Paper versus digital: which is more effective?

In today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by digital screens, including phones, tablets, and laptops. With the rise of e-readers and digital textbooks, many parents are left wondering whether reading or working on paper or digitally is more effective for their children’s learning. While digital may be more convenient, recent research suggests that paper may have significant benefits over their digital counterpart.


The Benefits of Reading on Paper

Studies have shown that reading on paper engages different parts of the brain than reading on a digital device. For example, a study conducted by Norwegian researchers found that students who read from paper had better reading comprehension than those who read the same material on a screen. Additionally, reading on paper has been found to improve the ability to focus and remember details, as well as reduce the likelihood of distractions.

In 2016, Singer Trakhman’s research found that students missed details when reading on screens compared to reading on paper – likely due to overconfidence as we have grown accustomed to scanning and skimming on our phones/tablets. Print reading is also similar to meditation and it is visually less demanding for our eyes. When we read, our brain also develops a map of the text, like remembering the information appeared at the bottom right hand side of the page. This becomes harder to map out in digital texts especially when scrolling through a text. The physical act of turning a page is a sensorimotor cue helping readers to gain chronological perspective of the story they are reading.

A study examining reading comprehension research between 2000 and 2017 suggests it’s harder to comprehend with digital text. The study found print’s advantages are greater now than in 2000. In other words, this digital-reading problem isn’t going away.


The Cognitive Benefits of Writing by Hand

Furthermore, writing by hand has been found to aid in learning and memory retention more than typing on a keyboard. Studies have found that students who took notes by hand were better able to process and remember information than those who took notes on a laptop. This is because writing by hand requires more cognitive engagement and the physical movement of writing can help to strengthen neural connections in the brain. Writing by hand takes longer than typing which allows you to think more thoroughly about the information you’re recording. The benefits of handwriting versus typing includes improved critical thinking, memory call and conceptual understanding.

Many people also find writing by hand calming and therapeutic. Writing by hand connects you with the words and allows your brain to focus on them, understand them and learn from them.

Tips for Incorporating More Paper Reading into Your Child’s Routine

So, what does this mean for parents? While digital devices can be convenient for accessing information, it may be more effective to encourage children to read on paper and write by hand when studying or completing assignments.

This is why we recommend reading 20 minutes a day with a physical book. Your child can complete this independently or with an adult. In addition, encouraging your child to practise their skills by hand will help them learn better. This advice remains the same even if your child is preparing for an exam on a computer/tablet such as the ISEB. Writing and practising new skills with pen and paper remains the best approach.


The Importance of Balancing Digital and Paper Reading.

In conclusion, while digital devices have become a staple in our daily lives, it’s important to recognize the benefits of reading on paper and writing by hand for children’s learning and memory retention. By providing children with opportunities to engage with materials on paper, parents can help to foster a love of reading and support their children’s academic success.