As we begin the summer, one achievable goal for educators for the next school year is to reduce the use of paper, even to go paperless. My familiarity with Google Apps colors my view here but there are many other platforms that can provide success in this venture.
Educationally, there are many reasons why to go paperless. Use of Google Docs fosters collaboration and creativity. Students can work together on a project through sharing a Google Doc. Problem solving through collaboration is a worthwhile venture. Teachers can assess student work and provide feedback efficiently via comments on the same document. No printing, no paper, is ever necessary. Access to electronic databases provides information that goes beyond what is contained in a simple, two dimensional, handout or worksheet. When viewing a chart or graph or map or human body layout, which is more academically compelling, a 3D virtual view or a photocopy?
For teachers who are comfortable with materials that are presented as handouts, or pulled from their 1980s filing cabinet, obstacles can be overcome. The same material pulled from a paper file folder can be scanned and uploaded to class wikis or class management systems. Most management systems even allow for PDFs and other files to emailed to every student as an attachment. Academic material can be shared through Google Communities. Even Google Sites has improved as a free, easy website options in recent years. These are only a few of the many options we as educators have to present material.
Administrators can also make a real and lasting effort to conserve paper. This begins with a consistent commitment to electronic communication within the school. Google Docs can be used for all faculty feedback and signups, even from professional development sessions to potluck lunches. Attendance can be gathered paperless and reports are issued via email. The school website and phone blast systems can be used to disseminate information to families.
Beyond academics, reducing paper makes sense both financially and environmentally. Each of us in education must act individually to collectively make a difference.