Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on August 2nd, 2015

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How technology is affecting school supply shopping and reducing paper.

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Today is August 3rd. For many schools around the United States, that means school starts this month! I am sure that news is a major bummer to kids and returning teachers but a call for celebration to most parents! Face it, summers are long when you don't have a family farm to maintain in the summer. Kids get antsy, siblings bicker, all sure signs it's time to get back to school.

Another signal the first day of school is approaching is the stores are filling larger sections with over an abundance of school supplies. Shoppers can find a plethora of "Back to School" sales too.  And also, for all of us parents of school aged kids it probably means your inbox is being filled with emails from schools about registration, fees, the first day of school information and more. For our school district, the 2015/2016 school year is rounding out a progression of change to more digital functionality. Some things are progressing, and other key elements are lagging. Let's take a look at how the new school year is shaping up tech wise.

PROS

1. Much less paper. In our local districts, we have finally made the final leap to eliminating paper report cards and emergency forms. For us, we had the high school district already there, and finally starting with this school year the elementary and middle school district are catching up. Gone are the days of me sitting down at the kitchen table filling out three sets of the exact same forms. We are wasting much less paper and time. Now, for my kids in the high school district, I can link them together and only enter certain information one time.  What a time and paper saver.

2. Google Docs. Now more than ever, my kids are turning in assignments via Google Docs and eliminating even more paper.  By utilizing Google Docs, the majority of my children's teachers are monitoring assignment progress and offering a helping hand throughout the assignment.

3. Digital assignment books. Not only are there now digital report cards, but grade books are available to track students on each and every assignment. In 2015 no longer should a parent be shocked at the end of a term to see that their child is not doing their assignments or be surprised by a failing grade. In addition, teachers have digital assignment logs as well as online access to forms and worksheets as well as links to online textbooks.

4. Online textbooks. Now, don't be too surprised when you also see this mentioned under "Cons". The availability of online textbooks makes it easier for kids to complete assignments without lugging the entire contents of their locker home. It makes it easier for parents to help with homework when they can access the text book for further explanation or to review a subject they have not covered in years.

CONS

1. School supplies. OK, this seems to be getting better. But with more and more homework assignments and in-class work being done digitally isn't it time to cut down on how many binders, folders, notebooks and loose leaf paper we have to supply? I know my kids have never used many of the items on the list in recent years due to digital assignments.

2. Calculators. With more and more classrooms providing iPads, and kids, especially in high school, allowed access to their smart phones are high priced calculators really a must anymore?

3. Google Doc. Yep, this is another one I find to be a Pro and a Con. I am all for using it, but I don't agree with assignments being due outside of school hours. Do not put due dates on assignments on weekends or by midnight.  Especially, if you as the teacher will not be grading said assignment for weeks. We have had this happen so often it's not funny. WE have had assignments due by noon on a Saturday or midnight on a Sunday. And, no they typically did not have weeks to complete it. Sometimes the assignment was assigned on Friday.

4. Online textbooks. Ok, my only gripe with this one is that in our district we have both. So, as you can imagine we still have book fees. In many instances, my kids have text books they received at registration, placed in their lockers to not be touched again until they turned them in at the end of the year. What am I paying for here? An outdated version of the book? I would rather have a digital option, even if that means I have to supply a kindle or tablet or have a charge for a school supplied digital version.

5. Flash cards. I think all schools should encourage the usage of digital flash cards. With most app versions of digital flash cards, kids can create quizzes based on the content of the cards further bolstering the study method and saving trees and tons of money in the process.

I, for the most part, have been pleased with the progress our district has taken with technology progression when it comes to going digital. Now, that doesn't mean I think they offer enough technology in the curriculum (see my blog on this topic here).  What ways are your school districts using to embrace technology and streamline how they function? There are many software solutions available to schools and if there isn't the right system out there a qualified developer can help create it. Many of these solutions will boast an up front price tag but in the long run, the costs that will be reduced by eliminating paper. Also, the time-saving measures by reducing paper filing and processing time.