Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

The Screen Time Fallacy


“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” “Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things.”

From the ancient Greeks to Oscar Wilde, this proverbial principle is timeless and endlessly applicable. However, in the case of screen time moderation, how we measure our engagement with screen technology may be more important than moderating our time.

In 2018, the Pew Research Center gathered technology experts, scholars and health specialists to consider how the rapid changes in digital life will impact peoples’ well-being. The largest percentage of respondents believe that our future digital life will be more helpful than harmful. Most believed changes in technology will improve the well-being and opportunity for people, but not without caution. Many experts also cited health, social, and security concerns (Anderson & Rainie, 2018). Like any medication, there’s always potential side effects. Screen time moderation could be considered the medicine in this metaphor, but the side effects of this issue have been overstated, as many experts are now shifting the narrative away from this oversimplified practice to a much more nuanced understanding.

In examining our current digital lives as it stands today, the current pandemic has intensified the debate around screen time particularly as it relates to education. Schools in remote or hybrid learning environments place a tremendous amount of stress on staff and student screen time. On average, teens spend 9 hours of screen time a day (Rideout, 2015). In Seattle, where I live and work, some families have been critical of the school district’s official schedule for remote learning and the amount of screen time it burdens students with. Some families devoutly subscribed to the screen time ‘shot clock’, limiting their student’s exposure to screens and encouraging “in-person interaction, time outdoors, and tactile activities” (Resmovits, 2020). These are necessary activities characteristic of a healthy lifestyle, but the early research and assumptions around screen time limits is outdated. A much more nuanced understanding of screen time has emerged, and as a result, a broader conversation around healthy digital habits and equity. 

Families who are more affluent and privileged typically have multiple devices at home with an ease of online access and greater access to resources and opportunity to create more in-person enrichment for their student. Students furthest from educational justice are less likely to have ease of online access and additional devices. If a student only has access to a mobile device at home, “they are less likely to go online to pursue an interest or engage in a creative endeavor” (Holland, 2019). Technology can provide multiple representations of content, accessibility, and opportunity for student-driven learning. When taken away, students of color can especially feel alienated and discouraged from learning because, for some, technology is viewed as an essential resource of utmost value (Resmovits, 2020). Thus, arguments for less screen time in school creates greater inequity. Health experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA) have refocused their message around screen time. According to the APA, reasonable screen time limits should be considered, but it is much more important for families to develop healthy habits “such as sleep schedules and holding difficult conversations without interruption of scrolling through social media” (Resmovits, 2020).

This is where the understanding of screen time is shifting: healthy digital habits that focus on the quality of the experience and not necessarily the time. This lends itself to the question of where institutions and their educators fit in all of this. Students will access technology through a variety of mediums and for a variety of purposes. Technology use occurs both at school, at home, and every place in-between. We also know that access to technology is not equal, and how/when students experience technology is impacted by socioeconomics.  

My Question:

  • How can schools teach and support healthy digital habits that engages all stakeholders (educators, parents, students) especially as it concerns screen time? 

ISTE Standard for Coaches: 

  • 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.


Educational institutions need to support the shift in thinking away from screen time ‘shot clocks’ to empowering students, families, and educators in thinking dispositionally about the different ways of being, interacting, creating, and learning through screen-based technologies. 

Design considerations:

Technology use is interdisciplinary, and therefore the teaching of healthy digital habits should connect to every class and subject matter. Administrators can lean on committees and building leadership teams to plan curriculum and embed digital habits into their school’s mission and/or guiding foundational beliefs. Cultivate opportunities for students to learn and reflect upon the consequences of healthy and unhealthy digital lives. 

It is critical to consider context when engaging with screens. Not all screen time is created equal and varies by how it is used, the content that is engaged, and its fostering of relationships. Like a fitness journal, a digital habits journal could provide students a space to reflect upon how they are engaging with technology, connect it with their learning, and the effect that it is having on their health and wellness. This could also prove to be a valuable tool for discussions in 504/IEP meetings, parent-teacher conferences, and in building a culture of positive digital habits. There should be careful considerations for how students can share in their learning of healthy digital habits while protecting their choice and privacy for what they share. 

