Getting off paper (in ten short years)

Will Richardson urges me to Get. Off. Paper. Well, he’s urging his educator colleagues, but the message resonates.

“Just about everywhere I go where groups of educators are in the room,” he says, “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.”

I recognize the urge to keep things on paper (and if you visited my office, you’d agree).   Not everything of value has yet been digitized, and not every digital fixed expression should have taken the trouble.

Richardson nonetheless has a sound point.   I’ll combine it with my own belief: most people move more readily from the concrete to the general, rather than vice-versa.

Certainly that’s true for me.   I remember watching a clip of a teacher making a presentation to a group of his peers.   At the start, he showed a Delicious link and said, “You don’t need to write any of the other links down.   They’re all at this one.”

I hadn’t seen that before (and, alas, hadn’t thought of it).   That clear example changed the way I thought about social bookmarks.

Just as I don’t think most people hear the message behind “you should try a wiki,” I don’t think they hear “get rid of all that paper.”   I’m recalling some recipes that a vegetarian published.   His title?   “From Beef to Beans in Ten Short Years.”

This low-key humor said, “I’m not trying to correct your life.”   Also, “these recipes are pretty good.”   I think I’ll do better by offering you roasted winter vegetables — or, even better, clapshot — than by explaining how most people don’t understand rutabagas.

The more stuff I keep off paper — like these blog posts — the more open I am to expanding that.   My wife and I actually did some of the planning for our (very small) wedding via wiki — so that either of us could add or change ideas from work without having to email the other.

I’m now tinkering with keeping project logs on my wiki, instead of in separate Word documents — both so I can get to them even if I’m not at my computer, and so that I can search.   (A private blog might work as well, but I’m giving the wiki a try for now.)

“Concrete ideas” photo by caffeineslinger.

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