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.
“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.