The Importance of Paper in the Digital Classroom By Emma Miller

With constant technological advances and state-of-the-art devices, it’s only a matter of time until the classroom will become a completely digital environment. In fact, it’s already happening – computers have become an integral part of education, while more and more students and teachers are using tablets instead of books. However, despite such a progressive approach to the classroom environment, there’s still an essential need for paper in the otherwise digital classroom, and it will be a long time before it disappears.


Success in Hard Copy

There’s nothing more satisfying and motivating than seeing the final product of your hard work, and without paper, you wouldn’t actually be able to do so. Just imagine spending your entire semester writing an exam paper and finally getting to print it out and hold it in your own hands. Of course, the sole fact that you’ve finished your assignment is fulfilling, but witnessing the fruit of your labor in real life is simply more satisfying than doing so in the digital world. Even when it comes to smaller children, the hard copy version of their work can be far more inspiring and motivating. In addition, paper makes it possible for proud parents to display the work of their little ones and show them that they value it. And no matter how advanced technology is, it won’t be able to replace this important role of a simple piece of paper.

(Un)reliability of Technology

The cutting-edge technological advances have provided students and teachers with an endless source of information and a range of different tools enabling us to push the limits of reality. However, a simple yet terrifying question remains – what happens if it breaks? Of course, such a risk is minimized in a high-tech environment with state-of-the-art technology, but what about an average classroom? Surely, not every school can afford advanced devices for every single student, which means that there’s always a risk of a digital system failing. Just imagine the havoc of interrupted lessons, cancelled tests and lost papers caused by a simple failure of the system. Paper, on the other hand, provides teachers and students with a reliable tool in the classroom.


No matter how well-planned a lesson is, there will always be distractions that will disrupt the flow of a lesson, especially with younger students. Teachers are already fighting for their students’ attention, trying to engage them and spark their interest for a specific topic, and the truth is that computers and laptops can be a major distraction. Younger students have a really short attention span, so teachers already have the difficult task of keeping them engaged and focused. With computers at their disposal, they can easily be distracted from their task, which may eventually interrupt the entire class. Even with college students, laptops and computers can represent a major distraction, unlike note taking. Students tend to multitask on their laptops, which can decrease their comprehension of a lecture and distract their fellow students.

Learning Outcomes, Literacy and Cognitive Development

While computer literacy has become a requirement in today’s society, there are several facts showing that paper and pencil are indispensable in the digital classroom. Namely, studies have proven that digital printing of textbooks results in better learning outcomes, comprehension and retention in students than the use of electronic material. In addition, handwriting plays an important role in developing fine motor skills in preschool children, results in production of both more words and ideas because of greater neural activation, enhances the development of reading skills and improves learning and cognitive processes. Furthermore, in the case of creative writing tasks, students find it much easier to put their ideas on paper rather than using laptops.

When it comes to reading from print material, it has been shown that print readers achieve better results on reading comprehension tests, read more quickly, exhibit higher retention of what they have read and find it easier to concentrate. In addition, students who read from print material actually read more than those who read from electronic devices. Even the quality of reading differs depending on the medium. Namely, digital sources are used for browsing and reading texts of passing interest, which is related to a more superficial reading style.

Although computers, laptops and tablets have become an important part of the classroom, it seems that paper and pencil offer benefits that are vital for students’ learning and cognitive processes. Of course, that doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t have a place in the classroom, but only that it doesn’t diminish the importance of tools as simple as paper and pencil.