Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
Guidance Document Change: The 2020 General Assembly passed House Bill 817 requiring the Department of Education (VDOE), in collaboration with the Department of Health and medical professional societies, to develop and distribute health and safety best practice guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools no later than the 2021-2022 school year. These guidelines address digital device use for different age ranges and developmental levels, the amount of time spent on digital devices in the classroom and at home, appropriate break frequency from the use of digital devices, and physical positioning as it applies to ergonomics and posture.
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4/13/21  3:46 pm
Commenter: BP

Comments on technology in schools guidelines

I am the parent of two elementary aged children, and one preschool child in Fairfax County, Virginia. Thank you for proposing safety in tech guidelines for schools and for considering these comments. While technology surely has provided important opportunities for learning during the Covid crisis, when this pandemic is no longer a factor, the same considerations will not apply. I also believe the dramatic increase in school-based technology in response to the Covid crisis has been a valuable opportunity to see the many shortcomings of this way of learning for the younger learners (preschool and elementary).

There is ample research on the limitations of technology in elementary classrooms if you look (for example a study on the impact of tech in classrooms on international PISA scores, which showed detrimental impacts of laptops and ipads in almost all settings). Also see

Anecdotally, when I view my children learning via laptops, I observe distractions that young learners can't handle (going down YouTube rabbit holes when asked to use the site to hear a story is one of many examples), information overload (a third grader cannot realistically sort through all the information he finds on the internet on Egyptian pyramids for example; print materials are much more effective as the teacher, librarian or parent can help the child learn how to locate, browse, and choose material, and then how to digest that material for learning), headaches and exhaustion (they're tired after working on the computer, but not a "good" tired like they are when they run around in the sunshine; they are cranky and burnt out), and other problems. I do not see much benefit when compared to other modes of learning they have used before the Covid crisis. And, in fact, retention of information and excitement for learning both seem to be substantially less (my daughter was very excited last year about her 4th grade Pocohontas project wherein she read books, created a detailed poster board, and made an in-person presentation. She can still recite all the facts she learned. This year, in 5th grade, the Mesopotamia unit has been all digital, and she is noticeably less enthused and she can't tell me much she's I ask what she's learned. Many other examples can be provided.)

Other problems include but are not limited to  1. kids cannot effectively learn to spell when they write exclusively on computers (I have needed to homeschool my 5th grader on spelling this year as she was becoming self conscious her spelling skills were so undeveloped), 2. many of the digital learning tools are watered down versions of print (Myon reading used by our district is incredibly uninspiring low-quality writing as opposed to using something like Junior Greats readers), 3. much of the tech used in school lacks a meaninginful way for the student to receive feedback (my kids take tests or fill in questions in online forms and receive a score, but we cannot go back and review what they've missed -- how can they learn this way? Compare that to a teacher marking up a test and the parent and child working through the mistakes together), 4. see the research showing kids retain less information reading on screens than on print, 5. kids need to know how to write by hand still (again, I've needed to homeschool my son on handwriting this year; my friend of a second grader just noticed he writes several of his letters backwards; it was insufficiently practiced in school).

I also worry about the health effects (eye strain, posture / neck problems, headaches, lack of movement) of using tech during the school day at these ages. Research is also readily available on these impacts on elementary children as well.

It is for all these and other reasons, that I strongly encourage you to add into your guidelines strict limitations on technology usage in the preschool and elementary grades. While your guidelines may be a good start for middle school and high school students, differences in younger learners need to be recognized. Elementary learners should be writing with a pencil, reading print, conducting hands-on science experiments, creating projects, making presentations, having discussions, etc. and should be spending minimal time on educational computer programs. Thank you for your consideration. Signed, concerned parent


CommentID: 97705