From the Mailbag: Are we still using paper planners? It is 2019.

I receive a good number of questions and regret that I can’t answer them all personally. I do like to answer a few publicly, especially when I know others can benefit. Today’s question comes from Ontario, Canada, and involves my first book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week.

Question (edited for brevity and privacy):

Hello Ana,

I am writing you from Ontario, Canada. I am reading your book That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week to help my 15-year-old son find success in school. He is finishing grade 10 this year with what will most likely be solid Bs (although he is having a lot of difficulty in Math right now). He has very similar characteristics as previous students described in your book. He is between an Intellectual Conversationalist and Sincere Slacker.

I understand the book was written in 2009 and technology has changed quite a bit since then. In Ontario our school system uses Google Classroom where it links to calendars and all teachers post homework, assignments and tests on the calendar. Students get emails and alerts from the Classroom. Is it still necessary for kids to use a planner?

Signed, A Mom in Ontario


Dear A Mom in Ontario,

Thank you for your note! I am so thrilled to hear that my first book, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week, is still so readily turned to as a resource, nearly a decade after the book’s initial publication.

Since then, my life has changed a great deal-and so has the amount of technology in the classroom. I grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and my Green Ivy Educational Consulting office is just a few miles away from technology notables including Google, Apple and Facebook. As a result of my first two books, I consulted with some of the first schools to bring technology into the classroom and saw schools shuffle through different homework portals as software options readily shifted.

All of this experience actually led me to write my latest book, Social Media Wellness, which discusses how parents, educators and students can collaborate to find better solutions in this ever-changing digital world. The book includes a chapter on managing digital distractions and executive functioning. An edited excerpt was included in the American Federation of Teachers Spring Newsletter, which you can read here.

I give you all this background to show that I am aware of, and entrenched in, all the technology changes in today’s schools. In a nutshell, yes, I’ve found that students benefit more than ever from using paper planners.

The answer comes from something you allude to in your question: “teachers post homework, assignments and tests on the calendar. Students get emails and alerts from the Classroom.” That is a whole lot of information input, and part of processing that input requires students to learn how to take the information posted and then process and prioritize it (all key executive functioning skills). Otherwise, they run the risk of information overload and constant distractibility.

In the last year, I’ve visited more than 35 cities speaking about Social Media Wellness, and students repeatedly tell me how they go online to try and figure out what the homework is and end up being distracted by notifications, YouTube, Netflix, friends’ messages and the like. The key benefit of a paper planner is that it helps students compartmentalize. They are able to list all their work in one place-and also include any doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities, sports practices and family obligations-so that they can begin to filter, prioritize and move through their list of to-dos with minimal distractions and maximum efficiency. The hope, of course, is that doing so will not only help decrease their stress but also give them more free time to spend on activities they enjoy.

A side note: Many of the first schools to bring technology into the classroom did away with paper planners, citing costs and thinking that everything was online. The schools I’ve worked with have brought back those paper planners, and teachers are using them as part of their classroom teaching to encourage better executive functioning skills.

Hope this helps!

Featured in:


Stay connected

Get in touch