AUGUST 10, 2017

Results Are In: Paper Remains Preferred Technology for Productive Learning

We’re big believers in haptics – the importance of tactile sensation – and in the human brain’s ability to navigate the geography of a physical page of paper. So, any information that validates our beliefs gives us warm and fuzzy feelings. And there’s more information out there than ever.

I recently came across a well-referenced infographic from the National Pen Company that captures some of the many advantages conferred by putting pen to paper.

  • First of all, when you write things out by hand, you have better recall because you are creating a spatial relation between each bit of information you’re jotting down.
  • Second, handwriting allows you to think more thoroughly about the information you’re recording. It encourages you to deepen and expand your thoughts and make connections between them.
  • And third, because handwriting is slower than typing on a keyboard, it makes it harder to take notes verbatim and that means you have to process the information in real time and summarize it in a way that makes sense for you. Writing by hand forces your brain to engage with the information.

Paper plays an important role in productive learning, which happens to be the theme of our annual Paper and Productive Learning: The Third Annual Back-to-School Report. By productive learning, we mean the ability to take in and understand new information. The human brain’s preference for the spatial and tactile makes paper a more efficient means for learning new things than electronic channels that separate the brain from the physical world.

Back_To_School_Annual_Report_Online 1

Among the research we’ve gathered are the results of a Nielsen survey that shows 96% of Millennial parents – the most wired generation of adults – say paper is essential to their kids’ learning and that their children do well on homework when they write it on paper.

Students agree with their parents when it comes to writing by hand. According to our own survey conducted in April, about 70% of high schoolers prepare for tests by taking handwritten notes and there is solid consensus among 7th graders (the youngest group surveyed) and college students that they learn information best if they write it down.

Dr. Naomi Baron, professor of Linguistics at American University, says the benefits of paper apply to reading as well as writing. In a study she conducted of university students in five countries, 92% said print is the best medium for reading when you’re trying to concentrate. Dr. Baron also found that students say they remember more when reading in print and that it is easier to transport yourself into a story if you’re holding it in your hands and turning the pages.

Although college lecture halls are filled with students and laptops, the ones with pens and paper are on to something. They’re more likely to remember and understand what they’ve heard than their keyboarded peers.

So as we begin to head back to school keep in mind one thing: when you read or write using paper you think better and remember more.

That’s because brains love paper.