Education Letter to the Editor

Getting Youth Technology Use Right

March 20, 2018 1 min read

To The Editor:

There has been a chorus of opinion in these pages about the potential effects of passive technology use on children, such as Donald Coburn’s Feb. 1 Commentary “The Teenage Smartphone Problem Is Worse Than You Think” and Matt Miles’ Feb. 7 Commentary “Schooling Students on Screentime.”

The “digital divide” should not be confused with the “digital-use divide.” In an educational context, the digital divide has traditionally referred to the gap between students who have access to the internet and computers at home and those who do not. Having a cellphone is not the same as having access to high-speed broadband connections or a device appropriate for learning.

The digital-use divide, meanwhile, is defined by the quality and purpose of technology use. Passive technology use such as “screen time” includes social-media engagement, which is driving much of the discussion about the harmful impact of youths’ technology use.

Active technology use, on the other hand, is leveraging technology to create, design, explore, and collaborate. In classrooms, we see those carried out as team assignments, online class discussions, peer reviews, adaptive practice, and content creation collaboration. These activities are vital in fostering deeper learning and mastery of skills.

Although access to connectivity and devices does not guarantee a quality education, it does deliver incredible advantages and benefits. For example, Oregon’s Beaverton school district, where one of us is the superintendent, combines student take-home devices with a learning-management system so student learning does not end outside the walls of the classroom. Students use their devices to post assignments and engage in classroom discussions throughout the day. Parents of all income levels and geographic locations should be educated about the difference between passive and active technology use. And they should be empowered to set appropriate boundaries for their children. School systems can play an important role in helping students and their families understand the difference.

Together, through this clearer understanding, we can provide more high-quality, modern educational experiences for our children in the 21st century.

Keith Krueger

CEO Consortium for School Networking

Washington, D.C.

Don Grotting


Beaverton School District

Beaverton, Ore.

A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 2018 edition of Education Week as Getting Youth Technology Use Right