March 2015

As March arrives, so do the first hints of Spring. After a long winter, the days are getting longer, and the end of the school year starts to take shape, though still a ways away.

This month, ECIS Technology/Innovation/Design Committee member Warren Apel from the International School of Amsterdam shares valuable information and recommendations on screen time and finding a balance for the use of digital devices.

We look forward to seeing many of you at this month’s ECIS Technology Conference at the Bavarian International School on March 20-22. We’ve included full details below, in our listing of professional learning opportunities throughout Europe and beyond.

Please remember that your input is valuable to the entire ECIS Technology/Innovation/Design community. If you are interested in contributing an article, or have ideas, resources, links, or information about upcoming professional development opportunities that you would like to share, please send them to me at a week before the first day of the month and I will be sure to highlight them in the next edition of the blog.

Alan Preis
On behalf of the ECIS Technology/Innovation/Design Interest Group.

Advice for parents on optimizing children’s screen time
Warren Apel
Director of Educational Technology, International School of Amsterdam
ECIS Technology/Innovation/Design Committee Member

Some of my very favorite moments at work are when I’m talking with parents about the use of technology. They have great questions and such a high level of interest. I try to stay on top of research about the impact of technology on children and the family so that I can answer their questions.  For this month’s ECIS blog post, I put together some of the advice I give parents at my school about screen time.  Most of this information comes from these sources, which are great reading if you are developing a responsible digital citizenship curriculum at your school.

Healthy Children – American Association of Pediatricians
Commonsense Media
MediaSmarts – Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy

Work together as a family to set limits on your screen time.

The American Association of Pediatricians has created a healthy children media pledge.  It’s a great way to set family limits on screen time. You can edit it for your families needs, work with your children to fine-tune the agreement for your family, then sign it together.

Doctors and teachers agree that the youngest children need to be fully engaged in the world around them, exploring their surrounding with their hands while their eyes and brains develop.  Go ahead and play interactive iPad games with your baby or Skype with Grandma, but children under 2 shouldn’t have any passive screen time by themselves.  Their screen time should be active, in the company of engaged parents.

Stay balanced.

Older kids need a variety of activities to engage in.  Too much of anything at this age can squeeze out other important activities.  Try to limit them to 2 hours on average per day of any activity, whether it’s video gaming, reading a book, or playing sports.  They need a healthy balance and variety while they are growing up and learning what activities they enjoy.

When doctors talk about “screen time” in a negative way, they typically mean the passive consumption of screen media.

Active entertainment, such as outdoor sports, constructing a virtual world in Minecraft, creating homemade movies, or playing video games with friends are all great activities.  Passive entertainment, such as watching sitcoms or YouTube videos, is less mentally stimulating and should be limited to an hour (or less) per day on average.  If your kids can’t ration their time on their own, it might help to have them use a kitchen timer to make sure they stick to their planned media diets.

Reduce eye strain.

To avoid eye strain, all users of technology should take frequent breaks.  When using a screen up close, such as a laptop or tablet, make a special effort to look away from the screen now and then.  If you can, look out a window so that your eyes focus on a faraway object.

Eliminate unintended screen time.

These days, with video-on-demand services like Netflix and TiVo, there’s almost no need to watch traditional broadcast media.  Instead of flipping channels just to see what’s on, you and your family can view quality media with intention.  When there is a show or movie the whole family likes, try to make some time to enjoy it together in the same room.  Avoid running the television in the background.  Having a 24-hour news channel chattering away as background noise is distracting; but worse, it can contribute to what’s called “mean world syndrome.”  Kids get a skewed perspective on the world when they are exposed to too much televised news programs.  They end up thinking their chance of dying in a school shooting, a terrorist event, or a natural disaster is much higher than it really is.  Rather than expose your family to nonstop news broadcasts, try playing light background music which will allow you to have a meaningful conversation together.  You can create the playlists collaboratively or take turns being the family DJ.  Use that audio opportunity to talk about the music you enjoyed when you were their age, and find out what they are listening to and why they like it.

Keep TV and internet-connected devices out of the bedroom.

People sleep better when they associate their bed with sleep instead of with television viewing.  When it’s time for bed, put all the devices in a central location outside of the bedrooms, where they can quietly charge without distracting anyone from their sleep.  Playing games can be physically exciting, which can affect sleep patterns.  And new research indicates that kids should avoid glowing screens in the hour before they sleep.  The bright light from screens held close to the face seems to have some impact on melatonin levels. When reading on an iPad, sleep researcher Charles Czeisler recommends using the Night theme to avoid exposure to the blue LED light that disrupts sleep.

(Learn more by listening to a 12-minute interview with the author of the study on NPR’s Science Friday)

Use the Do Not Disturb feature on your iOS devices.  

Most of the time, your phones and iPad devices will be charging in the central location overnight.  Even if they ring or buzz, no one will hear them. And usually you will put them in silent mode for the night anyway.  However, we always forget from time to time.  That’s why Do Not Disturb is so great.  You just set the times proactively and your phone will automatically be on silent mode during quiet time without you having to do anything special.

