The Paperless Educator Challenge

Paperless_smallI’ve set myself a challenge for the next 12 weeks – not to printout or use paper for my school work. Quite a challenge in a world where, unlike predictions made back in the 1970s, paper usage has steadily been growing over the past few years rather than declining. This is despite the massive surge in the sales of personal mobile devices such as tablets, laptops and mobile phones (I do wonder if we’re all just printing out those emails that we get sent?). Therefore, I’m not sure how successful this challenge is going to be but if we’re to embrace a future where students are completing in-class activities on their personal devices, resources are emailed rather than printed and homework is uploaded rather than handed-in; I’ve got to know what the pitfalls, problems and benefits of being a Paperless Educator can bring. 

To try and successfully achieve this challenge I’ll be:

  • Converting any electronic files that I create or receive to PDF
  • Accessing, updating and annotating files on my tablet (using OneNote)
  • Storing my files in the cloud for access from any internet connected device
  • Emailing resources to colleagues rather than printing and handing them out at meetings
  • Not writing on paper for the duration of the challenge (with one exception – see below)

As the world doesn’t yet operate paperless-ly there does need to be some exceptions to ensure that I can have at least half a chance of succeeding!

  • I can still print resources for my students (they don’t always have their own devices so it would be very disruptive to their education if I didn’t). However, I’ll try and keep this to a minimum.
  • If I am handed a printout at a meeting/event I can still store and archive it; I just can’t write on it. If required, I will convert the document to PDF as soon as I am able on returning from the meeting/event.
  • I am allowed to write onto students work as part of their homework, assessment or in-class activity (I would lose my job if I didn’t).

If you’re reading this and you don’t work in a school you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound very hard. Let me assure you that schools get through mountains of paper and not a day goes by without some sheet of paper (or, more usual, a booklet) being handed out at a meeting, event, lesson, conference, INSET etc. Education is slowly dragging itself into the effective use of technology in the classroom but paper is still very much King. This is most definitely not going to be an easy challenge.

The challenge started today (1 September 2014) and I’ll make regular reports, on this blog, detailing my success (or not). If you’re a teacher and have got any tips or have tried to avoid printing or using paper for a prolonged period, please share your thoughts by clicking the ‘join the discussion’ below. I’m intrigued to what barriers and, hopefully, benefits this challenge brings.

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