Isn’t a digital app just as good as a paper planner?

Here are 5 arguments that suggest otherwise.

1. Writing Things Down Helps You Learn and Remember.

It's well accepted and backed by research that writing things down helps commit them to memory. A mental picture of your schedule and tasks helps you remember them. Some argue that putting things into a digital device does the same thing, but research proves otherwise. Studies found that students who took notes longhand scored higher on tests, understood content better, and recalled more information than those who used a laptop. Below is the research.

Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension
By Pam Mueller, Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer, UCLA
See full articles published in Psychological Science and Scientific American.


  • Students who write out notes remember more and have a deeper understanding of the material.
  • Taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy "mental lifting," using a different type of cognitive processing, which fosters comprehension and retention.

"In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers' tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning."

Print vs. Digital: Another Emotional Win for Paper
By Temple University for the U.S. Post Office researching direct mail adverting vs. digital advertising.
See full article published in Neuroscience Marketing


  • Digital ads were processed more quickly, but paper ads engaged viewers for more time.
  • Subjects absorbed the same amount of information from both media, but a week later, subjects showed greater emotional response and memory for content that was in paper form.
  • Physical ads caused more activity in brain areas associated with value and desire.

2. Paper is Faster.

A person can flip open his/her paper planner to the intended day before the digital user gets out his/her device, finds the app, launches it, gets to the right day, etc. And by the time the digital user does this, the paper user has already closed his/her planner.

3. See Your Schedule at a Glance.

Most planners have weekly and monthly formats, and it's easy to flip from one page to the next. When you look at a digital scheduler, you must swipe, scroll, or pinch to enlarge to see all the details. Paper allows you to see the whole picture, cross off tasks, see priorities, and quickly glance at what's left of your schedule.

4. Paper Allows for Custom Planning.

We've all seen this with personal paper planners. Sticky notes on pages, personal notes off to the side of pages, color coding with the use of highlighters, etc. Just as no two people are the same, everyone creates his/her own system to keep a schedule. A paper planner can be transformed to accommodate personal planning methods without the forced limitations of an app made by a programmer rather than by a time management expert.

5. Out of Sight = Out of Mind.

Digital users argue that going digital gets rid of the clutter, but the problem with that is it's too easy to forget what needs to be done. The digital age has produced a constant bombardment of email notifications, messages, Facebook alerts, and hundreds of other distractions to get lost in the abyss. When you use a paper planner, it focuses you to one purpose…to plan.

Our Conclusion…

Paper planners work best, but can be used with apps. We are fully aware that digital has advantages for editing, developing, and sharing content. For example, when a class project involves members with constant interaction or a student needs to ask a teacher a question, a quick email or message can't be beat. Tasks that become routine and are not likely to be forgotten don't require a planner entry. But when it comes to scheduling short-term and long-term projects, writing it down will help you remember it and stay on task. Adding it to an app will give you some reinforcement. Do your students a favor and provide them tools to Promote Student Achievement and Success!