Screen Time Guidelines: Unjustified Hype or Sound Advice?

Image Source: Terry Vine/Getty Images/Blend Images

Unit 4, Activity 7

We all seem to be spending more time staring at screens.  While there was concern of past generations spending too much time watching television, primarily for entertainment, we now stare at our smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and televisions for work, school, entertainment, and social connection.  There are software applications targeted at people of all ages, including newborns.  With screens now creeping into every aspect of our lives, it is important to question their influence, especially on the developmental years of childhood.  Is this increase in screen time the cause of the increase in child obesity?  Is there a connection between increased screen time and childhood behavioral or learning problems?  Sound evidence is certainly required before we label the quantity of screen time as a major, minor or insignificant factor in childhood health and wellbeing.  Government and professionals in this field have a responsibility to provide policies and guidelines grounded in sound evidence so that parents, guardians can be aware of the factors which do, or do not, affect childhood health, and make educated decisions. 

Etchells et al. (2017) contend that context of screen use and content are important factors in childhood health and wellbeing and “may have a much greater impact than sheer quantity alone” (para. 2).  Although the authors do not provide evidence, these do appear to be important factors requiring further research and consideration.  The authors also postulate that there is no evidence to indicate a connection between screen time and childhood health and wellbeing.  In fact, they go so far as to argue that the argument is “simplistic” (para. 2) and “arguably meaningless” (para. 2) and posit that to assume a connection may be detrimental or even “potentially harmful” (para. 3).  Although this article lists over 80 professionals as the authors, there are scores of research studies which provide evidence in opposition to this perspective. 

Research studies suggesting there IS a connection between screen time and children’s health and wellbeing extend across many disciplines and countries.  For example, in a publication by American Academy of Pediatrics, Page, Cooper, Griew and Jago (2010), state their findings that “greater television and computer use were related to higher psychological difficulty scores” in children (para. 3).  Moreover, in a report commissioned by the Department of Sport and Recreation by the Government of Western Australia, Dr. Karen Martin (2011) asserts that current research indicates that excessive screen time among children and adolescents is more likely to cause physical health disadvantages, negative health behaviours, adverse mental and social health issues, and behavioural, learning and attentional problems or disadvantages (p. 3).  Addressing the hypothesis of a connection between screen time and child obesity, Tripathi and Mishra (2019) claim that 85 percent of the studies they selected for review “indicated positive association between screen time and incidences of adiposity among children and adolescents” (Tripathi & Mishra, 2019, para. 4).  These sources, and many others, appear to provide sound evidence from peer-reviewed publications which support the claim of screen time as a negative affect on children’s health.

Etchells et al. (2017), and the many other authors who continue to weigh in on this debate, have reminded me of the complexity of children’s health and wellbeing, and the myriad factors which potentially influence it.  The literature also reminds me to remain open to new research and evidence.  Answers to tough questions are rarely simple and we must remain curious, and take care to research meticulously, publish truthfully, ask questions, and be open to hypotheses and research that may or may not contradict with our beliefs.

In conclusion, I believe that screen time cannot be labelled as a major, minor or insignificant factor in children’s health and wellbeing without sufficient and sound evidence.  With that evidence, government and professionals in the field may then provide appropriate policies and guidelines.  Parents have a responsibility, not only to learn of these policies and guidelines, but also to consider the nuances of their children and their particular needs.  How much screen time do your children experience?  What is the context and content of that screen time?  How is it affecting them?  Are they getting sufficient physical activity?  How is their health and wellbeing?  What, if any, non-screen environmental factors could be adversely affecting them?  Parents cannot be experts in all fields.  It takes a community to raise a healthy child.  Creating policies and guidelines based on solid evidence is, therefore, essential to give children the best chance at optimal health.

References

Etchells, P., Fletcher-Watson, S., Blakemore, S. J., Chambers, C., Kardefelt-Winther, D., Mills, K., . . . Pfeifer, J. (2017 January 6). Screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2017/jan/06/screen-time-guidelines-need-to-be-built-on-evidence-not-hype

Martin, K. (2011). Electronic overload: The impact of excessive screen use on child and adolescent health and wellbeing. Department of Sport and Recreation: Perth, Australia. Retrieved from https://www.natureplaywa.org.au/library/1/file/Resources/research/K%20Martin%202011%20Electronic%20Overload%20DSR%20(2).pdf

Page, A. S., Cooper, A. R., Griew, P. & Jago, R. (2010). Children’s screen viewing is related to psychological difficulties irrespective of physical activity. Pediatrics, 126(5), e1011-e1017. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2010-1154

Tripathi, M., & Mishra S. K. (2019). Screen time and adiposity among children and adolescents: a systematic review. Journal of Public Health, 1-18. Retrieved from https://www.springermedizin.de/screen-time-and-adiposity-among-children-and-adolescents-a-syste/16572112

Historical Significance of Educational Television: A Synthesis

Image source: Normal S. Morris, 1968, The Atlantic

Most people watch television for entertainment, but it has played a significant role in educational history.  From the early days of the National Educational Television network to today’s multimillion-dollar documentaries, educational television has been broadcast to millions.  Whether or not this primarily one-way dissemination of content actually results in learning is still debated, but its rich history certainly offers important lessons for implementing new technology in education.  In this paper, five sources spanning six decades are synthesized in an attempt to address why television failed to match the propaganda of it being a revolutionary learning medium.  The answer is understandably complex, but the perspectives presented by these authors offer valuable insight as to why all new educational technologies seemingly fail to fulfill their revolutionary promises. 

As television started gaining popularity in the late 1940s and 1950s, it was lauded as a radical new learning aid, destined to surpass the achievements and overcome the problems of previous media.  Radio and film had experienced some success, but radio was limited to audio and film lacked immediacy.  Television expanded beyond these barriers, leading many to comment on its “immense potentialities… [and] status as a suitable educational medium” (Maclaine, 1963, p. 33).  Ferretti (1972) echoes that sentiment by stating that “habitual, regular viewing can alter views, can change minds, can teach” (p. 371).  Many governments, policy makers and school officials agreed and embraced television with open arms.  In 1952, the Federal Communications Commission in the United States campaigned fiercely to acquire 242 television frequencies for noncommercial educational purposes.  The Ford Foundation was so convinced of the medium’s potential that it invested more than $2.5 million in classroom television instruction during the 1950s and $6 million in the early 1960s (Levin & Hines, 2003, p. 269).  Consequently, educational television and its viewership grew substantially.  For example, by 1967, WQED in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was offering instruction in many subjects to 800,000 students in over 23,000 classrooms (Levin & Hines, 2003, p. 269).  Policy makers and reformers deemed it a success for all involved.  A report from Martha Gable, an American district administrator, stated that “the rapid increase in classroom television, due largely to favorable responses from teachers, pupils, and parents, leaves no doubt as to the effectiveness of this new medium as a teaching device” (Levin & Hines, 2003, p.264).  Many also believed that television’s utopian prospects stretched beyond the classroom, insisting it could provide effective in-home education (Levin & Hines, 2003, p. 265; Ferretti, 1972, p. 369).  In addition, it was exalted as a panacea to the era’s severe teacher shortage resulting from the number of children of the post-World War II baby boom reaching school age (Cuban, 1986, p. 43).  With abundant funding, large-scale telecourses, and widely popular programs, such as Sesame Street, educational television appeared destined for its predicted greatness.  Over time, however, it became evident that it was not being watched in classrooms or homes to the degree anticipated, and support and funding began to wane.

Many authors acknowledge that educational television failed to attain its anticipated stardom, but provide differing perspectives regarding the cause.  Ferretti (1972) and Levin and Hines (2003) posit that the diminished success was a result of outside sources, namely a lack of sufficient, permanent funding, decreasing government support, and pressure from commercial broadcasters to privatize their broadcast frequencies.  Conversely, Cuban (1986) points to inside sources, including a failure by policy makers to consult or involve teachers in the decisions to conceive, plan and adopt the new technology (p. 55).  A lack of connection with theories and pedagogies may also be a factor, however, both appear notably absent from all five sources.  Offering an alternative perspective, some authors point to the failure of the technology itself.  Maclaine (1963) provides data from multiple research studies suggesting that television may provide “no significant differences in the achievement of … [television] viewers and non-viewers” (p. 36) and suggests that television actually “distracts from more rewarding general educational activities [such as books]” (Maclaine, 1963, p. 36).  In agreement with Maclaine, Cuban postulates that there is no “clear demonstration that instruction is any more effective or productive after the introduction of … instructional television” (Cuban, 1986, p.147).  As the novelty of educational television dimmed, even teachers were expressing their discontent.  In fact, the American Federation of Teachers “unanimously resolved that television not become the core of the curriculum” (Levin & Hines, 2003, p. 265).  Whether the cause of educational television’s fall from glory was outside sources, inside sources, the technology itself, or a combination thereof, each of these perspectives shows merit and should be carefully considered by policy makers when considering new technologies and their potential role in education.

The causes and consequences of educational television being “oversold and underused” (Cuban, 2003, as citied in Keeler, 2011, p. 284) are historically significant.  As scholars look back on educational television, they provide unique perspectives on lessons learned and future considerations.  Keeler (2011) identifies a distinct pattern which radio, film, television, and likely other educational technologies, have followed, starting with a “bright-promise stage” (John Tebbel, 1951, as cited in Keeler, 2011, p. 283) with idealistic affirmations, invariably followed by “an anemic version of the original dream” (Cuban, 1986, p. 74).  Efforts to implement modern technologies such as iPads and mobile phones into education appear positioned to suffer a similar fate as we continue to place excessive faith on new technology.  Maclaine’s (1963) argument of the necessity of sufficient research before proceeding with new developments appears to have been largely ignored for nearly sixty years.  Levin and Hines (2003) state that past lessons from educational television appear “reported, if not learned” (p. 274), adding that computers are being put in schools, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, without evidence of any learning potential (Levin & Hines, 2003, p. 274).  These perspectives should help decision makers understand “the dimensions of complexity of introducing new technologies into classrooms” (Cuban, 1986, p.74).  Implementing any new technology requires considerable funds and time, thus, sufficient research, teacher input, and concern for current theories and pedagogies are critical to sound decisions.  The ascertainment of a new technology’s effectiveness as a learning tool should be paramount, as well as the recognition that, regardless of the technology, “much of the perceived ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of students … depends on the skills and presence of the teacher, and his or her connection with the students” (Keeler, 2011, p. 284).  Advice from the last six decades appears sound; hopefully new decision makers will listen.

When television came onto the scene, it seemed destined for educational greatness.  Though it may be “an example of one of the more successful campaigns that built upon the successes of previous media while also learning from their mistakes” (Keeler, 2011, p. 260), it failed to achieve its lofty aspirations.  Some accuse outside sources such as government and commercial broadcasters (Ferretti, 1972, p. 377; Levin & Hines, 2003, p. 273).  Others point to a lack of communication among policy makers and teachers (Cuban, 1986, p. 54).  Still others suggest an inability of the technology itself to influence learning (Maclaine, 1963).  A disconnect with theories and pedagogies may also be a factor.  Whatever the cause, it is important to understand the various perspectives in an attempt to recognize the complexities of educational technology and extract the lessons from its many decades of existence.  One of the most important lessons, however, appears to be unlearned as we continue to battle the “new is better mantra” (Keeler, 2011, p. 285) against the rationale that “every technological advance does not necessarily spell progress” (Maclaine, 1963, p.33). 

References

Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and machines: The classroom use of technology since 1920. Teachers College Press: New York, NY.

Ferretti, F. (1972). Educational television. American Libraries, 3(4), 366-384.

Keeler, A. R. (2011). ’Sugar coat the educational pill’: The educational aspirations of emergent film, radio, and television (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. (3491484)

Levin, R. A., & Hines, L. M. (2003). Educational television, Fred Rogers, and the history of education. History of Education Quarterly, 43(2), 262-275. 

Maclaine, A. G. (1963). The educational significance of television. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 1(3), 33-40.

The Great Media Debate – Do Media Influence Learning?

Team Assignment: Eunice Leung, Leigh McCarthy, Sanjay Pottinger, Sherry Ruth, and Marta Samokishyn

Media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition” (Clark, 1983, p. 445).

The Great Media Debate is central to critiques and claims made by the various actors in the educational technology industry today with regards to the effects that media have on student learning and motivation. Debates and conflicting research surrounding the influence of media on learning and motivation influence how individual educators choose to engage with it, as well as how much larger local and national educational entities choose to invest limited funds in educational technology initiatives. Clark and Kozma are two leading researchers who have articulated the different ends of the spectrum of this debate for nearly three decades. Much has changed in the last thirty years. However, questions remain as to sufficient and necessary conditions for learning with media, the difference between media attributes, the capabilities of media, and the methods that instructors use to employ them. The question of methods of instruction being causal to learning (Clark,1994), versus media being an integral aspect of methods that are causal to learning (Kozma, 1994), remain the divisive points in the media debate.

Is it instructional methods that will always save the day, regardless of the media used to deliver content? Alternatively, do new forms of educational technology reach different learners’ needs in unprecedented and increasingly engaging ways, regardless of how a teacher chooses to incorporate them in delivering instruction? When new forms of media reach learners in more profound, more personalized ways, with effective instructional methods, is learning not amplified? Clark (1994) would argue “that media do not influence learning under any conditions” (Clark, 1994, in Kozma, 1994). Conversely, Kozma remains hopeful that educational technology, in its myriad of forms, is media that will influence student learning and motivation (Kozma, 1994). Many educators and researchers have observed students becoming engaged in unprecedented ways with new forms of media (Eschenbrenner, Nah & Siau, 2008; Lowther, Bond & Bendenlier, 2019), but the debate continues and will continue for years to come. Much research supports both Clark and Kozma’s positions, as does much research in between the two ends of the spectrum, working to find a “happy medium.” Our team assignment was to familiarize ourselves with Kozma and Clark’s different positions on the media debate and then choose four articles that are in stark contrast to the analysis presented by either Kozma or Clark’s positions. The first two articles argue contrary to Kozma’s position, while the second two articles are in stark contrast to Clark’s position.

Fedena. (2018, May 4). Teachers vs technology: Can technology replace teachers? [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://fedena.com/blog/2018/05/teachers-vs-technology-can-technology-replace-teachers.html

With the advancement of educational technology expanding and having a more significant presence in classrooms, there is no denying the important role it plays in supporting students and their learning. However, Fedena (2018) argues that the use and integration of technology cannot replace the art of teaching, instruction, and human interactions between teachers and students. This blog acknowledges that technology plays a significant role in simplifying and supporting teachers in their day-to-day efforts (e.g., school management systems that helps them communicate with parents) to enhance their teaching efforts, not replace them. This stance is contrary to the views of Kozma (1994), where he believes that technology and media are the influencing factors in how students learn, not the teacher.

As the great media debate continues, Kozma (1994) claims that using the right technology can impact students and their cognitive development. Alternatively, Fedena (2018) states that teachers do more than instruct students; they have the ability to understand and process cues and emotional interactions from students, whereas technology is just not equipped to handle such complex functions. Lastly, teachers have the ability to contextualize lessons and adjust their instruction based on the level of understanding from their students. Kozma’s (1994) means of using media and technology does not allow for the same level of flexibility that a good teacher can provide. Ultimately, the transfer of learning takes place based on their use of the technology as instruction, not the technology itself.

Mohammed, S. (2018, September 6). Tech or no tech, effective learning is all about teaching [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/09/06/tech-or-no-tech-effective-learning-is-all-about-teaching/

Kozma (1994) claims that media influences learning, a position to which Mohammed (2018) provides a nuanced and contrasting perspective. Mohammed (2018) argues that the instructional methods of the teacher are most relevant to student learning, rather than technology. The author believes the main use of educational technology in the classroom is to help the educator efficiently convey their instructional methods for learning to students. This primary use of technology was emphasized by highlighting studies of blended learning, which uses both human-driven and technology-driven instruction. In one study, a positive relationship between blended learning methods and student knowledge acquisition was found. In other studies, this finding was not corroborated. After further investigation, the author concluded that the discrepancy in findings could be attributed to the differing ways in which instructional strategies were used by the teachers, rather than the technology itself.

Kozma (1994) argues that evidence has not established a link between media and if it influences learning, but he suggests that media will influence learning in the future. Conversely, Mohammed’s (2018) article signifies that nearly 25 years after Kozma’s article was published, the question of whether technology influences learning is still being debated. Furthermore, Kozma (1994) states that instructional technology design has “complex interrelationships among media, method, and situation” (p. 21), suggesting integration of technology and instructional design. In contrast, Mohammed (2018) indicates that there is a separation between the technology and the method of teaching, as various teaching methods examined with similar technology garnered different results. Kozma argues that determining the capabilities of each technology and how they apply to learning is valuable. On the other hand, the studies that Mohammed examines indicate that specific technologies can have multiple uses in how they impact or facilitate learning. Rather than focusing on a single technology’s capability, as suggested by Kozma, it may be more useful to think of technology more holistically, where its functions and uses are interchangeable.

