Online versus paper learning serves as a dilemma to students, teachers

Bradyn Johnson | The Chronicle

As schools around the world begin to implement one-to-one technology programs, teachers are faced with the dilemma of distinguishing when to use paper versus technology.

Teachers at Mason High School (MHS) are implementing effective ways to keep students engaged in learning with and without the use of technology. Although teachers have differing opinions as to which method is more effective for their students, they are united in the common goal of helping their students succeed. 

It is not uncommon for chemistry teacher Mike Jordan to find himself contemplating how his course material is being accessed by his students. Though unexpected in the modern world, Jordan said that he often concludes that using pencil and paper guides students down the correct path for deeper learning. 

“I don’t think that [being on a computer] is the best way for students to remember things,” Jordan said. “The act of writing something down helps students understand the material and helps them remember it.”

According to Jordan, in chemistry classes, work must be shown to receive credit, and writing formulas and compounds “can help students understand the steps of an equation as well as the full extent of a lesson.” 

Students are expected to derive chemical equations as well as draw chemical compounds, which may pose a hurdle on any online platform. Jordan said that he feels that requiring students to write down their work on paper helps them to better understand the material. 

“In chemistry, you have to write a lot of stuff down and it helps to work out problems,” Jordan said. “And as long as you’re taking those notes and writing them down somewhere, that’s what’s going to help you learn.”

Even though most teenagers are well-versed in the realm of technology, not all prefer to complete their work electronically. Sophomore Shveta Godbole said that she prefers the paper strategy as she believes it is effective and caters more to her style of learning.

“It’s easier to see the work I’m doing,” Godbole said. “It’s easier for me to visualize so I can remember it more.”

Flipping back and forth between tabs and correcting misspellings sometimes serves as an annoyance to some students in their attempts to complete a simple task. Godbole said that, while working on a Chromebook, she encounters some hardships that could be avoided if the task was given on paper.

“When I’m typing something I constantly make mistakes, but if I’m writing on paper I can just write anything,” Godbole said. “It just flows.”

Although teachers and students alike enjoy using paper methods at times, many find advantages to learning and engaging through online material. Because technology is no longer a stranger to students, teachers are using technology as an outlet to appeal to their student’s learning styles. 

Government teacher Danielle Lyons said that the amount of accessibility that takes place when working on a Chromebook increases efficiency within her students when teaching her subjects material.

“I can distribute a lot of things and a lot of information at one time and it gives [students] lots of access to different resources, right at their fingertips,” Lyons says, “It helps the students to be able to navigate on their own and always have [assignments] where they can find [them].”\

Because paper can sometimes make students feel as if they are cluttered and disorganized, teachers have begun to turn to online platforms to appeal to their students. Lyons said she believes that sometimes overloading students with papers causes things to get lost in translation, but utilizing technological methods can leave her students with a more organized way of learning.

“You give them all these papers and all this stuff and they just get inundated and they don’t know what’s really important,” Lyons said. “You have to hang on to all of that and stay organized.”

Some teachers and students are finding that paper copies are not always the most reliable option for their particular learning. They can sometimes be presented with dark images, unreliable quality and misspelled words, while technology serves as an easy fix to those issues. Lyons said that the dependency on technology has allowed for her to have better quality resources that she uses for her student’s learning.

“The paper copies were not very good, they couldn’t see some of the intricate details of the lithographs, or paintings,” Lyons said. “And so actually giving it to them electronically has allowed them to critique it better.”

No matter which method is utilized for learning, teachers agree on one thing, which is helping their students the best they can.

Illustration by Alisha Verma