In addition, it is critical for staff to model and share in their own learning and struggles with how they engage in technology. This can also be powerful in building rapport and classroom community. Staff should also consider how they are asking students to engage with technology for school. I admit that this can be very challenging as each student engages with technology differently and has different digital habits. Predicting/planning for time may not be possible or worth it. Instead, educators need to consider if their lesson/assignment provides opportunity for students to engage with technology in ways that centers their interests and supports 21st century skills. As best as possible, limit rote and passive consumption of technology without personal purpose. There’s certainly still a place for designing learning opportunities that don’t require a screen, and there should be intention around cultivating that, but it may be better worth the effort to consider the context for how your students are engaging online for academics. 

Engage families:

It is imperative to invite families into this learning, but the purpose should not focus on telling parents what’s right from wrong. Any parent will tell you that telling someone how to parent their own kids isn’t going to be received too well. Instead, educators should manufacture opportunities that engage families into participating alongside their student(s) as they learn and reflect upon their digital habits and screen use. Encourage families to participate alongside with students as they reflect upon the how, where, and why they are using screen media. The goal here is spark conversation around screen technology use and how it is impacting personal and social health. Again, the point isn’t for educators to tell parents what is quality use, but to encourage them to move past the screen time fallacy and engage with their student(s) to think critically about their engagement with screen media to foster healthy digital habits (Blum-Ross & Livingstone, 2017). 


Anderson, J., & Rainie, L. (2018). The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.  

Blum-Ross, A., & Livingstone, S. (2017). Screen Time for Kids: Getting the Balance Right.  

Holland, B. (2019). Changing the Discussion: From Screen Time to Digital Equity. 

Resmovits, J. (2020). Seattle-area parents want rules about screen time, but experts say off-screen interactions matter more.  

Rideout, V. (2015). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens. Retrieved from Common Sense Media website: port.pdf 

Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

Broader Conversations: Supporting Collaboration and Communication Beyond Your Class


Like the newest iPhone or model car, emerging apps in digital education are the shiny new toys constantly updating and difficult to keep up with. The EdTech market in particular continues to balloon evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry. Neil Selwyn, a social scientist who has written about digital technology and education for the last 25 years, points out that EdTech continues to be future-focused and fails to critically examine the present; EdTech scholars need not reinvent the wheel (Selwyn & Jandrić , 2020). As Selwyn claims, “the levels of venture capital investment are off-the-scale in comparison to other areas of education… [with] Covid-19 prompting the resurgence of a lot of dominant tech-fulled ‘corporate education reform’” (Selwyn & Jandric, 2020). My post is not intended to discourage educators from utilizing technology to increase the capacity of learning in their classroom. Instead, I think it would be useful for myself and others to take pause and act on Selwyn’s advice to critically examine the present rather than relying on the hype of future EdTech.

My research began with considering Selwyn’s and Peter Jandrić conversation about postdigital living during Covid-19. Selwyn ends his conversation with Jandrić with a hopeful imagination that the current pandemic crisis would produce “more communal, collective forms of digital engagement” (Selwyn & Jandrić , 2020). Inspired by this, I looked into online learning communities and the impact of student-student relationships had on engagement and achievement. My research focused on strategies to develop multicultural learning utilizing technology that included case studies published in educational journals. Additionally, it was important for me to consider some of the current challenges our students are currently experiencing in remote or hybrid learning environments. My own school district recently went 1:1 machines for students 6-12 however, many families report that their students continue to experience access issues. There is a tremendous struggle around access to synchronous learning times when adults and students are online at the same time; not to mention the physical space needed to focus along with a myriad of other considerations.  

ISTE Standard and Objective I aim to address:

  • ISTE 7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities. 
  • Course objective 4. Model and promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness by using digital-age communication and collaboration tools to interact locally and globally with students, peers, parents, and the larger community.


  1. How can technology be leveraged to broaden students’ cultural understandings, global awareness, and inspire civic engagement?  
  2. What are some equity considerations for this kind of work? 


