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Revision in the Digital Age: Why You Shouldn’t Disregard the Power of Paper

Many of today’s students are what education consultant Marc Prensky calls Digital Natives. Having grown up in a world with the internet, social media and smartphones, it’s easy to believe that the use of a screen to revise is the best way to reinforce lectures and seminars.

Despite this, paper books have endured the rise of the digital age, both in everyday life and in academia. Various studies throughout the past twenty or so years point to various reasons why the use of paper for reading and revision has prevailed. Whilst Kindles and e-readers are a great option compared to carrying round a small library, you can’t get truly lost and immersed in your revision in the same way you can with revising from a book.

Immerse yourself in paper

One of the most important reasons why revising on paper is important is because the vast majority of people tend to read slower and with less accuracy when using a screen or e-reader. Even with the advancements in e-reading technology, students will find it easier remembering information if they’ve read it in a print book. Additionally, it’s extremely difficult to become fully immersed with an e-reader or text on a screen in the same way it’s possible to with a book.

When students are studying to gain the in-depth knowledge to excel in an academic setting, a book appears to be the better option. Furthermore, later studies have found that by scrolling or swiping the finger left or right provides a bigger distraction than turning the page of a book. This, along with the eye having to find points of reference more frequently on a screen, caused students’ performance to suffer.

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The Physicality of paper helps with revision

This brings up another point where paper books become better for in-depth revision, the physicality of a book is thought to be a major factor in its success in providing information. The feel of pages and holding a book provides subconscious information to the student about where they are in a text. This allows them to build a conceptual scaffold where they can arrange information in the best way to retain it as a long-term memory.

A Kindle or tablet simply can’t replicate all these physical cues, despite introducing page-flipping and other symbolic displays of progress. The presentation of single pages, rather than a pair once more limits spatial representation.

Revision notes, not vandalism

Being able to annotate the text, such as underlining, margin-notes and dog-earing are all integral to the levels of deep reading required by students revising. Whilst some e-readers allow users to type notes, the tactile nature of making notes on a print book is a major aspect to successful revision.

Gesture and cognition are linked in both reading and writing, once more allowing the student to construct mental models of information and memory. The physicality of paper is used by the brain as an anchor for richer comprehension, allowing readers to easily recognise themes and threads of thought.

Automatically enhance your revision

In a study completed by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, it was found that when students read information on a screen, they thought they had absorbed the information provided, but test results showed a consistently worse performance than students who read the information from paper.

Additionally, students who revised using screens were less likely to utilise strategies like setting specific reading goals, rereading difficult passages and checking how much they understood at regular intervals of the text.

It was also apparent that screens give students overconfidence in their memories of the text. The study concluded that the process of learning is more thorough on paper than on screen, once more suggesting that revision is best when completed with print books, paper and a pen.

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Create long-term memories

Students may find when using a screen to complete a reading, they simply won’t be able to immerse themselves in the text, seeing digital reading as less of a serious task. They’re more likely to take shortcuts with their reading, such as skim-reading and only picking out keywords.

They will most likely only read their assigned reading once, whereas students reading on paper are more likely to read the piece more than once and find themselves immersed in the reading, picking up a well-rounded understanding of the topic.

By using paper, students are more likely to approach exams and essays with a serious frame of mind, having paid more attention to their revision and a resulting better working memory of the topic.

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Paper keeps you healthy

Aside from the evidence of students’ ability to learn more thoroughly on paper, another reason students may want to avoid revising on screens is due to the evidence of screen-based reading being significantly more physically strenuous than reading on paper.

Whilst e-readers mimic paper books by reflecting ambient light, completing revision on computer screens, tablets and smartphones results in students having blue light shone directly into their eyes. Whilst it varies between different models and makes of device, glare, pixilation and flickers can tire the eyes quickly. 

LCD screens are gentler on the eyes than previous screens, too, but any prolonged reading of the kind revision demands can cause blurred vision, eyestrain and headaches. These are incredibly common symptoms for people who read any great deal on screens, so much that the American Optometric Association officially recognises computer vision syndrome.

Certainly, e-readers, tablets and other such devices play an essential part in the day to day life of almost every student; however, all research suggests that there is no benefit to them in for revision or seminar reading. In fact, a lot of evidence suggests that you can instantly improve your revision simply by reading and revising on paper where deep-reading and immersion in the text can happen.

Students who read on paper treat the revision with more respect and are far more likely to lay the foundation of the long-term memory essential for succeeding in an essay or exam. Essay Writing Service UK is determined to bring you every opportunity to succeed with the best grades possible in your academic career.