Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Innovative Educators Don’t Recommend Screen Time Limits

What recommendations should we be giving parents and youth when it comes to screen time?  In past limiting some types of screen time made sense. A time when the American Pediatric Association (AAP) made long-standing screen time limits recommendations. However, those were based on research around passive television viewing and violent video games.

Since then the AAP has backtracked.

The APA acknowledges outdated views 

In 2015 Dimitri Christakis, AAP Council on Communication and Media member, revealed new information about the recommendations. He confessed to the research that lead to the recommendations was conducted before anyone knew the iPad, or similar interactive screen devices, existed. He says that since screens are now more than just devices to passively intake information, he has a different view. He explains that today, screens “can be used to read books to children, and high-quality apps are similar to toys. Therefore, the AAP needs to consider how these devices are used instead of discouraging their use across the board. We don't want to risk appearing so out of touch that we're irrelevant and people won't take our advice seriously."

A year later, the AAP updated their views saying that families are better off doing away with hard-and-fast restrictions on screen time. Instead, their should be joint media engagement and/or awareness, guidance, and conversations about healthy, productive, and/or educational screen use. 
Book cover: The New Childhood - Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World

In his book "The New Childhood," agrees.  He lays out clear recommendations on healthy and productive ways adults can spend more screen time with young people to successfully prepare them for the digital world in which they live.

The other important point to remember is the usefulness of screens beyond just learning. 

Yes. Screens are our books. They let us publish books. The allow us to code and create for authentic audiences. They enable our math to become visual so we can better understand how to solve equations. Screens enable us to communicate and collaborate across geographic boundaries. We can interact and engage in powerful ways never before possible.

But, that’s just the start.

Assisting those with disabilities

The percentage of the population with disabilities at any given time stands around 15 - 20%. For many of us able-bodied, this is only a temporary state. A large percentage of the population will experience disability at some point in their lives. It may be a broken bone that puts us in crutches or a cast on our hand. We may experience vision or hearing loss because of a medical condition. We may have cognitive impairment as we age or because of an aneurysm. We may have an undiagnosed learning condition like dysgraphia or Aspergers. Whether it is ourselves, a friend, a child, parent, or other family member, we all have or no someone who may have abilities that are impaired.

Fortunately, today technology can help powerfully with all of these conditions.

That means we must think differently about screen time.

Unfortunately, there is no acknowledgement with the AAP about the value of screens to support those with disabilities. The organization sees the world as things you do on screens and things you do without screens. It fails to recognize the ways screens are being integrated into the lives of so many.  

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The power of screens to access abilities 

Screens give a voice and unleashe the thoughts of Dillan and Meera

Screens become the eyes of Patrick.

Screens give sound to Shane.

Screens provide mobility for Todd.

Invisibly Abled

Screens are also helping those with invisible disabilities. Like Immersive Reader and speech to text for those with dyslexia or other literacy issues. There are accessibility features for those who are color blind, or those prone to seizures. Translation technology now can take words in an image turn them to text, translate them and read aloud.

Even those without a named disability, often find that screen technology unleashes their ability to learn or create in new ways.  

Screens are a lifeline and learning line in ways we may never have realized possible in the past.

The Verdict 

When the conversations of screen time come up, the answer must always be,there is not one answer. It depends on the individual. What they’re doing matters. The abilities they wish to access and how they wish to do so matters too.

Instead of talking about screen time, we can switch our conversation to what a healthy media diet looks like for each individual. For more help with that, Common Sense Education has an entire media balance toolbox to guide you.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Guidelines for Posting Like A Role Model in Social Media

More and more district and school staff are catching on to the advice of Superintendents like, Joe Sanfelippo who encourage staff to take every opportunity to say good things about their school. 

Sanfelippo's not alone. Supt Daniel Frazier has put together a list of more than 1500 Tweeting suptsWhen the person in charge takes seriously the power of telling our own stories staff start to follow suit. 

However, they also need guidance. When educators share and celebrate successes, they serve as role models. It's important to provide some direction on what to keep in mind when posting to social media.

Guidance On Posting Like A Role Model

Some advice on how to post responsibly and in ways that garner engagement. 

