Should Homework Go Digital?

August 9, 2012
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It seems that everything is switching from tangible to virtual. Letters have turned to email, photography is in your computer, and money is accessed through a credit card. One thing that has not changed for the majority of the world is homework. Perhaps it’s because the main advertisers of this controversy are children’s graphic shirts, with slogans like “homework kills trees” or “I love trees so I don’t do homework.” But just because homework uses paper doesn’t mean we should do it online or obliterate it altogether. Homework should stay on paper because of teachers’ preference, no real deforestation, and expenses.

Even though many things have become digital easily, it’s harder to modernize a person. We kids are used to all these electronics, and since we’re young and have much to learn, we can adapt to new electronics easily. Most teachers didn’t have the technology we have today, so they’re not used to it. Because they’re older, some may be immutable, as they have developed a teaching system that works, and do not want to change it. The ones that are open to change, however, still need to be taught. The Coronado Unified School found out that “Teachers using the new [digital] textbooks will also have to be trained. This should cost approximately $10,000.”

As mentioned before, many shirts have such phrases as “homework kills trees” on them. Even though there is some rudimentary logic behind the statement, there is no research behind this, and it is merely an excuse popular with youth to excuse themselves from homework. Yes, sadly we do need to cut trees down to make paper, but we’re hardly cutting down a forest. There are specific trees “harvested” to be cut down, called managed timberlands. As stated by Earth Answers, “The trees are grown to be made into products for human use. Not using paper in order to save trees is like not eating salad in order to ‘save’ vegetables.” As for the unrealistic nightmare we will run out of trees? That won’t happen. Trees are a renewable resource, and “More trees are destroyed by fire and insects than cut down to make paper,” as pointed out by Earth Answers. However, it was brought to my attention that trees need to be shipped and cut, which takes resources. I will admit this is true, but the process of making a computer is even more costly both to the environment and to your pocketbook. Paper can also be recycled completely and easily, unlike electronics.

Even though some people can afford a computer, many people can’t. The Coronado Unified School found out that providing a computer for all the teachers and students who cannot afford one would cost too much. As told by Gloria Tierney, “The district estimates it can provide about three teachers and 100 students with a device for between $30,000 and $50,000.” So I suppose it is possible to switch to electronics. However, this is an unrealistic solution, because who would pay for it? I doubt the school can, and parents would hardly want to pay for another child’s education. Raising this money would take much effort, which I hardly feel anyone will be motivated to do, especially since homework online is a luxury, not a necessity. Even if they did want to raise money on another’s behalf, it would take too much time to raise $50,000. Considering this school is pretty well off, most schools would have more than 100 students and 3 teachers that need some access to the internet, which would be even more costly.

Homework should stay on paper because we need to respect our teachers’ systems of work. Contrary to common belief, homework does not clear forests, and many people can’t afford switching from paper to digital, and their school can’t afford to provide that money. Homework has been on paper thus far, and until we can find a sustainable alternative, it should stay on paper. There is something to be said about having something physical in your hand, something you can touch and have, rather than something that can be erased completely with the touch of a button.





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