Going Paperless: Guest Blogger, Scott Merrick

It’s a pleasure to be paired with Elaine at her excellent blog for the cleverly designed I Heart EdTech blog swap, a global effort concocted by our friends over at Simple K12. As Elaine did, I should give you a little background about myself. I’m a edublogger on several planes. I blog at scottmerrick.net in a personal/professional mashup that has become my primary source of personal expression, my very long book, if you will. Oh!VirtualLearning!, the blog that hosts Elaine’s IHeartEdTech post, has been covering news and events relating to Second Life and other Virtual Environments since May, 2007. My classroom blog has been running since August 2005, and it regularly documents the work I do with my Kindergarteners through 4th graders at my primary work, Lower School Technology Coordinator at University School of Nashville (Tennessee).

I’ve been following Elaine’s ongoing efforts to promote paperless teaching and I have to say I’m tremendously impressed with her thoughtfulness and her lucid arguments for the movement away from our profession’s long-established addiction to paper. It has always amazed me how many reams of paper my own school, a K12 independent school in Nashville, Tennessee, pumps into the backpacks, home with the kids, and then inevitably to the trash or recycle bins in a year’s time. As K-4 technology coordinator I often wage the good fight in that arena, opting for saving children’s work and displaying them on my Lower School Technology for Learning blog posts rather than sending them to the printer, the backpacks, and the bins. But it’s not enough. We need the kind of dialog that Elaine is encouraging with her coverage of the issues and we need your opinions and contributions to make any headway. As I type this, there’s a line of teachers at my school’s copier downstairs ( know, I just refilled my coffee mug, the one that says “No I will not fix your computer”). I’m forwarding The Cruel Shoes blog address to all my teachers this afternoon in the hope that a little more awareness can help, at least a little bit.
Our school has green leanings: When our school library was expanded and rebuilt, the architects took a green approach described at EOA Architects’ website in these terms:
White roofs, geothermal heating and cooling, the reuse (for cabinetry) of wood from the four trees that had to be removed for the project, and effective daylighting of over 80% of the spaces are among the many high-quality design elements yielding a building that will be enjoyable and easy to maintain for more than twice the life of a typical new American building.

I have a 10 year service ball point pen made from an oak I used to sit underneath for lunch and we often meet at conference tables crafted from those same trees.

When our 30,000 square foot art building was designed and built, the administration took the opportunity to dig 110 6 inch diameter geothermal cores 300 feet deep into our wide open playground, resulting in our designation as a green school. There’s another great picture of the library and a brief description of the project here. At the time, we were Tennessee’s only urban example of the geothermal initiative, and much was made of it. Over time since then it’s paid off and it continues to do so. Here’s a reprint from a 2002 USN Newsletter article by our Director of Finance, Teresa Standard:

Why are we making such a mess? The geothermal system offers both financial and envronmental advantages. By taking advantage of the naturally constant temperature of our solid foundation of limestone, we can dramatically reduce the electricity required to heat and cool the buildings. Although the cost of installing this type of system is higher than the traditional four-pipe HVAC system in use our existing buildings, we chose the geothermal system because it’s the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible option available to us. It has lower maintenance costs  and longer life than the conventional methods.

Most compelling of all for USN is the money we will save– $1 per square foot per year in operating, utility, and maintenance costs. After the library is built, we will have 47,000 square feet heated and cooled geothermally. These substantial savings will be well worth our present inconvenience. While we wish that we could take advantage of these savings for the rest of our buildings, we do not have enough land for the grid of piping required, and retrofitting the interior of the buildings would be cost-prohibitive.

That said, it’s not enough. Just this past week we bought test models of several ebook readers in an early investigation of what it might mean to go textbook-less. We purchased, by the way, The Sony Reader, the Amazon Kindle, the Entourage Edge, and the iPad‘s on the way. These will be test-driven by administrators and teachers then we’ll get them together to discuss the pros and cons of each before deciding on a platform or platforms upon which to build an e-textbook program on. It’s exciting! What is your school doing to make a difference toward global sustainability? Share here!

Thanks to Elaine and to Simple K12, and we all hope to see you at Edubloggercon in Denver just prior to ISTE 2010! Look for me in the Virtual Environments Playground!!!


A big thank you goes out to the folks at Simple K-12 and to Scott Merrick for this endeavor!


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