Restrict Screen Time: Dr Aric Sigman comes to school

Yesterday, 12/06/13, Dr Aric Sigman came to our school to talk to pupils, staff and parents about various issues, prompted by some difficulties presented by the partially anonymous social media website ask.fm. Sigman specialises in presenting his published work around the world including school talks for PSHEEC covering alcohol, body image, electronic media (screen time), parenting and more. For our school he had been asked to cover all or most of these in a whistle-stop tour of his research. I warn you there may be inaccuracies in this post but I have omitted areas I felt unsure about. It presents a flavour of the overall presentation.

Dr Sigman at school
Dr Sigman at school

Dr Sigman is an articulate and charismatic speaker and all our audiences enjoyed his presentations and many felt inspired, or at least had their interest piqued, by what he had to say. The over-arching message he left was that, for young people (<19), recreational screen time (gaming, videos, social media) is averagely at 6.1 hours per day and should be limited to 2 hours. The argument is presented with a research evidence-base about the chemicals that are released in our brains from specific activities and that too much passive screen time that does not stimulate good brain development. In fact, it is very possible it is bad for you when your body is going through important growth stages. Among the examples of actual impact that were cited was France banning any television media aimed at <3 year olds; screen time for very young people should be kept to an absolute minimum.

I photographed many of Sigman’s slides but he challenged someone filming him to make sure it was for private use only. His concern was because, if publicly distributed, it may cause a backlash from organisations that want us to be using screens or alcohol more, not less. This made me a little suspicious. If research is robust it can withstand scrutiny and counter-research. Enter Dr Ben Goldacre (props to @simfin for the pointer) who authors badscience.net and was recently invited by the Right Honourable Michael Gove MP to examine how schools might improve the use of evidence to inform practice. Goldacre appears in a Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman and Aric Sigman in 2009 where the latter’s report is challenged because it led to Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield, then head of the Royal Institution, making claims that led to the Daily Mail headline: ‘Social websites harm children’s brains‘. The interview is embedded below:

Goldacre grinds his research evidence standards axe regularly. This is partly how he earns his crust, so, take from it what you will.

I was concerned that there was going to be a distorted message being given to my school community. My concern was not unfounded. Sigman clearly enjoyed the fact his work is perceived by many as contentious, and he let the audience know he was being invited by governments and the like to address important people around the world. And that some audiences are more receptive than others because they serve a specific agenda.

I am not in a position to scrutinise the validity of Sigman’s claims, but I wanted to try and make sure that his message was clear. When he says ‘recreational screen time’ maybe people hear ‘screen time’ without the qualifying distinction. I felt obliged to seek clarification in the Q&A sessions. Was he only talking about screen time spent on recreational activities? He was, and added that he only meant passive screen time; Wii games employing physical actions like bowling did not count. It was important to me to make sure that the audience were very clear that screen time for learning does not contribute to this process. Sigman aligned reading a book to stimulating imagination about sensory perception in the mind. This was a complex process deemed healthy for the brain, and, therefore, ‘kindles’ (for which I think yo can substitute ‘reading on any device’ since the introduction of kindle fire). The chemical release can be stimulated from reading on a computer or working on research or an essay. Obviously, there are a lot of grey areas here (some research is watching YouTube etc.) and Sigman stipulated that recreation meant gaming, youtube and social media. He also asked the audience to imagine hunting and similar activities that caused stress hormones and cortisone to be released back in the early days of our development. Our bodies are designed to release these chemicals during physical exertion but playing the adrenaline inducing first-person shoot ’em up will cause the same chemical release whilst the recipient is relatively motionless.

Is this pseudo-science? Well I don’t really know. Sigman substantiated his claims with research. He did not permit his slides to be published but I can publish all the sources I managed to capture. This is the last of what I have to say on the matter other than a couple of Year 9 boys approached me today to let me know their Mum’s had removed their gadgets as soon as they got home. We all have to learn how to manage our screen time. I’m not convinced Dr Sigman has all the facts in his presentation. I hope he has not set fear alight in our parents and teachers. I guess a passionate and urgent message is always a danger with showmanship spotlight research presentations. My feeling is that we need more dispassionate research to unravel this evidence base, similar to that Goldacre has bothered to assemble on his website. Maybe we may see another analysis of Sigman’s work by Goldacre. After all, it seems to be a hobby of his.

