How much screen time do learners have at The Village School? This is a question I am often asked by prospective parents.
I get it. As parents who value time outside, physical activity, and face-to-face interactions, our family has always been largely “low tech”, perhaps even “screen averse” relative to the role screens/technology plays in the lives of many modern families. For us, it has always had more to do with whatever valuable activity was being replaced by “screen time”, than the idea that time interacting with technology was inherently bad. So it might seem strange that I am now the director of a school in which technology is a significant part of its learning design. Let me explain. Actually, let Laura Sandefer, Acton Academy Founder explain.
“The vision of students glued to the screen hour after hour is what many people have when they hear “online learning.” The reality at Acton Academy shatters this image and sets us apart from schools that use technology as a band-aid on a traditional school paradigm that simply doesn’t work. We live in an unprecedented time in history. Technology propels us into new ways to do school and think about our world. At our little school, we grasp this opportunity and use the gift of technology to help us deliver individualized core skill curriculum; experience the extraordinary beauty and wonder of the world through sites like Google Earth; Skype with new friends around the globe; and grapple with stunning ideas shared via TED talks and other online resources. Our students apply this new knowledge and ideas in solving the meaningful life problems presented in our project work.”
The amount of time our students spend in front of the computer screen is approximately 20% of their weekly time at school. This time includes word processing, using foreign language programs like Duolingo, learning Math on adaptive programs like Khan Academy, and researching and watching videos of heroes’ stories during project time. The other 80% of their time is spent reading books, writing and editing, working individually and in groups to solve problems in project time, engaging with the class in Socratic discussions, playing games on the field, stretching and working out during P.E., creating art, listening to stories or presentations by special guests, writing and editing work, socializing, and meeting with guides to discuss goals.
In other words, we embrace technology at The Village School because, used thoughtfully and intentionally, technology unleashes learning, creating a more personalized and learner-driven pathway for our students. It’s a tool- and when used well, it can replace the boring lectures and one-sized fits all curriculum so common in traditional classrooms. Technology is not an all or nothing phenomenon. We can and should discriminate the good from the bad. As families, we absolutely should have clear boundaries and our own rules surrounding technology use at home that reflect our own set of values. We can embrace the use of technology as a learning tool and be opposed to its use as a passive form of entertainment. We can and should find our own “comfort point” on the use of screens in our lives and in our children’s lives. As schools, we should do the same.
At The Village School, we value time outside, physical activity, and face-to-face interactions, AND we value the use of technology to equip, inspire, and connect us to the world around us. For parents who are truly interested in the role of technology in self-directed learning, these are some of the questions I would be asking:
What things do your students DO with technology?
How much time are students spending “sitting and listening”?
How does technology personalize the learning experience for my child?
How can technology inspire my child to find what they are passionate about?
How is technology connecting them to others in meaningful ways?
At The Village School, we offer a unique style of “blended schooling” which is rich in relationships, movement, and real-world application of learning.
This is our “comfort point”.
(Repost from February 6, 2019)