The other day I was talking to a school administrator about an upcoming hands-on workshop and she asked if I could e-mail her the schedule to handout the morning of the event. For some strange reason I just said “Nope. No paper.”

After a short silence, she said, “Oh…ok.”

“No, I mean it,” I said. “We’re going to be spending the whole day online; there is no reason to bring paper.”



“No paper,” she said, thinking, finally adding “How exciting!”

Now I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of no paper as exciting, necessarily, but I continue to find myself more and more eschewing paper of just about any kind in my life. My newspaper/magazine intake is down to nearly zero, every note I take is stored somewhere in the cloud via my computer or iPhone, I rarely write checks, pay paper bills or even carry cash money any longer, and I swear I could live without a printer except for the times when someone demands a signed copy of something or other. (Admittedly, I still read lots of paper books, but I’m working on that.)

Yet just about everywhere I go where groups of educators are in the room, paper abounds. Notebooks, legal pads, sticky notes, index cards…it’s everywhere. We are, as Alan November so often says, “paper trained,” and the worst part is it shows no signs of abating.

At one planning session I was in a few weeks ago, twenty people were all furiously scribbling down notes on their pads, filling page after page after page. The same notes, 20 times. (I’d love to know where those notes are now.) At the end of the session, I gave everyone a TinyUrl to a wiki page where I had stowed my observations and asked them to come in and add anything I missed. Two people have.

At the end of a presentation a few days ago with a couple of hundred pen and paper note taking attendees (and the odd laptop user sprinkled here and there) I answered a question about “What do we do now?” by saying “Well, first off, it’s a shame that the collective experience of the people in this room is about to walk off in two hundred different directions without any way to share and reflect on the thinking they’ve been doing all day. Next year, no paper.”

I don’t think most were excited.

It all reminds me of the time last year when I got to an event and the person in charge had copied, collated, stapled and distributed six paper pages that she had printed of my link-filled wiki online to 50 or so participants.

“It’s a wiki,” I said. “You can’t click the links on paper!”

“I know,” she replied. “I just need to have paper.”

Um, no. You don’t.

Does anyone think most of the kids in our classes are going to be printing a bunch of paper in their grown up worlds? If you do, fine; keep servicing the Xerox machine. But if you don’t, which I hope is most of you, are you doing as much as you can to get off paper?

(Photo “Magnus Christensson’s notes” by Jacob Botter.)