Now is not the time to throw away technology, to be sure. It’s become a pandemic necessity for many students. But educators — and families — should be careful about overly relying on screens for learning, and research shows that education delivered on tablets and laptops can lead to missed opportunities.
The drawbacks of learning through a screen are more than anecdotal, as a study released by the Reboot Foundation last month shows. It suggests that students perform better in math when they do their work using pencil and paper instead of a screen. The Reboot study was conducted at a Maine high school by math teacher Bill Hinkley. Hinkley designed his experiment using ASSISTments, an online math homework platform that also facilitates education experiments on its back end. The paper was co-authored by Hinkley, ASSISTments founder Professor Neil Heffernan, and Helen Lee Bouygues.
The results of the experiment were striking. The students who were prompted to use pencil and paper did an average of 13 points better than those who simply used the online tool as usual. What’s more, the intervention resulted in better end-of-course results.