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Transitioning Back to School: The Negative Impacts of Digital Learning and How We Can Support Students in 2022

COVID-19 brought along a lot of changes in our lives, including shaking up the entire education system and how we serve our students. There were some positive changes it brought, but most would agree that there were far more negative impacts for both students and teachers. This post discusses those negative impacts and suggests ways we can support students with transitioning back to school for in-person learning.

3 students working independently on iPads

5 Negative Impacts of Too Much Screen Time

Below are 5 negative impacts of too much screen time for kids.

1. Behavior Problems

Children who spend more than 2 hours on screens a day are more likely to have problems with attention, socialization, and behavior. Think about the amount of work that you are assigning and how much it requires screens. Now, add the amount of time that students would need to complete the work and estimate how much time they are spending on personal use. 

2. Sleep Problems

Being on screens for too long can interfere with the sleep cycle. The blue light that gets emitted has been proven to interfere with brain activity and cause problems with falling asleep and staying asleep. 

3. Language Skills

Interacting with technology takes away from interacting with people. This can hamper the language skills and social skills that students are developing. Everyday speech with people is so important when developing these skills. 

4. Emotional Development

Some experts worry that too much screen time does not allow children to maintain skills like self-regulation. Too much technology interferes with students ability to regulate boredom, distress, and other impulses and emotions. 

5. Less Time for Other Activities

Too much screen time takes away from activities that kids could be doing that support health and well being. Ask yourself what activities screen time is taking away from and whether or not your assignments need to require screens. 

3 teachers frustrated with technology not working

5 Tech Challenges during Remote Learning

Below are tech challenges that occured during remote learning.

1. Limited Devices

Parents that have more than one child at home doing remote learning struggle with who gets to use the devices and when. This can cause conflict for students being able to complete work on time and being able to participate in live zoom lessons.

2. Type of Technology

The devices that your students will be using will range widely. Some students will be using phones, while others might be using laptops, iPads, tablets, desktops or desktops. This will inevitably affect how students will be able to complete assignments online, as well as how different platforms will look depending on if the device is a mac or PC, and android or iPhone. 

3. Availability of Parents

The reality of remote learning is that most students in elementary school need support from their parents in order to access and complete tech-based activities. If parents are working from home, helping another child with a device, or are working at their job, they won’t be available to help students with technology.  Students need activities they can do independently. 

4. Comfortability

Students and parents will have a varied level of comfortability with devices. Even if they are tech savvy, the platforms that they will be learning and the way of learning is new and that takes time to adjust to. 

5. Unpredictability

Technology can be very unpredictable. Whether or not students can access the assignments, log into their accounts, and submit assignments can vary day to day as well as the speed of the technology. Technology can also produce false learning. With some assignments, it can be easy for students to pick and choose and rush through, showing their ability to pick best answers versus actually understanding the content. 

4 kids outside on technology devices not socializing with one another

What Kids are Missing When They are on Screens

Below is a list of things kids were missing when they were on screens. These skills are very important to focus on as students are transitioning back to school for in-person learning.

Using Language Skills

When students are engaged in using technology, they are not using their language skills and communicating with others. They also aren’t using their active listening skills or maintaining relationships. 

Being Creative

Too much time on technology takes away opportunities for students to be creative. This can range from drawing a picture to building a fort. Technology hampers students’ ability to do this. 

Using their Imagination

Time that students are spending on technology is time that they are not spending using their imagination. They are missing out on chances to engage in imaginative play independently or with peers. They aren’t creating their own games or making up stories. 

Using Fine and Gross Motor Skills

When students are completing all assignments using technology they aren’t engaging in fine and gross motor skills like holding a pencil or kicking a ball. When students return to the classroom, you don’t want to have to spend time reteaching fine and gross motor skills when there is so much more content that will need to be taught and relationships that will need to be rebuilt. 

Building SEL Skills

Screens are not a great way to teach SEL skills. In fact, screens can hamper a student’s ability to gain skills in this area. SEL skills are built through practice, conversations, interacting with people, conflict resolution and all of these things come from discussion with other people. 

4 students working together to solve a problem with a teacher observing them

5 Benefits to Paper and Pencil and Project Based Learning 

Below are 5 benefits to paper and pencil and project based learning tasks. These are great learning experiences for students transitioning back to school (and can be used for remote learning as well).

1. Problem Solving

Students will practice and gain problem solving skills through completing project based learning activities. They will most importantly learn how to solve problems that are important to them through the project-based learning model. 

2. Creativity

Students have the ability to be creative with project based learning. Project based learning gives them more flexibility on how they are going to learn a topic and present their findings about what they learned. 

3. Independence

Paper and pencil tasks are tasks that students know how to complete. This enables them to do them independently and complete them whether or not they have access to a device or a parent or guardian who is available to help them. 

4. Self-Confidence

When students don’t know how to complete a task but the reason is because of technology, it can shake their confidence even if the content is something they do understand. Completing paper and pencil and PBL activities independently will boost student confidence instead of negatively affect it. 

5. Flexibility

Paper and pencil and PBL activities can be completed anywhere. These allow for so much more flexibility than tech-based assignments and fit into schedules much easier. For parents working from home, they can have their child complete the assignments right next to them or set up their own work from home space for their child. 

3 kids struggling with remote learning in their own way

3 Alternatives to Digital Resources

Below are 3 alternatives to digital resources. They are great learning experiences for transitioning back to school for in-person learning, but can also be used for remote learning.

Review Packet

Put together a paper packet of previously taught skills to offer students the opportunity to practice key concepts and skills. Because the purpose is to reinforce and not introduce, students can complete this independently without requiring the support of families.

The math spiral review packets below are available for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. They are a great way for students to practice grade level math skills. Learn more about them below!

first grade math spiral review activities2nd grade math spiral review worksheets as homework for the entire year3rd grade math spiral review worksheets as homework for the entire year
4th grade math spiral review worksheets as homework for the entire year5th grade spiral reviewelementary math resource collection

Another great resource is this Paragraph of the Week resource for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. They are a great way for students to practice their writing skills in a systematic way. Learn more about it below!

paragraph of the week narrative writinginformative paragraph writing activities
paragraph of the week opinion writingparagraph writing activities

Hands-On Project

Send home a hands-on project for students to work on. A long term project can help students practice time management skills and ease the burden of lesson planning on you. Some great standards-based options are Me on the Map, Animal Research, and a Biography Project. These projects are appropriate for grades two through five. Me on the Map works for grade one as well.

Me on the Map activitiesanimal research project activitiesbiography project

Review Game

Prep and send home printable math games in Ziploc bags to help keep all of the required materials together. Print-and-go math games that students can play independently is a quick and easy option to get kids practicing previously taught skills in a fun and engaging way. You can also send home multi-player math games and encourage students to play with a sibling, parent, or caregiver. Check out this standards-based collection of first, second, and third grade math games below. Each concept comes with 10 games, which all come with directions written in student-friendly language.

1st grade made card games dice games and boardgame worksheets2nd grade made card games dice games and board game worksheets3rd grade made card games dice games and board game worksheets

In closing, we hope these ideas for students transitioning back to school are helpful!

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