Paperless schools would also reduce
the need for custodial staff to haul away
the drifts of paper that students leave
in hallways, classrooms, and trash cans.
Communications sent by e-mail, posted on a blog, or placed on a website are
more likely to reach parents and students than a piece of paper anyway.
In addition to the time savings,
going paperless would save money.
Eliminating the cost of ink, toner, paper, electricity, and maintenance for
printers would free up more funds for
appropriate classroom technologies.
Although I do not dispute that libraries and the references, books, and
publications they house are valuable,
printed textbooks are too expensive
and too much of a burden on schools
and students. Textbook budgets have
been slashed beyond belief, and as a
result, many of us have resorted to using textbooks that are too old and out-of-date to be effective. Digitized text-
Just as the office workers of the 1980s suffered fear and trepidation about
moving from their typewriters to keyboards, we are having a hard time
transitioning to a digital screen from the comfort of holding what used
to be a tree.
books are easily distributed, require
little management, and are far more
portable. Our young digital natives
would save their backs from having
to haul around 100-pound backpacks,
and they would always have their textbooks handy. They also adapt easily
to screen-oriented reading and find
paper to be more of a nuisance than a
It’s hard to imagine that anyone in
this day and age would argue against
paperless schools, but still, it is unlikely that schools will ever be entirely
paperless. I, for one, would stand up
and defend the need to have coloring
pages and construction paper available
for all! But the time has come to retire
printers and copiers to the museum.
Printing manuals, handbooks, and
handouts year after year is unecessary
The move to paperless schools is like
most technology shifts—fraught with
fear and the resistance to change. Just as
the office workers of the 1980s suffered
fear and trepidation about moving from
their typewriters to keyboards, we are
having a hard time transitioning to a
digital screen from the comfort of holding what used to be a tree. Change isn’t
easy, but it is inevitable.
—Vernon Smith, MS, is director of technology
for Socorro Consolidated Schools in New Mexico.
He’s also president-elect of the New Mexico Society for Technology in Education and chair of
the New Mexico Public Education Department’s
Council on Technology in Education.
practicing with a pen and paper are
vital components of foundational literacy. We cannot ignore the proven
effectiveness of tactile, kinesthetic
learning. Reading and writing exclusively on computers also create a reliance on keyboards and spellcheck-ers, which could have drastically
negative effects on student literacy.
We see evidence of this decline in
student writing even now.
Second, computer skills are a
byproduct of technology integration, not the sole objective. If we are
going to use technology to teach,
we must seek the most appropriate technology for each lesson. And
modern technology has not yet
provided the most cost-effective
means of replacing the pencil, only
of supplementing it. Paper can be
recycled and is inexpensive, in contrast to many personal computing
devices, which require power, maintenance, and prompt replacement
Modern technology has not yet provided the most cost-effective means of
replacing the pencil, only of supplementing it. Paper can be recycled and is
inexpensive, in contrast to many personal computing devices, which require
power, maintenance, and prompt replacement upon disrepair or the swift
onset of obsolescence.
upon disrepair or the swift onset of
Third, going paperless is not
always the greenest option. The
introduction of cloud computing
and mobile devices, for example,
has increased the amount of power
consumption because of the higher
number of electronic devices in
use. And as each new gadget hits
the market, mountains of electronic
Finally, for schools with ever-tighten-ing budgets, purchasing dozens of personal computers may not be the most
lasting investment. New models are
released at an alarming rate, rendering
thousands of dollars worth of property
virtually useless in a matter of years.
The smart use of resources and the
inclusion of paper in our schools are
not mutually exclusive. Reducing our
paper waste is as necessary as educating ourselves on the proper disposal
of old classroom equipment. In fact,
paper provides an excellent opportunity to teach students the importance
of using only what we need and disposing of waste appropriately.
—Elayne Evans teaches an undergraduate
technology course for the Division of Teacher
Education at Western Oregon University in
Monmouth. She is also working toward her master’s of science degree in education and pursuing
a career in online learning.