When I joined the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) from teaching, I was told several times that photocopying was dead.
I heard it from colleagues, from conference speakers, from EdTech companies at trade shows.
I must admit, I was a little incredulous.
Now don't get me wrong, I know that some of you will agree that photocopying is dead - because of your personal style, your subject, the tech and funds available to your school or the resources you've found and created. All power to you - of course digital resources are invaluable. Digital is the medium of choice for our students, because it's so ingrained in their day to day routines, and will no doubt be in their futures. And the raft of digital resources available to engage, support differentiation, assess and automate teacher workload are superb.
But I could not believe the seemingly comprehensive death knell for photocopying that I was hearing. Despite the hugely effective digital resources available, surely photocopying still has a place in the eco-system?
I used to photocopy all the time - it bookmarked my day, almost every day. I realised I was becoming a photocopying apologist. But why? Just because it was habit? Because I'd inherited department plans that used copies? I mulled it over and came to realise that there had been genuine and well-founded reasons why I chose to photocopy.
Firstly, it was more convenient. For fear the tech might go AWOL on a particular day, sometimes it was just easier to plan a paper based lesson. Or if trying to use the students own mobile devices, I didn't want to assume they all had access to the same tech. And sure, sometimes it was just a case of there weren't enough books in the cupboard (I was quite lucky to inherit a good collection of one-offs) and I needed to supplement.
But more than these practical reasons, I liked to photocopy because I realised that many students liked photocopies too. They liked having a tangible resource to engage with - not only in terms of reading from print as a break from screen time, but also bceause they could mark up and annotate the copy. Photocopies were helping them digest and absorb information. It was insane really how enlarging something to A3 and handing out the chunky pens or scissors could turn what might have been passive reading round the class to a lively and collaborative 'treasure hunt' or a higher order categorisation activity.
It's interesting as an ex-teacher being told what is dead in education, especially something you liked to use so regularly! For any resource, or means of delivery, all we can do is ask 'why am I doing this?' and as long as the answer is forthcoming and focussed on student progress, we need not mourn any technique or method.
About the Author:
Julie Murray is Education Licences Manager at CLA, which means she trains and educates licencees in schools, further and higher education institutions about CLA licences and how they fit in to the wider world of copyright. Prior to working at CLA, Julie was Head of History and Politics at an 11-18 comprehensive in London.