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Paper vs. screen: on which medium do children learn better ?

© Pexels/Max Fischer

Technology has never been more present. In the all-digital age, students are increasingly swapping their textbooks and notebooks for tablets and laptops. Very soon, France will even be one of the first major OECD countries to attempt the adventure of artificial intelligence in the education sector.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, for workers but also for students and pupils. But UNESCO has already sounded the alarm, recommending the banning of smartphones, computers and tablets in classrooms. In addition to protecting students from harassment, this would improve learning. With better supervision of technology, UNESCO above all wants to refocus education on people. And the organization may be right. At least, a new study published by researchers at Columbia University in New York goes in this direction. At the last school year, Sweden, a pioneer in digital education, finally reversed course and reissued school textbooks.

According to this new study, children would learn better from paper rather than on a tablet or computer.

Better understanding thanks to paper

The Teachers Collegue of Columbia University in New York looked at 49 children aged between 10 and 12 years old. The age of the participants is not trivial. Indeed, this is a “pivotal period in the development of reading” according to the researchers. Indeed, it is generally at this age that we go “learning to read” to “reading to learn”.

Using a net stuffed with electrodes, the researchers were able to observe the brain responses of children who were asked to read informative texts, on paper and digital media. They were also asked comprehension questions. The goal of the study is quite simple: to find out what they understood from the text they have just read. To do this, participants had to perform semantic judgment tasks on a single word while their brain electrical activity was carefully observed.

According to this study, the brain reacts differently depending on text support. Texts printed on paper allowed deeper semantic coding than digital texts. Simply put, children understand what they read better when they read it on paper rather than on a screen.

Researchers at Colombia University therefore confirm the importance of preserving school textbooks in the all-digital era. However, there is no need to abandon digital learning entirely. As the study points out, digital media remains rapid access to information, which is crucial. Especially today. Additionally, digital support can significantly help students with reading disabilities. In conclusion, it is a question of finding a balance between the supports. For in-depth learning, it would be better to rely on textbooks and handouts, while digital is useful for many other aspects of education.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116