Stick to your curfew.

At some point, we all have to go to bed.  It doesn’t have to be at the same time – older kids can and do stay up later.  But it will make more sense to all the members of your family if everyone has a bedtime, and everyone adheres to it.  Establishing regular bedtimes is a good way to ensure that even the adults get enough sleep.

Read the movie, apps, and game reviews on Commonsense Media.  

It’s the best website for an unbiased and thoughtful overview on popular media. Rather than just get a meaningless summary like “PG-13,” the reviews on Commonsense will help you make decisions for your family about the content of a movie, such as whether it has references to alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, stereotypical female role models, or physical violence.  If you’re trying to avoid exposing your youngest children to inappropriate language, you’ll appreciate the in-depth explanations that Commonsense gives you about exactly which words are used in the movies, games or TV shows that your kids enjoy.

If there are topics or actions in movies that you want to keep your children from seeing, be open and honest about why you feel that way.  Try not just to say “you’re too young” or “this is for adults.”  It will make more sense to them if you explain that there’s a difference between scripted television sex and actual adult relationships.  Tell them that in the real world, very few people kill each other with guns.  The more we view violent gun battles on television, the less in tune we are with reality.  If you are worried about your children being desensitized to sex or violence, tell them that.  It will help them know why you want them to avoid watching that type of content in their screen media.

Set distraction-free times and zones (for everyone).

There should be some times or places where the distraction of technology just isn’t allowed.  In many households, it’s the breakfast table or dinner table.  Maybe it’s a certain time – like an hour when everyone is home together after work and school. During this time, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone agreed to switch off the television, set their phones and laptops and tablets aside and just be together?  Here are two pieces of advice to make this work. First, for some people, the idea of putting their phone in another room is just unbearable.  For them, here’s a compromise. Put the phone upside down on the table. It’s still there, and you can keep an eye on it.  But keep your hands off it for a while.  The screen won’t flash with new messages, since it’s upside down.  You’re not personally distracted, and the phone isn’t distracting your other family members, but the very presence of the device is a bit reassuring. The second bit of advice?  Make sure that everyone in the whole family plays by the same rule book.  Dad, if you honestly want your son to stop checking his phone for text messages during dinner, the worst thing you can do is check your email at the same time.  Rules need to apply to everyone.  In your mind, your business email is very important.  In your son’s mind, text messages from his friends are even more important.  Put the technology aside for a family moment and assure each other that during distraction-free time the most important thing is family.

One of my favorite lines from the Media pledge summarizes this nicely:

“We won’t sacrifice important family time for media or digital use of any kind. If media gets in the way, we need to recognize we are using it too much or in a way that is not helping our family.”

Professional Development

ECIS ICT Subject Conference – March 2015

Registration is still online for the ECIS ICT Subject Conference at the Bavarian International School (BIS)! The main conference will take place on Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22, 2015. An optional pre-conference will be held on Friday, March 20. Full information is available online at the following link: ECIS Technology Conference 2015: Bavarian International School.

Innovate 2015

Graded School (São Paulo, Brazil) is hosting the Innovate 2015 Conference on March 4-7, 2015. The Innovate 2015 conference marks Graded School’s commitment to re-imagine the school that best serves and inspires students for tomorrow. Join innovators from across the globe to engage in dialogue designed to ignite new ideas and build the foundation for change our students deserve. For more information, visit the Innovate 2015 website at

Educational Research Center – Leysin American School in Switzerland

The Educational Research Center at LAS is hosting two workshops this April. Sponsors include the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS) and the Scrum Alliance.

Why can’t education keep up with technology? and How can we engage young women to join the STEM fields? Joy Kesten. Friday, April 17, 2015, 9.00 to 15.00, Leysin American School. 100 CHF – email for more information.

Certified agile classrooms teacher training. John Miller. Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 9.00 to 15.00, Leysin American School. 100 CHF – email for more information.

Mediterranean Center for Innovation in Education

The Mediterranean Center for Innovation in Education has open registrations for a variety of upcoming events:

  • We loved seeing all of you that attended our Google Summit in Tunis last month. Next up is our Genoa Summit, which will be hosted by the International School in Genoa from April 25-26, 2015. Join us for two days of interactive learning about a wide spectrum of topics related to Google Apps for Education, integrations, design thinking and blended learning.
  • Interested in becoming a certified Google Educator? Enroll in one of our upcoming Google Educator Certification Workshops to master the skills, concepts and process of becoming a certified Google Educator and, if desired, a fully-fledged Google Education Trainer. Next workshops are available in:

Paris, France – April 13-15, 2015
Tunis, Tunisia – May 22-24, 2015
Barcelona, Spain –  June 29 – July 1, 2015

For additional information about these workshops and registration information, visit

  • Online Courses — We are opening registration for four online Google courses that will begin later this Spring.  All online courses are a blend of rich resources, self-paced activities, interactive discussions, and live teaching and learning activities.  Online courses opening soon are:

