The Learning 2.0 School

Shifting Perceptions of Teaching and Learning in and out of the School Library

“Who printed this?”

Posted by Michelle Torrise on February 19, 2009

The scenario is, students from a History class are leaving the media center after spending an entire period online researching for their final papers.  As they leave, you notice a stack of paper in the printer bin.  You grab the stack only to notice that you are holding dozens of pieces of paper with only borders, headers, and black boxes printed on them.  You ask, “Who printed this?”    Students look at you with a blank expression and rush out of the room without saying a word.

You have explained to students how important it is to save paper and ink, and you have asked them to use the Print Preview function and print only those pages they need,  but this practice has not really caught on.  The majority of the students will hear you and try really hard not to print erroneous sheets paper, but accidents do happen.

Q:  What is the best solution for this problem?

A:  First, it’s important to show students how to cancel a print job, so if they do accidentally print 100 pages of nothing, they can fix the problem privately without embarrassment.  Next, consider including in your research model a policy that asks students to use an online printing service to edit webpage documents down to “what they actually want to print” before they print them.  My favorite for this purpose is PrintWhatYouLike.com.

A key factor in the usability of PrintWhatYouLike.com is that it’s fun, interactive, and asks of students to think through what they actually need and don’t need from a particular source.    As important, is that the process is built into your research model, which should (in part) ask students to evaluate the relevancy of their sources before they use them.   Students might ask, for example, ” Is this entire web page relevant, or do I need only a certain paragraph?”

Another factor is that you can save paper using PrintWhatYouLike.com even without editing a page down.  If I want to print a page from The Owl at Purdue, for example, I have the traditional option of selecting [File | Print Preview | Print].  I note that there are no blank header pages, so I print.  The document is 8 pages long.

When I use PrintWhatYouLike.com, I can print the same website pages, but the document is only 6 pages. Interesting.  The best part of this application is that I can select things that I don’t want to print, links to other web pages, blank spaces, or images and backgrounds. Or, I can print only two paragraphs from the document cutting out everything else on the page that I don’t need.   And, the process is as simple as,

PrintWhatYouLIke1. copy the URL for the site you would like to print
2. go to PrintWhatYouLike.com
3. select [New Page] option
4. paste your URL
5. select [Do It For Me] or [Remove] specific text
6. select [Print]

There are a few extra steps involved in this process; but, in the long run, this process will save students time because they will have already extracted only what they need from a source.

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