How educators encourage digital wellness in ed-tech use

'If you remember the Food Pyramid, we differentiate screen time in the same way'
By: | May 12, 2020
Hilliard City Schools’ Digital Wellness Project, which educators launched in 2018 to help students manage screen time, has since grown into a statewide and national initiative.Hilliard City Schools’ Digital Wellness Project, which educators launched in 2018 to help students manage screen time, has since grown into a statewide and national initiative.

All screen time is not created equal, notes Chief Technology Officer Rich Boettner of Hilliard City Schools in Ohio, which has been a trendsetter in screen-time management.

“If you remember the Food Pyramid, we differentiate screen time in the same way,” Boettner says. “Choosing to do some things in large portions and choosing to do others in smaller portions is good.”

In the 1-to-1 iPad district, digital wellness means helping students differentiate between productive screen time and passive computer use, says Mark Pohlman, director of instructional technology.

The district’s technology leaders have developed lessons that, for instance, help students cope with FOMO—the “fear of missing out” they may experience when binging on social media to see what classmates are doing. These activities guide students in exploring ideas of self-identity and self-value.


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Some digital wellness lessons are meant to take place at home. In one activity, a family can watch a short video clip about screen time and then discuss how to balance computer use.

Of course, the district is hardly anti-edtech. Teachers also encourage students to innovate with digital tools, Pohlman explains.

“We’re teaching kids how to produce projects by creating various forms of media with tools on their iPads and the apps we provide,” he says. “We talk to students and teachers a lot about not just being consumers with their devices.”

Hilliard City Schools’ Digital Wellness Project, which educators launched in 2018, has since grown into a statewide and national initiative thanks to the nonprofit, WOSU Public media.

Hilliard administrators worked with the organization to establish a digital wellness pledge, with four pillars:

  1. Well-being = Balance is Best: “I will maintain a balance between digital and face-to-face interactions in life.”
  2. Citizenship = Be the Best You: “I will be responsible, ethical, honest and literate in today’s digital world.”
  3. Etiquette = It’s Cool to Be Kind. “I will choose to be positive with others online.”
  4. Safety = Be Aware. “I will be safe online and protect private information.”

Read the other stories in DA’s series on healthy screen-time use:

  1. 4 concepts for balancing screen time in the online learning era.
  2. How two districts helped students disconnect from devices.
  3. Why educators need to change their ed-tech message.
  4. How to create a healthy ed-tech culture in class and at home.


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