Meg’s Weblog

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Why must everything be so black and white?

with 9 comments

I do not even know where to begin writing this, but here goes.  I commented on a link that Dean Shareski forewarded to me, that connected me to Will Richardsons blog. One of Will’s most resent comments features the use of paper in his life and more particularily in the classroom.  The way that his post and the comments that drizzled behind it were written felt a little pushy to me.  Now, it is true that the only reason that I have “copied and pasted” anything on the web, is because of Deans Education computers class and I am just beginning to learn about the posative things that technology can bring into our sudents lives, but I do not appreciate new ideas being pushed on me.  After I read Wills post I felt like I would be a bad teacher if I was to use too much paper in my first year as an educator.  I understand that is not what he was suggesting, I am only attempting to communicate the way that I feel.

  I am currently in my third year of five, in the arts education program at the University of Regina, and I have not yet even gone into a classroom to intern, so when I read Wills post I felt afraid, sad, and angry.  The sadness exploded from his comment concerning paperback novels and about how he is trying to cut back on them, as if anyone who STILL reads on paper is going straight to hell in a hand basket, and should serieously consider cutting back.. On account on how un-green it all is!!!  I would really love for someone to explain to me how to make art, or the roughdrafts that lead up to that masterpiece without the use of paper.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that beautiful art can be captured in a photograph or created with the help of technology- but what about process??  What are we stripping away from students when we denigh them of the tool that they are the most comfortable using (and in some cases that tool will most definatley be technology). 

And that is it, that is the aspect of technology that I have always been suspicious of, it must be black or white.  I have yet to see the grey area that real people live in.  I will not have my future students turn into the latest pieces of technology, continually conforming to the newest, latest program out there.  What about having a choice, what about creating a balanced way of looking at technology without it needing to be the end to all paper.  It is all so extreme.   

For the record, this is by no means a personal attack on Will.  I am very lucky to have stumbled across his blog, because with frustration I can be motivated to learn more and to grow in ways that may have never occured without this insight.  I thank him very much and look foreward to reading more on his blog.


Written by petermeg

November 18, 2008 at 6:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. Megan,

    A couple of things you should know. First Will is a huge advocate for change and while he is generally sympathetic towards teachers, part of his purpose and mine for that matter is to push people’s thinking. If that makes you angry at times, that may not be a bad thing. In particular if it makes you take the time to reflect as you have, that’s even better. I’m glad you wrote this.

    With respect to the discussion, the huge idea for me was not so much how we shouldn’t use paper but how we view paper and how it limits us. I think paper still offers us a useful medium in many respects but in particular the idea of collective ideas and linking is totally limited by paper. Will’s rant began with a workshop where handouts were seen as the norm rather than the idea of a living, breathing document that is accessible online and available to be reworked and customized.

    What most people don’t understand is the power of linking and accessibility. I’m not sure totally eliminating paper is the right choice but certainly when we understand when digital is better, we’ll use it accordingly.

    Dean Shareski

    November 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  2. Hi Meg

    No, I don’t think you missed the point. I just think you disagreed with a well-respected, well-known blogger and people reacted to that. Actually, you did not disagree – you provided an alternate viewpoint.

    Some people — just can’t accept less than 100% acceptance of Will’s ideas — which is sad.

    Personally, I enjoyed your post. And honestly, I believe Will will/did too. In fact, I am hoping he writes you a personally handwritten note to express his thanks.



    November 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  3. Hi Megan,

    I came to your blog by way of Dean’s Twitter feed, and I wanted to comment. First, I want to join Dean in saying I’m glad you took the opportunity to reflect so deeply on Will’s post.

    I work in educational technology — I have for about 10 years. So, I’m probably one of those people who often seem to talk about technology as “black and white.” At least, I’m afraid some people think of me that way.

    I DO believe wholeheartedly in the tremendous power of technology to transform the way we think, communicate, and connect. I think technology can (and should) play an integral way in how we approach the future of education (K-12 and higher).

    That said, it might interest you to know that I came to my profession while working in a rare books library. It was while working at this amazing place that I came to believe that technology could be used to make these rare materials more accessible to more people. (Only scholars and researchers had access to the books.) I also believed that in doing so, we could broaden the conversation about these texts, using technology as a way to bridge cultural and geographical gaps that were previously insurmountable.

    In my spare time I also bind books and I am an obsessive collector of paper. One of my favorite pastimes is to go into a fine paper store and peruse.

    I can’t attend a meeting without a pad of paper — I doodle obsessively, and I’m convinced it helps me to think and solidify ideas. I’d actually love to be able to do this on a computer, but I’ve never had quite the same experience with a tablet.

    I can’t get rid of books (we’re always filling up bookcases before we buy them), and I’m literally drowning in New Yorker magazines because I hate to throw them out.

    All of this said, at this point I also read news almost exclusively online. I’m addicted to the NY Times reader on my iPod touch. I’ve also started to download freely available public-domain books to that device, and I think I’ll start reading those more and more.

