Nothing is more important than a safe and healthy classroom. In order for students to come to class ready to learn, they need to feel that the class is a safe place, and as a teacher I make this a priority. The health of students is also important; parents fully expect (and rightfully so) that their children are in a healthy environment. Parents would be rightfully upset if they found evidence of lead paint and asbestos in the classroom, while a teacher sat at the front of class enjoying a cigarette!
While the above scenario might seem ridiculous to us today, not too long ago this would have been a realistic scene in a class. Hindsight is 20/20, so when we hear about possible health concerns around our rapid adoption of technology in the class, it is natural for us to wonder if we are hurting our kids’ health. In 20 years, will we look at a wireless router sitting in a classroom above students’ heads with the same horror as we do when we consider a teacher smoking near students?
We don’t have answers yet when it comes to some of these technological advances and their effect of health, but we do know that we live in a connected world and that the internet is ubiquitous. We have the students in our class with us, and we have a world of information at our fingertips, and the ability for our students to connect with each other and disseminate and create new knowledge. The students will do this away from the classroom, so as teachers I believe that we need to embrace it and help model and teach students how to use technology effectively and safely, while ensuring their health is maintained.
There is no doubt that students spend a lot of time in front of screens; Houghton et al (2015) notes that paediatricians have indicated that kids should spend less than 2 hours a day in front of screens in order to maintain their physical health. The authors also indicate that 45% of kids 8 years old and less, and 80% of kids 16 years old, spend more than 2 hours of time looking at screens throughout the day. Students are in front of screens at home on their phones, laptops, and then come to school and spend all day in computer labs, using smartboards, phones, and other devices for school work. At our school, a new Chromebook pilot will ensure that students will have ready access to a screen for the entire school day.
2 hours is not realistic in a connected world.
We do know that students are experiencing issues such as back, neck, and wrist problems. Murphy (2011) suggests that students should treat technology use in a manner similar to an athlete about to do an exercise; do some stretching and other physical preparation before and during technology use. As teachers, we can model some stretches in our classes, and incorporate them into our daily routine to help mitigate one of the health issues surrounding technology use. Technology teachers like myself can even reach out to our physed staff to find ways to make stretching a fun activity to help get our classes using Chromebooks started. See below just one of many video resources available that illustrate some exercises that can be done in the class.
We are doing our students a disservice by being afraid of technology. We need to embrace it, while adapting and working around the pitfalls.
Houghton, S., Hunter, S. C., Rosenberg, M., Wood, L., Zadow, C., Martin, K., & Shilton, T. (2015). Virtually impossible: Limiting Australian children and adolescents daily screen based media use. BMC Public Health, 15(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-15-5
Murphy, S. (2011, February 22). Tech overload causing kids back, neck problems. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41718918/ns/technology_and_science-digital_home/t/tech-overload-causing-kids-back-neck-problems/#.WW43YojytPY
PT, M. (Producer). (2012, June 1). Top 3 Exercises for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTxQqu9USC4