Sunday, April 21, 2013

I Love the Idea of Less-Paper/Paperless!

Photo Used With Permission from Stargardener on Flikr
Paper has challenged me for as long as I can remember. As paper accumulates in my life, both personal and professional, I'm always faced with questions. Do I need to keep this? If so, where and how? Readily accessible? Safely filled away? Will I remember I have it if/when I do need it?

Growing up, I was the kid in your class whose Trapper Keeper was always stuffed to overflowing. Most of the papers were in the right pockets, but about half-way through the year the poor notebook looked like it was going to explode. As an adult, I walk past a pile of mail in my house and wonder how it ever got that tall. I would give anything to get on a list somewhere that lets me say, "Please, don't send me any more advertising by mail. Ever!"

As a classroom teacher, I worried about how my paper-challenged life would impact my students. To compensate, I instituted routines in my room that included the kids always turning their papers into labeled baskets. When orienting my students to our classroom at the start of the year, one of the first things I told them was, "Always put your assignments in the basket for your class period. Late, on time, early, does not matter. If you ever put it on my desk, it is subject to being sucked in by a black hole." As the year progressed and they watched my desk become, well, a disaster, they understood the importance of following the procedures I had put in place. (My student paper management scheme worked; never lost an assignment. But I was still always stressed that I was going to lose one...)

I think I am a person of average intelligence, yet paper plagues me. In recent years, technology has helped me to overcome many of my issues with paper by allowing me to store documents electronically. And as search technologies get better and better, I can more easily find a document that I suddenly need when it becomes important months (or years) after I last accessed it. Even electronic filing of documents can get overwhelming, which is one of the reasons I started taking notes on my blog when I attend conferences. For some reason, I remember better when I write here, and because of tags and date organization, I can usually locate information quickly.

For quite selfish reasons, I'll admit, I would love to make my life as paperless as possible. Short of a few hand-written letters from people dear to me, I'd be ok if everything were electronic. And I would have LOVED to have taught in a paperless classroom! In addition to my own selfish motives, there is cost savings associated with using less paper, and it certainly helps our environment if we can chop down fewer trees.

Due to my desire to continue decreasing paper use in my life, I was very intrigued by the Paperless Classroom Project sponsored by WeAreTeachers. In this project, a 1st grade teacher was challenged to go paperless with her students for two weeks. She found great difficulties and some unforeseen positive benefits, not the least of which was increased use of technology in her classroom. I encourage you to read about her journey.

In conjunction with their Paperless Classroom Project and Earth Day, WeAreTeachers is sponsoring a Twitter Party on Monday, April 22nd, at 7:00 PM Eastern (6 Central - 5 Mountain - 4 Pacific) around the theme of reducing or eliminating the use of paper in the classroom. Without even knowing my dislike for paper, WeAreTeachers asked me to participate! I hope you can join us. If you RSVP at this site, you can also be eligible to win one of several prizes, including an iPad for your classroom! That will help you use less paper!

Have you found creative ways to reduce paper use in your classroom or do you have some ideas you would like to try? Please share in the comments below so we can all learn together.