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January, 2012 - Education - Site Home - MSDN Blogs
The Australian Education Blog
Ray Fleming's take on what's interesting in Education IT in Australia

January, 2012

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - change printer defaults


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…
    In some schools it’s the students that use too much paper. They’re doing a project, and then they want to print out a draft of their work (or even a draft of the first paragraph of their work), to see what it will look like. And if they are doing a long-term project, they print out a copy every week to see how they are going. Cutting this out (or reducing it significantly) will make a big difference.

    Change the default printer on student laptops to not be a printer

    So how about letting your students print, but instead of printing onto paper they print onto an electronic document, either as a PDF, XPS or a OneNote document - so they still see the ‘finished’ work, and they can even keep an archive of each stage of the process without stacks of paper. This is especially useful where a student is creating digital work that’s going to be assessed.

    • If your students print to a OneNote document, then it’ll automatically put it into their OneNote document set, and will store it along with all of their other work, revision notes etc. And add a new set of pages next time they print it.
    • If they print to a PDF or XPS document, they could then store this on their own eportfolio, or their SharePoint MySite, USB stick, laptop or network drive.

    In the UK, at Bristnall Hall Technology College in Sandwell, ICT and Network Manager Phillip Wakeman forecast a saving of £25,000 from posting documents on SharePoint, and he has his eye particularly on the printing demands made by ICT exam students.

      Students doing ICT coursework habitually print off the whole lot – and it could be 200 pages for each student – a few times each year. With 200 students in each year group, the amount of printing is enormous.  

    The first step for this is to change the default printer for your users.

    • Print to XPS (a format that locks the file, and allows you to see if any editing has subsequently happened) is standard within Windows 7
    • Print to OneNote is available when you have Office 2007 or 2010 installed
    • Print to PDF needs an extra driver or software application (although ‘Save as PDF is built into Office 2010)

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - hide the printers


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Make printing more difficult

    When I first started work, printers were only just making an appearance and they were noisy, slow and produced very low quality print. I remember the day that I used the first laser print was magical - so quiet, so fast and so very professional. In those days the printers were plugged into the back of the network server, and a whole office of full of staff used to print to a single printer.

    Then inkjets arrived, and prices of printers started to plummet (but not the price of ink, of course) and what happened then was a huge wave of printers arriving in offices. Suddenly everybody needed their own printer. It didn’t take long for the cost of that to hit - and the realisation that buying a printer cost peanuts, but buying the ink was a massive ongoing cost. (And that’s also about the same time that everybody talked about ‘the paperless office’).

    Although many institutions in education have now switched back to central networked printers (or MFDs - multi-function-devices), if you haven’t yet made printing less convenient for your users, then take action to do it. If you switch printing to a central printer, with a smart card to start the printing process (sometimes called follow-me printing), you’ll cut down on the amount of paper you are using - even if it’s only reducing the number of times people print a document, and then forget to collect it from the printer.

    And if people have to leave their desk to get a printout, they will think twice about printing.

    This may seem like a facile statement, but it’s very true. One school I worked with discovered they had 104 printers - and only 102 staff. People in the same office were unwilling to share a single printer because they didn’t want to have to move to collect their printout. And some staff had both a laser and an inkjet printer.

    At Twynham School they’ve tackled the printing process itself – putting in departmental quotas and building ‘stop and think’ warnings into the machines for large print runs.

    How much paper does centralised follow-me printing save?

    Typically, articles which talk about centralising printers quote 10-15% savings - a figure which I agree with based on first-hand experience. Although it won’t be the same for everybody, it should help you to work out how much paper you can save. And, if you manage to switch staff and students away from printing on inkjets, you’ll save a more significant amount in ink - because it can cost up to 6x as much to print on an inkjet as on a central laser printer. So you’ll save more money, not just paper.

    And with centralised printing, you can easily produce reports for departments or individuals, raising awareness of printer use. Which will also help reduce printing.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - send your lesson notes home electronically


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

    Send homework assignments electronically

    You know that your students now have enough electronic devices in their pockets to sink a Sydney Harbour ferry - so how about using that as an excuse to cut the cord on paper-based homework assignments? If you’re a teacher using OneNote, then it’s one very small step to share your OneNote documents (eg homework assignments, tests, lesson plans or revision materials) with your students on the web - and because OneNote is also on the web, on the Windows Phone, and available as apps on iPhone and iPad, it means that your students can access it whether they are at home or on the bus home from school.