My research took me to pedagogical strategies that had long predated this pandemic. To address issues and learning around social justice, civic engagement, and multicultural learning, we need to provide and scaffold authentic opportunities for our students to have healthy discourse while being mindful of the technological challenges that many of our students face. E-Pals, the digital equivalent to pen-pals, and co-classroom project based learning can be effective in engaging students around authentic learning opportunities through social interaction. This interaction can be powerful at any scale whether it’s  occurring between schools within the same district or schools in different nations. An added benefit of E-Pals is that it offers great flexibility of access for our students. These digital interactions are not bound to particular time-slots and students have more freedom on when and how much they would like to interact. Consider the following digital tools and strategies to maximize the learning potential of these interactions:

Make learning authentic and relevant: 

Set parameters to challenge your students to engage in learning activities that tackle current real-world problems or issues. If possible, support students in identifying these topics themselves and choosing which one interests them the most. If collaboration is happening locally, consider political or social issues shared in both communities. By sharing their experiences and considering the experiences of others, we are supporting our students’ development of empathy and perspective. This can be powerful both on a local and global scale. 

Utilize digital tools to develop a flexible and safe learning community:

As much as possible, use your district monitored and supported tools already available. Collaborate with your district’s legal and technical support teams well in advance to secure proper permissions. Include families in these learning communities by intentionally designing assignments that require their input or participation. Consider too that students may choose to communicate with each other outside of district approved technology. It is important that you make families aware of this before their student opting in/out. When partnering with another teacher and class, sharing the same digital tools is a big advantage to consider. These are a few digital tools to consider using:

  • School Email – great for flexible and secure asynchronous communication. You may need to communicate with your school/district to adjust permissions
  • Flipgrid – great for both co-classroom projects or E-pals; this is a secure tool that can bring these relationships to life! Students can record and share their thinking and learning with peers. This is a more accessible, flexible, and reliable platform than say your school/districts communication platform. If you have a family who has opted their student out of this work, this is a great tool you can use to still foster an opportunity to hear others’ perspectives.
  • Communication platforms (Zoom, Teams, Skype) – Microsoft markets Skype in the Classroom to help connect educators all over the world with each other to partner their classrooms on projects. You school’s preferred communication platform can be used by both students and teachers to connect during synchronous or asynchronous times, but be conscious of technical challenges.  
  • ePals Global Community – an educational online community where you can find and partner with global classrooms. There are language translation tools built-in as well as opportunity for teachers to have direct oversight of the student-student communication. 

Incorporate cooperative and collective learning opportunities:

Design learning assignments that center collaboration between student pairs. Intentionally create space for students to share their individual input as well as reflect upon their partner’s ideas. Thinking routines and protocols can help scaffold this cooperation. When students are engaged in heterogenous and cooperative learning interactions, learning is more meaningful and authentic contributing to higher social and collaborative activity. It is equally important to deprivatize this learning so that it is shared with the rest of the classes. Students may have direct communication with one student, but they also need the opportunity to expand their readership to the entire class to broaden their global perspectives.This provides accountability and acts as a safeguard for students to access cooperative and collective learning if there are challenges with their E-pals.  

Provide scaffolding:

It is critical to support students in building relationships with the peers they are communicating with before critical examinations of their topics begin. Conversations should be genuine and authentic where students have some choice over what to communicate to their peers. Scaffolds are needed to ensure that communication is productive towards a collective or cooperative goal. Set clear expectations and model effective communication in different mediums (video calls, online discussions, email, etc.). By modeling communication with the other teacher, you are modeling transparency and effective communication. Building a healthy relationship will allow for richer dialogue and engagement from the students. Be sure to communicate regularly with your co-teacher to prepare contingencies for potential challenges that may arise. 

Lean on culturally responsive talking structures, protocols, and thinking routines to guide respectful and rich thinking and communication. Communication will most likely occur when you’re not around, so providing this scaffolding will help make the interactions among students more productive. If you have read any of my previous blog posts, I will continue to recommend the work of Zarretta Hammond, Project Zero, Making Thinking Visible but other resources like EduProtocols by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo and The Digital Learning Playbook by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie provide examples and ideas for how to scaffold these interactions. 

