City school system ramps up paperless plans

November 7th, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Workflow

The Gainesville, Ga., school system is aiming to embrace technology in a big way. At a recent school board session, Gainesville City Schools Director of Technology Keith Palmer and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jamey Moore presented a plan that would involve issuing personal tablets to all students within five years, according to the Gainesville Times.

Moore stated that the personalization tools offered as part of many mobile applications and educational websites will help to enrich the learning experiences of local students.

"That's a big piece of where technology is going," he said, as quoted by the news source. "Just customizing the learning, personalizing everything that's going on."

Making paperless learning a reality
However, before teachers can upload study materials to the devices for learners to follow along in class, complete problem-solving exercises, conduct research and more, the school system must leap over a very practical hurdle – that of instating wireless Internet in all necessary buildings capable of supporting an entire student body of users.

"I think that maybe our first step is to try to get the wireless saturation that we need systemwide," said Palmer, according to the media outlet. "It might be a good idea to go ahead and get that out of the way, and then start having devices. Cost is always a factor of course, but I will look at what buildings need it the most."

In terms of a timeline, Palmer said a five-year rollout of the initiative would be ideal, but it may take "a little longer based on … cost," the Times reported. The Director of Technology has not yet come up with a cost estimate for the project, but said he was looking into different options to get an idea of the expenses involved.

While cost is still up in the air, one thing's for sure – the modern student requires a technological component to his or her learning that has never previously been included in the typical educational experience, a fact that can be hard for some members of older generations to understand.

"As we see more and more students using devices in their everyday world, we need to work on communicating and getting the parents to understand that that's where (the students) are," said Moore, as quoted by the news source. "That's how they're learning best. That's what they're engaged by, and so (we need to) meet them where they are."

Practical tips for embracing paperlessness in the classroom
In a recent piece for the My Paperless Classroom blog, teacher Sam Patterson offered several steps for educators and administrators eager to go paperless. Specifically, he advocated investing in scanning hardware over printers, upgrading wireless networks to support more devices (a factor Palmer also pointed to), evaluating the school's website and investing in secure document storage solutions that meet all relevant confidentiality requirements.

Patterson also underscored the idea of slowly walking through the process and keeping all relevant parties in the loop, including teachers, parents and even students who might be presumed to be tech-savvy but actually have some gaps in their knowledge. "Change is hard and if you want a school community to change their procedures you have to make a good argument for why, and you have to be prepared to help the community adjust to the new procedures," he wrote. "If the school is going to launch an app, be ready to hold an app class."

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