Academics / Opinion

Dana Hall needs to consider learners who benefit from paper

Headaches, bad posture, fluctuating sleep schedules, and distractions are the result of working on computer or iPad. Paper can actually be beneficial to learning as opposed to working on technology, which can be hurtful towards the academic growth of teens. In my opinion, there is nothing that helps me learn more than working with pen and paper, and there is nothing worse than being at Dana Hall and not being able to. Here’s why:

Physically working with pen and paper can help you better learn and remember the information you are writing down. Learning Specialist Jillian DeBusk said, “Research will suggest that… when you’re writing you’re literally sending messages from your nerves to your brain and that helps make those connections in your brain to that information and commit it more to memory.” She added that you get the same effect when you write with an iPad and stylus, yet I still argue that paper is better. 

I love having my notes all in one place. My fat spiral notebook does it for me. All I do is write the heading and the date and I’m good to go. When I’m working on GoodNotes though, I have to find the right unit, file, subject, then put the correct date and change the outline, and still my notes will end up in a messed up order. Everything is in chronological order in my notebook and every page is in the right place. 

Another pro-paper argument is that it’s physical. When I’m doing my homework I can physically see how much I have left to do or read. It’s harder to plagiarize something if it is in ink. And paper doesn’t have as many tech issues. 

Ms. DeBusk also pointed out something that I realized I subconsciously do. As a visual learner, when I write something down and then go back to study it later, I remember what it looked like on the page. I can see what I wrote, yet that is not the same as when I am working on technology because everything is one long white screen.

The obvious argument is that there are fewer distractions. At the start of this year, the Science Department teachers agreed that making students practice taking notes on paper would be beneficial because it limits distractions. I can guarantee that this will or have happened, at least once, to every student at Dana Hall: they’re working, ask for help, a teacher comes over and then a notification pops up. That text message, gmail, or announcement destroys any productive train of thought in an instant.

 The other side of distractions is that the entire internet is at your fingertip, and having so much of your work spread across apps and platforms can make everything feel messy. It’s easy to become overwhelmed or distracted, and by working on paper all of those distractions go away.

Unfortunately, Dana Hall makes it almost impossible for me to strive on paper and pen. Only one of my classes, science, allows me to fully work on paper. Every other class is pretty heavy work on my iPad. In my chemistry class, Ms. Hanover always asks us if we would like to have our work printed or online, while none of my other classes think about working on paper. Most classes are set up so that working on paper is just not an option. My teachers are using online resources, they go too fast, or it is connected to links that I have to access. All my homework requires me to submit it online at a specific time, so I can’t turn it in on paper. For class work, there are few printers around that I can use or even connect to on my iPad. It’s such a hassle to work on paper at Dana Hall, but I feel like it is the thing that helps me learn best. 

Working on paper should be an option in every class. When teachers assign class work, they should ask how many students would like a paper version and then print it. Having an option to work on paper gives students the freedom to choose what works best for them. This same concept should apply to homework. Canvas has specific times that homework needs to be submitted, and this makes it impossible to submit something on paper without taking blurry photos that take up storage and uploading it to a dropbox. Homework should be allowed to be turned in at the beginning of a class. Therefore students have the option to work on paper and still be able to turn it in on time. Lastly, printers should be spread out across campus for everyone to use. By doing this, students who work on paper will finally be able to learn the way that works for them.  

I came to Dana Hall from a school in which we only used paper. The only time we would be on a computer was once a week so we could type up our essays for an hour. I struggled during COVID and when I switched to Dana Hall because I had no clue how to really work an iPad besides the games I had on it. Dana Hall never really supported me and learners like me who don’t pair well with technology. I was trying to teach myself how to type and finish my homework in my first week of freshman year. I don’t want anyone else to experience that. 

I get super frustrated and overwhelmed when working on a project when I have numerous tabs open, six split screens, a coloring game open from before, my calendar somewhere, and my notes app. I physically cannot work that way, yet all of my anger melts away when you give me a pencil. 

I understand that everyone has a different preference for what works best for them. I am aware that there are pros to working on technology and cons to working on paper. But let’s give students the option of working in the way in which they learn the best.

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