Is There Room for Pen and Paper in an Edtech World?

pen and paperRemember the thick-lined paper you learned to write on? It had two solid lines and a dashed line so you could perfectly curve your “h” or make your “g” the same size as every other letter.

I still have that paper from grade school. While it collects dust underneath my bed, it’s time to reflect on the current state of writing in the classroom.

Times have changed. Paper is now a touchable screen. A pen has become your finger or a stylus. And they’re both here to stay. Does that mean pen and paper have lost their luster?

With edtech companies launching every week, one thing’s clear: they’re in a committed relationship with the screen. Whether it’s an ipad, smartphone, or other device, generation z (and most of generation y) are screen generations.

But does that mean pen and paper are no longer?

Fear not, writers. Your trusty pen and paper aren’t going anywhere. And here’s why:

1. You still need to take notes

Sure, your students can take notes on their laptops, but Facebook and Twitter are probably calling their names. And that means distraction. Taking notes in a notebook with a pen has no notification noises. Plus, you get your student’s full attention.

2. There’s nothing like crossing off an item on your to-do list

Do your students write to-do lists? I write one for my entire week (each day gets broken down). And there is nothing more satisfying than crossing off something on my to-do list. Yes, there are online apps to keep track of to-dos, but I find I don’t use them regularly enough. That’s why trusty pen and paper is here to stay.

3. Hand-written thank you notes rule text messages

Thank-you notes are a lost art. Not many students write them, much less think about why they’re thanking someone. Plus, why buy a thank you card when you can just shoot a text? Students, I beg of you, write more thank you notes.You’ll need pen and paper to make a strong connection.

4. Memorization is the key to learning concepts

It’s proven that writing something down is one of the best ways to remember something. When students write notes in their notebook, they subconsciously say it back to themselves, which helps reinforce their memory. And better memory means students do better on tests when they remember what they wrote down.

5. “Do you have a pen?”

My Dad has taught me a ton of life lessons. And one of those is to always carry a pen. Why? Because you never know when someone else is going to need one. Carrying a pen helps break the ice with students. Plus, students are seen as helpful to their classmates.

There you go! 5 examples where a pen and paper would come in handy. And for your students, they’ve got to learn to write sooner or later, right? Texting thumbs will only get them so far.

How edtech startups are doing away with the pen.

I find new edtech start-ups daily (and I work for one, too). They’re marketed as “perfect on ipad” or “works with any smartphone”. With so much screen time for students – from computers, to ipads, and mobile phones – I wonder what’s going to happen to pen and paper?

Are we all going to take verbal notes on Evernote or run classrooms using Edmodo? Quite possibly. But, there’s one big objection to the digital world created by edtech:

Are school districts going to pay for new technology?

Just look at the latest Staples ad. For just a few dollars, your students are set for the year. That’s cheap. But, there’s a lot more to outfitting a classroom than highlighters, binders, and poster paper: edtech is expensive.

Incorporating technology into tech-friendly classrooms can be expensive. You have to:

For many schools, transitioning to a new edtech solution can take up a good chunk of the annual budget. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for other learning tools or classroom supplies. Makes pencil and paper look pretty attractive, huh?

Pen and paper will live on in an edtech world. Would you like a pen to write that down?

What do you think? Are pen and paper dead?

Photo from flickr