There is an ongoing debate regarding screen time and how much is too much for students. Whilst screen usage is essential for some learning, overuse of screens by students can potentially lead to reduced concentration, exposure to inappropriate content, and lack of physical exercise. Over time, screen addiction may even result in poor sleep quality and psychological problems.
So how do teachers encourage students to limit screen time?
Begin by implementing a no phone policy in the classroom. If necessary, confiscate phones and return them at the end of the lesson or school day.
Harnessing technology to limit screen use
Whilst technology inevitably has a role in learning, as a teacher you can use tools to monitor and limit activity on devices during lessons.
This can include:
· Screen locking tools. At any point during a lesson you can halt screen activity and instruct your students to close their laptop/tablet.
· Muting sound on screens. This lets you shift your students’ attention from their device and back into the classroom.
· Using classroom devices with restricted usage. Students can only connect to the resources you have chosen for your lesson.
· During lessons when students are using a device but do not need internet access, you can use tools to disable internet use.
All these techniques help limit screen time in class, focus students’ learning, and set boundaries for how much students use devices during lesson time.
As a teacher, you can implement a screen view of your students’ onscreen activity. This lets you remotely observe what each student sees and does on their device during a lesson. Such tools also help ensure online safety for your students.
Establish more practical activities within your lessons. Practice subtraction/addition with actual coins during a maths lesson, and get your students familiar with established equipment such as a ruler, compass and protractor. Encourage the spoken word; ask students to read poetry and prose aloud to their peers.
Alternate onscreen activity with time away from screens. Employ whiteboards, physical books, and worksheets, write with pen and paper, and use textbooks for research rather than the internet.
Get your students to draw diagrams and flowcharts to explain a topic. Introduce a fun element to learning with flashcards, educational board games, and verbal quizzes.
Encourage debate and discussion. Put students in groups and get them to write and deliver a talk with opposing viewpoints on the same topic.
Ideas for screen-free homework
Bypass onscreen homework by setting practical tasks.
Ask your students to conduct simple experiments at home and write down, draw or photograph the results. A science homework task could be to find and list objects in the home that work as insulators, or magnets. Set outdoor challenges, perhaps on a walk, involving plants, wildlife, or architecture. Get students to monitor distance, people, or passing vehicles.
Organise textbooks and stationery for home study and encourage your students to use these for homework, rather than a device.
Have discussions with your students about the health benefits of taking breaks regularly from their devices, including turning off screens in plenty of time before going to bed.
In today’s connected world, screens are increasingly ubiquitous – and a worrying 78% of people say they can’t live without their smartphone. It can be hard to draw students away from them, but by using a few of the tips and tricks above it’s certainly possible to encourage some more beneficial habits.