How is Our School Paperless?

By Aaron Boehlert

I was sitting at dinner this evening with my parents and my (paternal) grandparents, off the road for the night – taking a break from our New England college visits. My father was discussing his company’s new mine in Mauritania with my grandfather, and my mother was regaling my grandmother with information about my school. I was watching the obnoxious toddler at the next table, who was periodically slapping his mother in the face.

‘At Aaron’s school, all the students have laptops.’ My mother was saying. ‘It’s completely paperless!’

My grandmother seemed bewildered.

‘Aaron. Tell your grandmother about it.’ I looked over at them, and then my mother started talking again: ‘They take their tests and exams on the computer.’ No, we don’t, I thought. ‘And write their assignments on the computer.’ Also untrue. ‘And then they email them into their teachers!’ No.

So I began thinking about our school’s policies. I’ve always been in favor of the laptop policy. I’ve always liked Macs, and I always argued in favor of furnishing our students population with the pretty, shiny, expensive machines. But then I thought: how is our school paperless?

Sure, it seems like a great idea. And it also looks just lovely on the information section of the website. But I don’t remember the last time I actually did something significant in school that did not require any paper. We use textbooks (which come with discs for digital copies) and get handouts. We always take tests and exams and write commentaries on paper. And any assignment that we do is printed out and handed to our teachers. Sure we take our notes on the computer, but didn’t everyone use to do that anyway? In fact, one of my teachers is paranoid about students playing games, so he doesn’t even let us take notes in class (now that I think of it, I wonder how many teachers will read this and think I’m talking about them). I honestly doubt our school uses any less paper than it did last year. I’m not blaming anyone in particular. I’m not blaming IT, I’m not blaming our teachers or the administration. I’m not blaming the student body. But nevertheless, there is a problem, and I think it’s up to all of us to help solve it in the interests of keeping a promise we’ve made at Upper Canada College.

IT can block more games and find easier ways for students to use laptops in place of paper. Teachers, I’m sorry, but you need to trust your students. If students are playing games, it’s their loss in class and ultimately their loss when it comes to exams. We need to incorporate technology into our classrooms. I feel that this is one issue where the administration is not at fault. And students: we need to stop playing games. It’s unprofessional and it’s silly. If you’re in class, learn. If you don’t feel like learning, stay home. And don’t whine about your mark on the final exam if you’ve been playing games half the term.

When all of these things happen, I will proudly call our school paperless. But until then, it is everyone’s duty to figure it out.