Helping Students Manage Their Screen Time

The start of the school year is a perfect time to talk to students about managing their screen time. Although many students have personal smart phones and tablets, for some 7th graders, receiving an MLTI device will be their first experience with 1:1 computing. Suddenly they will have in their possession a wonderful tool for reading, writing, viewing, creating, and gaming. It will be available at school and at home, 24/7, and while it’s a necessity for schoolwork, it can also become a bone of contention in the classroom and with the family.

student with laptop and iPad
Photo Credit: ransomtech via Compfight cc

Excessive screen time has been linked to obesity, insufficient sleep, and social issues for children and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time per day. This includes TV viewing time as well as interactions with computers and mobile devices. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, however, only 27% of young adolescents meet that limit. Given that they are expected to use laptops or tablets for schoolwork, it’s unlikely our students in 1:1 computing classes will meet that goal, but we can help them monitor their screen time and become self-regulating. Here are some strategies that may help.

Make classroom expectations clear. 

Give kids clear guidelines for using their MLTI laptops or iPads and their personal devices in the classroom. There are times when students should not be looking at a screen but should be giving their full attention to you or to other students in the room. Come up with a verbal cue to let students know to put their devices away. For years MLTI teachers used “close and focus” (or some variation) to let kids know when to put the lid down on their laptops. A similar cue can work for tablets too. Many teachers have students put their iPads and phones face down on their desks when they enter the room and leave them there when they are not needed for classwork. Your school should also establish guidelines for using devices in the library, cafeteria, hallways, and other common areas.

Allow some personal use, with limits.

Electronic devices are a part of students’ lives and we can’t realistically expect them to unplug when they come to school. Work with your team and your administrators to establish a time in the day when students are allowed to check their email, communicate with family and friends, listen to music, or play an approved game. This is also an opportunity to introduce some digital citizenship goals. Common Sense Media provides an excellent curriculum with plenty of free resources to help students learn how to behave safely, ethically, and responsibly in online environments.

Talk to parents.

While our students have grown up with this technology, their parents have not, and many of them will need help managing screen time with their children at home. Most middle schools in Maine have a parent night in the fall when they discuss the MLTI devices. This is a good time to make parents aware of some of the challenges and help them develop strategies and guidelines that work for their families. Parents are excellent resources for each other too, especially those who have older children and who may already have some family practices in place. A few years ago I met a parent up in Aroostook County who knew how to deal with the problem of late-night screen time. She had a shelf in her house where all members of the family (adults too) placed all their electronic devices at 9:00 P.M. each night and plugged them in to charge. They didn’t pick up the devices again until after breakfast the next morning. It was simple but effective, and it made a lot of sense. Parents can also take advantage of Common Sense Media‘s resources for setting screen-time limits.

Model appropriate use.

One of the most effective ways we teachers can help students is by moderating our own digital lives and modeling appropriate behavior. If you expect students to have their phones turned off and put away in class, you should not be using yours. We have a rule in my school that students may not have their iPads out of the carry cases in the hallway. I make a point of using my carry case whenever I’m in the hallway too, even if I’m just stepping into the next room to show a teacher something on my iPad.

If we set clear expectations while allowing students some freedom, and if we partner with parents and model appropriate behavior, our students are more likely to develop healthier habits and learn to moderate their own screen time.

MAMLE Partners With NELMS on 1:1 Digital Learning Institute

MAMLE is delighted to partner with NELMS to offer the 1:1 Digital Learning Institute on June 26-27. 2014 in Kennebunk, Maine.  Three expert teams of Maine educators from elementary, middle, and high schools will work with attendees from around the nation and beyond to develop strategies with clear steps to help them move forward with their own 1:1 initiatives.


Complete description of the Institute:

1:1 Learning Experts to Share Best Practices and Practical Advice

Digital 1:1 Learning Summit Scheduled for June 26-27 in Kennebunk, ME

KENNEBUNK, MAINE (March 5, 2014)–Digital 1:1 learning has revolutionized the learning experience, empowering teachers to personalize learning and connect students to the world like never before. An effective 1:1 program goes far beyond the purchase of laptops or tablets—yet, many schools don’t know where to begin.

A team of education experts from the Maine Association of Middle Level Educators (MAMLE) and the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) have organized the first annual Digital 1:1 Learning Institute, which will take place at the Middle School of the Kennebunks in Kennebunk, Maine June 26-27, 2014.

