Learning with Paper in a Digital Age

October 19, 2022

Over the last decade, people of all ages and demographics have turned to remote learning and work, keeping notes online and using digital calendars and to-do lists. But for many, using pen and paper to take notes is a better way to learn and remember. In a blog, Paper: The Secret Learning Tool that Will Work for You, The Paper and Packaging Board identifies a few ways to use paper notes to increase retention and stay focused. Whether you’re a doodle enthusiast or an avid note-taker, here are three strategies to aid in your learning process:


“Sketchnoting” is a form of note-taking that involves using sketches and written notes. Studies show that drawing pictures boosts memory, but sketchnoting is more than just combining pictures and words. The idea behind it is that by mixing illustrations, symbols, structures and text, you’re able to tap into the part of the brain that is inactive when only using words. It allows you to visually summarize ideas by using both elements to understand what you’re hearing or learning and remember better because you jotted it down in your own unique way. And it’s just fun!

Bullet Journaling

Keeping all your thoughts, daily to-dos, and new information organized can be a hefty task. A bullet journal or “BuJo” is a notebook that uses a system of symbols to keep all your information in one place, where you can manage it free from any digital distractions. Think of it as equal parts planner and diary. The system relies on different bullet symbols to help you quickly visualize your to-do’s. For example, a note or thought might get a dash, a task could be marked with an asterisk, and an event with an open circle. The goal is to create a resource where you can visually track all that you have going on in one place. It helps you see your goals, uses the benefit of writing things down to your advantage, and can help you feel more accomplished. The best part about bullet journaling is that it’s totally customizable to your needs and objectives!

Cornell Note-Taking System

This note-taking system is meant to boost comprehension and reflection by taking hand-written notes and asking questions about them. It is especially useful when learning about a specific topic. To implement this system, take a piece of paper and split it into two columns, leaving some space at the top and labeling the left column “cues” and the right “notes.” While you learn, jot down any important information in the notes column, keeping your sentences short and sweet. You can also use pre-determined abbreviations to make the process even easier. After listening or watching, create questions in the “cues” column based on the notes you just took. Next, cover the notes and try to remember them based off the questions. Once you review, summarize the material at the bottom of the page to come back to later. The advantage of this system is that you can take notes quickly and absorb information faster!

From YouTube videos to online discussion groups and zoom lectures, paper can help you stay on task and retain the information you’re learning. Whether for pleasure or profession, keep learning and don’t forget to recycle those paper notes when you’re done!

For more about this topic, visit How Life Unfolds.

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