Education Letter to the Editor

‘Screentime’ Value Depends on Use

February 27, 2018 1 min read
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To The Editor:

In his Feb. 7, 2018, Commentary, “Schooling Students on Screentime,” Matt Miles raised interesting questions about how much screentime is healthy for children. Miles wrote that the tie between technology initiatives and student achievement is “specious” and concluded with the claim that there is “no real evidence” of education technology’s effectiveness. This is taking the argument against technology’s potential harms too far.

The theories in Miles’ essay are, in fact, half correct and half wrong. Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab reviewed all the current randomized controlled

trials on education technology and 1:1 student-computer programs. The research showed that simply giving students access to technology does not improve student learning. However, in reviewing 29 trials of computer-assisted learning, more than half showed positive learning gains.

Technology in the hands of students, in and of itself, does not improve learning. But computers can play an important role in education. What matters is whether teachers leverage the 1:1 hardware in ways that make schooling more efficient and improve student learning. We must be careful to not throw the baby (technology’s usefulness) out with the bathwater (the potential for distraction and overuse).

Neil Heffernan



Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2018 edition of Education Week as ‘Screentime’ Value Depends on Use


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