Technology and The Brain ~ SOL 2017

In reading workshop yesterday, I did a lesson on preparing for “binge” reading.  With parent/teacher conferences this week, our kids have a four-day weekend and I wanted them prepared for long stretches of nothing to do, which is when you plan for extra reading.

But first, we had to define the word “binge”.  After a brief discussion about this new word, we talked about the kinds of things we binge on.

Of course, video games came up first.

And, you tube videos.

Anything technology.

“Too many video games will rot your brain!” one girl shouted.

“Well, actually, it won’t.  But, you do change your brain when you are using a lot of technology, ” I told them.

I shared with them the research done by scientists and psychologists about how much technology a third grader should have per day (no more than 2 hours a day – and that may be too much for some).

I explained to them why their brains like technology, what dopamine is, and neurons and dendrites. They love learning these brain words. For some reason, learning how our bodies work is some pretty fascinating stuff.

“What do you think happens, when your brain has been feeling so good receiving all that dopamine from playing all those video games for hours, and then you have to quit?” was my next question.

Immediately, without even a hesitation, the truth came out:

“You’re bored,” a few of them said in sync.

They’ve been here.  They know.

“Yes, and nothing seems like any fun because your brain isn’t getting its drips of dopamine.  You have trouble finding anything that holds your attention or even seems just a little bit interesting. You get crabby. It’s because you have rewired your brain,” I added.

They were a little mortified that they alone were responsible for doing this to themselves.

“The good thing is,” I continued, “your brain is like clay and you can mold it back into a healthy brain.  One that is curious and interested.  A brain that is creative and focused. There are many good things to do for your brain: art, writing, legos, building, games, being with friends, sports, playing outside or being in nature, talking to people, and of course, lots of reading.”

Finally, I got us back on track to my reading mini-lesson: to share some new book titles to get them loaded with books for the long weekend.

My binging video-gamer told me he planned on doing some big time binge reading over the weekend.

“And I’ll probably still play some video games,” he confessed, “but maybe just an hour.”  And he smiled.

I think I have more work to do here.  But, I can’t help but wonder if we, the teachers, who complain about how technology is changing our kids, actually do the heavy lifting of teaching our kids what’s actually happening to the brains and the effects technology is having on them, can cause them to think about their own decisions on the use of technology.  Parents can, of course, influence decisions their kids make.  But, what if we put it on the shoulders of our kids – because they themselves are now informed and are old enough to make these healthy decisions for themselves?

Just what if we made this shift from complain and blame to educate and responsibility?

Would it make a difference?

I don’t know. . .

It certainly can’t hurt.

Shari 🙂

I’m participating in twowritingteachers March Challenge of posting a blog post every day for the month of March.  To check out other writers, visit here.





7 thoughts on “Technology and The Brain ~ SOL 2017

  1. As a 3rd grade teacher, I love that you shared this with your students! I think it is our job to share the effects with our students. I never thought of approaching a topic like this with my kiddos, but I think it would be extremely beneficial. Thank you for this slice, and a new perspective!


  2. Shari,
    I think about this study, and see it referenced, a lot. I can’t help but want to know more about what the subjects were doing on their screens. I spend a lot of time on a screen, but that is because I do almost all of my reading on a device and spend a good deal of time writing. This always feels much different than the time I spend reading Facebook. ;0) I feel like there is a big difference for students in playing games and sharing their learning on Explain Everything.

    I enjoyed hearing your conversation with your students, and could tell it was a thoughtful discussion. Kids do think about the decisions they make. A reminder to balance the things we do is always important. What a wonderful conversation to kick off a long weekend. It makes me want to curl up and do some binge reading of my own.



    1. It is different, Cathy. Using technology for work, writing or reading does not give us the same constant stream of dopamine that video games, watching you tube videos or being on social media give us. One is focused and purposeful and one is entertainment. These studies are focusing on the overuse of technology as entertainment. The gray area is educational apps and games. Are some games really teaching what we want our students to learn? We teachers need to be constant kid watchers and observe the behaviors of our students when using devices and continue to teach them to tweak and refine their skills as technology users.


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