Not all Screentime is Equal

Last week, I was in St. Lucia visiting my family. I observed my four year old niece’s screen use habits. Occasionally, she was quiet while watching TV or playing on an iPhone. However, most of the time, she was singing along with the show, answering educational questions posed by the actors, matching rhyming words, drawing pictures and reading books. At other times, she read physical books to me (mostly from memory), played with Play Doh, played with the family’s cats, wrote out most of the letters of the alphabet, played with her cousins, and inquired about everything that she observed family members doing. She is inquisitive and loves learning. She is ready for school before the teacher, who is a relative and lives next door.

Let me be clear, my niece is in the four year old program at her school and they use no technology during the school day. She spends several hours watching television or “playing” on the iPad each day. The apps installed on the iPad are all educational or blank canvas (to encourage creativity). As I watched her interaction with screens, it reminded me that not all screen time is created equal.

I had read a little on the screen time debate but my observations triggered my desire to know more on the issue. One of the first studies that I came across showed that “the effects of media are mediated more by what is watched than how much is watched” (Christakis & Zimmerman, as cited by Christakis, 2011, p.1).

I used to think that there was no reason to get a tablet for my niece, despite the interest of her parents to get one. Now I think that there is no problem with getting her a tablet, but that we need to be thoughtful about what we install on it and careful to use it with her to model responsible and meaningful uses. We know that a strawberry is a much healthier treat than a lollipop. Is it any surprise then that the impact of media on children depends on the quality and content?

I’m not saying that we should have no concerns about the rising consumption of media by children. I think that balance is important and that children should be exposed to a variety of experiences, many of them in the physical world. I also feel that an (arbitrary) determination of a maximum amount of screen time that children should have circumvents the more important discussion about the impact of different types of screen time. I say yay to learning time that involves screens, while recognizing the importance of other activities in a child’s (and adult’s) life. However, I acknowledge that it may be difficult to determine which apps and programs facilitate the ability of children to learn valuable skills, concepts and information. Lisa Guernsey stresses the importance of context, content and the particular child in determining the use of media.

References

Christakis, D. A. (2011). The effects of fast-paced cartoons. Pediatrics, 128(4), 772-774.

Starting Over

Escher by bloomingdem on Flickr. License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

It’s been just over two months since I moved to Prague. It’s year 11 since I moved overseas, and this is my fourth country. I’ve always worked in small K-12 schools (average size of 350) where I was the only instructional technology person. I’ve taught computer science and math, administered PowerSchool, Haiku Learning and WordPress, taught computer classes from K-12, presented workshops to teachers and parents, completed yearbooks, served on school improvement and accreditation teams, etc. Education is my passion and I’m resourceful. Yet, every time I start a new job, there is a whole bunch of learning and relearning that I have to go through.

Starting a new job is a bit like culture shock. I seldom experience culture shock when I move because I expect to know little. However, at work, I’m used to being the one that people come to for answers, and suddenly there is a whole body of knowledge that I have no awareness of because I’m new to the school. That is a very disconcerting feeling. Fortunately, I’ve had great support from my supervisors and colleague. And although I don’t have all the answers, and am unlikely to ever do so, I know how to create or find some answers. And isn’t that one of the greatest skills of the learn/relearn experience?

Slip off the Digital Leash

Do you drive your technology or does your technology drive you?

Do you feel a little lost when you forget your cell phone at home or in the car? Could you navigate through a city if all you had to depend on was a map (and speaking to locals)? I’m the first to admit that I have a close relationship with my electronic devices. There is usually one hour each day when I don’t have my cell phone within easy reach. What are the effects of this type of attachment? Well one of the effects is a propensity to multitask, a habit that’s difficult, if not impossible, to turn off. Another effect is the impact of being leashed, even if it’s self-imposed rather than forced upon you..

A Challenge For Greater Balance – 5 Things

  • Don’t check e-mail within one hour of heading to bed. Do something else during that time (preferably something that does not use electronics).
  • Turn your phone on silent, not vibrate, once in a while and give your full attention to the moment.
  • Slow down. Don’t overwhelm people with multiple modes of communication about the same topic. Choose the method based on urgency. If it’s not urgent, relax and wait for a response.
  • Every once in a while (say once a day), when you’re tempted to send an email to someone nearby, get up to find them for a conversation instead.
  • Don’t get swept in the flow. It’s okay to say No. This means that you don’t have to immediately respond to e-mail, or even pick up a phone call. You get to CHOOSE. Just because people can reach out to you doesn’t mean that you have to let them interrupt you.

Some ideas from the web

Slip off the Digital Leash

Do you drive your technology or does your technology drive you?

Do you feel a little lost when you forget your cell phone at home or in the car? Could you navigate through a city if all you had to depend on was a map (and speaking to locals)? I’m the first to admit that I have a close relationship with my electronic devices. There is usually one hour each day when I don’t have my cell phone within easy reach. What are the effects of this type of attachment? Well one of the effects is a propensity to multitask, a habit that’s difficult, if not impossible, to turn off. Another effect is the impact of being leashed, even if it’s self-imposed rather than forced upon you..

