Digital Eye Strain

Digital Eye Strain (DES) is a self inflicted condition we have brought upon ourselves because we use digital devices so frequently and our world requires that we do in order to work, play and organise our lives. Phones and tablets put out enough light to illuminate a dark room. That ought to remind us we need to take care of our eyes and we need to respond more pro actively to looking after them. It comes down to knowing what to do, taking action and reminding others to take action. Constantly staring at screens is creating problems for people so we need to be sensible and build in the health routines which will alleviate some of these problems. Vision Optique has some helpful inforgraphics to show us what some of the problems are and then some very helpful ideas to show us how to improve what we are doing so we avoid digital eyestrain. None of it is hard. Optometrytimes looks at how DES is affecting people and what can be done about it. Again there are some good visuals to help us.

What about the games?

FarmTownThe games debate in education is gaining strength and depth and should continue. Games play a significant role in most people’s lives these days and we need to continue examining the impact, questioning the value and looking for the benefits. You will never find me advocating for violent games. I cannot see they would serve a useful purpose so someone else will need to pick up that line of argument. I find it difficult to believe that there are people who actually conceive these games, market them and have no problem with it. The male/female gender breakdown of game players is about the same. This wasn’t always the case. As a mother I can remember spending hours with my daughter helping her work through the frustration of no games for girls. She had played Donkey Kong with her Dad as a child, she  then always had a Play Station and loved games like Indiana Jones,Jurassic Park, Tetris and Sponge Bob. She had a lot of Play Station games she enjoyed and could play with friends and family. She settled on Tomb Raider as her favourite game after a long time of playing Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? She then got into SIMS because she had always loved Sim City and Roller Coaster Tycoon. We never chose her games.We taught her how to find the games to suit her and to look online and in shops and get information and discuss things. As a parent I could see it was part of her world but then, as a parent, I offered her other interests and other things to do as did the rest of the family. PsyPost offers a look at recent research that links the amount of time playing games with behavioural problems. Those students who just cannot leave their games alone need to be helped to be less intense about playing games. It’s a question of balance and then the time and place approach. As teachers we can have an impact and find ways of helping students to know they can live without their games for a little while. At one stage I was one of those who thought games were stupid and had no real purpose. I then went on a mission to find games which suited me. I had to say the games sites I started with, once they recovered from the shock I was not going to play what they said, actually worked with me and found me the sorts of games I like. I play a game on FaceBook, games on my iPad, I have games on my phone incase I am stuck somewhere waiting and I have  training and puzzle games on my NintendoDS. I like puzzles, word games and things like Bejewelled Blitz but I also like games which are based on Lego thinking where you build something complex one tiny thing at a time. Minecraft is a game which has been very successful and which a number of my students have used in class. It does have educational support and teachers who are pioneering its use. kidspot has a very thought provoking and well thought out article about what Minecraft offers children. Worth a read and the games debate needs to carry on with some decent research and thinking so we can find ways of using the gaming approach in class but also combatting the negative impact of games on some students. We need to be more precise about what those impacts are and what can be done about it. My former stance of “Games are silly they are not for me” is not adequate!

Add new !

mindset shiftLiz Watts (@fizwiz) put this up on Twitter last night and it’s a great graphic to stop you in your tracks and make you think about changing your mindset. When you carry a big workload, when you have done something for a while, you get into a routine and that can become a rut where you dig yourself deeper. The same old thinking gets the same old results. If you always do what you always did then you will always get what you always got. You know how that thinking goes. With classroom technology you have to be prepared to “add new”. You do it all the time with apps, software and sites. It’s the way technology works. It adds updates, a new interface, a new version, an upgrade, a new device. It is not going to be standing still so you have to develop a fluid mindset. It is what you also need to teach your students. They have to be encouraged to try something new, a different approach, a new platform. Offer choices. It is no longer one size fits all. Half way through my year 9 lesson yesterday we went into choose your own technology mode. Some went on the language learning site. Some used a variety of ways for recording their conversation. Some wanted to work on their Paris presentation. Two students had got themselves well ahead and so I offered them a chance to use the Elevator App to make their dialogue into an animated presentation like the one I had done at the beginning of term. It meant they had to learn to use the app. They were very excited when I said once they had done that they could import it into the fancy video app on my iPad and make something really cool. We negotiated that they would come and tell me when they had spare bits of time to do this because they were doing it as an extra. While I was helping other students and listening to dialogues I could see those two students were completely lost in their new learning. They were having to find a different way of doing things and it had invigorated them. It invigorated me too. I was learning if you know your software and hardware , you can personalise quite significant portions of learning for students without giving it over to making yourself redundant or superfluous to requirements. You are, in fact, critical to it all succeeding in a positive way.

