Paper vs. Digital

The digital world surrounds us every day. As we navigate the world, we use technology throughout the world and with increasing frequency, for everything from grocery shopping, traveling from place to place, and, of course, the workplace, including teaching. Technology has transformed education over the years, and played a huge role during the pandemic as many districts and schools moved to distance or remote learning. Teachers have become increasingly more comfortable integrating the many powerful tools available to us. But a huge question remains: what should the balance be between using technology and using paper or other physical materials?

With so much access to resources and technology, it’s worth reflecting on what is effective for learning when it comes to using paper versus digital materials & teaching in the classroom. Both paper and digital materials are effective to use. Here are 3 benefits of using paper and 3 benefits of using digital materials, along with some tips for using each.

Benefits of Paper

The immediate, physically tangible nature of provides many benefits for instruction in the classroom. Paper is easily accessed, and does not get “turned off” and does not run out of power. Because it is physically available at all times, students can reference paper resources at any times. When posted around the room, charts provide a constant, visual reminder of what is being taught and studied in the classroom.

Ideas for integrating paper resources meaningfully

Evidence for citing source

1. Throughout our unit of study, have students use the charts around the room as evidence when citing their source. For example, when a student provides an answer or a piece of information, prompt them to follow up with citing their source by asking “How do you know?” or “Show me where you got that information”. During these moments, students can physically get up and point/touch the part of the chart that they used when providing information to the class. This is a great way to build common knowledge in the classroom, as well as show other students in the room how easy it is to cite source- all you need to do is use your resources! Make it easy for students- have the resource up in the room on a chart so they can actually utilize it and refer to it frequently. Screenshot-2023-03-22-at-1.03.48-PM.png#asset:28458

2. Have students use the charts when citing source in their writing as well. Teach students how to cite many types of sources: books, articles, documentaries, and even charts! Remember when creating your chart to use some text features such as a title and date so students can use that information to cite the chart when referring to it in their writing.notes.png#asset:28457

Interactive word wall (create a language rich & language functional environment)

Create an input chart on butcher paper, and do a Word Card Review with your students. This creates an interactive Word Wall for students that includes the rich academic language and terms that are most important to the unit and built into the standards, and are the words we expect students to be able to read and produce through writing and speaking with by the end of the unit. Having the words visible and up on the walls, creates an environment that is functional. Students can take the word cards off of the chart and bring them to their desk to use as a resource for a variety of reasons including using them to learn how to spell the academic words, practice reading the academic words, and more. Once they are done using the word, the students can place the word back onto the corresponding chart.


Living Document

One of the lasting effects of using a physical chart to teach is that the students can turn it into a Living Document once you’ve finished the direct teaching. During Team Tasks, teams can look up additional information about the topic and add more facts to the class input chart. They can also add some sketches, illustrations and pictures to bring it to life. This is what we refer to as a Living Wall. By the end of the unit, the students take ownership of the charts around the room, because, after all, the charts do not belong to the teacher, but rather to all of us! Living-Wall.jpg#asset:28460

Benefits of Digital

Technology is a powerful enhancement to your teaching in the classroom. In the classroom, use technology to enhance the direct instruction you have delivered. This can be done utilizing the gradual release of responsibility process: I Do, We Do, You Do Together, You Do Individually. Keep reading to see how to integrate technology.

Digital Resource Library:

Once you teach students information utilizing an input chart on butcher paper whole-class, upload an image of the completed chart into your digital library for students to access. This offers students the ability to access the classroom resource even if they are not at school. If students are studying for a unit exam, they can log onto the classroom digital resource library and use the class-made charts to review at home. Digital-Library.png#asset:28456

Team Tasks

After the “I do” (teacher-modeled) and “we do” step of the Gradual Release of Responsibility, the next step is the “You do together”, where Team Tasks come into play. A few team tasks can be assigned as a digital assignment to offer variety. For example, students can create team presentations using technology from the information they’ve learned thus far in the unit. They can take one row of the Process Grid and turn that into a digital slideshow presentation to later share with the rest of the class. As an extension, students can create an audio narration of the presentation, or create a video presentation highlighting the information learned. The digital Team Tasks ideas students can complete are endless, so get creative, and offer tasks that students will be excited to create!Screenshot-2023-03-22-at-1.12.41-PM.png#asset:28465

Try it out!

Try out some of these tips or the ones in the attached technology tips sheet so you can incorporate both paper and digital resources in your classroom with students!

Click HERE for a sample Digital Library.


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