20 July 2006

Paper Tigers

Ditto Machine by Firexbrat CC-BY-NC-ND
When I started teaching, this machine was a teacher's best friend. Do you youngsters out there recognize it? It's a mimeograph---a primitive sort of xerox machine. Teachers would make a purple stencil, load it onto a drum, crank the handle, and a fluid would be used to transfer the stencil onto paper. The fluid had a very keen odor. Many students (and teachers) enjoyed sniffing a fresh stack of papers. Ah, the good old days.

(As an aside, remember "Ditto" from the movie "Teachers"?)

The next machine to enter my teaching life was a risograph---the bastard offspring of a

DSCF3478 by Nottinghac CC-BY-SA

mimeograph and a legitimate copy machine. It could make far more copies more quickly, but still required a stencil. There seemed to be a continuous battle with &*@$#*! rolls of masters.

I now get to work with honest to goodness copy machines, which do have their glitches, but are much more user friendly. I had two new experiences with them today. One was to negotiate a contract for the new science kit center. All I can say is that Kinko's must be making a killing if it only costs half of a cent to make a copy. I'm very happy with the deal we're getting. Machine, supplies, service, and a quarter of a million copies a year for four grand.

My second interaction in Copyland today was not quite so pleasant. The district does have its own copy center: a room with two industrial-sized machines and two full-time clerical staff to run them. (Can you believe we pay people to just make copies?!) An order from the science staff at one school had been provided to the copy center and the person there just couldn't handle it. I provided copies of the new lab manuals and study guides. I even gave her a copy of the CD-ROMs that come with the new curriculum. She was incredibly flustered that she couldn't find the pages on the software and instead of making copies from the "hard" set I'd provided, she called to rail at me about how the publisher should give her electronic versions of each book separately. It was one of those times where I actually set the phone down and worked on my computer until I heard silence on the other end. "I'll get right on that!" I quickly replied and hung up. It took no more than ten minutes for me to make and deliver a set to her to use...but I felt really irritated by the whole thing. It seemed like she could have saved us three days of phone messages, e-mail, and in-person conversations by just making the set of master copies herself. Bah.

Will we still need so many copy machines in the future? Will classrooms eventually become paperless---sending and receiving assignments wirelessly? Who knows. There may still be another beast to master in copy room before I retire.


Anonymous said...

I had a professor in college who required us to turn in our papers typed on mimeograph sheets just in case he wanted to duplicate our papers and share them with the class. Even though it will horribly date me, I'll share that this was in 1985 and I owned a Mac (the first Mac!) and couldn't use it for my papers. Nightmare!

Every school I've worked in has had a Riso -- they scare me.

I like copiers. And, I treated myself and bought an all-in-one for my classroom last year. SOOOO nice to have it right there!

They've been talking about paperless societies for at least 15 years and I have seen no evidence that there is less paper in my life unless it is photographic paper. I don't print out many photos anymore so there is that.

The Science Goddess said...

I think that one of the reasons we may not be paperless in the schools anytime soon is that reading something in a digital format requires different strategies from print.

I wonder what the reading scores look like in those schools that have laptops and thumbdrives instead of textbooks?

HappyChyck said...

All my students had laptops last year, and I saw a MAJOR reduction in the number of photocopies I had to make. We weren't entirely paperless, though, because I still needed students to print off major/long writing assignments. It's too difficult for me to read 150 assignments off the screen.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Oooh, remember how you'd get purple ink all over your fingers (and then your clothes) from taking your stencil-- wrinkled, sometimes torn, off the canister of the mimeograph machine?

Oh, yeah. Good times!

Stephen said...

For the real story about copiers, listen to this story which details how Paul Bunyan made his own. An epic tale, if short.


The Science Goddess said...

I forgot about the purple fingers!

I do remember how nice it was when the ancillary materials that came with the text were already "pre-stenciled." I think I still have some of those purple books in my pile of resources. Maybe they'd be good candidates for the "Antiques Roadshow," but then, maybe I am, too!

graycie said...

Not only did I recognize the machine in your first photo, I remember that it was a snazzy new electric model -- I'd started with the hand-crank kind. That was about the time I saved up lots and lots and lots of money to buy a 4X6-inch calculator that would add, subtract, multiply, and divide so that I could stop figuring out grades with paper and pencil.

How ever did we do our jobs?