Pupils learn more quickly using pen and paper than on a computer

The TES is reporting that pencil-and-paper assignments beat online projects in raising primary pupils’ progress, because staff can be more flexible and respond to students’ needs more easily.

Researchers working with pupils in 51 primary schools found that those following a paper-based literacy programme made 50 per cent more progress than those doing an identical course on a computer.

The study involved 2,241 pupils taking part in either an online or a pencil-and-paper literacy programme. Some of the pupils were assigned as a control group, and continued to receive their usual literacy lessons.

Dr Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela, an education researcher at the London School of Economics, who carried out the study for the Education Endowment Foundation, believes that it is not the medium of instruction that makes the difference. Instead, it is the teaching that goes along with it.

“In general, research finds very mixed results about the use of technology in school,” she said. “There are studies that haven’t found very big effects from the use of ICT in learning.

“Computer programs are structured – teachers have to follow what a program tells them to do. The pencil-and-paper approach is more flexible. Teaching assistants could adapt what they were doing a bit more, to the individual children. If a certain group was more able, they could tailor it better to the ability level of the children in that group.”

More at: Pupils learn more quickly using pen and paper than on a computer

Do you think that children learn better on the computer or using pencil and paper? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie

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Categories: Primary, Teaching and Technology.


  1. JohnBocking

    SchoolsImprove as both groups in project improved it seems more likely that Hawthorne effect led to improvements. Need more study

  2. MissKSmithers

    SchoolsImprove Surely this depends on what students are doing ‘on a computer’? Yes programs are rigid but AfL tech tools can personalise!

  3. goodatenglish

    The mistake here is that the computer course shouldn’t be identical – the digital medium is different. people interact with digital media in a different way to paper and so it requires a appropriate structure and presentation. This is often lacking in adapted materials.

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