Below is a sample of his quotes that I managed to note; many are missing.

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Salivary Cortisol in Relation to the Use of ICT in School-Aged Children. Wallenius (?), M., et al (2010) Psychology, 2010, 1, 88-95. ‘Adolescents rarely describe gaming and surfing in the Internet as stressing activities but, instead, as a way of passing time, getting experiences, and social communication.’

The World Unplugged, (2011) University of Maryland. 1000 students in 10 countries on 5 continents. Study to give up tech for 24 hours. ‘A clear majority in every country failed.’ ‘many students employed the rhetoric of addiction, dependency and depression when self-reporting their reactions to going unplugged for 24 hours… many students also reported both mental and physical symptoms of distress.’ ‘they physically craved the actual devices themselves.’

American Journal of Drug Alcohol Abuse (2010) 10.5% change in dopamine release ‘in the caudate after playing a motorbike riding computer game.’ ‘Computer game playing may lead to long-term changes in the reward circuitry that resemble the effects of substance dependence.’

Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder (2011). ‘multiple structural changes’ deep within the brain. ‘several small regions in the brain were smaller, in some cases as much as 10 to 20 percent.’ Surface-level brain matter appears to shrink according to how long you’ve had ‘internet addiction’.

American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2009). Surfing internet – areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually NO increase in stimulation. ‘Young people are growing up immersed in this technology and their brains are more malleable, more plastic and changing. As the brain evolves and shifts its focus towards new technological skills, it drifts away from fundamental social skills.’

Mirroring Others’ Emotions Relates to Empathy and Interpersonal Competence in Children. Pfeiffer et al. Neuroimage (2008). ‘stimulated by face-to-face interaction.”stimulation related directly to children’s: level of empathy; social skills.’

Meta-analysis of 72 studies 1979-2009 by University of Michigan, May 2010. ‘College kids today are about 40% lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago’ ‘We found the biggest drop in empathy after the year 2000… 1) The increase in exposure to media during this time… 2) Recent rise in social media.’

Couldn’t see the source of this but here it is anyway, discussing mental health: ‘Children’s Screen Viewing is Related to Psychological Difficulties Irrespective of Physical Activity: ‘Children who spent [more than] 2 hours per day watching television or using a computer were at increased risk of high levels of psychological difficulties and this risk increased if the children also failed to meet physical activity guidelines. … Limiting computer use and television viewing may be important for optimal well-being for young people.’

Facebook Depression, American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) Guidance for the Clinician: The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families: ‘Facebook depression … develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.’

Increase in Loneliness, Children Talking to Childline about Loneliness report by NSPCC (2010): ‘Among boys: 500% increase in calls about loneliness from five years ago.’

Computers in Human Behaviour, Kirschner & Karpinski (2010): ‘Three-quarters of the Facebook users said they didn’t believe spending time on the site affected their academic performance….’ But Facebook users’ grades were 20% lower.

Harvard Medical School (2012) did a systematic review of parental interventions on screen time: 29 studies ‘achieved significant reductions in TV viewing or screen-media use.

 

 

 

 

Restrict Screen Time: Dr Aric Sigman comes to school

ICT Innovator AUPs for teachers

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bstabler/770416963/sizes/z/in/photostream/
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bstabler/770416963/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Acceptable Use Policies are a necessary and important document – contract – for teachers in any school because it is imperative that we are protected from the potential danger working online can bring. Following an intense scrutiny of safeguarding and child protection at our school, we published a strict and comprehensive Staff ICT AUP. For example, staff should not connect with any pupil on facebook until one year after they are of school leaving age, and only then with caution as through siblings and friends it can connect you to current pupils.

However, two years on we have included in the new ICT strategy a review of this policy to incorporate a section for innovative teachers who want to employ a new service without seeking formal permission via the various committees in place to oversee the use of ICT.  For example, I have been managing Sixth Form coursework using a project management tool called trello, logged into through pupils and teachers Google Apps for Education accounts. Or, should a teacher want to investigate and explore the use of edmodo in teaching and learning, they need to go about this in a risk-aware and cautious way without their enthusiasm being thwarted by bureaucracy. Equally you do not want to let every teacher engage pupils via services, that facilitate private and untraceable communique, without being aware of the risks involved. The common sense approach is simply not enough in this day and age.

