Paperless Education: Positive and Negative Effects

Introduction

Going paperless has it downsides, but the benefits seem to outweigh the disadvantages. Boards need to prepare for the transition by studying how much money would be saved by eliminating copying costs and how much it would cost to put documents and other information online. Of course, not everyone wants a paperless world.

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The revolutionizing technology age has given birth to the obvious yet sound social revolution. This has entirely changed the way we think and live in our daily lives. “Change is often hard to see when we are part of making it happen, but curriculum delivery, information access, and information presentations are radically different from 1985” (Anderson 1997, p. 3).

This development, what we address as Information Technology (IT) in itself is extremely a tremendous revolution. The pace at which this development is taking over the world, itself justifies how we live and work. The latest information can be associated closely to the developments being accrued in the advent of computers. Although computers were a development of the 1950s, the development in information technology started to evolve in 1980 which can be credited to three main factors.

As a student of the 21st century, it is noteworthy to realize that technology is becoming increasingly important in the society. Many educators tend to have become more learned and techno savvy. In the technological era, new developments tend to take place almost daily, and innovation has taken a front seat. This has resulted in formulating a shocking reality that has altered not only, daily lives but also the presence of the human specie.

“If it is today so widely assumed that the latter will be in a better position, this is because one kind of knowledge, namely, scientific knowledge, occupies now so prominent a place in the public imagination that we tend to forget that it is not the only kind that is relevant” (Hayek 1945, p.521).

Self-directed learning is often found to be a common trait in students of a paperless education environment. Teachers are, on the other hand, found to be facilitating this self directed learning process rather than just providing knowledge to students. A human being’s consciousness is only limited to the content already available in his/her memory. A human working memory can only take seven elements in one stance (Bryant & Hunton, 2000).

Instructional framework, according to the cognitive load theory mentions that, improvement can be witnessed but only in the limited boundaries of the working memory. My thesis supports the thought that the paperless environment in the education sector is only helpful if the instance actually decreases irrelevant cognitive load. On the other hand, when the split-attention consequence comes into being, the paperless education outcome may in fact increase cognitive load and hinder student knowledge.

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Board members and community members who can’t get online or don’t want to read information online should have the opportunity to get what they need the old-fashioned way. In any event, it wouldn’t hurt to file paper copies in case of network failure.

As the 21st century approaches, computers and other high technology equipment are becoming significant components in educational institutions. The use of this equipment in a classroom creates a nearly paperless environment-a distinct advantage over traditional paper based classrooms. For example, the equipment used to create a paperless environment that is standardized for all of the courses saves a great deal of time and provides immediate feedback to students on all materials used to test their understanding of course material. The paperless environment manifests in all areas of classroom instruction including lectures, homework, quizzes, and examinations. “Students are less overwhelmed because they know they have time to work, reflect and improve as they go along” (Anderson 1997).

A paperless classroom, students possess electronic devices to enhance their skills an abilities. Whatever instructors write on the instruction board is directly connected to the students’ devices sp they have to bother taking any notes. Audio recordings of teacher’s lectures and notes helps students follow it later via headphones while reading it on their devices at the same time. Flash drives are another tool on which students at the end of the day can transfer their assignments and notes and take it home with them to view them on their personal home computers. This practice further allows students the convenience of not carrying heavy bags to their classrooms, which is apparently very helpful for those disabilities in mobility.

Computers can be very helpful in a learning environment, but along with its advantages it becomes very cost deficient for institutions to provide every individual with a personal notebook or PC unit. Presently, handheld devices are making this technological convenience easy and cost effective for all parties involved in the learning process. Some of these devices and technology, other than notebooks and computer units, along with their usability are as follows:

PDAs

Some obvious uses of PDA by students include scheduling of take home assignments, report writing, information sharing and grades tracking. Another advantage is lecture and notes sharing with fellow students in case of absence from class. In this case, students don’t even have to face the dilemma of illegible writing. Team projects become easy by an increase in record keeping by any one of the team members.

On the other hand, teachers are facilitated with the advantage of student assessment and managing their classrooms through their PDAs. Electronic sharing and transference of assignments among students and instructors minimizes to a great extent the paperwork unlike the traditional classroom environment. But the role of the teacher remains to some extent the same when it comes to ensuring that these devices are utilized properly and not just for games and enjoyment. Last but not the least PDAs also tend to be a beneficial tool for parent teacher communication as parents can keep track of the child’s grades, behavior and projects in hand through their PDAs.

Internet

The advent of computer technology has made it possible for students to have access easily to additional information through the internet medium. As a result, students do not have to rely on the limited information on a certain topic, provided by the teachers. Instead they can retrieve any information the want to further their knowledge as much as possible. Simply by ‘googling’, any keyword can return an unlimited amount of knowledge for their research. Additionally this mode of knowledge sharing is very cost effective. Another main advantage of computers as compared to books is storage of data to an unlimited extent, thus minimizing the writing fatigue and missing out on important information.

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This eradicates the trouble of carrying unlimited stacks of books and losing important worksheets if any. Computer technology is here to stay and help an individual avoid all these nuisances (Anderson 1997). Updation of the same data is another easy advantage apparent to the user. Moreover, if required this data can easily be printed. All in all, a paperless environment in education has a positive impact on the student’s learning behavior thus bringing much expediency to teachers and students capacity to interact. The traditional frame of mind is altered to a great extent and has revolutionized the method of studying.

