For those of you teaching at home, how are your eyes feeling? It’s easy to write any problems off on “old eyes” because they’ve certainly got older since all of this started.
Chances are, you’re spending more time staring at a screen than you ever thought you would. After all, a regular day in the classroom involves movement, working with various media, working up close with students, and working with students off in the distance (not that distance, but on the other side of the classroom).
Staring at a computer screen for extended periods of time can cause dried out eyes, fatigue, and even headaches.
There are some conventional pieces of advice like making sure that your desk and chair is adjusted to the right height. The right height is generally so that your eyes are level with the top of your computer screen. That stops you from having to look up and you can generally see the whole screen without moving your eyes. Make sure that you’re not having glare interrupting your experience. That may mean moving things around to get away from lights. Sometimes, it’s as simple as tilting your screen. You should periodically look away from the screen and focus on something on the other side of the room. And just like when you’re at school, you need to get up and have a break every once in a while. That helps your eyes by looking at other things.
There may be technical ways to help as well. Typically, your computer comes with screen settings that show off the very best that your computer can do. If you head to the control panel, preferences, or settings, you can see the settings that came with your computer. It’s been my experience that they come with the highest screen resolution possible.
There used to be a time when 640×480 was “industry standard” and the settings for everyone. I remember our IT Department would use that setting to ensure that all applications would run nicely. That generated an “aspect ratio” of 4:3 or 1.3333. For the longest of times, that was it. I eventually complained enough and we later embraced 800×600 and 1024×768. The external monitor connected to my computer still has those settings. My computer though has a much higher resolution at 1920×1080. This is a ratio of 16:9 or 1.7778. That does change things.
Now, right now, you can go into those settings and change them and see the result on the screen. You might even find it pleasing, even pleasing enough to stop and make those setting perfect. Just remember what your existing settings are in case you want to change back!
But there’s another way.
For the most part, these days, we’re working in a browser. From the browser settings menu (pull down from the top right corner of your screen) all browsers that I know have a “Zoom level” setting. You can adjust the screen with this setting.
Zooming to a higher level will adjust everything inside your browser to a higher or lower level. You may just find that a higher zoom level is much easier on your eyes.
There’s another thing though.
Newer setups are geared so that you can watch streaming media right on your screen. The 16:9 level lets you watch high definition movies in the browser. For everyday computer use, you may find that it’s wider than what your needs are. If that’s the case, you might find it handy to have two windows open at the same time. For example, a Zoom session in one window and your notes open in another window. Personally, I find that’s a handy use of a wider screen rather than the other alternatives like multiple tabs or alt-tabbing between windows.
There’s also another functionality that I use all the time when I’m reading. Many services still use a formatting that’s perfect for 4:3 and not 16:9. You’ll notice it when you see white or blank space on both sides of the window. Or, many services will use a side for advertising. For a long time now, we’ve had Zoom abilities by using CTRL or Command and the + key to expand content. CTRL or Command and the – key contracts. I’ve got my own take on things using the trackpad. A two finger pinch out expands things immediately. I’ll often do that to make everything bigger and shove the white space or advertising off the screen so that the content, now bigger, is easier on the eyes to read. Even this blog has stuff on the right side that you may wish to run off the side of the screen.
CTRL / Command + 0 will always return everything to normal.
I know that it’s not everybody’s choice but it definitely is mine. I’ll look to see if any service that I’m using has a dark theme instead of the paper white we’re so used to. I find that way, way easier on my eyes. Supposedly, it’s a little easier on your battery too.
The workspace has definitely changed now that people are working at home. I know that there are challenges everywhere. It seems to me that any thing that you can do to take care of yourself will be of benefit as you get through this.