Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When will you be ready to give up paper?

Philadelphia's Christ Church "Vinegar" Bible
Face it. People seem to love paper. Especially paper books — there is something about the feel, the smell, and the tactile satisfaction of turning pages, that remains dear to many readers. In fact, our ongoing romance with paper may have somewhat slowed the move towards becoming “paperless.” Newsweek magazine tried it by changing to a digital-only edition at the end of 2012, yet, a print edition of Newsweek was relaunched on March 7, 2014. And, even though millions of Kindle e-readers have been sold (Forbes estimates roughly 43.7 million Kindle devices had been cumulatively sold through the end of 2013), GeekWire reports that sales of paper books are on the rebound, with sales increasing in 2014 by 2.4%.
An August, 2009, a New York Times article speculated that in 5 years, more students would be learning from digital texts and online resources in place of paper textbooks. At that time, teachers and district leaders in Arizona’s Vail Unified School district began the Beyond Textbooks initiative (http://beyondtextbooks.org), an online resource that has since grown to more than 100 partners in Arizona, California, Idaho, and Wyoming, with more than 12,000 teachers sharing their best lesson plans and online learning resources. The success of the Beyond Textbooks program was recognized at the ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, Georgia, when it received the “Digital Content and Curriculum AchievementAward.”
How might the Beyond Textbook model help other schools? The good news is that the digital divide seems to be narrowing as more students are connecting online using a variety of either personally- or school-owned digital devices. When coupled with the abundance of free or inexpensive cloud-based services, such as Google Apps for Education, or Microsoft One Drive, the age of being able to teach and learn in a truly paperless environment may have arrived.
As schools contemplate the idea of “going paperless,” education leaders must be thoughtful about whether adequate systems are in place that will help guarantee a successful transition. In addition to making sure the infrastructure will provide adequate bandwidth to support connectivity, are the staff and students ready to adopt a new way of thinking about “how we do our work?” For administrators, it’s important to model and promote a paperless workflow by making use of online surveys and forms, meeting agendas, shared calendars and collaborative note-taking.
For teachers, going paperless needs to be thought of as more than posting digitally-captured worksheets online. Learning tasks will need to be redesigned so that students are provided opportunities to create, collaborate and communicate in ways that take advantage of digital tools. Teachers may access a variety of free online classroom management services such as Edmodo, Schoology, or Google Classroom, in order to support instruction, collaboration, and the management of digital products. A variety of cloud-based and Web 2.0 services are available that provide students with the ability to create a online products or portfolios to demonstrate their learning, thus making it easy to “turn in” links to their published digital work.
Those of us who may have a habit of printing out online articles or email messages, should make an effort to embrace the idea of moving to cloud-based services such as Evernote or Google Drive. These services will not only store our documents, images, and media online, but they also provide powerful search tools that help us find and access our information from just about any device that can connect to the Internet. My personal favorite tool is Evernote which allows me to clip web articles, capture handwritten notes, snap photos, and record voice in my notes, plus giving me the ability to share and collaborate with others, even those who are not Evernote users.
Are you ready to take the plunge and "be" paperless?