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Paper vs. Digital: The Classroom Debate

January 10, 2019

/ by

Jeff Hersh


For many teachers and parents, memories of school include plenty of notebooks, paper, pens and pencils. Whether it was writing out answers to essay questions in booklets or filling out bubbles that required number 2 pencils, an essential part of learning included paper. As our world becomes more digital and physical elements continue to fade by the wayside, it makes sense that schools are becoming less dependent on paper. However, the question must be asked, “Is this a positive trend?”




Writing in margins, writing out the steps to math problems, breaking down theories on scratch paper; all of these are methods to help students engage their minds and work through problems. Written text does not allow students to quickly scroll by or click on hyperlinks to take them to other documents. They are committed to reading and absorbing the information on the page. In a fast-moving digital world, this careful reading and slower approach can be the most beneficial when it comes to comprehension. However, if students only use this approach, they will not be using or understanding the benefits of our new, tech-based world.




Boundless digital learning opportunities combined with children being exposed to digital media and devices at early ages creates a student population where learning technology seems to come naturally. Many students likely read text quickly and jump from topic to topic, which means they can find more information faster. When they are required to answer questions and respond to text, they can do it directly on the device they are reading from. Everything is connected and the instant gratification of knowing whether they have succeeded or not is at their fingertips. While accessibility and speed may seem like progress, students miss out on the chance to slow down to focus on the printed word. They don’t take the time to write out answers, which can help in comprehension and the ability to reason.




When providing students with the best ways to learn, a balance of technology and paper are both needed. The modern world expects students to be able to read and work digitally, but developing the cognitive skills enhanced by writing out answers and reading printed texts can help students develop deeper critical thought processes. Students need to use both paper and digital resources in school. Balanced learning is a way to embrace the modern applications available, as well as the tried and true methods of the past.


Prepare students for computer based testing.


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