Publicize student learning 

A staple of PBL, authentic audiences to share student learning will increase engagement. Allow for some student choice in how students want to demonstrate their learning. Student work can be shared within their own learning community, but it can be much more meaningful if learning is tied to authentic issues with appropriate audiences. Consider local organizations, institutions, politicians, businesses, etc. There will be much more meaningful engagement if there is a purpose for the learning and interaction. 



Neil Selwyn and Peter Jandrić, “Postdigital Living in the Age of Covid-19: Unsettling What We See as Possible,” Postdigital Science and Education (2020).

Fridell, M., & Lovelace, T. (2008). Create a digital world: Five steps to engage students in multicultural learning. The International Journal of Learning, 15(1). 

Lui, Ping (2002). Developing an e-pal partnership a school-based international activity. Childhood Education, 79(2), 81-87. 

Digital Citizen Advocate Most Recent Post

Using Thinking Dispositions and Routines to Nurture Media Literacy


It’s October and I am really feeling spooky culture right now. As cringe-worthy as that was for me to type, it’s true. Around this time of the year I always watch one of my favorite zombie movies ever, Shaun of the Dead, and it had me reminiscing on my own faux zombie experience. In my 1st year of teaching, a colleague of mine attempted to deter me from trying to navigate the halls of our building during passing periods. He explained in jest that if I went out there that I may never come back. I couldn’t tell if this was some form of harmless joking with the rookie. There was already so much anxiety and chaos for me as a 1st year teacher that I had no choice but to fall willingly off his cliffhanger. I bite – “why shouldn’t I leave?” His response – “You may fall victim to the phone zombies. The cursed stampede of teenagers who wander aimlessly through the halls staring at their phones while, unbeknownst to you or them, you find yourself either trapped in a corner or boxed into traffic unable to take the off-ramp for the bathroom.” I’m the type of learner who must get burned before learning that fire is hot, so I naively explored the halls during passing time only to be preyed upon by the phone zombies. This experience illustrates how easy it is for our students, and adults too, to engage with online media almost mindlessly like a zombie. Consumption and sharing online media without critical examination can lead to consequences like being mislead or sharing misinformation. This rapid consumption of online media highlights the need to equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate online media critically and responsibly. 

My colleague, whom I have great respect for and who has had an extensive teaching career, has seen firsthand the drastic growth in consumption and use of online media over time. I, like these students, am a Digital Native who grew during this change in our environment speaking the digital languages of computers, video games, and the internet. My colleague, on the other hand, would be considered a Digital Immigrant (a highly skilled and “fit” one at that) – someone who was not born into the digital world, but has adopted most aspects of new technology (Prensky, 2001). These terms and distinguishing characteristics were made famous by Marc Prensky, an American author and speaker on education, in 2001.  

Today, our students’ engagement with online media is more connected and networked than ever before and beginning at much younger ages. Kids 5-8 spend roughly 3 hours on digital media whereas tweens 8-12 spend on average 6 and teens 13-18 increase to about 9 hours a day (Rideout, 2017). Prensky also argues that the terms Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants are becoming less relevant. As the 21st century rolls along, we all will have greater access to instant and ongoing collections of information at their fingertips. There is now a greater need to support digital wisdom (Prensky, 2013).  According to Prensky, “digital wisdom is a two-fold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our usual capacity and to wisdom in the use of technology to enhance our innate capabilities” (Prensky, 2013, p. 202). It is important to note that Prensky recognizes that there is still a need for people to define, discuss, compare, and evaluate, but digital wisdom uses technology to increase quality and sophistication in how we do so. Another way to consider digital wisdom is when we use both our minds and digital tools to enhance our analysis to inform decision making and understanding (Prensky, 2013).