There is extensive discussion of the issues involved and some research collated here on Scott McLeod’s blog, which also demonstrates that this issue is not only a concern for my school. Check out the links on Employee AUPs for material specifically relevant to this area.

We are proposing a clause to the ICT AUP whereby a teacher can sign up to be an ICT innovator and thereafter explore the use of such services with only an email being sent to a designated person. It might be that usernames and passwords, for the accounts being used, need to be shared which will allow monitoring of some sort. This will all be discussed in detail with the school’s child protection officer and the relevant committees. The priority is to enable teachers and pupils to exploit the innovations that specific web services can provide in a protected and safe way that does not impede the momentum of the creative spark that initiates the process. Our core purpose is to empower users who want to use technology to enrich teaching and learning.

If you have any thoughts about this, please do comment. Once the AUP is written, I will share it on a new blogpost.

ICT Innovator AUPs for teachers

ICT in Subjects at #TLAB13

My notes for #TLAB13 presentation followed by the slides; all images from Google’s Stock Collection in Drive. NB: I have not edited the notes for this post.

Setting the scene:

  • SMT made decision to teach ICT through other subjects. No more discrete timetabled ICT lessons.
  • Moving to a two-week timetable and 30*50 minute lessons instead of 40*40 minutes per week.
  • ICT teacher would manage which departments and when.
  • Units of work would be decided upon collaboratively.
  • A lot of work.
  • Hard to choose a department.
  • English were restricted by having two class sets of set texts.
  • Maths by streamlining and classes following different POS.
  • Science taught two units at the same time to half a year group each.
  • ADT operate a carousel system.
  • Good depts: Geog. History. RE. Music. Latin. MfL.
  • One lesson per week from the partner subject.
  • ICT rooms had to be booked because there is no timetable. Clash with CAs meant resource management very difficult. Bid for carry cases of mobile devices was rejected.
  •  A logistical nightmare. How was I going to protect the ICT curriculum?

But. A fantastic opportunity. As an evangelist of the use of education technology to enhance learning, here I was faced with a formal opportunity to prove it – to do it rather than talk about it. Game on!

Section One: content and activities, ICT curriculum

Geography

  • Volcanoes and earthquakes. One term.
  • Google Apps for Education. Google sites. Google docs. Frog.
  • Y7. 120 pupils. Five classes. Four Geog teachers. Two ICT teachers.
  • Recreate a case study of a natural hazard. Map skills.
  • Groups of four. Pupils chose a partner and then teachers allocated two pairs together.
  • Group management roles were given. More about that later.
  • Pupils had to go through ICT admin of accounts for GAfE and school network, including ICT AUP. This allowed Geog teachers to get them started over the first two weeks. But Geog teachers found it hard having less lessons.
  • ICT content: collaboration and teamwork, referencing sources, web searching, websites, writing for the web, google maps and web tools.

RE

  • The Covenant. Half term.
  • Google Apps for Education. Google sites. Google docs. Voki. Prezi. Other web2.0 tools. Frog.
  • Y8 120 pupils. Five classes. Four teachers. Two ICT teachers.
  • Six sections. Meet with all participant teachers to discuss what we could do. Pupils to investigate an independent line of enquiry into one of the six areas and then share them with each other through a cycle of review or presentation. Similar to Geog projects.
  • ICT content: collaboration and teamwork. Research. Referencing. Web tools: presenting/communicating information suitable to audience.

English

  • Set text. Half term.
  • Google Apps for Education. MS Word. Classtools fakebook. Frog.
  • Y8. 48 pupils. Two classes. One teacher. One ICT teacher.
  • Yellowcake Conspiracy – a novel.
  • Annotating google maps.
  • Fakebook profiles.
  • Word processed reports.
  • ICT content: web2.0 tools, social networking and esafety, word processor and templates, writing online, formal report writing, spell-checking etc.

PE

  • Fielding & striking techniques. Term.
  • 12 flip cameras. Windows Movie Maker Live. PowerPoint. Frog.
  • Y7. 120 pupils. Five classes. Three teachers. Two ICT teachers. Only one ICT lesson.
  • ICT content: filming and editing video. Annotating still images.

Music

  • Composition for media. Term.
  • Y8. 120 pupils. Five classes. Two teachers and two ICT teachers.
  • CuBase. Scratch, Google presentations. Frog.
  • ICT content: music composition with CuBase, Scratch programming language.

