Copier Down,…

It is time for all schools to have machines that are reliable and up to the task of making hundreds of copies every day. Really. No matter what other technology they talk about for classrooms and schools, it is still a great day when the damned copier works. If they can put a rover on Mars,…

I know from years of experience how frustrating a malfunctioning or broken down copier can be at a school. It is singularly disruptive to the educational process.

Picture this: I am a science teacher: middle school–five classes a day–for a total of 148 students. I plan a science lesson that is standards-based and comes directly from the state-recommeneded and district-adopted science kit curriculum program for which I have receieved over thirty hours of training–not to mention that I have taught this kit and this very lesson for the past six years. It is a terrific lesson and critical to the flow of the unit and the students’ understanding of the BIG IDEAS. Let’s consider this as the linchpin lesson for this part of the unit.

However, when I go to copier the afternoon before the lesson is scheduled, I discover that the copier is down. Arrrgh!

DOWN. Broken. Dead as a doornail. So far gone, that not even the remarkable Vanessa, school secretary extrordinaire, can bring it back to life. It needs professional resuscitation, and that is gonna take a day or two.

Please take into consideration that this is a lesson that REQUIRES a handout, or a worksheet, or a form for data collection, or extensive data for each student or for each group. Please understand that I have but 47 minutes each period to work my instructional magic, so there is no time for students to “copy” the information from the board by hand–not to mention that this would be an incredible waste of time and should be banned from modern schooling.

And, to top it off, there are three colleagues lined up right now behind me at 4:30 p.m., and about twenty to thirty more who will discover the copier’s unfortunate and untimely demise when they arrive at school the next morning–some getting there as early as 6:30 a.m. just so they can complete preparation for the day, which of course, includes copying.

So, I ask again: Why can’t we have machines in every one of our schools that are capable of handling the important and time-critical copies that teachers of many subjects need to reproduce day after day? A common office copier is not up to the job. This is heavy-duty production going on here, even in a relatively small school. And, all of our programs rely on what we call black-line masters from which the hundreds of copies are made. Gone are the days of workbooks. One of my science lessons may require three pages for every child. With 150 kiddoes, that equals 450 copies for a lesson that stretches over two days of class time.

I started teaching in 1972 when a hand-cranked ditto machine was the new great thing. At least teachers no longer had to produce their own “masters” for the machine from some gel substance–a process about which more veteran teachers used to regale us.  By then there were commercially produced “masters” and special paper that could be used for one to imprint their own images and letters. Eventually, we got a machine that used heat to create a master from any black and white page. The old ditto machine was replaced by an electric machine that started to life with the push of a button. Things were really humming then.

A little over a decade ago, I had to laugh when a person at DuPont suggested that she fax over a copy of something to me at my school.  Most schools did not have fax machines at that time; businesses had had them for years. It often takes public schools a while to catch up on technological advances. But, copying is nothing new. It just needs to be brought out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st century reality of schools and teaching and production capacity. It would be money well-spent. Just ask any teacher.

[Wishing the best to all of my education friends and colleagues who begin a new school year tomorrow morning. Have a great year! I think of you every day. Your success and satisfaction mean the world to me.]

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30 Responses to Copier Down,…

  1. Gilda says:

    Amen-WORKING copies are something any brain trust running things SHOULD be able to get right!!

  2. John Young says:

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

  3. Mike O. says:

    Greetings Ms. Jenner.

    Almost every school has multiple devices that can copy, print, or scan. So every school should take responsibility for working out a pre-planned backup method of producing copies while the main copier is down.

    DCET has an annual survey of technology devices in schools,which includes a per-school inventory of printers (unfortunately not copiers though). This inventory should be enhanced to include copiers and all the various copy/print/scan devices, listing their model numbers and capabilities. All devices should be configured so they can be shared over the school’s network.

    The first thing to do is see if that document is available on the web or on your computer, so you can just send it to a regular printer without looking for a copier. If you have to, send your print jobs to the printer on the principal’s desk or in the main office.

    With a little advance planning, there should be no shortage of ways to print documents and make copies. According to DCET, Red Clay has 1,121 printers in schools, and 286 document cameras, which I am pretty sure can send an image of the document to a printer. Schools also tend to have scanners and multi-function machines (not listed on the survey) that can also make copies or send copies to printers.

    For overnight assignments you can also post your documents somewhere and let students download them, either at home or from a school computer attached to a printer. This might be an excellent time for teachers to familiarize themselves with the document attachment feature of eSchoolPLUS. True, not every family has Internet access at home, but providing the electronic document would be a good start.

