So, here’s a question. Do I hand out hard copies of the syllabus in my classes this morning? Or do I put the document on Moodle and give students the option of printing it out?
I’m torn. On the one hand, there’s force of habit. But that’s not all. I think there’s some value in giving students their own copies of a common text like a syllabus. They can make notes, highlight due dates, shift their gaze down from the screen at the front of the room to their own copy on their desk.
On the other hand, there’s the environmental argument. What about the trees? And again, that’s not all. If I’m committed to testing the uses of digital tools in the classroom, might I not test the need for a hard copy of the syllabus? Well, maybe. I’m not sure all students are ready to let go of the printed page.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a bit of time with students reading digital books. Some of the books in our library are available only digitally, and students have expressed discomfort with them. Navigating these digital versions of print books is not yet intuitive for these students, and many have said they prefer to hold a book in their hands rather than navigate it on a screen.
Of course, a syllabus is different from a book. I am accustomed to projecting a copy onto a screen and referring to it as I begin a class meeting to help myself and students recall what we’ve done in the course and where we’re going next. Yet in addition to its utility as a common reference point, a syllabus is also a tool for individual students to use as they move through a course. And since I have seen students use a physical version of the syllabus to help them organize their time, I’ll be a the photocopier this morning.