    I wrote an example scenario last month of how teachers and students could use OneNote to remove the need for paper. Here’s an extract:


    The teacher can then share the OneNote notebook with their students, for them to use afterwards

    • If they do this in SkyDrive, they can just set the default for all of a particular notebook to be shared, and keep all their lesson materials in that notebook
    • If they don’t want students to see next week’s lesson, they can set a password on each new lesson page as they start to create it, and then remove it when they teach that lesson - meaning that it’s closed to students all the time they are creating it and until they want it to be available

    The teacher can also publish the homework assignments on the OneNote as well

    • Using the password trick above they can ensure students do see the assignments until it’s the right time
    • They can also set groups in the class differentiated assignments by creating multiple homework pages - and give each group a different password to get to their assignment page

    Students can access their assignments and lesson notes wherever they are

    • The super-keen ones can access it on their iPhones and Windows Phones on the way home on the bus/train (how cool would it be to get your homework sorted before you’ve even reached home?)
    • At home they could access it on their iPad (or more likely, on Dad’s iPad), or their home PC or school laptop with Office installed, or over the web on any computer using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive
    • If they don’t have internet access at home (eg they are one of the 6% of school students without home Internet access) they can use their school laptop with OneNote offline - they just need to sync their laptop before they leave school - eg in the lesson - and then they have all the files available at home, including any embedded videos and graphics

    How easy is it to share a OneNote notebook with students?

    OneNote sharing screenshot

    Just pop into the FILE menu in OneNote and click the Share option. That’ll sync your OneNote to your Skydrive (the free 25GB storage folder on the web). And then you can either set it to be shared publically, or just with your students (to do that you’ll need to list the email addresses of the students). And you can either allow them read-only, or give them the option to edit the files.

    That’s it. Now your students can either access it over the web, or use OneNote installed on their phone to read their homework assignments.

    And another trip to the printer or photocopier saved.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting out paper - updating your room booking system


    Cutting Out Paper icon

    I promised a month’s worth of ideas to help with cutting out paper use in your school/TAFE/university, so that you could have an institutional New Year’s Resolution. So here’s the first idea from my colleague James Marshall on his UK LIve@edu blog:

    Wouldn’t it be great if you could get rid of that pile of paper/book/binder, that holds all the bookings for a particular room or piece of equipment?

    Well, if you get smart with your email system you can by using resource mailboxes to handle room and resource bookings.

    There are two types of resource mailbox: room, and equipment. By creating them for your users, you allow them to book meetings and events electronically rather than writing their name down on a paper diary, or having to go and pester the secretary every time you want the main auditorium/hall, or an IT suite for a project.

    It helps because it:

    • Reduces amount of paper used
    • Allows people to see if the room/resource is available immediately
    • Speeds up the booking process
    • Allows people to make bookings wherever they are, as long as they can access the Internet
    • Bookings can be restricted, moderated, and denied by rules, or by a nominated individual

    James gave out three tips for success, and having used resource scheduling for years, I completely agree with these from a user’s perspective:

    • When naming rooms pick a convention and stick to it: Give your users an easy time by making it clear what each room has, for example a room called M1 that can seat 35, has audio, video, interactive whiteboard and black & white printing facilities might be listed as “M1 (35) A/V, IWB, B&W”. Use this convention with all your rooms and people will see at a glance the important details.
    • Ditch the paper today: Once you’ve created the mailboxes run a couple of light training sessions, or distribute a one-page guide on how to use them and then get rid of the paper straight away. Force your staff and students to change their ways, otherwise you’ll end up with a mix of paper/electronic booking and this can lead to confusion.
    • Don’t allow block bookings: I know what you’re thinking – by doing this some clever person will book a room every week, all year, even if they don’t need it. Use some of the features of the resource mailboxes to restrict the number of consecutive bookings someone can make to prevent them from hogging.

    How do you create resource mailboxes for rooms or resources?

    Creating these mailboxes is really easy – there are some great guides online that talk about exactly how to do it, so rather than cover that here, take a look at the help info for whichever mail service you are using - Exchange and Outlook onsite, or either of our education mail services in the Cloud - Live@edu or Office 365:

    Although I’ve given this as a tip to help with Cutting out Paper, it’s actually even more valuable as a time-saving tip - once everybody has got used to it, they’ll be surprised they ever had to do this manually with pen and paper.

    Read more ideas to help cut out paper

  • Education

    Cutting paper use in Education - Paperless January


    Cutting out paper icon

    Have you made any New Year resolutions yet? Or more to the point, has your institution? Because for all of our personal commitments (lose weight, drink less, exercise more) there are some things that can only change if everybody in an organisation tries to do tackle them. So here’s my contribution to a New Year’s resolution for education IT people: Cutting out Paper

    I’ve noticed that Australian education institutions seem to have a never-ending affair with paper, both inside and outside of the school. Paper forms for everything, lots of paper-based notices and newsletters, photocopies of assignments and books, and lots and lots of printer and photocopier paper arriving regularly. So I’m going to offer a new tip every weekday of January, to help you in cutting out paper use (or, at the very least, reducing the amount of paper whizzing around your school/college/university). A 10% reduction for your institution would probably mean hundreds of thousands of sheets less, so there’s a bunch of money saving that can happen to.

    My oft-repeated example is that a typical high school in the UK uses 2 million sheets of paper a year, and the Australian examples I’ve come across so far are way higher. So the potential savings are much bigger too.

    Keep an eye out for the ‘Cutting out Paper’ icon all month…

    Learn MoreFind more 'Cutting Out Paper' blog posts

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