Just last week a girlfriend and I were laughing over the old paper student diaries she had dug up from the 1980’s’. I browsed the pages looking at her homework mixed in amongst her scribbled poems and declarations of love to boys long forgotten and pop-stars now cringeworthy. We compared notes of our school days, hers in Tasmania and mine in Sydney, so far apart and yet so similar. I tried to think about where my high school diaries might be, I didn’t remember throwing them away! I was a little jealous of this record she had of the past.

A collection of school diaries of yesterday

Images supplied by my hilarious and classy friend Mandy Burbury and my cousin, forever the artist at heart, Fleur Cason.

Not once during that afternoon with my friend did I think about the school diaries, or student planners (as they are called these days) that I am involved in selling to schools across Australia for my employer. I found it odd that the one had not made me reflect on the other and have been wondering why since. Surely this is a BIG reason that makes paper planners better than their digital cousins right? A record of the past is not something to be sniffed at. I considered how I ruthlessly delete all of my outlook appointments and notes. And paper just feels better right? It’s as if there is something inside us that just instinctively knows.

From a marketing point of view saying “they just feel better” is probably not going to cut it sales wise. So I dusted off my academic cap and (ironically) interrogated the internet for evidence to support my feelings about paper and pen.

Group of old student diaries scrawled in

Donated Images from Mandy and Fleur, and Anna, who is a graphic designer, despite her tragic 14 yr old handwriting….


The first article I came across was written by Michael Grothaus for Fast Company. He had accepted the challenge to use only a paper planner, which would replace his online calendar, and his “notes” app, where he kept more details about his appointments that would not fit comfortably into his digital calendar.

He discovered a a few things, which he goes into at more length in his article What Happened when I Ditched my Smart Phone for a Paper Planner . You don’t need to read his article just yet though, because I am going to give you the highlights below. ;)

  1. He found that it was easier to plan and remember appointments
  2. He took more detailed notes
  3. It became a record of his past (YAS! I knew this was important!)

The only real negative pointed out by Micheal was that it was a pain to remember to take it with him.

The thing that really jumped out at me though was the scientific research he unearthed in the process.


Yes! It’s true. Research published in the Journal of Psychologic al Science  found that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. The research proposed that one of the reasons for this is that students using technology were likely trying to take down ALL of the information, verbatim, where are those using pen and paper, being unable to write absolutely everything down, were taking notes and therefore paying more attention to what was being communicated.

I don’t think it’s a far stretch to apply this to a physical school diary vs an electronic student diary scenario. My two eldest children go to a school where they use an ediary system. This means that my children never write their homework down, or take notes about which day at school will be free clothes day or other special events and that’s because it is all done for them by the organisation, the school. I can categorically say that they seem to be unable to retain any information from this online system. Additionally I find the system incredibly over complicated and clunky with a fairly ordinary user interface and thus user experience. My paper school diaries from the 80’s 90’s on the other hand did not have any user experience issues (other than my terrible handwriting). One simply just turned a page.


Surely the very act of flipping through a diary itself, constantly glancing at the same pages over and over, must also then be beneficial for memory? Being in the business of digital marketing I could not help but compare it to the impressions metric on website analytics. An impression is one viewing of a webpage, non withstanding how long a person may spend on that page. A person could literally spend 1 second on a page and it will still count as an impression. The rule of 7 in marketing says that once a person sees your content/brand 7 times they are far more likely to remember it. Does it follow that flipping back and forth through a physical diary will also help us to retain information?

And BINGO! I found that this has also been proven to be true. An article from Scientific American The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens discussed how the brain maps screens different from, specifically,  written information. It states:

Beyond treating individual letters as physical objects, the human brain may also perceive a text in its entirety as a kind of physical landscape. When we read, we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure.

The article goes on to state that books set text out in a very different way from screens. Screens limit our ability to remember the topography, or layout of the information and thus locate information we are searching for. Screens do not lend themselves to easily flipping back and forth or scanning ahead in the same way as a book and so make it more difficult for us to locate information.


  • Writing things down by hand has been proven to help recall of information
  • Books have been proven to assist a persons ability to both remember and locate information easily.
  • Paper student diaries are a wonderful keepsake for the future.


Here’s the bit where I tell you why you should be contacting us to organise custom student planners for your school. If you’ve made it this far through my blog post I won’t need to tell you how much we believe in school diaries as a wonderful record of the past for your students but also, as I’ve discussed, as tool which by its very nature uses processes which are scientifically proven to help kids retain information.

Every year we help 100’s of schools around Australia customise their student diaries. Give us a call and you’ll reach Courtney, Shelley or Luke who can answer any questions you may have. Delivery throughout Australia is free and we can send you a comprehensive planner catalogue to get you on your way should you request it.

CALL:  1800818118
EMAIL: sales@woolstonprinting.com.au
ABOUT OUR PLANNERS: https://www.woolstonprinting.com.au/education-printing/impact-student-planners/

Or use the form in the footer below to have a chat with us today.