In an increasingly digital world, print materials still have their place--especially when COVID protocols complicate learning

Why this instructional technologist supports print materials

In an increasingly digital world, print materials still have their place--especially when COVID protocols complicate learning

I have found many students doing better with a hard copy in front of them. Talladega prides itself in teaching students how to code text, highlight, and underline meaningful information. Both tech and paper can play a significant role in this process.

Benefits for the teacher

It’s easier for teachers to assess what students are doing with print materials. When they have consumable math text, they can write in the booklets and work out problems. It becomes simpler to see where their learning is, compared to a student answering a multiple-choice quiz or assignment on the computer. Teachers at Talladega are comfortable doing both, but paper helps teachers dig deep and look at the inferences of learning with physical, tangible examples to back them up.

While print math benefits from transferring Chromebook assignments to the page, the use of reading materials and specifically Ready Reading has proved incredibly impactful. Each week, students have multiple assignments, with each unit containing five different reading passages. It’s helpful for students to mark up the text and easily refer back without relying on a screen to toggle back and forth. The bottom line is, print saves time and is less distracting for both the teacher and student.

How remote learning directly affected print adoption

Back in the spring, it was a scramble and hardship for all involved to get learning materials together. We were rushing to make packets, and parents were going back and forth to the school to get assignments. We wanted to avoid that situation again in the event we moved from a hybrid model to a fully remote position.

We are a 1:1 district with Chromebooks and access to hotspots for families without reliable internet. But even with those things in place, we felt we needed the security of knowing that students would have access to a worktext regardless of their home situation. Our circumstance led us to pull the trigger on Ready Math adoption for present-day learning with the assured protection from additional pandemic shifts. It was a choice that gave us comfort in knowing that regardless of the environment, students would be equipped to learn.

Limited print purchasing

There is a limit to the number of print materials we purchase ahead of time. Gone are the days of massive textbook purchasing, especially at the elementary level. Many of our schools have purchased the Ready Writing books on their own, but not district-wide. The teachers have enjoyed the Ready Writing resources because it helps them overcome writing challenges while also connecting nicely with the Ready Reading material.

In elementary, we use the Studies Weekly materials for science and social studies, and the material aligns with our standards. The weekly availability of new print material is a beneficial aspect. Outside of Ready Reading and Math, we rarely purchase textbooks at the elementary level. We have instructional technology resources and supplemental print material that we provide.

Looking ahead during COVID

We face the same challenges that other districts across the country experience in terms of COVID restrictions. I’m grateful that we can provide some face-to-face instruction for our students. I’m well aware that many districts in the U.S. are fully remote, which is concerning because there is no substitute for having a teacher when students are learning to read and use fundamental math skills at the elementary level. Knowing that we can provide a few days of in-person instruction is a true blessing, considering all the health concerns involved. With both online and print learning at our fingertips, it brings a certain level of comfort in knowing we are better prepared for all that lies ahead.

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