Google Certification Cohort  – 10 weeks, begins April 7th
Google Apps for Leaders – 5 weeks, begins May 5th
Designing Learning with Google Classroom – 3 weeks, begins May 5th
Google Apps for the School Business Office – 5 weeks, begins July 6th

Additional information and registration information available at:

  • Start planning for summer! Our Summer Institutes are open for registration and Early-Bird prices are in effect until March 13, 2015.  We are excited to be offering sixteen different two-day, intensive institutes on a variety of engaging topics — led by dynamic, expert facilitators and set in the fantastic beach-side setting of Marbella, Spain. Additional information and registration available at

EdtechIST- International Educational Technology Conference – 18-19 April, 2015

Edtechist is a two day event in Istanbul, Turkey,  where some important educational technology leaders will deliver masterclasses  one day prior to the conference and hold half day sessions during the conference.

The topics are: iPad in Education, 21st Century Teaching & Learning, BYOD /1:1 Programs, Leadership, Creativity & Innovation, Professional Development, Maker Movement & Design Thinking, Online Learning, Technology Infrastructure, Digital Citizenship, Digital Storytelling, Gamification.

Attend half-day workshops by the renowned experts in educational technology. Alan November, Gary Stager, Connie White, Suzie Boss, Bernajean Porter, Greg Hodgson, Mario Fishery, Rory Newcombe, Sharon Brown Peters, Suzie Boss and more to be added.

Early bird registration deadline is March 6th. We invite you to our amazing city and one of the best Educational Technology Conference experiences ever organised. If you have any questions, please let us know. Hope to see you in April!

International School of Amsterdam Professional Development Opportunities

Friday May 1 – the first-ever European Veracross Users Group meeting.  If your school is using Veracross, come gather with your counterparts from other schools around the world to share ideas and learn together.  It’s not just for tech folks – bring people from your admissions, athletics, or registrar’s offices.  The fee will be low to encourage large teams to attend together.  More details coming soon.

Saturday / Sunday May 2-3 – AppsEvents Netherlands Google Apps Summit at ISA.  Hands-on workshops to learn more about the ever-changing world of Google Apps for Education.  Early-bird registration fee of 249 Euro is available until April 2.  Submit a session – if you are chosen to present, your registration fee is waived!  Special sessions are planned on ways to integrate Veracross and Google Apps, as well as sessions tailored to office staff and other non-teachers, making this an excellent learning opportunity for more than just your school’s teaching faculty.  Learn more at

Also coming in late May (dates and schedule to be announced later this week) the ISA iPad Sharing Summit.  Come visit ISA on a Friday during school and observe our 1:1 iPad program in action.  Then on Saturday, attend hands-on workshops and sharing sessions to learn more about apps, workflows, and more.  There will be sessions for everyone from the tech support staff to classroom teachers and assistants.  If your school is thinking about expanding your use of iPads, you’ll get your questions answered, connect with other teachers, and ensure success of your school’s iPad program.  Registration fees will be low to encourage schools to send large teams.

Digital Evolution Un-conference – Düsseldorf – May 8 & 9 2015

We are living in exponential times. New technological innovations promising to reshape the educational landscape appear on a regular basis. Learning analytics, machine learning and augmented reality are all examples of technologies that could radically transform school as we know it.
How do we incorporate these new technologies into our visions while maintaing the focus on what matters, student learning? Would you like the opportunity to explore these questions with other like-minded educators?
We invite you to the second annual 2-day un-conference at the International School of Düsseldorf. The agenda will be driven by all participants and together we will build and share our visions for the future of technology in education. To find out more, please visit: and/or contact Adriaan van der Bergh (

Project Zero Atlanta

CASIE and Atlanta International School are hosting Project Zero Atlanta, May 10 – 15, 2015. With an over-arching theme of Think-Create-Innovate, the Atlanta conference will invite educators to reflect deeply on ways to build and sustain engaging, enriching and rigorous learning opportunities; to encourage problem-finding and problem-solving; and to develop the disposition to act to make the world a better place. See the following link for more details:

Flat Connections Updates

‘The Global Educator’: A 2-day Workshop in Philadelphia, June 25-26, 2015

Join Julie Lindsay and other globally minded educators for a 2-day event that provides educators and education leaders the skills and resources to connect their learning and take it from local to global. 

With a focus on the use of technology for connection and collaboration (mobile devices, cloud computing, Web 2.0, and more) it is ideal for schools implementing BYOD and moving into cloud-based apps. It is also perfect for schools talking about how to implement global awareness and competency as well as global digital citizenship and cross-school collaboration across the curriculum.

Read more about this workshop opportunity:

This event is just before the ISTE conference – so plan to arrive in PA a couple of days earlier and join in!

Learn more about ‘flat learning’ via the Flat Connections website 

Contact Julie Lindsay for customised approached to global learning.

, , , ,
Skip to toolbar