Turn off the screen and go play!

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This week we have been celebrating TV Turn Off week at our school, and when your wife is the counselor leading the charge, you set a good example. So for the past couple of nights we have not watched any TV, turned on a computer or participated in any “Screen” activities. It has been nice, although I find myself getting farther and farther behind on my netvibes page of feeds.

Earlier this week Doug Johnson wrote an article where he states:

What would really be lost by removing all K-3 student computers in our schools? Eliminating all elementary student computers? Besides sales to computer and software companies, of course?

And be careful my constructivist friends – kids were engaged in such learning long before computers.

I responded to the article being an elementary technology teacher. Not out of job security (truthfully I think my job in its current state should be cut) but out of shear fear. If we are not training students to use technology the right way, when we do finally start teaching them, we will have to spend time undoing bad habits. We will be reactive instead of proactive when it comes to building good technology skills. Skills whether we want them to or not are just part of life to most kids today. 48% of my 5th graders have their own website or blog. I have two kindergarteners and three 1st graders who have their own cell phones. Why? Because they have long bus rides to school, after school activities and full life schedules. They don’t use them to chat with their friends or make plans for the weekend, but instead use them to stay in contact with their parents. I’m not saying I agree with it, it’s just the way it is.

TV turn off week doesn’t just focus on the TV but all ‘screen’ activities. Which includes such things as Gameboy, PS2, PSP, Xbox, computers, and any other game/product that includes a screen. The TV Turn Off Network has created a Facts and Figures about TV habits, some of which are pretty disturbing:

Average number of hours per week that American one year-old children watch television: 6
Number of hours recommended by the American Pediatric Association for children two and under: 0

Average time per week that the American child ages 2-17 spends watching television: 19 hours, 40 minutes
Hours of TV watching per week shown to negatively affect academic achievement: 10 or more

Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900
Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1,023

I’m not sure if the use of such gaming devices such as Xbox or Play Station are including in the watching TV category. If they’re not, I’m afraid these numbers could be even worse.

What we need to promote is a well rounded child. A child that watches TV, plays with the computer, but also plays with blocks, dolls, and builds forts in the backyard.

We can’t ignore that technology exist for this generation; what we need to do and learn is to balance the use of technology with good old fashion play. Maybe preschool students don’t need to watch a movie every day, or a 2nd grader doesn’t need a Gameboy. How do these activities help foster growth in students? Sure a Gameboy is great when you are traveling. It will keep a kid occupied for hours, but do they need to play it for hours when they get home from school?

I don’t know what the answer is. I’m just afraid that the creativity and imagination that we rely on when we get older to build these cool web 2.0 tools starts when we create a fort out of sofa cushions or play with our imaginary dragon.

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.

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