Are kids learning content or systems?

Julie Jargon:

The expectation is that they should be able to log in, see what needs to be done and do it,” Ms. Dasko said. “These are kids, and they don’t have the maturity to look at this big system and figure out how to break it down.”

The reliance on tech has led some parents to buy their kids phones sooner than they would have liked. The difficulty of taking photos of schoolwork on the Chromebook is one reason Ms. Dasko, a graphic designer in northeastern Washington, recently bought her daughter a phone.

“Teachers cite the same challenges—it’s not just parents and students,” said Heather Dowd, a former teacher turned instructional coaching consultant and co-author of “Classroom Management in the Digital Age.”

She said she expects digital classrooms to become more streamlined and easier to use. Until then, many parents complain that tech problems are getting in the way of learning and wonder: What’s so bad about paper and pencil, anyway?

Michelle McNally’s eighth-grader has been struggling to keep track of each teacher’s method for showing that work has been done. Some of his teachers require screenshots of physical work; others check students’ computers to see that work has been completed.

“Is the goal to learn the system, or is the goal to learn the content?” said Ms. McNally, a digital-marketing executive in Indianapolis.