Remember the Golden Rule 

  • Praise and celebrate publicly, advise or criticize privately 

Help others be better

  • Ask yourself this: After people read our posts, are they better than when they started to read? If so, post freely. If not reconsider. More on this at this post from Cool Cat Teacher Vicki Davis 

Be consistent 

  • Remember to convey your brand / image 


  • Tag people (with permission) 
  • Places 


  • Know the right hashtags 
  • Limit hashtags to one or two for more engagement
  • Tweets with more than two hashtags have less engagement 

Use Images 

  • Posts with images draw more attention
  • They are twice as likely to have engagement
  • Use original images

Include Links

  • Tweets with links receive a higher retweet rate 
  • Let's people know where they can learn more

Post Accessibly 

  • Use alt text for images 
  • Use plain language 
  • Use camel case for hashtags First letter of each word in caps i.e. #EdTech

Your Turn

What do you think? Can you keep this guidance in mind when posting? Is there anything you'd do differently? Anything missing?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Checklist for Inclusive Tweeting

Twitter is an important platform for sharing stories, ideas, and connecting with others. However, many Tweeters are unintentionally leaving out 15% of the world’s population who have disabilities by not composing accessible Tweets.  Fortunately, making accessible Tweets only requires awareness in a few areas.

Camel Case Hashtags

When you use hashtags, make them camel case.  This means the first letter of each word is capital. This then becomes discernible to a screen reader allow the words to be read individually rather than a nonsensical word.

The example below shows an example of using camel case for the #GovTechLive conference.

Avoid URL Shorteners

In the early days of Twitter, we shortened URLs because of the character limitation. Today URLs are no longer judged by characters, so it is not necessary. When you use a URL shortener, the screen reader says every letter. If you use the original URL most screen readers can read the words in the URL.

Plain English

Write using plain English. Some ways to do this include avoiding acronyms and writing below a 9th grade reading level. Most word processing programs have readability checkers built in. Online documents such as Google have extensions you can add.

Alt Text

Use alt text (short for alternative text) to tell those viewing your Tweet what is in the image. On Twitter you can set this up by going to “Settings and privacy,” then selecting “Accessibility” and checking “Compose image descriptions.”
Screenshot showing the three steps to set up alt text. 1) Settings and privacy 2) Accessibility 3) Check compose image descriptions

The next time you compose a Tweet with an image, Twitter will ask you to "Add description" to your images. It will look like the screen shot below.

Screenshot of what you see "add description" when you set up alt text in Twitter.

To see if someone has added alt text to their Tweet, you can inspect the image by right clicking. Once there you can check accessibility to see if there is a description. The screenshot below shows what this looks like.

Screenshot of inspecting an image and then checking if there is alt text for that image.

Your Turn

What do you think? Are you already including some of these checklist items into your Tweets? If not are these checklist items something you would consider incorporating into future Tweets?  

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

#NYCSchoolsTechChat: New #EdTech Tools for the New Year - Thursday at 7 pm EST

Want to get some new ideas for new tools or resources you can use in the New Year to make teaching and learning more effective? Then join us for our monthly Twitter chat at 7:00 pm EST where #NYCSchoolsTech educators will share the favorite #EdTech tools they've been using this year.

#NYCSchoolTech teacher Eileen Lennon moderates with me throwing in my two cents. We will also be joined by some leading ed tech companies who will share what  you can look forward to in 2019.

You can prepare for the conversation by thinking about answers to these questions:

Q1 Share your favorite #edtech tool for this school year w/a link & why you love it. #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q2 Look at the #EdTech 11 tools fr @CommonSenseEd. Share which you <3 the best & why #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q3 Connect w/ someone who has shared an #edtech tool you’re interested in by asking them a question abt the tool #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q4 What are the most important factors you look at when choosing #edtech tools? #NYCSchoolsTechChat
Q5 Give a shout out by RT, like, or reply to someone who has inspired you in today's #NYCSchoolsTechChat

Chat details are below:
Date: Thursday, January 3
Time: 7:00 pm
Topic: New #EdTech tools for the new year.
Your Host: @eileen_lennon (@NYCSchools)
Co-Host: @InnovativeEdu (@NYCSchools)

Remember to respond using the hashtag #NYCSchoolsTechChat and include the number of the question you are answering in your response i.e. A1 and your answer.

We hope you can view the chat live, but if you are unable, please visit our archive at