Overall the simpler individual work like that done in English or Music was much easier to achieve. For the collaborative projects – and scratch programming games – it was always striking a balance between ambition and achievement for each pupil.

Section Two: group work, pedagogy, assessment, management tools, evaluation

Group Roles

Time Manager: meeting deadlines, checking everyone is on task and getting their job done.

Content Manager: which sections are being done by whom. They should plan deadlines for content to be done by in consultation with Time Manager.

Layout Manager: design, colours, fonts should all be consistent throughout the site. References must be accurate.

Functionality Manager: when building websites it is necessary to check that everything works properly for visitors.

For the next project we added Project Manager to help co-ordinate everybody and to make a clear lead/person to talk to if you were worried about anything.

It was excellent to call all the managers of one type out of the room for a two minute briefing. For example, all the content managers could share how they were managing their role and making sure the content was being covered. Equally, in the RE project, we were able to do the same with all those across the groups within one class studying a particular line of enquiry. We could do this because there were two teachers present.

Pedagogy

Team teaching can be great fun but sometimes it can be very hard.

And there are times when feel rather exposed and vulnerable in front of your colleagues.

To combat this I wanted to make sure I was teaching well. I investigated learning objectives, SOLO taxonomy, group work and project based learning. Most of this was done through blogs and books, some of the authors are presenting today.

Core principles of the classroom for ICT in Subjects

  • Pupils knew what they doing next
  • Every pupil to receive verbal feedback about their work every lesson (two teachers after all)
  • Instructional material was always available through the VLE.
  • Pupils struck a balance between ambition and achievement.
  • Peer review, and improving work to achieve quality, was to be included wherever possible.

Assessment

  • Frog VLE was used where appropriate for pupils to upload files to be marked.
  • Certain planning pieces (e.g. for Scratch game plans) would have to be signed off by a teacher.
  • Comments were made on Google Docs where appropriate to help the pupil move on to the next step.
  • Difficult for the ICT teachers because their class would change from project to project so hard to get to know the individuals and their work well.
  • ICT teachers do not have to write reports or go to parents evenings or provide tracking data.
  • There will be an ICT exhibition towards the end of the academic year, showcasing the work. Still planning this but ideally I would like the pupils to show their parents their work following an introduction where some pupils showcase their ICT experience for the year. Not sure the former part of this is viable so back to the drawing board. How do we present an ICT exhibition without WiFi?

Management Tools

To keep in touch with participant teachers, I used a google spreadsheet with a worksheet for each class/teacher. I would make a master copy which would then be copied out to each class. Problematic because of two-week timetable which meant the order of lessons could be different for each class between their ICT lesson (A) and their non-ICT lesson (B): ABBA, ABAB, BABA, BAAB. Therefore, a large degree of flexibility was necessary at all times.

It was a challenge to get participants to fill in the spreadsheets with the content of their (non-ICT) lessons.

Few responses to emails. I had to make sure that both me and my ICT colleague were following everything up face-to-face.

Evaluation

As research project for my MA I have used the evaluation process of ICT in Subjects to find out if the school is doing KS3 ICT the best way it can to inform future decisions about whether or not to continue or return to discrete lessons.

The research involved pupil questionnaires, teacher questionnaires and documentary evidence in the form of academic tracking data over four terms.

Findings:

1. Comparing academic achievement in the participant subjects, 83% of pupils did better in the participant subject test after ICT in Subjects. [NB: this analysis requires further verification as there are many potentially influential factors]

2. Many participants felt that ICT benefitted their learning.

3. Some participants wanted to return to discrete ICT lessons where they learnt about computers.

4. Some liked the new way of learning ICT whilst in another subject.

5. Despite several opportunities, not one pupil said the use of ICT was a bad thing.

ICT in Subjects at #TLAB13

Touch Typing in my school

tt6
A stack of tea towels from home conceals the fingers from tempted eyes…

When should people learn how to touch type? Should it be compulsory in schools? Should it take precedence over handwriting?

These questions can raise some interesting conversations, but as a secondary school teacher I have never managed to do much more than introduce pupils to touch typing, always in the knowledge that it was not enough to get them interacting with the keyboard through muscle memory. They would practice daily for a week or two but only some of them would actually improve their speeds to a beneficial level. But now, I can offer something more…

“Learning to touch type was the best one thing I ever did at school” A Colleague

It’s half term. A week off the usual timetable but not a holiday for me because I’m  running a touch typing course for our pupils and teachers morning and afternoon sessions for a week. Each participant attends five two and a half hour sessions and receives a certificate at the end of the week. This morning we have 18 KS3 pupils.

