Digital learning has taken over the classroom in recent years. With over half of US primary and secondary schools using Google education services and a projected $21 billion in Silicon Valley-backed computers and software invested by 2020, digital adoption is likely to grow exponentially as more tech finds its way into schools.
Computers, tablets, online tools, cloud-based services and apps are changing the way students learn and challenging the norms of traditional school curriculum. Yet, even with an endless selection of edtech options, textbooks and printed assignments still play a pivotal role in the academic development of the modern student. From improved reading comprehension to superior concentration, print has proven to be an invaluable piece of the education puzzle, no matter how popular class tablets may be. Here, we explore the benefits of both mediums so you can find the right balance for your classroom.
Digital learning benefits
Instant access – With online education services like Google Classroom, students can work on or turn-in assignments from any computer. Instead of printing out and handing in a project, assignments can be uploaded to the cloud in just a few seconds! In this arena, print simply can’t compete. The convenience of accessing your work from anywhere saves time, paper and even solves the problem of missing homework.
Easy to manage and track student progress – By hosting classwork digitally, teachers can provide students feedback more efficiently. Shared documents, polls and pop quizzes streamline class tasks while assignment and attendance trackers automate classroom routine.
Cut back class expenses – As more classes shift to digital, printing and paper costs decrease and teachers can spend that money on other necessities. With many printer cartridges costing more than the initial price of the printer and the average teacher spending around $480 out-of-pocket annually on supplies, cartridges can make up a big chunk of your class budget. Laser printers can lower those costs if you print documents regularly and alternative printing options like compatible cartridges can reduce expenses even further. Paper can be just as pricey, but you can lower those expenses too if you buy smart. For inexpensive everyday prints, use paper with a 20 lb. weight and use 24 lb. weight paper for printing on both sides.
Unique learning opportunities– Digital access opens up an array of learning opportunities and content choices. Teachers can easily bring in lesson plans and subject matter experts from around the globe due to the wealth of academic resources available on the web and students can pick their preferred method to learn that information. The educational possibilities and perspectives are limitless, which can create a far more engaging classroom.
Universal access – Hosting class materials online is convenient but in doing so, everyone that wants access must have the right app or credentials. Alternatively, print does not rely on the whims of the web and you are not tied to an app or a service to manage your documents.
Better for recalling complex texts – Most online content is designed to be read quickly and as such, the information does not ingrain itself in the same way printed text does. Anne Mangen, PhD professor at the Reading Center at University of Stavanger, Norway, says one reason we remember some printed text better than digital may be due to metacomprehension, or how well we process text. The more engaged you are with a text, the more likely you are understand it. While most are fine reading shorter texts on a digital device, complicated texts are best processed in their physical form.
Turning pages helps mind map the text – A Washington Post article found readers can locate information by page and text layout better with print, which also plays a key role in comprehension. Print encourages better concentration too. Rather than skimming the information on a digital device, printed text enables students to remain completely engaged in the material.
Print “sticks” better than digital – Thanks to digital assistants like Google and Siri, we have become used to looking up answers when needed rather than committing them to memory. Sometimes called digital amnesia, Columbia professor Betsy Sparrow was the first to study Google’s effect on memory, concluding, “We forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself.”
How digital and print can coexist
For the majority of classrooms, a strategic mix of digital and print is the best approach to learning and curriculum agility is key to get the most out of your students. Get to know the preferred learning method of your class and then adjust the workload accordingly. Be selective about what you read digitally versus print and be intentional about what technology you introduce to the classroom. By focusing on the strengths of both mediums, you can create a rich learning environment that prepares your students for college and beyond.