All the students in Ms. Barnes’ class agreed, the worst part about a technology free week was that they couldn’t listen to music.
Other than that, though, Nikiski North Star Elementary School’s ‘screen-free’ week was well received by students.
“I think our day goes by much faster without any screens,” student Kaydence Jeffreys said. “We learn more without technology. Instead of always being on a computer and focusing our entire attention on the computer, we focused on our work and each other.”
The week long experiment, dubbed ‘Nikiski North Star Unplugged’ started on Monday in hopes of giving students the chance to reflect on what education and learning look like with and without technology, said Nikiski North Star Elementary School Principal Margaret Gilman. Students in kindergarten to fifth-grade are technology natives which, for the most part, is a good thing, she said. The young students, though, have never been in a classroom without technology.
“It’s not that we’re saying technology is bad,” Gilman said. “We just want the students to have an opportunity to look at it both ways.”
A screens-free week means no computers, no televisions, no tablets and no smartboards. Gilman found herself hand-writing staff reviews and teachers throughout the school took attendance by hand instead of submitting it through the computer.
So, when Kristine Barnes fifth-grade class could, technically, have continued their daily practice of listening to music but they had no way to play music without a screen.
In lieu of the tunes, though, the students said they found themselves positively interacting with each another more.
“I made new friends without the computer,” said student Alekzander Angleton. “Without going to the computer and fighting over who would get to use them first, we were able to talk more. I learned a lot about my classmates that I hadn’t known before.”
Gilman said she was excited to see how behavior changed without screens, since students would have to be more hands-on and vocal about what they were learning.
“A big part of what the teachers have done is utilizing a station rotation model,” Gilman said. “Say you have four stations for math or reading, typically two are technology based where the kids are practicing the skills using an iPad or laptop. During the week, they still do that model but the teachers have to be very purposeful about what those stations look like without technology.”
Barnes’ classroom found themselves going through what the students described as “stacks and stacks of paper,” but other classrooms used different tools to replace technology.
“In math, we were weaving string and learning that way,” said second-grader Julieann Martin. “We made blankets which was fun and weird at the same time. I’m more used to using iPads and it can be hard to learn without computers but I did still learn all week long.”
Many of the students said that they found themselves learning more, getting more work done and remembering more of what they were taught in the classroom.
“They’ve really matured from this and they know what it is to get their work done,” Barnes said. “They’re really proud of themselves and I’m really proud of them. We need to teach how to learn from computers instead of using them as a distraction.”
Barnes’ students said they hope to make the week-long experiment a part of their classroom routine by limiting screen time and technology to the necessities, and music is “definitely” a necessity.
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org