Saturday, August 31, 2013

We Don't Need No Stinking Papers!

Why are we still using paper?

Look on the desk of any office assistance, secretary, or administrative assistant and you'll probably find reams of paper scattered across it. Ditto for the desk of most teachers. We use far more paper than we really need to in the modern world. A decade ago, I was working as a media specialist for the Job Corps. Even back then the standard method of communication between centers and offices was email. But the administrative assistant, upon receiving an important email from headquarters, would immediately print it out and file it away in one of the many file cabinets that cluttered the back room. It's just the way she had always done it: file things in cabinets. She could have saved time, effort, and paper by simply filing it within the computer's file system.

And now, a decade later, my daughter works as a substitute teacher through a company that still uses paper forms, three of them, that must be dropped off in the office after each assignment to provide feedback about how she did. This company uses online interactive forms to make teaching assignments, but they revert back to old paper forms for feedback. Wouldn't it be simpler, faster, and use less paper if this type of feedback could also be done online?

I waited in line at the grocery store the other day while some older lady in front of me paid for her groceries with a check - a personal check instead of using a debit card! It was maddening. About the only thing we should be using paper for these days is to jot the occasional note. Granted, most schools still do not hand out laptop computers or even tablets to every student, so they still need to be given paper worksheets and quizzes, but the things we need to use paper for these days is almost non-existent.

Electronic transfer of information can replace paper in all these cases and more: Checks, forms of all kinds, grocery lists, notes, letters, receipts, bills, surveys, and contracts. And mostly, these electronic devices are being used. It's hard to fill out a job application, for example, without doing it online. But it's not 100 percent yet and that should be the goal. The only thing our printers should be used for is to print the occasional photograph.

No comments: