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Screen Time

Students and Screen Time

We in Orland School District 135 are very concerned about the negative impacts of screen time and seek to minimize this while still utilizing the benefits of technology that can enrich instruction and provide instruction matched to student interests and instructional level. In the fall of 2019, the Instructional Technology Committee made up of parents, district teachers and administrators developed the Orland District 135 Instructional Technology Guidelines for district use of technology based on district usage data and research.

District 135 Usage Statistics

In March 2019, the Instructional Technology Department surveyed all teachers at all levels to determine student usage at different grade levels.  A majority of the teachers completed the survey with the following results. All results represent average minutes of use per day in the listed screen time categories.

Activities & Daily Time Spent

Not all screen time is created equal...

The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated when evaluating research on the effects of screen time on children that “...screen time should be classified in terms of consumption, creation, and communication, and the specific content and context of media use should be considered”.  The AAP suggests from research that digital consumption activities can negatively impact children as they often replace more interactive live and social activities. However the AAP also recognizes that certain types of digital content can “play a key role in bridging the learning ‘achievement gap’” and “Digital media can be used to facilitate executive function, build self-control and problem-solving skills, and improve children’s ability to follow directions”.  Two overarching themes presented in evaluating the effects of technology is to focus on the context of digital media and recognize that one size does not fit all.  You can read more about the American Academy of Pediatrics Symposium here. Additional articles on this topic can be found at the links below:


What has D135 done with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations?

Curriculum and Instructional Design

Research overwhelming suggests that how you use the device has the greatest impact on instruction and potential impacts on students.  Activities should directly correlate to learning objectives and standards. Additionally, activities that include collaboration, critical thinking, and incorporate student creativity and ownership have a greater impact on depth of understanding.  We also know that technology allows students at all instructional levels to be challenged, and to have opportunities for success and growth to be measured. Orland School District 135 has implemented the following practices to maximize research based benefits and minimize lower level isolated consumption activities:

  • Limit Apps on the Device Students and teachers do not have access to add any app they want. The App Store has been removed from student devices.  Teachers must submit a free app request before it can be added to student devices. A teacher’s request must include specific learning targets and how the app increases communication, creativity, critical thinking and/or collaboration.  Very few apps make it through the vetting process. “Skill and drill” apps that increase screen time but do not connect to these high level experiences are not approved for student use.
  • Evaluation of Curricular Apps and Subscriptions  Apps and subscriptions such as IXL, Spelling/Vocab City and publisher resources provide district and classroom level analytics.  This data is used to evaluate app usage and correlation to changes in assessment data. Apps that do not contribute to student growth are removed or subscriptions are terminated.
  • Digital Citizenship and Responsible Use No longer is digital citizenship and responsible use just a single isolated lesson.  As online collaboration and publication becomes common practice in classrooms, discussions and expectations become part of the classroom culture and practices.
  • Teacher Professional Development The district has 3 Instructional Technology Coaches.  These coaches work with teachers to develop lessons focused on learning targets that increase the depth of understanding through activities that increase students’ ownership, collaboration with other students and critical thinking.  The coaches also facilitate the district’s Apple Vanguard program which provide teachers a year long in depth training, focusing on 21st Century instructional practices that provide opportunities and experiences previously unavailable prior to student devices.  Good instruction is the focus, not devices or apps. Regular data is collected as to the type of instruction, depth of understanding level and student engagement for activities using technology and without. Teachers use this data to improve instruction and student engagement. 

The images below were taken at staff professional development.  These workshops are designed to model good instructional design in the classroom, fostering the creativity and collaboration of the participants and critical thinking focused on the learning targets of the professional development.  All of these activities are only possible with technology but are not focused on technology.

Support Beyond the Classroom

The American Academy of Pediatrics also provides recommendations for parents.  These include:

  • Set time limits
  • Address digital etiquette
  • Engage in using digital media together
  • Create media-free zones
  • Model media behaviors

The district has taken a proactive approach at providing resources for parents.  We have integrated manu of the recommendations of the AAP into our Technology Handbook.  This handbook provides parents with resources for addressing these issues.  Beginning two years ago, the district has required parents to watch a video reviewing some of these topics and highlighting resources available to parents. In our most recent technology survey, 79% of parents indicated they created at-home use expectations.

The district has also incorporated at home web filtering on all school devices.  In addition, Orland School District 135 has provided parents access to further limit student at-home internet activity through a parent account. Parents can also receive weekly updates on student internet usage, searches and watched videos.

Connecting to the Classroom

We know that the more connected to the classroom parents are, the better students achieve.  This includes specific strengths and weaknesses identified in the new Standards Based Grading system.  But this also includes students publishing their digitally created content directly to parents through apps such as Seesaw. Parents now can get a child’s digitally created content at the same time it is submitted to the teacher.  This includes audio and video recordings created by students and teachers bringing the classroom alive and encouraging specific parent child discussions about school activities. In the first 18 months using Seesaw in the district, over 200,000 artifacts were added and 2,700 parents collectively logged in over 210,000 times.

Maintaining Balance

The key to anything is in keeping it balanced.  Students should not be doing everything using technology, nor should they shy away from technology entirely.  Students should learn, communicate, collaborate and have opportunities to demonstrate their creativity in a number of mediums including digital, face to face and traditional paper and art supplies. Classrooms should not be paperless, but a student should not be confined to the limitations of paper either.  Teaching is an ever evolving craft that needs highly trained individuals to support the needs of every student at every level.

 The photos below illustrate the balance of technology in our classrooms. Walk into our classrooms and you will find that the student's device is predominately used in conjunction with a book, notebook or a group of students working together on a task.  There are some activities students complete individually on apps like IXL and Spelling/Vocabulary City, but these are purposefully limited.