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SPC Investigation: Paper Vs Digital – Why Not Both?

This is the first in an ongoing series of blogs and reports that will examine the use of paper planners in schools in a world that is increasingly driven by digital.

It’s been happening for a fair few years now; the digital world integrating into our everyday lives to the point we can do even the most mundane of things with a computer or mobile device. Do the food shopping. Book an appointment with the doctor. Shop for insurance. Look at a photo album.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the digital world has also made its way into the education system, supporting students, teachers, and parents. If you do an online search for ‘paper vs digital’ you get almost 23 million results. That’s a lot of debate. Searching ‘paper vs digital planners’ brings that down to just under 3 million results, but that’s still several million more sources than most people would prefer to have to read through to make an informed decision.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be investigating the mechanics of the humble paper planner, and argue our case for why we believe it is still a highly relevant and important tool for schools to be using. Far from being a case of one or the other, we have seen plenty of instances where schools have requested planner pages that support integration of a digital homework system – it makes sense to cover all bases as, of course, not everyone will have the same level of digital literacy.

Images: Just a few headlines underlining this very debate.

There are a number of virtual learning environments (VLE), and increasingly, they are becoming more flexible to fit in with the evolving demands on teachers and school leaders. With digital literacy not being a certainty outside of younger generations, a ‘digital companion’ to a VLE is arguably a necessity to ensure complete inclusion, regardless of background and access to technology. Additionally, some schools may not have a school-wide policy of using a digital homework tool, and so there is a chance that tracking homework can become confusing for students – having a paper planner that pupils can use to note the location of their homework helps both them and parents to keep track of the work they have been assigned.

We will also acknowledge and refer to a lot of the public health research that has been done on the effects of mobile devices on youth development and general well-being. This is from both a physical and mental health angle; blue light exposure, for example, has been found to cause eye strain, and the presence of social media apps can be a distinct distraction and amplify a number of social issues that can affect mental well-being.

Finally, we’ll look at parental involvement and how home-school communication is better facilitated with a paper planner (or at least a paper planner as a companion to a VLE). A paper planner is a great equaliser; we can all access it, and it doesn’t rely on access to the latest mobile technology to use – people from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have the same level of fluency in the newest devices, for example.

Up next: In the new year we’ll be discussing the mechanics of using paper planners, in addition to catching up with Nick White, founder of The School Planner Company, and asking him to share his thoughts on the evolution of planning and recording in schools and how SPC is adapting in a world that changes at often breakneck speeds.