    I can’t give up paper and I do understand your point about how paper seems to provide a particular kind of “blank slate” for the creative process. But, I’ve also found a lot of digital blank slates that inspire me too.

    I do try to be more cognizant of how much paper I use. I print less, and I recycle more (and I buy more goods made out of recyclables). But, all said, I think I’m someone who lives in the gray area. And I like it here. 🙂


    November 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

  4. While I agree with you that paper will never (and probably should never) be entirely eliminated from the school, there are a significant number of things distributed on paper that could easily be transmitted in electronic form. Schools waste boatloads of paper every year that is simply thrown out at the end of the year, when something electronic would persist even after the end of the term, without wasting paper.

    Ian H.

    November 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm

  5. To an extent I understand your fear of moving away from something that is comfortable to you. I recall many conversations with my husband from the early years of our marriage when we said we’d never have a home computer. We now have three laptops. We have changed as times have changed.

    I would agree with you that there are still times when paper is the way to go. Maybe I am wrong, but I believe what both Will and Dean are suggesting is that teachers need to be more open to change. There are so many amazing tools that can be seamlessly integrated into our classrooms regardless of the socioeconomic status of our students. Why aren’t all teachers using more of these tools? Why are so many teachers (both new and experienced) turned off by technology?

    Times have changed and we have to adapt. I wish every educator would take an hour to watch Michael Wesch’s video on digital literacy. I believe that more teachers might “get it” if they really listened to his message.

    It seems like teachers feel like their worth is measured by how many pages of notes they make students take or by how many copies they run during the year. I think that by going digital teachers feel like they are giving up control. They can not longer physically hold the work in their hands. This is very hard for some people to accept. Maybe I am completely off track!

    Beth Still

    November 18, 2008 at 4:01 pm

  6. I think Will’s point of keeping information on paper as a limiter to the sharing and spreading of knowledge is quite valid. We are moving in that direction, but asking someone to make a great leap in that direction is probably not always that realistic. Teachers are not going to take notes or post notes on a wiki or GoogleDoc when they do not even know what one is – or their district blocks access to it – or their building has no wireless access – or teachers don’t have laptops to bring to meetings… Many things must keep progressing in order for a more paperless school climate to happen. But no doubt, the digital world has let information and ideas out of the locker, so to speak 😉

    However, we have to be careful, I think, not to let our own comfort levels and beliefs limit our students and limit new ideas. A paperless and digital world is much more theirs.

    Steve Ransom

    November 18, 2008 at 4:54 pm

  7. Meg,
    I hope my teasing reply to your comment on Will’s blog did not offend. Sometimes as an advocate for educational technology, I am out on the bleeding edge, and not in touch with those in the trenches. I am currently working on a pilot where all secondary students in our district would have a wireless laptop, eliminating the need for much paper. I am actually the type of person who takes copious notes at every conference I go to. They end up in the lovely free briefcase that you get at the conference. I probably have 6 at home, stuffed full of handouts and notes lying around my house. Now that I have a laptop, and blog the sessions I attend, not only do I not have as much paper, but I can share what I learn with others. Hopefully as we move forward, that will become the norm…
    Best of luck on your educational journey!

    Mike Walker

    November 18, 2008 at 5:21 pm

  8. Keep reflecting, Meg, and looking for those gray areas in a debate that, you are right, often becomes very black and white. Technology is a tool to support teaching and learning. You need to adopt it as it makes sense to you. For instance, I would never keep a paper calendar but I still keep a paper to do list. That’s what I’ve figured out works for me.

    That being said, we can’t know how technology works for us if we never get a chance to try it out or if we keep doing things the way we’ve always done (ie, providing printed handouts).

    I sympathize with you…I’m older I think and I have feet in both the analog and digital worlds. I’m not ready to give up books but it was nice to have the book I need to read for my book club next week immediately available on my Kindle. Let’s celebrate all the possibilities and, as Dean write, think about ways that digital might help us make positive changes while not completely abandoning the good stuff from the past.


    November 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  9. I just would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who responded to this post!!! I appreciate your advice to me more than you will know. It is interesting to me what Dean wrote about Will’s rant about paper beginning with a couple of other ideas that made him feel passionate enough to write about such a subject. I find this fascinating because so did my rant. Some of it was directed to what Will wrote, but some had built up over a couple of things that I was encouraged to read and learn about. I never once considered where Will was coming from when I read his post, instead I made assumptions about his ideas, just as many of you have about my ideas. The reason that I believe I was am so worked up over this subject is because I do want to be open to change. And I just feel like ONLY using technology in the classroom (which is all I could hear in my mind when I heard NO PAPER!)is just as close minded as wanting some things to remain the same if they prove to be affective with new and old learners.

    Anyways, Big thank you to all of you
    open to change, paperholic Meg 🙂


    November 20, 2008 at 4:21 am

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