October 12, 2016  
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Classroom Paper Use Increasing, Survey Shows

Though the “digital classroom” may be in the news, a recent report confirms that kids, teachers and parents still love paper. Paper and Productive Learning: The Second Annual Back-to-School Report, commissioned by the Paper and Packaging Board, surveyed 4,300 students, parents and teachers in the United States and shows that not only does paper still have a role in the classroom, but its use and importance is growing.

The report doesn’t only confirm that the use of paper is on the rise, it examines some of the “whys” behind the statistics, and includes essays by expert educators about the merits of using paper and paper products for learning purposes.


“Three central conclusions about the value of paper for learning emerged from this year’s survey results. First, paper fosters engagement. Second, paper fosters preparation. Finally, paper is central to commemorating and documenting achievements in ways that help build truly authentic relationships,” the report notes. The survey reports that 64% of K–12 teachers feel students comprehend information better and are more engaged (63%) when they read on paper. Parents share their kids’ preference: 71% of parents surveyed say they’re more likely to help their children with homework when they are working with paper textbooks, written assignments or hands-on crafts. Plus, 43% of parents report reading with their children from a paper book at night—up 5% from last year’s report.

The survey also included college-age students and their professors. The percentage of college students who report that they “often” or “always” use paper tools (notes, books, flashcards) to prepare for exams is 82%.  That same majority—82%—of college professors agree that there are good reasons for banning laptops in class. The report says that these professors believe that such a ban would keep students focused (76%) and engaged (49%). Surveyed professors also report that the number one way they prefer to give feedback is by making edits or comments on a paper copy of an assignment (55%).

“Educators use paper to build lessons and shape activities for students, and
find that these experiences are often more engaging than computer-based classwork,” writes 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki in her essay included in the report. “Not only is paper-based learning powerful for stimulating deeper learning but it also provides an easy avenue for parents to assist their children with schoolwork—something that is essential to school success and family bonding.”

The report also includes a look at the differences between digital media and paper media in classroom use from Daniel M. Oppenheimer, professor of Marketing and Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He writes, “While there are advantages to electronic media, a growing number of studies show that some educational goals are better achieved using traditional pen and paper methods.”

For example, most people can type much faster than they can write longhand; this appears to give digital media (such as laptops) the edge when it comes to student note-taking. Yet the slower rate of taking notes by hand requires students to think about what they’re writing, which also provides a distinct advantage. “By engaging with the material more deeply, students experience more effective learning and consequently perform better on subsequent exams, especially exams involving conceptual understanding,” Oppenheimer writes. “In other words, while taking notes on a laptop typically results in a more complete record of a lesson’s content, handwritten notes better facilitate learning and often lead to a deeper understanding of the material.”

The full report is available for download through the Paper and Packaging Board’s “How Life Unfolds” homepage, howlifeunfolds.com.


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