.

I think the 2:1 ratio works well with this age group for two reasons. First, it promotes group work when we are researching, recording, collecting evidence, or helping one another on big projects.  Second, when doing independent work, such as when they add content to their individual iTime folders, it ensures that only a portion of them are handling iPads for a short period of time. These folders, saved on the iPad, allow my students preserve their work and showcase the progress of their passion projects over an extended period of time. Individual iTime folders also provide them have more opportunities to have a voice in what and how they learn.

Although it’s not 1:1 in my classroom Karen Kane 41 Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Your 1:1 Classroom still had some excellent takeaways. Specifically,  Reorganize your classroom space and flipping lessons.  


Mindful Moderation & Managment

When it comes moderation both the age of my students and the 2:1 ratio are both in my favor, however, real management has to be built over time. At the beginning of the year, I emphasized the importance of ensuring that my students understand that their time on the iPad is for learning purposes only. It has been explicitly stated in class over and over that the iPad is for creating, recording, and researching.  Apps on our iPad are only centered around open-ended creation tools such as Book Creator. Recordings are done through the use of SeeSaw or the camera app. Research is done by using Google Voice and asking questions through Google’s mobile app.  What they might do with an iPad at home is vastly different then what they do with them here. This took some time to explain and enforce as due to their age, many of my students have never used an iPad in this way before.  This works in my favor but it also extremely vital that as a role model, and one who might be introducing this tool for the first time in their lives, that I promote positive and purposeful use.

At this age, it’s equally important to Educate the parents for the same reasons.  By getting involved with events such as  Parent Technology and Literacy Coffee Mornings or informal Q & A workshops like Kim Cofino mentions in her post Living with Laptops from YIS,  you get everyone on the same page and alleviate any misconceptions and fears about passive screen time. Parents can help model similar structures and limits at home, reinforcing that home-school connection. As educators, we can introduce them to resources from Common Sense Media.  They have an excellent site that has a whole section on parenting in the digital age.  The following snippet, taken from the article, “Will my child be left behind if he/ she doesn’t use technology?”, sums up how well Common Sense does in assisting and alleviating parental concerns.

“Whether kids are no-tech by choice or circumstance, it’s important that all kids are prepared for success in a technology-filled world. Even if you prefer a tech-light environment, you can still talk to your kids about healthy media habits, such as balancing screen time, and digital citizenship, such as being nice to people online

By setting the tone early on for both parents and students  I’m ensuring that everyone involved a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, thus supporting learning both on — and off — the device. 


Tech Breaks

Zooming out a bit from my Kindergarten lens, I realize that this is an issue that can potentially affect students at all grade levels. In all actuality, it’s probably a lot easier to curb the tech obsession with early years and lower primary students than it is for teens in secondary school.

“Today’s note passing is text messages.”  writes  Larry D. Rosen   in his article, The Amazing Power of “Tech Breaks ”  Later in his piece, Larry goes on to list a staggering fact from the Nielsen Company, “the average teen sends and receives 3,705 text messages per month, which translates to about 10 per waking non-school hour or about one every 6 minutes.”  Now, I’m not sure how many notes you wrote and passed in high school, but that statement sounds a bit excessive.  Rosen goes on to cite a national report by the Pew Internet and American Life  Project found.  stating that 58% of teens whose school bans cell phones have sent a text during class and 43% send texts at least once a day during class

As a member of the school’s technology committee, we have discussed the idea of rolling out Tech-Free Zones across our campus and unplugged time throughout the day. There have been talks to introduce and implement these new boundaries across the whole school at the beginning of the next academic year. Wondering now about similar resistance and backlash like the stats state above, I’m now leaning towards another unique strategy to curb teen tech enthusiasm.  Taken from the NPR article titled,  “Should College Professor GIve “Tech Breaks” in Class? , the specific method mentioned brings a whole new meaning to the term “tech break.” In this case, students are given 1-minute breaks to check in (or check out) on their mobile device. It’s certainly an interesting approach and one I’d like to run by tech committee colleagues.

It may seem radical at first but by allocating specific time for students to get their tech fix, the teacher is actually making a point to harness student attention on his watch, placing value on both his time and his students.  Periodic breaks seem to be far more reasonable then shaming or micromanaging.  If delivered consistently, I could really see this helping to maintain student focus. It’s a deal that pays respect to both parties and acknowledges the ever persistent elephant in the room.


Balancing Brain Evolution & The Digital Revolution

The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls attention, interest, motivation, and decision-making, does not fully develop until age 25. Therefore there’s still a major responsibility for teachers, teens, and parents to remain mindful of self-regulation as well as the impact that too much tech can have on the developing brains.  The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a manuscript titledThe Digital Revolution and Adolescent Brain Evolution which goes into great detail on consequences and implications for adolescents in the digital age. It’s well worth the read and applicable to all of us.

Focused attention and participation as an age-old problem in Education, the inclusive of digital devices have certainly raised the stakes. Our fast-paced culture and ever-increasing infatuation with productivity haven’t helped either.  Implementing positive habits at a young age may be effective in the early years but as children, technology, and society continue to develop and change, we must aim for a respectful balance that addresses our needs and pays tribute to a shared responsibility to maintain a human to human connection.


Final Wonderings?

Are “Tech Breaks” the antidote for teens?

This week’s final wondering is a call back to a question from a #KchatAP that I recently hosted on Twitter.