Paperless students? Never going to happen

Students, even in this technological revolution, are failing to move away from pulp and paper to the more seemingly convenient netbook or laptop. But why?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

We live in an age where technology is rife. We cannot escape from mobile phones, computers, netbooks, projectors, e-readers and the rest of it. But students simply couldn't go paperless. The chances are it'll never happen, or at least if it does, when I am long gone, dead and buried.

The argument for going paperless is stronger than ever, with learners wanting less paper and more technology, and teachers wanting less paper to manage and deal with.

But this is schoolchildren we are talking about, not university students. Students in higher education relish using paper; allowing them to spread their thoughts across multiple pages and across multiple work surfaces.

The incentives are there; every time I print something off at university, because I need to use my university username and password to print, it records when I do so. But every print-out leaves me with a pop-up guilt trip reminding me of how much of a tree I'm destroying in the process.


Forget computer science students because they are a minority at most institutions. Of course they will be using their netbooks, Androids, smartphones and iPhones to tap away at during a programming lecture. But the rest of the students on campus are more than happy with scraps of paper, Post-it notes and lined paper with scribbles on. The rest of the campus doesn't engage with technology on an everyday basis so they are not missing out in the first place.

For this, when writing up the notes later into electronic format, we can have a sense of satisfaction about screwing up the paper and chucking it away.

How would you write notes onto a PDF file? Yes, you could use a touchscreen computer, but handwriting recognition isn't an exact science yet and a pad of paper and a Biro pen are far cheaper.

Taking books out of the library aren't always possible. Sure, we could grab our Kindle and download the book but why should we when we are spending thousands of our respective currencies on library provisions? Some books are only available for an hour at a time, so instead of scanning them into a computer for later analysis, photocopying is a more sensible solution. Those who remember will know that I have proven this one long ago.

In realistic terms, the only computers students want to use is the one computer that they are using to write their essays on. Besides that, technology has yet to really have a major impact on the main brunt of our degree courses - the discussion seminar - where all you need is your mind and your mouth.

Me? Personally? Many can testify to this. I would be far happier with a handful of notes, scribbles and scraps than a netbook. Would you rather go paperless?

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