Teachers cutting paper usage; kids loving it

Mar 30, 2009 By Hannah Sampson

In some school classrooms, paper is becoming more of a relic than an educational staple.

The result: homework done online. Paperless term papers. Math problems completed on an interactive whiteboard. An entire course of physics problems contained on a single compact disc. And, schools hope, savings in an ever-tightening budget crunch.

"It's budget, it's green, it's best educational practices," said Mark Strauss, principal of Virginia Shuman Young Elementary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Educators are trying to trim the reams of they use to save money, spare trees and keep engaged in ways that old-fashioned writing just doesn't allow.

While schools would be hard-pressed to eliminate paper altogether, technologies like interactive whiteboards and document projectors have proven to be popular substitutes.

Strauss keeps track of how many copies teachers are making and sends a note (e-mail, of course) to those who have fewer than 500 per month with "a thank you for thinking green and helping the budget," he said.

Those who exceed 2,000 copies in a month get a note urging them to reconsider their paper-dependent ways.

"If they can get more engaged in active learning and less reliant on worksheets, they'll learn more," Strauss said.

Christopher Stella, who teaches a fourth- and fifth-grade class at the school, posts to his class Web site all the information he might have otherwise sent home with kids on paper. Documents for homework are scanned and posted as PDF files.

Kids can write book reports on a book-themed Web site and submit them to the teacher there.

"The interest level for anything that's technology-related is much higher," Stella said.

At South Miami Middle, seventh-grade civics teacher Sofia Padilla prefers to have her students learn on computers or through games like "Jeopardy!"

"That's what those kids are used to," she said. "So we kind of have to move with the times and keep their interest piqued."

While today's students were born into an age of technology, some parents haven't quite adapted.

"Some parents ask: 'Where's the paper?'" said Dawn Huckestein, who assigns homework online and has her second- and third-graders at Virginia Shuman Young use the interactive whiteboard. "It's what they're used to."

She explains to them that her method is "not just being friendly to the earth, but being friendly to the budget."

MAST Academy in Key Biscayne, Fla., a school known for its focus on green innovation, tries to conserve paper -- and recycles what gets used.

One way they cut down on paper: "E-mail, e-mail, e-mail, e-mail," said principal Thomas Fisher. "Everyone's favorite communication initiative."

Teachers get one case of paper, which contains 5,000 sheets, each semester, Fisher said.

"We say, 'Look, this is your allocation. Use it as wisely as possible,'" he said.

Erica Kane, a fifth-grade teacher at North Lauderdale Elementary, said she tries to be as frugal as possible in her classes because paper is not easy to get.

"We would use the fronts and backs and wouldn't miss any spaces," she said.

Kane said she's also printed reports on the backs of fliers, used paper brought in by students and even used old pin-feed printer paper, the kind with sides that need to be ripped off.

Some administrators and teachers say students are allowed to print materials at school but are urged to print out only what is needed.

Many Broward teachers say they use a document camera and projector and have students copy from the board in their own composition books instead of giving handouts.

Some post their materials online. Others simply buy their own paper if it is scarce at school.

Robert Rosen, who teaches Advanced Placement physics at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., grew weary of wondering if his paper supply was going to be cut off from year to year.

So, about six years ago, he scanned all of the information he hands out -- which would amount to something like 200,000 copies for all of his classes -- and put it on compact discs.

"The kids just loved the CD," he said. "They just warmed up to the idea immediately."

If there's something Rosen wants to distribute to students during the school year that wasn't included in the initial disc, he puts it on his Web site as a PDF.

Rosen has been trying to spread the paperless word among fellow teachers. He thinks it might be an easier sell as schools continue to cut spending.

"It might be that necessity is the mother of invention in this case," he said.

___

(c) 2009, The Miami Herald.
Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at www.herald.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: For Google's self-driving cars, learning to deal with the bizarre is essential

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

iTeacher: Program Brings Web 2.0 to the Classroom

Mar 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Online media and social networking Web sites - Web 2.0 standards like Facebook and YouTube - are the new tools for communication and entertainment among K-12 students. Safety and inappropriate content issues, ...

Piling on the homework -- Does it work for everyone?

Aug 18, 2008

While U.S students continue to lag behind many countries academically, national statistics show that teachers have responded by assigning more homework. But according to a joint study by researchers at Binghamton University ...

Interactivity means more activity for students

Sep 04, 2008

The British government has invested more money in Interactive Whiteboards (IWBs) in its schools than any other government in the world. But is this huge investment worth it? Have the new data projection technologies allowed ...

Recommended for you

Audi to develop Tesla Model S all-electric rival

47 minutes ago

The Tesla Model S has a rival. Audi is to develop all-electric family car. This is to be a family car that will offer an all-electric range of 280 miles (450 kilometers), according to Auto Express, which ...

A green data center with an autonomous power supply

6 hours ago

A new data center in the United States is generating electricity for its servers entirely from renewable sources, converting biogas from a sewage treatment plant into electricity and water. Siemens implemented ...

After a data breach, it's consumers left holding the bag

7 hours ago

Shoppers have launched into the holiday buying season and retailers are looking forward to year-end sales that make up almost 20% of their annual receipts. But as you check out at a store or click "purchase" on your online shopping cart ...

Can we create an energy efficient Internet?

7 hours ago

With the number of Internet connected devices rapidly increasing, researchers from Melbourne are starting a new research program to reduce energy consumption of such devices.

Brain inspired data engineering

8 hours ago

What if next-generation ICT systems could be based on the brain's structure and its cognitive and adaptive processes? A groundbreaking paradigm of brain-inspired intelligent ICT architectures is being born.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.