A Challenge For Greater Balance – 5 Things

  • Don’t check e-mail within one hour of heading to bed. Do something else during that time (preferably something that does not use the Internet).
  • Turn your phone on silent, not vibrate, once in a while and give your full attention to the moment.
  • Slow down. Don’t overwhelm people with multiple modes of communication about the same topic. Choose the method based on urgency. If it’s not urgent, relax and wait for a response.
  • Every once in a while (say once a day), when you’re tempted to send an email to someone nearby, get up to find them for a conversation instead.
  • Don’t get swept in the flow. It’s okay to say No. This means that you don’t have to immediately respond to e-mail, or even pick up a phone call. You get to CHOOSE. Just because people can reach out to you doesn’t mean that you have to let them interrupt you.

Some ideas from the web

Information at Your Fingertips

I found it interesting, in light of the graphs by http://website-monitoring.com, to consider the habits of people, and our use of the extraordinary access that we have to technology. Does it surprise you that Facebook was the most searched for term in Google Search during March, 2013 and Google is the 2nd most searched for term? Would you have guessed that the top 25 sites would contain sites of various country domains, including Japan? Examine the infographic below. What conclusions do you draw from it about society, culture, economics?

en_03_2013_gif

I’ve watched my students Google Gmail, Youtube and Facebook and wondered, “Why don’t they just put in in the address bar with .com?” I’ve actually tried to ask some of them that and they say it’s easier their way. They perceive some advantage to searching for the term and clicking on the link rather than just typing in 3 more characters in the address bar; this baffles me. Is this one of the things that distinguishes them (digital natives) from me (digital immigrant).

Simplicity and Purity

sfumature by frauBlucher on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I recently watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a Japanese documentary about 85 year old Jiro. Jiro is a master sushi chef with an exclusive restaurant in Tokyo. He encapsulates the concepts of dedication, purpose and mastery. The most memorable phrase that he says in the documentary (as captioned into English) is “ultimate simplicity leads to purity”. This is a concept that came up again as I listed to The Wisdom of Tenderness last week.

I’ve been wondering about the value of purity and the challenge of simplicity. When I look up the word pure in the dictionary, it is related to the concept of freedom from blemish or influence. In this stimulating world of multimodal communication and opportunities for excitement both virtually and physically, what value do we place in purity. Do we have appreciation for simplicity?

I don’t have the answer but I invite you to think of what parts of your life you’d like to keep pure, undiluted, free. I propose that it’s okay to choose simplicity because it is a component of being balanced. It is okay to experience the moment without fighting to capture it. Extending the concept, purity means aligning who you are online and off. My favorite definition of pure from the Merriam Webster dictionary is “being thus and no other”.  With the opportunity for anonymity, exploration of identity, and detachment presented by the virtual world, it is easy to forget that you are online is part of who you are.

As you navigate the online world, I invite you to be thus and no other.

My Totally Real Online World

Web 2.0 Digitage by ocean.flynn on flickr

What’s your real life?

I was recently speaking with my grade 6 students about online versus “real life” bullying and had difficulty picking the “right” words to talk about the issue. I shared with students that my online life feels is real to me. When I have a conversation with family using Skype, write a blog post about my travels, share my experiences on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., it’s a real experience, and I’m living my real life.

Two weekends ago, I was in Tokyo for a Google summit. During his keynote, Jim Sill said that we used to be living in a material world and we’re now living in a youtube, Instagram, etc. world. We could say that we’re living in an information world; it’s not such a stretch to say that we live largely in a digital world. One of my students suggested that a person who is cyberbullied can simply close all his/her online accounts. This lead to a good classroom discussion about whether or not a person can live completely removed from the digital world, and whether participation in the digital world is a “right”. I shared that I would feel very isolated here in Japan if I couldn’t use social media and other technology tools to keep in frequent contact with family and friends all over the world.

I read an article browsing through Pulse this morning that talked about how Facebook has healing power and can help people restore their self-esteem. On the flip side, there are people whose lives are adversely affected by online attacks. The opposite of real is imaginary, and while I can take on imaginary personas online, I often use the digital world as an extension of my physical world. If we remove the distance between the digital world and the real world and acknowledge the relationship that exists between them, we realize that kindness, caring, responsibility, love and all those other attributes of a meaningful life matter whether we are online or in the physical world.

Happy New Year

2012 was a good year. I completed my masters and found a new job in a new country (starting August 2013). Those were the two most momentous events but I have lots of other good memories. 2013 will be a year of (more) change. I look forward to it.

I hope that your 2013 is filled with love and happiness. I hope that many years from now, you will look back at it with gladness in your heart. Here’s to living a good life, which creates fond memories!

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Visit to the tunnel of lights, Nabana no sato, January 4, 2013

Friday Find – How art, technology and design inform creative leaders

This video made me reflect on how even within change, many things remain the same. Perhaps we can build the future from the past and the current, carrying forward what is “good”.

What does this mean for education? Old or tradition is not the enemy. We need change when what we’re doing isn’t meeting the needs of learners, of society. And even when we change or transform teaching, there is still space for using old methods if they are effective.