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.







8 responses to “Eyes”

  1. adunsiger Avatar

    Doug, this post could not have come at a better time. I will definitely be reading back through and applying your tips. I have certainly noticed the impact on my eyes lately. My biggest problem seems to come from our daily Class Google Meet calls. They’re the highlight of my day, but they also cause headaches. Every single time. I find the same with Zoom and Teams, having used them in different contexts before. I’m wondering if it’s the jumpiness and moving of the video that does it. Glasses on or glasses off, I still get a headache. Any suggestions to alleviate this problem? Have others noticed the same before?



  2. dougpete Avatar

    I’m really sorry to read that you are experiencing this, Aviva. It’s funny how the discussion comes out as a result of a simple blog post. I know that the immediate tendency is to rub your eyes for relief but that’s never been a recommendation for this time now. I’ve got some thoughts but will take some time to do some research before sharing them. Even though they would be a person opinion, I don’t want to spread mis-information.

    In the meantime, take care of yourself. I think that the idea of taking frequent breaks and focusing on other things than the screen in front of you is solid advice.


  3. adunsiger Avatar

    Thanks Doug! I appreciate any ideas that you have. I must admit that I tend to rub my eyes, even though I know that’s wrong. It’s almost like a knee jerk reaction. Lately, I’ve tried taking a break from the screen after the video calls. This helps a bit. If I didn’t like the Google Meet calls so much, I’d look at stopping them, but seeing our kids each day and their smiling faces, make both of our days. It’s worth the headache.



  4. Lisa Corbett Avatar

    I’ve had a contact lens issue for a few years that my eye doctor (a new one b/c the old one wasn’t helping) and I have been able to solve. My eyes,always near sighted, are becoming far sighted as well. Rather,the correction for nearsightedness causes farsightedness. I was having so many headaches with my contacts. Now I’m in glasses full time and I think this is going to have to be my solution. And your tip for computer breaks is good for my shoulders and neck too! I’m used to changing positions often! I’ll try the dark screen mode again, but I really haven’t liked it before.


    1. dougpete Avatar

      Lisa – A kindred soul! I used to do the contact lens thing. It was especially appreciated when I was coaching in the middle of a rain or snow storm. Our school was air conditioned and that had the drawback of keeping things very dry. At the end of the day, I was ready to claw my eyes out they were so dry. I’d get home after football or whatever was happening and slipped relaxingly into my glasses. Eventually, I realized that paying for a double prescription plus the joy of glasses could be addressed with just the glasses. I haven’t looked back (groan).


  5. Andrew Forgrave Avatar
    Andrew Forgrave

    Hi Doug!

    Yes, what a timely topic!

    During staff meetings over the last couple of years before I retired from the school board, I found I was occasionally having difficulty reading from the SmartBoard, and had taken to using my phone to capture and then zoom in into the photo to read.

    I’m fortunate in that I don’t have any issues with reading from computer screens or my phone/iPad, etc., but I do try to take breaks, and I like your idea of looking away from the screen periodically. The hourly “stand” alert in Apple’s “Close your Rings” has certainly helped to break up the extended instances of sitting — a pomodoro timer/technique might help with both!

    I’ve taken to using a sit stand desk over the past year, and when the shelter at home became a thing, I moved the exercise bike closer to my desk. When it’s positioned properly, aside from a slightly imperceptible movement that I can see because I know what my legs are doing, It’s an option for longer zoom calls when I am moderating rather than presenting.

    The one thing I’m conscious of in all of this is that getting into the flow can take 15 to 20 minutes, and the worst thing to do is to pull yourself out of it so shortly after you’ve just gotten there! I don’t use Pomodoro when I am trying to get deep into something.

    However, keeping balance in the forefront is important, and I like this reminder about maintaining your eyesight. So much of what we do in education/online is so heavily predicated on vision. Again, an excellent and timely reminder!

    Take care, Doug!


  6. OTR Links 04/22/2020 – doug — off the record Avatar

    […] Eyes – doug — off the record […]


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