Come Back Old Pals: Pen and Paper

By Yunik

Avoid the privacy sucker. Accept pen and paper

Screen Shot 2019-07-17 at 2.39.58 PMIn ancient Egypt, there lived a wise King named Thamus. One day he was visited by god Theuth, an inventor of many useful things. God Theuth came to share his new discovery, “letters”. 

“Letters will grant your people wisdom and intelligence.”

However, King Thamus refused.

“Your novel invention will generate forgetfulness in people as they won’t use their intelligence; they will rely on the written characters instead of their own memories”. 

This story is a well-known Egyptian mythology from Plato’s “Phaedrus” written about 2,400 years ago. By depicting his teacher Socrates telling the apprehension of King Thamus, Plato warns us that the convenience of technology can decline intelligence of its users.

Intoxicated with the astonishing expediency of electronic devices, people are oblivious of the unmatchable excellence of paper. 

Numerous studies reveal that pen and paper have untouchable superiority over electronic devices.

In 2012, Karin James, psychologist at Indiana University, conducted research on correlation between children’s brain development and diverse learning strategies. In the experiment, children were instructed to study alphabets and shape by typing on laptop or writing with pen and paper. 

What a surprise the result was!

James found that children who wrote on blank paper showed outstanding developments of their brain. On the other hand, those who used typing and tracing strategies showed remarkably less development. This research proves that the usage of pen and paper in education is much more helpful in developing children’s brain than that of typing in class. 

Another scientific study showing similar results was conducted in Washington. 

Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, did a scientific research targeting with children from grade 2 to 5. Compared with children who typed, those who hand wrote using blank paper were able to come up with more words faster. Not only that, they were even able to express more ideas. This experiment implies that children and students are able to display stronger conceptual understanding and greater preservation of data by utilizing handwriting. 

Many scientific experiments and studies give significant loud evidence of the benefits of handwriting. Yet, technology administrators are still developing applications to be utilized in the school’s education for efficient learning of students. Indeed, it’s like talking to the brick wall. 

Enamored with the cutting-edge technology, we are blind to its harmful effect on our health. Staring at an electronic screen, our eyes are exposed to ‘blue light’. Gary Heiting, working on the ophthalmic field for over 30 years, says scientific research has proven that blue light permeates through the eyes causing damage to the sensitive cells on the retina. Is this minor defect? 

Then, how about privacy issues? Google has developed applications which teachers can apply to their classes. In 2014, Google starting from Public schools in Chicago gathered “more than 100,000 teachers worldwide” as volunteers to beta-test their new educational application, google classroom. As a result, more than “30 million children are using Google’s education apps.” 

Google’s education apps began from several public schools now affects numerous schools worldwide. In Malaysia, International School of Kuala Lumpur has one to one laptop policy that requires all students to use their own laptop in class. Due to this policy, students are able to utilize various Google applications such as Google classroom, Google Docs, and Google Slides in class.  

However, appearance can often deceive you. Google appears to be a generous uncle who lavishly presents school and students with gadgets. Yet, the benefactor is actually the beneficiary; schools and students freely give valuable personal information, which Google can use in the future advertisement. 

One more harm – the most inimical- is that students actually experience difficulties during the usage of technology. In ISKL where a majority of classes make use of electronic devices, I often find numerous students including myself struggling with simple tasks that can easily be accomplished by pen and paper. Aren’t they supposed to be ‘easy to use’? 

It is true technology is useful when publishing typed materials. Automatic revising programs like ‘Grammarly’ is a great application that makes life a lot easier for writers. However, isn’t it taking away the opportunity of students to revise their own work? According to my career of 17 years of study, students learn while reviewing and revising their own work. 

Easier doesn’t mean better. 

Deserting our old friends over technology, we should ask ourselves, “Can expediency justify discard of excellence?


Work Cited

Butler, Rose, and Christina Ho. “Why Do Parents Take Such Different Approaches to Their Kids’ Education?” The Conversation, 18 Sept. 2018,

Cardin, Matt. “The Google Effect: New Evidence of the Internet’s Impact on Brain and Memory Recalls Plato’s Ancient Warning.” The Teeming Brain, 25 June 2012,

“How Blue Light Is Both Bad for You AND Good for You! (Huh?).” All About

Konnikova, Maria. “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 June 2014,

“Pen and Paper ‘Beats Computers for Retaining Knowledge’.” Times Higher Education (THE), 16 Feb. 2017,

Singer, Natasha. “How Google Took Over the Classroom.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 May 2017,

Stephens, Bret. “How Plato Foresaw Facebook’s Folly.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2018,