Evidence is rushing in – printed is better

There has been some confirmations before that printed is better for learning, now governments are taking action. In September 2023 the Swedish government reversed its decision by the National Agency for Education to make digital devices mandatory in preschools and instead focus more on printed materials. It plans to go further and to completely end digital learning for children under the age 6. It follows a drop in the reading scores of pupils since 2016. The government even set 60 million euros aside for book purchases for the country’s schools this year.

The decision follows expert advice from the renowned Karolinska Institute that highlighted the lack of substantiated positive findings and emphasized the significant negative effects of digitizing schools on students’ knowledge acquisition. “There’s clear scientific evidence that digital tools impair rather than enhance student learning,”

Germany joined in November with a joint initiative of more than 40 scientists across various disciplines, joined by paediatricians. They are urging education ministers in Germany to implement an immediate moratorium on the digitalization of schools and pre-school educational institutions. The scientists point to a significant decline in learning performance, negative health implications, and detrimental effects on mental and social well-being associated with the increased use of tablets and laptops in classrooms. The moratorium call is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kinder- und Jugendmedizin (DGKJ), which released guidelines in 2023 for preventing dysregulated screen media use in childhood and adolescence.


Now there is also evidence from Neuroscience using EEGs on the brain-based factors behind. A new study investigated the differences in “brain activation” when reading from a screen compared to reading from a printed paper. Researchers found that screen reading resulted in greater challenges in allocating attention to a given task compared to reading on paper. Also, researchers found a significant negative correlation screen vs. paper reading in the area of accuracy. Translation: When the text is presented to children via screens, the children (and, by extension, adults) daydream more and are less able to focus on what they are reading. In print, they daydream less and focus—and thereby comprehend—more. They are more likely to maintain accuracy in detail.

There has been a massive push in the education system to move to digital materials. It seems that their advantages have been overexaggerated, the implementation issues downplayed and the realities of learning ignored – all in the hope of cost-cutting and “appearing modern” by using digital media. Research and facts are now proving the opposite. In addition to previous studies, more evidence is rushing in that printed is better for learning and understanding.

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