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Why Paper Planners Are Better Than Digital Planners

Why Paper Planners Are Better Than Digital Planners

The use of technology in the classroom has steadily increased over the last few decades. Over half of all classroom teachers in the United States now report having 1:1 technology in the classroom. As access to classroom technology grows, many teachers and administrators have been contemplating switching from paper planners to digital ones. While exploring your options, take a moment to consider whether paper or digital planners are better for your students' needs.

Gratuitously integrating technology into the classroom with no strategic purpose can often cause more harm than good. It turns out that taking notes in paper agendas provides students of all ages with many benefits, compared to recording them electronically.

Increases Retention and Improves Memory

If you find it harder to remember things now than you did before buying your first smartphone, you're not alone. Studies show writing notes by hand is better for retention than typing them. When students write notes manually, they need to engage more intensely with the content they are recording. Writing is slower, more deliberate and methodical than typing. Students who write by hand are more likely to summarize their ideas than transcribe what they hear word for word. This conscious effort allows them to connect with what they write down and remember it better. If you want your students to retain what they are learning in the classroom, have them take written notes. When you need them to remember their homework assignments, stick with paper planners.

Avoids Distraction

When used correctly, technology can introduce new learning opportunities for students that traditional methods have difficulty matching. Unfortunately, technology also presents an unprecedented number of new distractions in the classroom. Notifications and reminders can divert students' attention in the middle of their work, and their smart device has no shortage of apps and websites to tempt them away from the task they should focus on. 

Even students who are not misusing technology can suffer from distractions caused by other students. In one study, students who could see another student's laptop screen scored 17% lower on comprehension than students who didn't have the distracting view. To help your students focus, limit technology usage to times when it has a clearly defined instructional benefit. Using paper planners instead of digital planners is one way to reduce unnecessary technology for a more task-focused classroom.

Helps Develop Writing Skills

While typing is undoubtedly an essential skill for 21st-century learners, written communication still has its place in today's classrooms. Writing notes and assignments in a paper planner at the start or end of each day provides young students with a valuable opportunity to practice writing, spelling and grammar. There is a strong connection between handwriting and broader educational development. When children write by hand, they learn to read more quickly and can generate ideas and retain information better. In a study on preliterate children, participants who wrote letters by hand showed more activity in the areas of the brain associated with reading and writing than children who typed the letters on a computer.

Helps Improve Organizational Skills

Honing note-taking and organizational skills is essential for students to succeed in their academic and professional careers. Printed school planners are an excellent way to reinforce these abilities. Typing requires less mental effort than writing, which means notes entered into a digital planner are likely to be more disorganized because less conscious effort went into making them. Furthermore, paper planners have limited space, forcing students to gather their thoughts and summarize the most valuable information to fit on the page.

Paper agendas also promote neat, methodical entries. A structured, written planner with a week per page makes it easy to go back and review previous dates. There is no worry of students deleting any relevant details or scrolling endlessly through sloppy notes to find the information they need from the previous quarter.

Can Be a Parent/Teacher Communication Tool

Engaging in effective communication with parents can have a tremendous influence on student success. Teacher-family communication improves homework completion rates, student time on task and classroom participation. Physical planners are an excellent, time-tested tool for establishing a two-way communication routine with parents. Conditioning your students to show their agenda to their parents or guardian each night to have them sign it is a successful way to send notes and other important information home. This approach also makes it easy for you to check that parents received the message and allows them to send you notes to review each morning while students fill out their planners.

While email or teacher-family communication apps can be beneficial, you may have a harder time determining at a glance if the recipient has seen your note. It makes more sense to rely on students you see every day than to trust their parents will regularly log in to check for announcements. Even if parents have set up push notifications, they may dismiss and forget about them.

Can Provide a Quick Reference for Current and Past Assignments

One of the many benefits of paper planners vs. digital planners is that they provide a physical record. Short of ripping out pages, it's more challenging to delete or remove notes or reminders from a physical planner. In contrast, most digital planners, calendars and other organizational tools let you edit or delete with the press of a button. Paper planners' relative permanence has many benefits. They can:


  • Hold students accountable
  • Track student progress
  • Review previous assignments and topics of study
  • Record and celebrate student achievement
  • Log communication between teachers and families


Eliminates Barriers for Students

When everyone you know has a smartphone and is always online, it's easy to overlook that many underprivileged students don't have access to technology at home. Even if the school provides a device for students to take home, more than one in three children between ages 3 and 18 do not have internet access. Requiring families to have internet access to complete homework or communicate with the school creates another challenge for students who are already at a disadvantage. Even families with at-home internet may struggle to access online content for school due to data caps or slow internet speeds.

Educators have a responsibility to create an equitable learning environment by removing as many barriers to learning as possible. One way to help with this is to keep accessibility in mind when sending assignments and communications home to students. Using paper planners is a small step toward ensuring parents and students can access the resources they need regardless of their home situation. 

Student Planners From Success By Design

Success By Design is the leading provider of paper planners for students of all ages. Our purposefully designed products help teach students to organize, plan and execute their homework and after-school activities. These essential life skills help students improve their grades and prepare for adulthood. Contact us today to learn more about our customizable student planners and bulk purchasing discounts.

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  • SBD, Inc.