The Value of Paper

By Ashley McFadin — “You know,” a student exclaimed in the middle of class, “you’re one of the only teachers that still use a pencil and paper.”

I blushed and replied, “And….so?” thinking that she would start the typical teenage complaint cycle.

What she said next was surprising.  “It’s a good thing!  I am getting really tired of using the computer for everything.  Sometimes using paper is easier.”

This exchange has been happening more regularly among my students as of late.

With the “new-ness” of the computers wearing off, students are becoming increasingly aware of their teacher’s expectations before, during and after class in terms of assignment completion, quality, and deadlines.   For example, we have students write papers on Google Docs.  This has some pros and cons.

Some of the major pros are that we can see when they started the paper, each time they revised the paper, what they revised, and if they shared their assignment with anyone they were not supposed to.

There are two very large down sides to using technology for everything.  One is that they frequently forget they have an assignment at all so it is not completed.   This results in an email to the student and their parent to gently remind them to complete the assignment.  The second con is that it is now far simpler to plagiarize each other’s work.  On the flip side, it’s also easier to catch plagiarism with revision histories.  In terms of deadlines, we expect students to complete them more on time than ever due to the increasing amount of work time we give them because some students do not have internet at home.

Students still use paper in all of their classes for the most part.  I can only speak for my own class when I say that I think there is still value in paper.  It’s a lot simpler to pass out a piece of paper and ask students to solve problems.  I also explicitly teach organization as a life skill using their science binders.  The computers are great as a teaching tool, but I firmly believe it cannot replace good teaching, highly skilled teachers, and student perseverance.

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