Immelt, W. (2019, June 17). AI the next step for education: Tech innovations changing our classrooms. Retrieved from https://hackernoon.com/ai-the-next-step-for-education-tech-innovations-changing-our-classrooms-851b1f297cad 

The discussions about the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education has intensified the media debate with the polarized views about this topic. This article provides insight into the role of AI in the classroom and how it changes the way we learn. When Clark put forward his claim that media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement” (Clark, 1983, p. 445), he might not have envisioned that some authors will be considering the fact that the actual teachers might be replaced by technology.

Immet does exactly that. He claims that AI is the “future of education” (Immelt, 2019), and we are standing on the verge of major technological changes in education as a whole, if not to replace the teachers, then to actively collaborate with them. Some of the examples Immet uses to support his claim are: using AI for admin tasks, tutoring, and test help. Furthermore, “education chatbots,” according to Immet (2019), can play the role of campus representatives and teaching assistants, as they can deliver tests, and provide course feedback.

Immet (2019) claims that AI “transforms the way we approach knowledge acquisition” due to personalization, social learning, gamification, and most importantly, “real-time” feedback. He even points to AI’s ability to create content, improving education as a whole and providing “equal learning opportunities to every student in the world” (Immet, 2019). Even though this is something that Clark might call a ” triumph of enthusiasm” (Clark, 1994), based on Immet’s claims, there is no doubt that technology can augment “current educational efforts” and become a “perfect candidate” to  improve, personalize, and make education more effective today (Immet, 2019), meeting its current needs as an accessible, powerful motivator and tool, moving students from consumers to creators! 

Rogers, S. (2019, March 15). Virtual reality: The learning aid of the 21st century. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2019/03/15/virtual-reality-the-learning-aid-of-the-21st-century/#2bc87f47139b

This article claims that virtual reality (VR) is a unique medium that helps users retain more information and more easily apply what they have learned, compared to more traditional platforms like a computer (Rogers, 2019, para. 1). The author argues that VR provides an interactive, 3D experience, which supports both individual and cooperative use, fully immersing users in the learning. He states that VR offers depth and visual appeal to learning, making complex concepts easier to understand, more enjoyable, and making learning more engaging and even motivational.

This article contrasts with Clark’s (1994) argument that media will never influence learning. First, Clark states that no medium or media attributes exist that provide learning gains for any student or learning task that could not be similarly achieved by different media or attributes (para. 3). Rogers, however, provides several examples of how VR’s capabilities provide learning benefits that appear unmatched. For example, VR allows anatomy students to study a functioning human body in great depth, overcoming “previous limitations such as unobservable structure or awkward angles” (Rogers, 2019, para. 6).

Clark (1994) also argues that the teaching methods built into computer-based instruction are used by teachers giving live instruction and, therefore, there is “no achievement difference between the [computer-based training] and live conditions” (para. 9). Since VR’s immersive 3D experience cannot be replicated by live instruction, this argument is defunct.

Finally, Clark (1994) also argues that instructional methods are a necessary feature of effective learning, while media attributes are irrelevant (para.13). Rogers counterargues that VR is causal to learning as it “can increase engagement and [provide] a significant improvement in . . . productivity compared to traditional classroom-based training techniques” (para. 8), especially for individual students who struggle to visualize, for example, in the study of historical events, natural disasters, and distant places.

The Clark-Kozma debate remains relevant. Kozma (1994) states that “the fact that other factors contribute to learning does not preempt a role for media” (p. 20). As new media, such as virtual reality, are introduced and students appear to be engaging with media in unprecedented ways, we need to give thoughtful consideration to their possible role in education.

So the debate continues…

References

Clark, R. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/stable/1170217

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29. Retrieved from http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bmann/0_ARTICLES/Media_Clark.html 

Bond, M., & Bedenlier, S. (2019). Facilitating student engagement through educational technology: Towards a conceptual framework. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 1(11), 1-14. doi: 10.5334/jime.528.

Eschenbrenner, B., Nah, F. F., & Siau, K. (2008). 3-D virtual worlds in education: Applications, benefits, issues, and opportunities. Journal of Database Management, 19(4), 91-110. doi: 10.4018/jdm.2008100106

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.167.4904&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Attribution

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