I asked my son, who is in Grade 9, which medium at school he prefers to read and study from. Without hesitation he said a book or on paper. His first reason was clear, he feels less distracted when reading from a book, while an e-book or screen always remains a temptation.
The accessibility to games and social media is real and one can’t help but be distracted even if on some subconscious level. His second reason was less clear, but in summary, he prefers the hands-on physical side of turning pages and having ease of reference when using a book to study.
His school does have a very advanced online learning platform and a great deal of content is viewed and transacted on in a digital format. The IT Manager did confirm that there has been a large reduction in print since the platform was introduced, however, he also felt that print would probably not disappear. Writing skills are essential even during tests and many exam papers will carry on being printed.
Jim Taylor a psychologist and author of Raising Generation Tech, says “we can’t stop this train”, referring to the digital bullet train that’s flying into our lives, however he questions whether we should slow it down. His research shows 68% of parents prefer that their 6-8 year old's read print. Perhaps books are more important for early learning and being introduced to the power of reading, and so pre-schools and primary schools may have a lower decline in print in the future.
High schools such as my son’s, will no doubt continue to become more digitised in the future. What may well stay and advance in technology is printing in colour in an ever more visually demanding world. The other form of printing growing with speed within schools, is that of 3D printing, bringing flat media to tangible light.
For schools that still prefer print for reasons including the affordability of digital education mediums, there still remains a demand trend for fit-for-purpose devices and in many cases print management software. Managing staff’s and students bad printing habits, or to be able to charge students per page printed, is becoming more common.
On the whole, there is certainty that print will decline in schools as the use of technology becomes the norm and over time cheaper to implement. However, whatever students and teachers create, it will be difficult to rid them entirely of some degree of satisfaction from pushing print and holding a piece of paper in their hands. Old habits die hard.