Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Decided to take a break from blogging with the plan to get started again the day after Labor Day.

Looks like that day has come.

And so, I offer this humble post -- which is really just a reflection on something that's been running mantra-like through my mind recently. Namely: this paperless thing is easy.


You don't need a guru to lead you through this mess. It's not even a mess.

I remember when I quit smoking. I'd started back in high school and got up to two packs a day by the time I was 23 years old. Then a serious case of bronchitis hit and I was put on my back for a few days with nary a smoke. Coming out of that, I decided to see how long I could go without a cigarette. And I wound up quitting.

I think about this now, because as I've said before, the number one reaction I had to quitting smoking was that I became furious at the cigarette companies. And I grew furious at myself. I was so angry because I felt like I'd completely been put on and because I'd wasted so much time and money on smokes.

And that's the same way I felt years ago when I went paperless.

I felt like for so long I'd been at the mercy of paper companies and printers and publishers. And I realize how that can sound silly; but as any teacher sitting under five sections of research papers knows, it's anything but silly.

These days, instead of waiting for all of my students to meet a deadline, I just have them share a Google Doc with me and I follow along -- popping in now and then to give advice and see what they are doing as they are doing it.

And that's a paperless move that changes the feel of teaching. It's an empowering thing. It's a formative thing. It's a thing that suggests what the future might be like rather than a thing that insists on dragging the past along out of some sense of perceived comfort.

And it's easy to do.


And that's why in this -- what I guess you'd call the third season of TeachPaperless -- I am questioning whether or not I need to write this blog. Because so long as you can get computers and access, you can do this stuff. You don't need to pay me to come teach you. You don't need me to write a book to sell you. This stuff is easy; all you have to do is experiment a bit and find what works for you.

As for those of you -- many of you, in fact -- who don't have computers and access: make this your year. Make this your year to organize parents, students, and teachers together to figure out how to get real tech in your building. Make this your year to petition your admins, their supers, and all the rest to get what you want going on in your school.

Because it's 2010.

And if you don't do it now, when are you going to do it? And if you don't do it, who will?

So bring your A-game. Do some research and argue for the reallocation of funds from textbooks and printers to internet devices and wi-fi. Find grants. Find alternate funding. Get your parents on board. Get your tech thing worked out.

And then you'll have the chance to try out this paperless thing with your students. You'll have the chance to learn and to teach and to blog and to share. And you'll have the chance to realize that this stuff is easy.

And then, come one summertime soon, you'll have the chance to sit back and reflect on what you've done. And you'll think to yourself: this paperless thing is easy.



  1. Wonderfully, easy read. Thanks, Shelly. I will share this.

  2. Missed your wonderful posts....so glad you are BACK!! I tweeted this article out today.... http://www.buffalonews.com/city/communities/niagara-falls/article183132.ece About a paperless school!!

  3. Do you still need to write the blog? In higher ed, there's still quite a debate about paperless-ness. See our current blog post over at the Active Class -- Teach Paperless? Not Yet. I would really welcome your comments on that post, since you've got such a perspective on this subject, or perhaps even a guest post on the subject?


  4. Great post. For people still in the difficult stages, this is an extremely encouraging read.

  5. I've followed in your example this year. I was paperless for the latter half of last year and have started off paperless this year. I'm actually having more fun.

    Google docs is an awesome tool as are blogs and the entire Google family of apps. We've built PLE's, and I have my own CMS on Edmodo. I've even experimented with students texting their lifeline (parents) about what we are studying in class to get their responses.

    Last Earth Day was when I heard about your blog after deciding at the start of the year to make the paperless move. It's like you've become my silent support group, and I thank you for that.

  6. I agree that paperless is easy. However, I think you still need to write this blog. So much of your content really has nothing to do with teaching paperless. Much if it is about teaching and ways to think differently about education.

    Welcome back, have a great year, and I'm looking forward to reading!

  7. Just started reading your blog about two months ago...I love it! I now have a majority of my classes using Google Docs both individually and collaboratively. After the initial learning curve for students I thought to be more tech savvy, the rewards are great! Thank you for the inspiration. It's just what I needed.

  8. Keep the blog going!!! I started a paperless classroom this year and although I am pretty good with the technology, the day to day frustrations can build up. It is the little tips and tricks that can mean so much in an undertaking like this. Although schools are moving toward paperless, every year there are many teachers who are trying it for the first time. We need an expert to help with those frustrating times. Keep letting us in on what you find to be the normal daily activities in your classroom. Many of them are things we have never even thought of.


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