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I wrote a few weeks ago about the health unit I’m doing with my Grade 2 class, exploring technology and how we can use it safely in our lives. Well, our second lesson was delayed by a snow day, so I’ve only now gotten around to lesson two, and it was a doozy!

In our previous class, we did some brainstorming about what sorts of technology the kids use at home. For homework, I had them keep a log for two days—a school day and a weekend day. In this week’s lesson, the first thing we did was tabulate the results.

The students averaged about 40 minutes per day on a school night—a few racking up their only tech time while at school due to parental restrictions on weekday use, and a few others—who had no such restrictions—bumping up the average for everybody else.

On the weekend, the average was about an hour and a half, ranging from 30 minutes on an iPhone in the car on the low end to about three hours of games, TV and tablet use on the high end. Collectively, this group of 10 kids managed to rack up over 1,000 hours of tech time in a typical school week!

To illustrate the effects of that much technology use, I brought in some gadgets to show them—an iPod, an iPad, a Nintendo 3DS and a Xbox controller. Here is where things got a little hairy—they responded to the video game stuff like it was a drug, and went crazy! As I launched into an earnest explanation of the term ‘ergonomics,’ I was interrupted by excited chatter: ‘Video games! eeeeee! I love video games!’

I asked them if they ever feel tired when they play for a long time. In response, I was peppered with queries as to what game cartridge was in the DS right now, whether I had played it, what did I think of it, and what my high score was. It was work reclaiming their attention once the game controllers came out!

For the hands-on part of the lesson, I gave them a handout with an outline of the human body on it. Then I called a kid up and handed him the Xbox controller. I had him pretend he was playing a game. Then I asked the kids to shade in the parts of the body that were bending, flexing, or being worked out while he played. They got the finger parts no problem, and two of the quicker ones also shaded in the eyes and the back (which was bending as their friend leaned forward to see the pretend television). We repeated this exercise with the other gadgets, and shaded in our poor little pretend boy.

They all figured out the gist of it pretty quickly, but what was new to them was the idea of form factor. The iPad, being bigger and heavier than the iPhone, provided a different ergonomic experience. They had not anticipated that.

When we get to part three, where we’ll talk about how to balance one’s leisure time safely, I plan to explore this further. I don’t want them walking away from this thinking that technology is bad, per se. It’s not. There are useful things about it, there are fun things about it, and it’s a part of our lives. But two hours of Xbox is, from both an ergonomic and a productivity angle, a different thing than one hour of Xbox and one hour of curling up on the couch with an iPad Mini to read for awhile. Same two hours on technology, but you’re balancing it, both in the work/play aspect, and from an ergonomic angle.

Next week: I’m going to give them a paradigm! The four food groups is going to morph into a metaphor for work/play balance at home…

 
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