Give them what they need

verb tablesHow am I supposed to know they learn this way? Easy. Try it and see, go back and alter that grand thought or plan of yours and try it again. Try something different. Try what is there. Get the combinations right. Tinker and fix. Share, get feedback, improve the content and reshare. It is constant movement. The year 8s and 9s are different. They have specific learning needs and technology is a part of it. So is game-based theory and visual content in class. It is important to follow that paradigm if you are looking to get the best. So it is from easy going to a bit harder ,  to a bit harder, having more options and then achieving the level but alls the while going over the same foundation content. I am teaching the year 9s the perfect tense in French. We looked at past participles. We looked at how that works in a sentence. We looked at one group of verbs, another group of verbs but all the time I was being consistent – teaching the sentence structure and repeating the model. I can do that with slide presentations and I can vary the content with each slide presentation. I can make it bold and colourful or just plain old black and white because I want them to focus on the construction of the sentence. I moved on to a board of lists – when? verbs? where? with whom? what was it like? The last bit is important. It was an introduction to the imperfect and a revision of adjectives. From the board we made sentences. They just had to choose from each list. They had to say them. They had to make one of their own not using my verbs. I kept coming back to this list as I added another layer of understanding. The words on the lists became shared knowledge and learnt easily. They didn’t like la semaine dernière (last week). It was too hard to say and meant nothing really. I chose le weekend dernier (last weekend). They like real things and things they connect with. They are emotional learners. I wrote up a little thing about the weekend using the lists and a couple of other new but easy expressions and made them write their own. We did it as an oral. Big success. Easily pronounced and well written. At the start of each lesson we do very matching tables. They have to match the French with the English. My year 8s love it and don’t even realise they are doing grammar. My year 9s can do 2 of them in less than 10 minutes. Not bad. We are getting faster. Use what is there and build your lesson around different ways of presenting the same material and ensure there is a bit of a challenge. My year 9s now want to do a bigger presentation on le weekend dernier. We have leveled up again

and here are two examples:

J’ai regardé le requin à l’ aquarium.
C’etait génial.
J’ai acheté un grand sac bleu pour ma mère et un petit sac bleu pour ma sœur au marché.
J’ai mangé du gâteau au café avec ma famille.
Quel bon weekend.



Le weekend dernier je suis allée à Mount Gambier. J’ai visité mes amis. C’était fantastique. J’ai acheté le dîner dans un restaurant. J’ai regardé le film The Fault in our Stars. Quel bon weekend!


The confident writer wrote it as a paragraph but the other student stayed in control by doing one sentence at a time. The students sent me these pieces of writing over our LMS. Use what is there and make it easy.

Ignore the moaning and groaning

Comic Life You haven’t got it right if they are not moaning and groaning. A challenge is not that easy. I can remember one year teaching my Year 9s how to use Comic Life. It’s great software for student literacy and creativity. Our Macbooks come with it already loaded. Plasq has an interest in the educational use of its software and provides some good support. That year I had taught the Year 9s to use slide presentations, iMovie and other things but students wanted to know how to use Comic Life. One student moaned the whole time and expressed  frustration and annoyance at every opportunity. We persisted. When we are learning new software I run streaming conversations. Everyone has to be talking their tips and what they have learned. We learn out loud so everyone gets a chance to pick up on what they don’t know. I gave her some personal help. Other students helped our head complainer but the moaning and groaning persisted. The student was not happy with the A for the assignment because of having to suffer an intolerable set of lessons. I met this student again in year 11. We were doing another assignment and after I had taught the content and explained the criteria for assessment, I told them they could present it as they wished. It was a story. I looked at what this student was doing and was surprised to see  Comic Life on the MacBook screen.

” I thought you hated Comic Life.”
” Where did you get that idea?”
” All the complaints when I was trying to teach you how to use it in Year 9.”
” It’s a great programme. I am really good at it. We learnt a lot but I didn’t know what I was doing.”
” You didn’t ever say you liked it.”
” Well, I felt lost. The others could use it and I couldn’t. It felt all wrong because I couldn’t do it. I used it for other things, though, and am used to it now. It’s fun and really good. I just needed to play with it myself a bit.”

When they are stumped by difficulties and tough learning , it is not a reason to stop and do something else. If they really don’t understand you have to step in and smooth the way but you have to observe with technology and look at what they are doing and how they are expressing themselves. Moaning and groaning can be a way we express our frustration when we feel swamped but we often moan our way through challenging learning and arrive safely at the next level with all that knowledge and those skills in our toolkit. I don’t take a lot of notice about complaints about how students can’t do something. If I run the open conversations then they invariably will move on and get to the next level of frustration or solve the whole perplexing mess and get some insight. It’s about getting them to the next step. I always make sure they have moved forward either with my help or the help of a class friend.

Josefine Grimm-Blenk

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