Take one and skip the rest: learning on paper remains important in today’s classroom


While there is no doubt that digital learning is playing a more important role in education than ever before, printed materials remain essential for learning. This article explores why print lessons remain a cornerstone of education in the modern classroom.

  • Students are spending more time than ever interacting with electronic information rather than printed content.
  • Because there are pitfalls associated with digital learning, educators today must ensure that any technology-based learning strategy is paired with an ongoing investment in printing.
  • While young consumers are undoubtedly tech enthusiasts, they are still quite open to print materials, especially when it comes to learning.
  • In the classroom, personalized, colorful course materials that are printed and can be held in the hand often have more impact than documents that are browsed and viewed on a laptop or mobile device.

By Priya Gohil


Fall is most certainly underway – the creeping cold of the morning, the onset of night, and the familiar chorus of children flying to school on their way to school. Some things never change … but what is evolution is a growing dependence on digital technology in education. The forced home schooling episodes during the lockdown phase of the pandemic may be a fading memory albeit deadly, but they have accelerated the uptake of e-learning tools and digital resources at the expense of the educational material on paper.

Now that we are navigating another academic year, it is clear that this trend will continue. As an example, my daughter’s annual knowledge organizer – who covers her curriculum content for the year – is no longer delivered as a printed book as it once did. Instead, it is available to be viewed online and can be downloaded as a PDF file. As the school year continues, my daughter will need to refer to this content regularly. Assignments are now provided online, and they must also be completed and submitted online. It may seem like there is no longer a need for printed reports, exams or hand-filled worksheets.

The digital march

There are convincing arguments to move towards an e-learning base. Classrooms are increasingly going digital with an increase in the use of Chromebooks, tablets and other mobile devices. Traditional audiovisual projectors and video screens are being replaced by interactive display technologies such as smart whiteboards that make it easier for students to deliver lessons, assess and collaborate. The electronic route is also more convenient for educators in terms of monitoring results as well as the time required for planning, delivering and scoring lessons. As a result, students are spending more time than ever before interacting with electronic information rather than printed content.

As we all discovered during the containment phase of the pandemic, digital technology is vital to maintaining connectivity. The success of these tactics is subject to debate, but for a short time in 2020 virtually all children were schooled online and interacted virtually with their peers and teachers. Given the lingering uncertainty associated with new COVID-19 variants and the possibility of additional public health measures to slow the spread of infection, distance learning in one form or another is likely to play an ongoing role. in the education of children.

Access and accessibility

Naturally, schools want to adopt strategies that will allow them to deliver the program in the most effective and efficient manner. Technological tools and online learning management platforms are a means by which teachers can not only provide resources (for example, videos and interactive tutorials), but also communicate with their students and provide personalized material. tailored to individual needs.

As many of us quickly discovered in the early days of the COVID outbreak, however, there are many pitfalls associated with a digital-centric approach. In every home in the UK, the pandemic has exposed glaring inequalities and disparity in digital access. According to the England Commissioner for Children, around 9% of families in the UK do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home. It’s not just about having access to a good quality device, it’s about having a reliable internet connection and being able to access a device when needed. This can certainly be a problem in large families if multiple users need to share a single device. Having access to a device is not the same as having adequate access to those devices to facilitate learning.

While it is true that government agencies globally are leading efforts to provide children with laptops and other mobile learning devices, the question remains whether schools are providing appropriate support for their students. can get the most out of technology. Also, what about teachers: are they equipped and trained to provide technical support to children who need it? Because of these challenges and a myriad of other reasons, print materials remain a vital part of the education industry, even in the digital age. Educators today need to ensure that any technology-based learning strategy is paired with an ongoing investment in printing.

The lasting appeal of print

Generation Z, loosely defined as individuals born between 1997 and 2010, grew up surrounded by digital technologies, including the internet, mobile devices, and social media networks. Given this, you might assume that today’s digital natives prefer to use electronic devices for reading and learning, but recent research suggests otherwise. While young consumers are undoubtedly tech enthusiasts, they are still quite open to print materials, especially when it comes to learning.

A recent study published by Elsevier examined the correlation between the amount of print reading students performed before and during school closings associated with COVID-19. According to the study, school-aged children showed a clear preference for reading in print rather than digital format. They read on paper much more frequently – and for longer periods of time – compared to digital formats. Other studies have found that students who read printed materials tend to have better literacy skills than those who read digitally. Plus, reading on paper can be a more immersive experience. This can lead to deeper understanding and retention of information, better vocabulary, and improved critical thinking skills, all of which are essential qualities for successful learning.

There is undoubtedly some anxiety among printing professionals due to the decline in the use of printed materials in all industries, including education. At the same time, however, there are also reasons for optimism. Many young people continue to respond to print communications. According to Keypoint Intelligence’s most recent marketing communications consumer study, 45% of respondents aged 18 to 24 read every direct mail they received, a higher proportion than other age groups surveyed.

Share of consumers who read all of their direct mail

Base: Total consumers surveyed in the United States and Canada

Source: Annual State of Marketing Communications: Consumer Survey, Keypoint Intelligence 2020

Even as digital natives, young people are not immune to screen fatigue, and some younger consumers see print as a way to escape their heavily electronic world. In the classroom, personalized, colorful course materials that are printed and can be held in the hand often have more impact than documents that are browsed and viewed on a laptop or mobile device.

Although print communications were in decline, printing lasted largely because of its versatility. It is suitable for a variety of education related applications including school signage, brochures, lesson plans, learning materials, certificates, quarterly reports, newsletters, letters , application forms, consent forms, marketing materials, packaging, labels, newsletters, floor / murals and direct mail. Think about it: a printed certificate highlighting an award or recent achievement will mean infinitely more to a child than recognition by email. The printed piece can be displayed and then cherished for years to come. Plus, digital printing opens the door to eye-catching effects like metallic colors, neon colors, and even unique textures.

The bottom line

The increased use of digital in the classroom is a good thing, as it allows teachers, students and parents to stay connected wherever they are. Electronic documents also make it easier for teachers to tailor their assignments and questions to the needs of students at an individual level. Despite these advantages, the need for print in education will persist. The downsides of a fully digital education, including eye strain, lack of engagement, and reduced processing capabilities, are well documented in today’s world. Going forward, educators must embrace a smart mix of digital and print materials as they strive to make today’s students the leaders of tomorrow.

With over two decades of publishing experience, Priya Gohil has been providing A3, production and wide format analysis since joining Keypoint Intelligence in 2013. While focusing heavily on custom test reports as well as high-value subscription content, it also provides strategic support around the Production 2.0 test program. Priya contributes to blogs and a variety of other articles across all channels of Keypoint Intelligence.

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