The dog ate my homework

The single biggest concern that I hear from teachers taking their first steps into elearning is that “computers are unreliable”. They fear lost work, broken connections, crashed servers – all things that can and do happen. Whilst I take full responsibility for problems that happen on Paperless School, and work very hard to prevent them, I’ll confess to feeling a tad frustrated that the same standards are not applied to paper learning materials.

Lost or even destroyed books and folders are an everyday reality in schools, as are textbooks stuck in locked cupboards and worksheets jammed in photocopiers. Analysing these problems we find two types of problem; either of which is enough to give the average digital security consultant the screaming habdabs.

Only one copy of the data exists

All data is fragile stuff and it’s easily lost or destroyed. At Paperless School, we lock it all away in a secure facility with a controlled environment. We also take a complete copy every night and it in a separate, safe place. Exercise books, by contrast, are left on buses, burnt or dropped into ponds whilst looking for frogspawn.

The data is only accessible in one physical location

If you’ve left a book at home, you’ve had your chips. You just can’t access your data until the evening. Not that there aren’t restrictions on digital data; typically you need access to a browser. But digital access gets easier every year; paper access does not.

The real benefit that paper has is that we have become inured to its failings. We’ve simply resigned ourselves to the fact that someone in the class is going to be homework-less or textbook-less. It is high time that we realised that this state of affairs is not inevitable and that we can and should demand reliability of access to data, whether digital or on paper.

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