Brown and Duguid (2002), mention that information, mechanization, and reorganization, while necessary to progress, need to be seen within a better situation if they are truly to allow progress. The inflexibility of the organization of all things mechanized, one of their main strengths — does not for all time combine well with supple human needs and action. Computerization and similar reforms may look fine on paper, but actually putting them into practice, they fail to fulfill the task with such superiority. The human mind will always be at work. Even though life is not so easy, life of information technology is extremely difficult — but their importance on at least being attentive of it is previously a positive point (Brown and Duguid 2002, p.93-95).

Research and Practice are not the only mediums through which Knowledge transfer can be made possible. Research on Knowledge Transfer justifies that the ability to take in more knowledge is very dependant on the preparedness of the learner, prior knowledge and readiness to absorb change. It is also mandatory that both the instructor and the learner in the process of knowledge share the same frequencies, same culture and same needs (Thompson, Simonson, & Hargrave, 1992).

The nearly paperless environment I believe in classrooms has significantly improved the disposition of many students and teachers along with many advantages. First, by relying on electronic media to enhance presentation, students’ interest and understanding can be heightened. Second, providing immediate feedback to students makes them aware of their lack of understanding of certain concepts, giving them time to eliminate confusion and clarify misunderstandings before exams, so that they have a firm foundation upon which to build.

Third, using a computer to grade homework, quizzes, and exams saves time and promotes a more efficient recordkeeping environment. This allows instructors more time to prepare lesson plans, conduct research, and help students. The information age has altered how education can be explained. Access to broadband internet services and other technologies, is changing the world and the concept of knowledge within it (Headrick 2000, p.5).

Cognitive Learning and Use of Information Technology

In the modern continuously altering society, triumphant students excelling in almost all the fields of their education must be educated in a variety of modes of IT (Mabey, Topham, and Kaye, 1998). Cognitive learning theory suggests that the foundation of the paperless education is only theoretical. This theory makes an argument that the degree of learning or participation of students and teachers is mainly important in developing proper learning outcomes (Bryant and Hunton, 2000).

Thompson et al. (1992) further clarified that when students energetically and enthusiastically take part in the process of learning, the entire process becomes lucrative. This perspective based on the theory, according to Bryant and Hunton, justifies that technology in education is “likely to be most effective if it provides for a dual exchange between the technology and the learner” (Bryant and Hunton, 2000, p. 137)

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Some differences that are observed among the behavioral and cognitive learning in a paperless environment are:

Learners are seen as inactive and hasty to the setting whereas paperless environments enable students to become energetic and susceptible to the environment. Similarly in a conventional classroom knowledge gained is exclusively an interface among the motivation and reaction whereas information system enhances learning in classroom only when the student actively participates in learning in the paperless environment. Unlike the conventional environment, learning is an alteration in the structure of the mind through proper and rational reasoning.

Conclusion

Knowledge is an outcome of only an individual’s mind. Sometimes this knowledge can be captured explicitly through explicit knowledge or it may remain locked in the human mind which is tacit knowledge. This happens because it may not have been made explicit due to the difficulties intrinsic in unfolding the definite knowledge, such as a kid learning to ride a cycle. Therefore knowledge learning is just a simplification of reality.

The paperless environment in the education setup has witnessed that students are increasingly becoming more active and engaged in their learning activities. The students’ knowledge is not just confined to the classroom lectures and notes; rather they tend to use computers and Internet to gain more knowledge over the subject which they can then compare with the data being taught in class.

Students are no longer dependant on the teacher for being the only source of information, the teacher’s role has also increasingly altered giving them more time to discuss matters with students, give them individual attention, answering their queries, resolving their problems, helping them move forward in case they get stuck somewhere, praising efforts and achievements. Students can build their own schedules looking at the course outlines online, and carry out their own research to prepare earlier then the course started. This has provided enough flexibility to the student and the teachers, thus making it a starting point for the student’s responsive and learning styles in group settings.

Another advantage of a paperless environment is the development of a work climate where students tend to build strong and meaningful yet positive relationships with others fellow students. Starting from here, a group of students can be seen spending extra time in cafeteria, walking in the campus – all owing to the time spared due to the use of computers and information technology.

List of References

Anderson, M.A., 1997. The evolution of a unit: from dusty books to paperless projects. [Online]. Web.

Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P., 2002. The social life of Information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Bryant, S. M., and Hunton, J. E. (2000). The use of technology in the delivery of instruction: Implications for accounting educators and education researchers. Issues in Accounting Education , 15 (1), 129-162.

Hayek, F.A., 1945. The Use of Knowledge in Society. American Economic Review, XXXV (4), pp.519-30.

Headrick, D., 2000. Information and its history. In Headrick, D. When information came of age: Technologies of knowledge in the age of reason and revolution, 1700-1850. New York: Oxford University Press. pp.3-14.

Thompson, A. D., Simonson, M. R., & Hargrave, C. P. (1992). Educational technology: A review of the research. Washington, D.C.: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

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