How to bring Learning to Life with ‘Screen Time’

Technology is a huge part of our lives at the moment, and it’s developing fast. Quite rightly, schools are starting to teach ‘coding’ (how to write code for a computer programme.) Gone are the days when IT lessons were only using Microsoft Publisher to make WORDART or PowerPoint to make words move fancily across the screen. With all this technology, children are accessing ‘screen time’ much more at home. ‘Screen time’ used to just refer to watching television or playing consoles, but now we not only have televisions and computers but laptops, tablets and smart phones too.

In a recent article in the Telegraph, Lydia Willgress discusses an Ofcom study which says,  “three to four year olds are online for an average of 71 minutes per day or 8 hours, 18 minutes a day- an hour and a half more than last year.” In the same article, she quotes Dr Hayley Van Zwanenberg who says, “Screentime stimulates the ‘reward centre’ of pre-school children’s brains, acting like a drug, so they will want more and more. But young children should be active, investigating the real world and having lots of social interaction to develop healthily, physically and mentally.”

When I was in primary school, we had one computer in the juniors that I got to share with a couple of friends in a timed slot. I honestly couldn’t tell you what we did on it. It definitely did not enhance our learning.

At home, we had a really old computer with white letters on a black background. I don’t think we were allowed to touch that! By my teens, we had upgraded the computer and I used to have to fight for ‘screen time’ with my brother, waiting for the whirring and the buzzing of the phone line connecting to the internet only for my Mum to shout that she needed to use the phone.

As a teacher, part of my job was to teach Music Technology. My pupils had not seen or heard of a gramophone or a record player which might be expected, but they had never seen a tape before either. And do you remember the Mini-Disk? Children of today will not know the pain of trying to record the Top 40 off the radio and trying to cut out the speech between songs.

I believe you can use technology in fun and purposeful ways to help children investigate the real world and still develop well.

  1.  Interviews
    Do you remember singing Spice Girls into your hairbrush when you were young? (or was that just me?)  Well, get your hairbrush (back) out and use your smart phone or tablet to interview your child and let them interview you too. ‘Hot seating’ is a technique used by teachers to enhance speaking by choosing a pupil to answer questions planned by the rest of the class. Work with your child to come up with ‘who, what, where, why, how and when’ questions, and don’t forget ‘did and do’ questions. An example of a story to bring to life in this way would be the Lonely Beast by Chris Judge. This book is about a beast who sets out to find some friends. He goes through the sea and the mountains to the city. At first, the people in the city run away from him. But their curiosity brings them back and they let him stay in the park. Although, he has many visitors, he still feels lonely. So, to find more friends he tells his story by going on the radio and television. You can pretend to be the beast and interview each other, you can even pretend to be the curious city people and think about why you ran away. This can be replicated with any story. Pick a character and plan some questions. Encourage full sentences and make your own radio or television interview. Then re-listen time and time again.
  1. Photograph books
    You take photographs on an outing – what happens to them? Upload them to Facebook? Do you remember when we took our films to be processed at a supermarket and you would have to wait a week to find out that you’d put your finger over the lens or you’d made the skyline all wonky? Children of today will not know our pain!

You can make your photographs a learning tool in a fun and purposeful way. With your child, upload them to your computer or laptop and let them choose four. You then have two options:

  • Show them how to print them directly, and help them hand write a caption under each photograph (scribing if necessary).
  • Copy the photographs into a Word document and support them to type the sentences under each, then show them how to print. The more you do this, the sooner your young child will learn how to print independently.

With both options you get a wonderful memory you can keep forever. Most supermarkets sell reasonably priced laminators and pouches. (Health and safety- don’t leave it unattended)

This can be replicated with story books, taking photographs of your child’s toys as characters, or even make up your own stories together: photographing a scene, a character and an event.

  1. Stop Motion Animation
    Kudos to Sainsbury’s for making this easily available and affordable with their ‘How to Make your own Film’ with an animation kit and a downloadable app at only £5 (and £2 goes to Great Ormond Street Hospital) called “The Greatest Gift.”  It has film sets and characters with a director’s handbook to help you with everything you need to know. Alternatively, help your child use their own toys and move them little by little, pausing them at every movement.
  1. Videos
    Bringing stories to life using videos can simply be you and your child using your tablet or smart phone to video yourselves acting out the story. Gather props and costumes. Learn dialogue off by heart. Outtakes can be funny to look over.  Make up your own stories and watch them over and over again. I have some puppet shows on my iPad from a family I worked with from years ago (with permission) and we even used to make video tutorials on how to make cakes.  I now use videos to help the seven year old I look after improve his football technique. I video him scoring goals in slow motion and we watch them back to see how he can improve.
  1. Stories and Nursery Rhymes
    Sometimes, you do need to use technology to have a little quiet time where you can get on with some chores. I do use t ablet screen time at bath time so I can focus on the little one in the bath while the other is safe and still learning.A great website for helping your children to learn or improve their English is the in the ‘Learn English’ section. There are so many songs and games and there are so many electronic stories such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood‘, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ as well as all sorts of subjects including Eid and Chinese New Year.The BBC has an amazing site for learning but during bath time, I like to put on Nursery Rhymes for my littlest. Not only do they have an amazing selection, my favourite being “Brush Your Teeth” which helps after bath time but also has medleys such as action or counting songs. All parts of your day are an opportunity to learn.

I do believe the right apps and games are important as they can help with fine motor skills and usually are a great vehicle to explore problem solving. I am not advocating hours and hours of screen time on computers, tablets or smart phones; however; making screen time purposeful and fun will make it enjoyable for you and your whole family.

Guest Blog by:

Kathryn Lord
Twitter- KathrynLord912

Kathryn Lord is the Award-Winning Author of “There’s More to Books Than Reading – how to help your child bring stories to life.” She has taught across England and Europe as a Teacher, Nursery Nurse, Tutor, Nanny and Governess. With a passion for reading and making learning fun, she shares her experiences and learning. Her aim is to make your little ones learning more fun. Kathryn believes everyone has the ability to help their child bring stories to life.

Note being: Kathryn Lord is not getting anything for sharing the products and websites above, other than the satisfaction that more children will learn from them.

Quotes taken from “Pre-school children spend more than four hours a day looking at screens” by Lydia Willgress (16 November 2016)

One comment on “How to bring Learning to Life with ‘Screen Time’
  1. Mary says:

    Thank you for sharing Kat. Indeed, technology is now an integral part of modern life. We never had computers when I was at primary school. I was given my first computer (calculator that is) when I was about 12 years old. Then, a few years later, a computer shop opened in my home town which at that time trained youngsters how to code in Basic using ‘Commodore’ computers. I was fascinated with these gadgets and what they can do. Then other computers came along; I had my very first ‘proper computer’ – Amstrad – I was so happy, then it soon couldn’t cope and became obsolete in no time so I had to upgrade again, and again. Youngsters these days pick things up so quickly, it seems like second nature to them.