In the last year and a half, schools across the world have had to make a swift and sudden shift to online learning. Nearly everything has gone digital: lessons are delivered via video conference, tests are a matter of mouse clicks on a screen, and classroom activities are carried out through keyboards and webcams.
If you’re a principal, teacher, or school administrator, you may be wondering if you should start shifting your focus (and your budget) more fully toward digital learning materials. If they’re the wave of the future, you want to get in on the ground floor, right? This can be a difficult decision, one that many school leaders are torn over.
However, a recent survey showed that parents aren’t torn over this decision. Their stance is very clear: parents prefer print learning materials. What’s more, they are willing to support—and cast their votes for—school officials and board members who share the mindset that print remains an essential part of student learning.
Opinions aside, however, there’s no arguing with the convenience, flexibility, and efficiency of digital devices, right?
Well, it turns out, there is. You may be surprised at what several 2021 studies turned up about the value, efficacy, and enjoyment of using print materials to support and enhance student learning.
Digital is no match for print when it comes to engaging learners
The past year has put many parents in the unofficial role of assistant teacher, and what they learned from this experience was captured in a survey by pollster Frank Luntz.
The overwhelming majority of parents, even ones who preferred online learning tools, noted that physical printed books helped immensely in the learning process. When asked what had the most impact on their child’s success as a student, they pointed to printed books. Parents also noted that with physical books, students are more likely to:
- Develop a deep grasp of the information
- Retain the knowledge long-term
- Stay engaged, focused, and undistracted
Just the tactile sensation alone of holding a book in their hands, feeling its weight and sturdiness, and turning the pages with their hands naturally helped them keep their focus—no small feat for the students of today, whose brains have been trained by social media to dart around and think in short snippets.
Students retain knowledge far better from printed materials
Here’s something else we all know intuitively about printed books but probably have never thought too deeply about: they are full of visual cues and markers that help us remember things.
Consider how many times you’ve remembered the actual, physical location of a piece of information printed in a book. A key scene from a novel, for instance. Chances are you have a sense of where it lives in the book—at the bottom of a page about a third of the way through the book, perhaps. Reading on a screen has none of the guideposts. And it impacts how well the information is ultimately absorbed, ordered, and remembered by the reader.
This doesn’t just apply to reading. It’s relevant to writing, too.
Another recent study, this one by researchers at the University of Tokyo, found that when we write things down in a physical notebook, it is far easier to remember them than if we recorded them on a digital device. Neuroimaging showed that an explosion of activity, lighting up several regions of the brain like fireworks, is triggered when writing things down in a notebook.
The moral of the story? If you want to remember something accurately, read it in a book and write it down with a pen and paper.
Writing stuff down is faster and more accurate than using a device
If tablets and smartphones are lauded for anything, it’s how much faster and more accurate they are than the human hand. The difference is akin to plowing a field with a mule or with a high-powered tractor—the job will get done much faster and in a more organized and efficient way if you let technology give you a boost.
This, it turns out, is false.
The truth is that when it comes to speed, accuracy, creativity, and everything else that matters from an educational perspective, the human brain is the blueprint, and computers are the knockoff. To prove this, the research participants in the Tokyo study were split into groups. The first group was asked to record their schedules for the entire semester by hand in a printed planner, the second with a tablet, and the third with a smartphone.
The tablet group took 14 minutes to do the job. The smartphone group took 16 minutes.
The paper planner group finished the job in 11 minutes and made significantly fewer mistakes when doing so.
Sometimes the simplest tools are the best.
Support and empower your students with printed student planners
Even as online tools take their rightful place in school curricula, printed materials are still an irreplaceable and valuable part of engaging and educating the next generation of young minds.
Printed student planners in particular are a fantastic learning tool that allows students to plan out their days, express their creativity, and perhaps best of all, give them a break from computer and phone screens.
To learn more about how printed student planners can promote deeper learning and encourage student success, request your free sample pack.