Keynote speakers at the two-day event include Senator Angus S. King, Jr., a visionary leader who, as governor of Maine, launched the world’s first and most comprehensive 1:1 initiative to bring learning technology into all Maine middle level schools; and Dr. Mike Muir, a Maine educator and expert on engaged learning for all students. A member of the original advisory team for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), Dr. Muir helps lead the nation’s first full primary iPad project in Auburn, Maine.

HSblogger4Organizers say the conference will provide participants the knowledge and confidence to develop a vision and plan for their specific educational setting, as well as practical advice on what to do – and what not to do — from Maine teachers, administrators, and technology education leaders who have been at the forefront of digital learning for over a decade.  A panel of students whose learning was transformed by 1:1 will share their experiences.

Participants are encouraged to bring a team from their school that includes teachers, administrators and technology professionals. There will be three tracks from which to choose—elementary, middle school and high school—so participants can learn strategies appropriate to the level they teach.KinderKid reading

The cost of the conference, not including accommodations, is $295 per person if registered before May 15; when a five-member team is registered together, a sixth registration is free. Participants will receive 12 continuing education credits for attending this conference. For more information or to register, visit


Chris Toy

Jill Spencer                                                                                                        

Gadgets Spur Student Engagement!

Pat Dunphy from MSAD 59 in Madison shares her Google site below.  Click, read, and learn how to use your wireless mouse and laser pointer to actively involve your students in a lesson.  Pat will be presenting at the MAMLE Conference on Thursday, October 17–Attend her session to pick up some new strategies!

Education for the 21st Century – Patricia Dunphy, MSAD #59

In this day and age of budget cuts, and world event happening faster than textbooks can be printed; how do we get students the information they need to know to be successful?  A laptop, a projector, a pointer, and a Ladibug just might hold the answer.  Come explore the ways information and learning can be shared in any classroom, and don’t be afraid to “click”!     PENOBSCOT (EDUCATION CENTER)

Here’s the link to her google site.


LiveBinders & Trello–2 Tools for Project Work

These web 2.0 tools, LiveBinders and Trello, will help both you and your students manage projects that are collaborative in nature. They are both:

  • Free!
  • Web-based so work on any platform and device
  • Usable on the iPad with an app



LiveBinders allows students to organize their digital resources in one place on the web and share the URL with those they are working with and their teacher.  Because it is web-based, students can access it from any digital device connected to the Internet at any time. Also students can upload images and notes.

Below is tutorial that explains how to set up an account, put a LiveBinder tool in your bookmark bar, and save and organize resources.

LiveBinder can be kept private or made public.  Here is the URL for one of my public LiveBinders focused on digital study tools:


Trello allows students to break their projects down into a series of tasks and then keep track of their progress.  As you can see there is a To Do list as well Doing and Done Lists.


The other neat thing about Trello is that the teacher can track who is contributing to the project.


Watch this video to see how Trello works and how it can help your students stay  organized and develop self-accountability. The video is from the world of business, however the ideas are easily adapted to the classroom.

There other videos on YouTube about Trello.

What Web 2.0 tools do you and your students find helpful in project work?

5 Great Sites Related to iPads in the Middle School Classroom

The use of iPads, a new teaching and learning device for many, has exploded this year. Check out these 5 sites for ideas and tips for integrating them seamlessly into your classroom:


Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything–iPads in the Classroom   Kathy is a technology integration pioneer.  She was in the classroom, and thus her suggestions are always practical.  Here are some of the topics from this site:

  • Tutorials
  • Apps and related materials
  • iBook creation
  • PD suggestions
  • Ideas especially for special education

18 iPad Uses: How Classrooms Are Benefiting From Apple’s Tablets  The suggestions here are both subject-specific and cross curricular in nature. Some of the ideas include:

  • Virtual field trips
  • Math instruction
  • Going paperless
  • Engaging the disengaged

Tony Vincent’s Videos on YouTube   He has been a keynote speaker at ACTEM and other major conferences.  His website Learning in Hand focuses on hand-held devices in the classroom.  A couple of his videos you probably want to view are…

  • Using (digital) sticky notes in the classroom
  • Talking heads
  • QR codes

The Complete List of iPads Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials   Step-by-step directions on a myriad of topics including

  • PDFs on the iPad
  • Battery life
  • Typing faster with double spaces

Chris Toy’s Workshop Materials page    Chris travels the world working with educators to effectively integrate technology. Fortunately for those not attending his sessions, he posts his materials on his website.  Take a gander to find out about…

  • Web 2.0 tools
  • Tools for collaboration
  • OER —  Open Education Resources