— Zac Chase (@MrChase) March 1, 2016
I struggle a lot with the use of paper.
It isn’t an environmental thing for me, although I do very much care that we aren’t wasting our natural resources. It isn’t a millennial or digital native thing, as I have carried around a pen in my right-hand pocket for most of my life. It isn’t even a tactile thing, as I really love the way in which it feels to scrawl something across a page or read it back.
No, the reason why I struggle with paper is because it feels like it won’t last. Anything that I have ever written on paper has been lost or forgotten. It isn’t searchable or remixable. It can’t link to the other pieces of paper or provide better context for the words written on the page with video. It is dead in a way that writing and thinking on computers will never be for me.
And yet, I can’t deny its value.
I can’t deny that putting away the computer at strategic times and jotting a few drawings or notes on a piece of paper can be transformative for myself and for others. I can’t deny that there are millions of people who (still) prefer to plan and write on paper instead of using a computer or mobile device. Most of all, I can’t deny that it is actually the ephemeral nature of paper that gives it its power. By being a temporary medium, anything that is done using paper makes it special in a way that a copy of a copy of a copy of a google doc will never be.
But, still I struggle.
And because of this struggle, I don’t tend to write the objectives on a piece of chart paper to post for the duration of the session. I also don’t tend to provide stickies for notes or questions. Instead, I look for any solution for contributing and collaborating that doesn’t require the use of paper. I do this because I want to capture all of the learning. I want to tell the story of what happened and help folks to share it outside of the room.
But, the real story is the interplay of paper and technology, the intentional choice to use one or the other for a specific task.
If I were smart, I would figure out how to make the two talk to one another. I would ensure that any time someone made an intentional choice to reach for paper and pen that it could be incorporated into everyone’s broader learning. I would encourage people to document their learning in any way they see fit and then make it authentically a part of the “permanent record” using the tools we have to do so.
I am not, yet, smart enough to do this. But some very smart folks are helping me by carrying around things like this: