Classroom learning materials will likely be mostly digital or remain a mix of digital and print in future years, representing a significant change from before the pandemic when curriculum materials were mostly print or a mix of digital and print, according to teacher and administrator survey results from Bay View Analytics, a statistical research firm.
The exclusive use of print materials for classes dropped to 1% during pandemic-related school closures and rose to 5% by spring 2022. In the 2018-19 school year, use of all-print materials was quadruple that, at 22%.
As school systems adjust to more normal routines and practices after years of COVID-19 disruptions, curriculum directors and other educators are evaluating how pandemic experiences should influence future curriculum purchasing and use, including weighing the pros and cons of print and e-books.
Close to half (42%) of educators responding to the Bay View Analytics survey said they used a mix of print and digital materials in their classrooms in 2022. A quarter said they used mostly print, and 22% said they used mostly digital materials. Five percent said they used all digital — identical to the percentage that used all print.
The survey included 1,015 pre-K-12 teachers and 454 administrators from 49 states and the District of Columbia.
“As students and educators emerge from the pandemic and return to in-person learning, it’s clear that digital resources will remain important tools in classrooms," said Julia Seaman, director of research at Bay View Analytics and author of the report, in an email. "These survey findings offer a sense of how instructional materials will continue to evolve in K-12 schools and how tools like open educational resources can enhance teaching and learning.”
The abrupt closure of schools in spring 2020 due to COVID-19 expanded the use digital education materials and tools as educators attempted to keep students on track through virtual learning. Many districts fast-tracked 1:1 device programs and expanded their use of ed tech tools.
And while digital materials may be easier to access and can be automatically updated, printed materials hold value, some experts said. For one thing, paper books don't require batteries. Plus, some studies and surveys point to educational benefits from printed materials.
The Bay View Analytics survey found 61% of teachers prefer print materials over digital, and 59% said students learn better with print materials.
An analysis published in the Review of Educational Research in 2021 looking at learning outcomes from reading paper books versus digital books largely had inconclusive findings. But it did discover that when a minimum quality standard is met, digital books for young children can outperform paper books. For example, digital book enhancements that increase children’s understanding of the narrative, by prompting children’s background knowledge or providing additional explanations of story events, can enhance the processing of story content.