A slightly radical proposal for schools

I’ve often been asked the question “If you could be king of the world for a day, what would you do?” First of all, I’d make myself king permanently, but that’s not the point. Here’s my slightly radical proposal that would be the second thing I’d do if I were king for a day.

I’m part of a club that takes out the recycling in our school in the morning. Let me tell you, we collect a lot of paper: if I collect the paper of maybe 15 rooms that haven’t had their paper collected in a few days, I can fill up a whole trash can. Not the small trash cans you have in your house, I mean ones as big as janitors use. That’s a lot.

So where was I? Oh, right, my proposal. Before I get to that, imagine life in 1911 (read about it.) It took weeks to get anywhere, telephones were bleeding edge, people wore corsets and silk hats, and kids used textbooks, paper, and pencils in school. It’s 2011 now. You can go from New York to Beijing and back in two or three days, phones that can’t browse the internet are considered bad, people wear t-shirts and jeans, and… kids use textbooks paper, and pencils in school. Everything’s changed completely… wait. Except one thing. Schools.

Schools are stuck in the 1960’s. They need to catch up to the times, and the way to do that is to go paperless. Here’s some easy ways they can, in order from easiest to implement to hardest to implement.

  1. Instead of having students print out assignments and hand them in, just have them e-mail the assignment to the teacher. Really easy.
  2. Have homework available online (as a PDF or text document, maybe.) Students can complete it on their computers and e-mail it to the teacher (see point 1.)
  3. Instead of having students take notes in class, have the notes be available online. Not only does this save loads of paper, it frees up class time for discussion/reviewing homework/whatever teachers want to do.
  4. Have students take tests on the computer (maybe through an online survey tool, or preferably through a dedicated test app.)
  5. Put textbooks online for students to use at home and have cheap netbooks/tablets/laptops for students to access them at school. Could be expensive, but it saves a ton of paper.

The benefits of doing that? Many:

  1. No paper used (environmental benefit.)
  2. Students don’t have to carry as much around.
  3. Huge savings on textbooks/ink/paper.

Disclaimer: eI have no teaching experience whatsoever so I don’t know if any of this would be practical. So that’s why my proposal should be called radical, even though it seems pretty sensible to me.

So there’s my $0.02. What do you think?


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Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

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