In 1975, an article in a leading US business journal predicted the imminent arrival of the paperless office. The article’s author might be surprised to learn that, over 30 years later, it is in classrooms rather than offices that his vision of the future is becoming a reality.
UK schools are, for example, leading the world in their use of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) with an expected classroom penetration of 93% by 2016 (currently 80%) compared with 41% in the US (52% by 2016). IWBs, with their enormous bank of tools and resources (e.g. web pages, links, photos, videos and active flipcharts) have already helped teachers to vastly reduce the amount of photocopied materials they use, with a beneficial effect on school budgets, the environment and also, of course, on each pupil’s classroom experience.
Scotland’s Islay High School has taken this process further by converting its photocopier to an ‘e-copier’ which enables every pupil to work on Samsung Ultra mobiles using OneNote software. The modified copier also delivers every staff memo electronically. Initial outlay was high but the school has already saved at least £20,000 per annum on photocopying bills alone, with further substantial savings in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, West Hatch High School in Essex uses a combination of Microsoft packages Sharepoint 2010 and Infopath to streamline major school events. The school is now well on the road to becoming entirely paperless. Schools throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are using apps such as Evernote for note-taking, Google Drive to share documents and Pocket to save useful articles, web pages and videos. Innovative use of technology in schools doesn’t just reduce printing costs and streamline administration – it also supports teachers in their efforts to enrich their teaching by making lessons more dynamic and captivating.
Significant environmental benefits also accrue from paperless classrooms and schools; a whole tree which can take up to 100 years to grow, yields only 17 reams of paper. By supplying every pupil and teacher their own iPad, Essa Academy in Bolton has saved literally tons of paper, reduced its photocopying bill from £80,000 to just £15,000 per year and in the process radically trimmed its carbon footprint.
Despite such tangible advances, movement towards paperless education is in its infancy. This provides businesses who want to develop their education links with a golden opportunity to secure substantial, long-term rewards. Examples of ways in which businesses might become involved with schools include providing training in new technologies for staff and pupils and/or assisting school senior leadership teams in identifying key areas where technology can enhance school life, cut budgets, improve their environmental credentials and raise standards of teaching and learning. Companies which succeed will also gain the valuable advantage of forging strong links with a talented and eager future workforce.
By Geoff Carr, Education Planner