The iPrint leads to paperless schools

News that Empire High School in Tuscon, Arizona will become a truly paperless school next year has already done the rounds. It’s the first of a trickle of such news items that will become a flood by next year and cease to be news by the year after.

What astonishes me is that this is still news. Now, thanks to a link from Tim O’Reily, I think I’ve worked out why.

To imagine a school without paper is a huge conceptual leap in a society that is knee-deep in the stuff. And central to our notion that our very way of life depends on paper is the newspaper. Not for nothing is that particular medium commonly abbreviated to just ‘the papers’. Conversely, if every railway carriage, living room and staff room were not routinely littered with newspapers, it would be far easier to imagine a classroom that also didn’t rely on paper.

How and why might that come about? I propose that there’s both a push and a pull at work.

The pull
Think about the iPod, or indeed the Walkman. For two decades now, a significant proportion of the population has routinely carried a pocket-sized device with which to listen to music anytime, anywhere. Now imagine an iPrint. It’s the same size and weight as an iPod but through some ingenious design it’s got an adequate screen. Perhaps you use it like an iPod, uploading the morning news before you leave for work, or perhaps it’s got a radio connection to the internet. Perhaps it’s also your phone, and gets sent news as it happens. It doesn’t really matter; the point is that you can easily imagine such a gadget existing in the near future.

Now, imagine getting on a train and noticing a young man who, instead of listening to his iPod is browsing his iPrint. Does that seem so earth-shaking? No. The novelty will have worn off inside a fortnight and you’ll have bought your own within six months, simply because it’s lighter than a novel and its news is immediate and current. And so, of course, you stop buying papers.

The push
There’s another reason you will stop buying papers. The price is about to go through the roof. Why? Because newspaper prices are heavily subsidised by advertising revenue, and advertisers are abandoning newsprint advertising in droves. They have found a better deal in contextual advertising; those online adverts that are more likely to pique your interest because they are keyed to what you are searching for or reading about. No advertiser who has once mastered the contextual advertising of their product or service will continue to subsidise your daily paper.

Of course if the price of newspapers goes up, fewer people will buy them and the price will have to go up further to cover editorial expenses. You can see where that spiral inevitably leads.

So whilst it is hard to predict the timescale, it is clear that a combination of push and pull will make us a newspaperless society in the not-too-distant future. With that symbolic cornerstone gone, school heads and governors will find it far easier to intellectually commit to the possibilities of the paperless school.


I use HYPERLINK with my palm.
Every time I synchronise the palm it downloads my channels and I can then
read them when I get time. Admittedly the screen size isn’t ideal, but it’s
a great service!
Steve Margetts

Click to enlarge


Posted in:

5 responses to “The iPrint leads to paperless schools”

  1. Hello Ian. Good job! (Good blog!)
    I wrote an article for the now (sadly) defunct RMUser magazine in 1988 envisaging a classroom where a teacher sat at the front with his Apple Newton on his desk and when all the students were seated opened it and looked at the automatically populated register and list of assignments that the kids’ Newtons had squirted into his without any commands being issued! Maybe I should resurrect that notion with Bluetooth?

  2. 1988! Ahead of me, even. The thing is, once you have got that far, you have to address two uncomfortable questions:

    1. why are the students all in the same room (building… city… country)?

    2. why are the students required to all study this specific piece of content at the same time?

  3. Hi Ian,

    Off the top of my head (I’m too tired to think in too much detail right now!):
    1. Because of the human interaction that can make a learning experience easier or more enjoyable? On a couple of occasions I haven’t been able to make myself clear to a student but his friend could explain in a way that the student understood.

    2. Maybe because it would simply be more manageable that way, rather than trying to mark several different pieces of work on different topics, and repeating this throughout the year.

    Just a couple of ideas, like I said, but I can see what you’re getting at.

    M Viracca

  4. I wonder if we could build a collection of answers to these questions. Anyone else got answers to add? If I get enough, I will collate them and build a new blog post around them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with

%d bloggers like this: