Light in a Never-Ending Tunnel

Educators must reevaluate the role and benefits of homework during distance learning.


Mairi Shea, Staff Writer

The Coronavirus pandemic has created times more unfamiliar than ever. School, even online, has brought a healthy dose of normalcy back into our lives. But when is the time to take a step back and to realize that past practices, like homework, might need some adjusting in the new environment? 

The benefits of homework are clear: students are able to engage with the course material on their own and understand what they need clarification on. It teaches time management, problem solving skills, and discipline. However, currently, Mitty students are also required to spend at the minimum 4.25 hours on their iPads on Zoom for three 85-minute classes; many students with 4 periods spend about 5.67 hours. Then after classes, most students have about 2 hours of homework, potentially more, which they must also use technology to complete.

It feels like all our lives, adults have been trying to take away our screens, but now, they won’t let us escape them.

What does all this additional screen time mean for students? First, 7-10 hours in front of a device (between classes, homework, and extra-curriculars) can impact vision, known as “computer vision syndrome.” This can range from dry, strained eyes, to headaches. Secondly, as we’ve been reminded by adults regarding social media, heavy screen usage may hinder cognitive development. Lastly, as if teenagers aren’t already getting insufficient sleep, heavy screen usage can lead to poor sleep patterns. The blue light can suppress the release of melatonin in the brain, resulting in unbalanced hormones. This can affect the body’s quality of rest and leave people struggling to pay attention throughout the day. These consequences affect all students, but for those who have learning disabilities or generally have to spend more time completing assignments they can be even more detrimental. Similarly, students who take higher-level courses, which require more time for heavier workloads, are more likely to suffer from the effects of increased screen time. 

I’m not saying we don’t need homework, just that during distance learning it must change in order for us to truly receive its benefits. Because of the online format, former outcomes of homework are outweighed by the negative impacts of screens. Changing our approach to homework will motivate students to be more engaged in class, as well as improve their mental health. For instance, limiting the maximum hours of homework a week or providing more work on paper could provide relief. Additionally, creating assignments in which students can interact with others in their daily lives, such as interacting with family members, could elevate general health and provide students with more forms of human connection.

It feels like all our lives, adults have been trying to take away our screens, but now, they won’t let us escape them. Yes, the world is out of balance right now, but we also need to understand how to adapt to the change.