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Transforming Teaching & Learning

Category: Online Learning for Parents

Online Learning Ergonomics!

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If you’ve spent any long period of time sitting at a desk, you know that it can get uncomfortable. If you add the fact that you are using a device like a laptop or a tablet, it can get even more uncomfortable the longer you stick with it.

Ergonomics is the study and design of efficient working environments and is even more important than ever in this period of online learning. Here are 4 top tips for thinking about ergonomics in your online learning space:

  1. Establish a good working space! According to the University of Illinois, this includes creating a specific space for learning, minimizing distractions, and ensuring you have all the tools that you might need ahead of time.
  2. Good posture is important! Believe it or not, there have been numerous studies around the appropriate posture when using a computer or tablet. The University of Michigan’s Department of Health has compiled a list of things to remember when it comes to using your computer for long periods of time.
  3. If you feel yourself getting sore, move! At school, students are almost never sitting, without moving, for very long. Whether it’s getting up to change activities or just getting up to borrow a pencil, students are constantly moving. Make sure your online learning environment is similar. Take brain breaks or get up to do some simple stretches. It will help your body and mind!
  4. Don’t forget about your eyes! The State University of New York College of Opthalmology states that the short-term effects of digital eye strain are tired and dry eyes. Some users might also experience headaches. To help fight this, the 20-20-20 rule can help: every 20 minutes (or so) take a break and look at something 20 feet away (or so) for 20 seconds (or so).  This is also a good time to stretch your neck and shoulders. They also state that no long-term effects of digital eye strain have been identified so far.

Please make sure to look after yourselves!

Screentime in the Age of Online Learning: Monitoring and Managing

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While we are in the middle of online learning, helping students to be aware of and to manage their screentime is as important as ever. It’s also important that families have agreements around the use of screens for learning and for entertainment.

Monitoring Screentime

It’s hard to make informed decisions on screentime without some data to consider. Many times, this data will make the discussion easier since it can be used as a point of reference for both students and parents when it comes to how and why screens are being used (and if they are being used appropriately).

A powerful tool to use on your school laptop is RescueTime. This is a third-party app that, when installed, runs in the background and helps keep track of how and when the computer is being used. For students in Grade 6, you can log in to Cisco AnyConnect and then install RescueTime from Self Service. Users in Grade 7 and above can just download the application from the website.

A sample RescueTime Report

In addition to installing the app, you will also need to create an account. We recommend using your school email address. You can use this post to help you with the sign up and setup process. For most cases, using the

For those of you that are using iOS devices like iPhones and iPads, you can use the built-in Screentime app to help you monitor your usage. You can also use the Screentime app to limit your access to your device, either by time period (downtime) or by time limits per app.

Managing Screens and Technology

In all of our parent education sessions, we suggest these same important rules:

  1. Set family technology agreements around how and when screens will be used. (You can also use the Common Sense Media version as a starting point.) If you’ve already created them as a family, it may be worth revisiting them and making sure they still work for you. During this period of online learning, this is more important than ever!
  2. We recommend that devices are used in public spaces of the house, like the kitchen table or in a dedicated study space, so that it encourages students to stay on task. It’s easy to get sidetracked online so use others to help you stay on track!
  3. We also recommend that devices are not charged and stored overnight in the student’s bedroom. We all need a break from our screens, and the constant dinging of notifications can have an effect on the quality of our sleep.
  4. Identify some screen-free times for your family and stick to them. For many, screen-free dinners give everybody a time to connect as a family and share what has happened during their day.




Brain Breaks for Online Learning

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During a normal school day, students use their devices on and off throughout the day. In the classroom, they are changing activities, working in small groups, focusing on the teacher at the front of the class, working on their own individual device, working offline, and getting up to go to recess or different classrooms. All of this leads to a variety of experiences throughout the day: online and offline; individual and group ; active and seated; independent and teacher-directed. The list can go on and on!

These breaks and changes of scenery give our students a chance to recharge, refocus and keep learning. As students and parents, how are you incorporating these mini-breaks into your daily routines?

One great option is taking a  brain break. A brain break is a short activity designed to get students up and out of their sets, to help the blood flow through their body, and to keep them from staying sedentary for too long. There are websites dedicated to listing out all manner of Brain Breaks for students, but many students already know some from their classroom teachers. One popular brain break is a quick Just Dance video that you can find on YouTube. Have a quick dance and some fun before starting your next task!

Another option is timing your snack and drink breaks to get you up and out of your chair. Take a few minutes to grab some fruit or another healthy snack,  or pour yourself a glass of water on a regular basis so that you keep your body fueled and moving!

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