Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why I'm Going Paperless Beginning April 22

It has nothing to do with a green initiative.  Okay, just a little bit.  But that's not the only factor.  Paper within the school system is the antithesis of a progressive, technology-enhanced education that we should be providing/receiving.  So, why go paperless?

1.  Innovation by Force - the task is to develop a good lesson, not the one that's easiest to deliver.  If we hand out a paper and say "fill in the blanks the way I tell you to", that's easy.  If I'm not allowed to use paper, I need to find an alternative.  Here's where technology comes in to save the day. 

2.  Interactivity - When's the last time you had a conversation with a piece of paper?  There are 2 ways to interact with a piece of paper - write on it or physically alter its form.  When you're doing that, you're not interacting with what you're learning at all.

3.  Non-Use/Misuse - I hear countless individuals complaining about getting too many papers in their mailbox.  I see folks taking notes at meetings.  I attend meetings where someone gives a paper, then reads to me what it says.  How frequently do you go back and look at notes you took during a meeting?  How often do you think your students do it?  It's a better use of time to pay attention to a presentation/activity while actively reflecting on it and thinking about it. 

4.  Stagnation - A student is absent for 5 days.  The student returns to school and says "What did I miss?".  The teacher hands him all of the papers that were handed out during the week of instruction that the student missed.  If the student was not present during instruction, how will having the papers serve any purpose?  I have observed over the time that I've been teaching that a student feels as if they've done enough to make up the work if they just get the "papers" that were handed out. 

5.  Useless - Paper is just not helpful/efficient.  Teachers generate worksheets such as "Sec 6-2 WS#1 Practice 1".  What does this tell a student about what they're learning?  How much time did you spend making sure the Name and Date blanks lined up?  How much more time was spent getting the Comic Sans font to just the right size to fit on one page?  How long did you agonize over the columns and margins?  What does any of that have to do with the content that you're teaching?  Does a student care that question 1 is not in perfect alignment with question 2? 

I have the feeling that I'm going to annoy a number of folks, when I ask for an electronic version of something when I'm handed a paper.  When I'm asked to turn in a form, I'm going to demand an electronic version.  "I'm really not comfortable using paper for this, is there an alternate way to do this?" 

Yes, these sites exist and are probably quite popular:
This is not innovative:
Billed as "Education for the Future":
The URL is self-explanatory: 
All for different skills, yet they look exactly the same: Google Image Results for "math worksheets"

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