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.
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.
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.
Click to enlarge