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Why won't my teachers stop printing?

For what I spend on toner every year, I could buy quite a few Eees. I could, in fact, think of countless ways to spend that money.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

For what I spend on toner every year, I could buy quite a few Eees. I could, in fact, think of countless ways to spend that money. I could buy textbooks, athletic supplies, art supplies, RAM upgrades, ergonomic furniture, you name it. What's actually more disturbing is to remember that my school is fairly small (about 600 students), meaning that larger schools probably spend much more.

I give teachers web pages, training on blogging, course management software, USB drives, and shared folders on file servers. They have laptops or desktops in their rooms. But they still keep printing. Here in the middle of Massachusetts, we're fairly conservation-minded, so my Seattle tree-hugging, spotted owl-saving tactics tend to resonate with the teachers who kill trees by the forest. At least they resonate for a few minutes until they fire up the copiers and printers and start generating reams of worksheets and handouts. Teachers still request that students not submit work electronically. I've even seen those that do accept work via email or digital dropboxes printing it out for grading and correction.

Yet, so often, there simply isn't any need. We're not at a point where we could be paperless. Even I'm going to print out my final exams next week. However, we're certainly at a point where we could drastically reduce our printing needs. How can I change the old mindsets and get teachers to leverage digital means for distributing and collecting materials?

How have you done it? Talk back below and let me know if I just need to let a generation of teachers retire (by which time, the young teachers will have probably bought into our paper-centric paradigm themselves.)

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