September 5, 2012 at 11:30 am
by Christina Tynan-Wood
Not long after my 16-year-old son started school a decade ago, I began dreaming of a paperless educational system. Permission slips, projects, homework, tests—organizing and storing all of them for Cole, and then his younger sister Ava, took countless hours. To boot, it was an utterly thankless task, which provided sufficient inspiration to prioritize going paperless. In the end, all it took was a strategically placed scanner, some time and Mom-style leadership.
To start, I zeroed in on a certain countertop in the kitchen where the kids mindlessly tossed every piece of paper they brought home. My husband, Dan, made things worse by adding mail and receipts to the mix. With no full-time secretary on our payroll, that counter was always a huge mess. Stuff got lost, forgotten or mistakenly recycled. And no amount of nagging helped the situation. So I made that spot my jumping-off point.
One Saturday, I tidied up the area and added a small scanner, then nicely asked my gang to run important papers through it and recycle the originals. I didn’t badger them, though, opting instead to lead by example. At the end of every day, there was a pile next to the scanner. Rather than yell, I just pulled up a chair and efficiently ran everything through, enjoying the process of scanning and tossing (though some things I threw in a box for safekeeping). Soon everyone wanted in on the action.
Next, I sat down at my computer to distribute and file everything, stashing copies of the kids’ homework on a hard drive. Next on the agenda was a folder for any receipts we might need for tax purposes. I digitally signed permission slips and emailed those directly to the teachers.
Not only was my kitchen counter neater, but so were the kids’ backpacks. They no longer have to remember to turn in permission slips—and I don’t get four more sent home as reminders. If they get to school and don’t have their homework in hand, they can usually log on from any computer and access it. And for the first time in my adult life, I can look up any bill I’ve paid with a couple of clicks of the mouse, instead of tearing through a file cabinet.
Better yet, after a few weeks, I no longer had to do my night shift. Everyone was doing his or her own scanning, and the habit had become as ingrained as the drop-everything-on-the-counter routine had been. At that point, I decided to go for broke and stashed the scanner out of sight in a kitchen drawer. Then I informed everyone where it was. They didn’t miss a beat. The unsightly pile of papers? Still gone. For good.
Tools to Try:
Doxie Go + WiFi A simple one-page-at-a-time scanner with a rechargable battery that fits perfectly in a kitchen drawer. Scans transfer wirelessly. Getdoxie.com, $229
ScanSnap S1300 This unit autofeeds up to 10 pages and scans both sides. Amazon.com, $294
Nitro Pro 7 Turn scans into PDFs with this user-friendly software, then store images on a hard drive for easy access later. Nitropdf.com, $120
Microsoft OneNote It’s like a digital three-ring binder: Kids can create a notebook for each class and drop in scanned papers, typed notes and Web clippings. Store everything online and get the free phone app so they’ll have access from anywhere. Microsoft.com, $80 stand-alone or $150 as part of Office Home and Student
Evernote Free software that allows for document sharing among family members. Evernote.com