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#ILAchat: The Opportunities and Challenges of Student Screen Time

By Wesley Ford
 | Nov 06, 2018

ILA Chat preview imageThere was a time when screen time simply meant watching TV or playing video games on a computer or console–usually solo, because there was no cooperative play online. “Online” didn’t even exist. Fast forward to the present, and most of us are walking around with computers in our pockets that are hundreds of times more powerful than those early console systems.

In the modern age, students can be on the internet at the push of a button or swipe of a screen. Not only are they encouraged to use digital devices to further their learning, but also they are often required to access online resources for their classes. And they should be: Students learning how to use digital technology appropriately is vital, as it is a mainstay of their lives both in and out of school.

Similarly, educators must also understand that digital devices and resources have the power to either enrich, or impair, student learning. Digital literacy requires explicit instruction within schools to help level the playing field between those students who live in tech-rich environments and those who do not. But technology cannot be added to a curriculum simply for the sake of doing so; classrooms must create authentic learning experiences for students that integrate relevant tech tools and resources. No easy feat, even when schools have the resources to provide one-to-one tech programs in classrooms.

Compound that with varying opinions on what is an appropriate or even healthy amount of screen time for students (or even adults!), and educators and families and caregivers alike can be left unsure how often students should be on tablets, computers, or mobile phones.

Which is why we’ve brought in W. Ian O’Byrne and Kristen Turner, two educators who are already well immersed in the screen time debate, to host our #ILAchat about the opportunities and challenges of student screen time. Our goal for this chat is to explore both sides of the debate, to hear about programs that have effectively implanted technology as well as those that missed the mark. We hope attendees come with their own views and anecdotes, but also an open mind. We want an open and frank discussion about technology, but in a space where we all can learn from each other.

O’Byrne, author of the Literacy Daily post, “Helping Students, Teachers, and Parents Make Sense of the Screen Time Debate,” is an educator, researcher, and speaker. His research investigates the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online spaces. He has been involved in initiatives ranging from online and hybrid coursework to integrating technology in the classroom and supporting marginalized students in literacy practices. O’Byrne’s weekly newsletter ( focuses on the intersections between technology, education, and literacy. 

Turner is professor and director of teacher education at Drew University in New Jersey. Her research focuses on the intersections between technology and literacy, and she works with educators across content areas to implement effective literacy instruction and to incorporate technology in meaningful ways. She is the coauthor of Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World (National Council of Teachers of English) and Argument in the Real World: Teaching Students to Read and Write Digital Texts (Heinemann). She is also the founder and director of the Drew Writing Project and Digital Literacies Collaborative.

We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, November 8, at 8:00 p.m. ET as we examine student screen time and explore both the opportunities and the challenges screen time in the modern era presents.

See you there!

Wesley Ford is the social media strategist for ILA.

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