This combination of critical thinking and utilization of technology really stuck with me as I contemplated ISTE Coaching standard 7c – Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions. I then arrived at a digital education problem with 2 related questions:


  • The tone, context, and content of online media can mislead, intimidate, or dissuade


  1. What does digital wisdom look like when educators and students examine sources of online media?
  2. How can practicing thinking dispositions and routines support educators and students’ discernment of online media?


Our world today is fast-paced filled with instant gratification and access to information. Because of this, it is easy to fall into the trap of action without thought. A student can easily search for a news article or website that includes a buzzword for their search, but pay little attention to the source information or underlying assumptions. To combat this, Educators should provide opportunity for students to discern online media for 4 dimensions of critical evaluation:

  1. Relevance – information’s level of importance to a particular reading purpose or explicitly stated need for that information
  2. Accuracy – the extent to which information contains factual and updated details that can be verified by consulting alternative and/or primary sources
  3. Bias/Perspective – the position or slant toward which an author shapes information
  4. Reliability – the information’s level of trustworthiness based on information about the author and the publishing body

(Coiro, 2017). 

But how do we as educators know if what we are teaching to students stick? Practice builds permanence. Educators can help their students practice these dimensions of critical evaluation through thinking dispositions. Dispositions can be defined as tendencies that guide thinking and behavior and shape how we use our knowledge and skills. Dispositions can help students slow down and develop sensitivity to recognize the nuance and dilemmas that are products of engaging with online media. Dispositions help teach habits of mind that encourage students to think critically and reflectively around digital citizenship. Project Zero, an initiative from Harvard’s Graduate of Education, has developed a framework of thinking routines that can help students practice dispositions and communicate their thinking in visible ways. These routines are designed to be short, memorable, and flexible across age and disciplines.

Students are challenged to reflect, explore perspectives, further investigate facts/credibility, and envision possible impacts. Not only do these dispositions incorporate the 4 dimensions of critical evaluation, their website categorizes these routines by subject and by disposition, idea, or competence. Here are just a few of many thinking routines to choose from:

(Project Zero) 

As coaches and educators, we want to utilize thinking dispositions and routines to shape a culture of digital citizenship.  The goal should not just be to introduce to students how to critically examine their sources and identify underlying assumptions, but to empower them to independently choose the right thinking tools to practice and apply to a range of sources and mediums (Ritchart,  Church, & Morrison, 2011). By doing so, we are supporting students’ development of becoming digitally wise and providing the antidote for digital zombies.

Final thought:

Digital wisdom can and must be taught, but it does not exclude digital immigrants. I would consider my colleague a very digitally wise person who carefully and critically utilizes technology to enhance thinking and understanding.  One key takeaway here for instructional coaching purposes is that teaching digital wisdom should approach all audiences in education from student, to family, to instructor. Coaches should challenge instructors to model and participate with their students’ evaluation of online media and underlying assumptions. Coaches should help instructors think about a continuum of learning for examining online media that models evaluation, provides opportunity for inquiry, and challenges students to transfer and apply thinking routines/dispositions to other interests relevant to their own lives. This process may not happen within a single school year or class, but it should be considered when administration or leadership teams design continuous learning goals.  In addition, push instructors to foster opportunities for empowering students to engage their learning with families. The benefit here is two-fold – students will continue to practice permanence of thinking routines useful for evaluating sources and increase the knowledge and capacity for families to support their students’ learning. 

Enrichment resources:

More research-based information about media use by tweens and teens can be found here

NY times – Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning about Fake News

Online Inquiry Tool – A digital scaffold to weigh evidence to support and refute claims


Coiro, J. (2017, August 29). Teaching Adolescents How to Evaluate the Quality of Online Information 

Harvard Graduate School of Education. Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox. Project Zero.

Marc Prensky, “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom,” in From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin, 2013), 201-15 

Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital natives, digital immigrants: A new way to look at ourselves and our kids.,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf 

Rideout, V., & Robb, M. (2018). Social media,social life: Teens reveal their experiences. diasociallife_fullreport-final-release_2_lowres.pdf  

Ritchart, R.,  Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible. Jossey-Bass.