The software we are using is Touch Typing Reading and Spelling (TTRS online) which has a cost. It is specifically written to help dyslexics. It takes a slightly different path through the keyboard and every fifth training exercise is dictated, encouraging spelling as well as typing skills. I am working with the SENCO from our Progress Centre (thank you Mrs Gorard, for making it all happen) who has targeted children she feels will benefit from learning to touch type because they use laptops in class. We also have Mrs Price on board, a dyslexia specialist and a registered trainer for TTRS.

the software is simple - no whistles and bells
the software is simple – no whistles and bells

The course is open to anyone in our community – even two teachers signed up. The pupils are very excited to be turning up at school during a one week holiday – NOT! I am, though, very pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to them. I hope to hear good things in the future and be able to get more pupils through a week of muscle memory induction; for me, it’s not dissimilar to learning to play the guitar.

Touch Typing in my school

The Lazy Teacher comes to my school

Jim is on the right – obviously. Old iPhones are old.

Jim Smith was booked into our school by a Senior Teacher, Natalie Shaw. Another colleague (@cgasiorek) enjoyed participating in one of Jim Smith’s lazy teaching sessions last year. I read his book The Lazy Teacher over the summer. Packed full of good tips to lighten your workflow by engaging your teaching mind. Jim brings lots of classroom tricks to the table, not all new whizz-bangers, but all focused on putting pupil energy at the centre of learning. The tricks are clever ways of awakening the minds in the room. Find the pedagogy – the methods – that suit a particular bunch of learners and use them. I do not have his slides to reference from the whistle-stop tour of his content, but I really liked the ASDA reference he made, whereby you work out what you want the pupils to be doing before you work out what you – the teacher – are going to do. Content comes last, getting broken into the activities you have decided are going to work for that class at that time. Seems simple but it’s easy to forget as we drive hard through SOWs and POSs like they are bad weather.

We started with firework warnings: do not do the firework planning because the pupils won’t go off with a whizz, bang and crackle in a shower of coloured light. I thought of a colleague who was disappointed about a CSI style lesson he had spent all weekend prepping only to be met with a lesson that fell short of his expectations. I thought of my own attempts to build SOLO taxonomy into my lessons only to be left wondering why the pupils were not singing it’s praises. I thought lazy teaching has a got a point.

Other than Jim’s energy, I liked a bingo idea he mentioned toward the end. Give pupils a bingo sheet where they match different pedagogies – learning/thinking games/activities/stimulants – and call house when they get them all matched. What a neat trick for monitoring teaching and learning without the paperwork. Could there be a better tour of the school? A thumbnail sketch of what a pupil spends their time doing in lessons.

I’m not sure I liked all that Jim said. He talked about making yourself better than your colleagues with the aim of being the one teacher all those pupils remembered in years to come. If I understood this correctly, it’s not for me. I am a fan of variety in a school, for example, I don’t want all teachers using the same technology in every lesson. I am not bothered if some teachers never want to use it. We are all different and *vive la difference*.

Teachers seemed impressed with Jim’s INSET. Inspired. They saw the benefits of lazy teaching. [NB: it was fast and furious; it was twilight, after school on the first day back after half term]. However, I heard a couple of mentions of it making people *feel* like they were not good enough. Jim did not say anything of the sort – the opposite in fact. Nevertheless, take a very busy teacher working very hard and show them something that makes them feel like what they’re doing is not enough, and you’ve got a situation you have to handle – I know this all too well from delivering ICT INSET over the years. But the teachers I work with are great people! The effort and energy they have put into the Frog training we have done this year is immense. I wonder what everyone will make of lazy teaching. I wonder if some of the ideas will jump into tomorrow’s lessons or bleed into the daily fabric.

It is a leap of faith to start incorporating other peoples ideas into your workflow. You feel like you’re falling into the wilderness from your familiar routine. I am inspired by many teachers whose work I read about on their blogs. This takes time; I like to take ownership of a technique before I adopt it. But maybe this is me being too slow? I wrote this blogpost because Mark Anderson nudged me to. Maybe we need to find a way of nudging each other.

Bingo anyone?

The Lazy Teacher comes to my school