    Ask the District to negotiate same-day copier service. If multiple districts consolidated their copier contracts they’d have even more leverage on the vendors. Perhaps DSEA locals can work with their schools and districts on this in the interest of copier availability.

    Previously, I’ve been thinking about how to improve paper workflow. Nowadays, most copiers are also scanners – they work by first scanning your document, then printing it. So when a teacher makes a copy, the copier should automatically drop a PDF copy of that document in the teacher’s computer folder. From there, the PDF is available for the teacher to send it to another printer, upload it to HAC or other website, or email it to a parent or student.

    This is a simple capability that probably already exists in many school copiers. If not, requirements should be added so that new copiers include this capability.

  4. Frederika says:

    Holy Cow. All we want is a freakin’ copier that can handle the workload. It is impractical as all get out to print 100 pages on some printer. If the copier isn’t working, then the main scanner doesn’t work either. Most schools have gone to zone printers–one for every cluster of 4-8 rooms, and they don’t all work reliably. I know that you are just trying to be helpful, Mike o., but (a) I was just trying to make a point. (b) The everyday, run-of-the-mill teacher (like me) does not have the time to jump through all these hoops and deduce all of these solutions. It’s 7:20 and the kids will be here in five minutes. (c) You are assuming a level of organization, strategic devotion, technologic advance, and man power that does not exist in the schools of my experience–and I know a heck of a lot of schools. We actually have pretty good copier repair service at my home school. However, you take your ticket and get in line and the copier guy will be there when he gets to you in the queue. Meanwhile, the copier is down. If your copier needs a part, then the wait may be for a day or a week. We are not looking for multi-faceted and nuanced solutions–just want a copier that works.

  5. Mike O. says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted sympathy, not solutions.

  6. Frederika says:

    Sympathy welcome, but not desired. What I want, what teachers want, is for the school districts to provide machinery that can hold up to the onslaught of copying of worthwhile materials tied to instruction that are key components of district-selected curriculum. Your standard office copier is not up to the task. Heavy-duty machines would be most helpful. Did not mean to slight your suggestions; they do not seem practical under the currtent circumstances. Tell you what–I will copy and discuss your suggestions with IT and tech folks tied to our schools and see what we can come up with. If this looks like a practical remedy, we can try it out in a few schools. I do appreciate your input.

  7. Gilda says:

    It is painfully obvious that some of the above commenters have never been dependent on a school copier to help them through their day……

  8. Mike O. says:

    I am appalled to find out some teachers are waiting until the last minute, then standing in a copier line (whether the copier is working or not). Teachers should almost never make copies off a paper original – those blackline masters are almost certainly available in electronic format. Ideally you should just hit Print from your desk and then you are free to do something else instead of wait in a copier line. A hundred pages doesn’t seem to take that long when you are doing something else instead of watching it print.

    But if copiers and other printers also need to be upgraded, fine. I’d start by contacting Wayne Hartschuh to see if he can upgrade his technology survey to capture copy/scan/print capabilities along with model numbers and service ratings of these machines. Then at least we’d know where we are.

  9. Frederika says:

    I will write this off to the difference between visionaries from the outside and folks on the inside. Oh, if it were that easy. School technology is not what it should or could be. I have been saying for years that McDonald’s has higher technology overall than many schools. Many blackline masters are not available, not readily available, or not made available to teachers in electronic form. The link between some printers and the copier exists in some schools, but this can be fraught with its own set of difficulties. It is not that we teachers are stupid or gluttons for punishment. This is the way of the world in many schools. We may be ignorant of the possibilities, but in most cases, it is not in our perview or authority to initiate change outside of negotiated agreements. For God’s sake, we just got classroom phones a few years ago.

  10. Ellen says:

    The other thing that Mike doesn’t understand is: a) printer toner cartridges are way more expensive than copier toner, so we are encouraged not to print multiple copies on our printers, and b) what if you send a job to the copier and it gets a paper jam- which happens often- it will just sit there until someone clears it and then the person next in line will probably find you and kill you! and c) at least in elementary school we have limited times in the day to get to the copier. It would be nice if each of the kids had an ipad or laptop and then we wouldn’t have to copy it!

  11. Having been in both situations (outside and inside) I have some musings from both sides. As a teacher coach, I think teachers need two levels of professional development: level 1 is called “plan B.” What to do when the network or the copier goes down. Teachers do not have the option of saying, “sorry kids, the copier is down, we can’t have class.” No matter how abundant the copiers are, this will always be a problem. There are powerful lessons that can be done with journaling (and I know your PD has included some of it!) We in professional development have a responsibility to show teachers how to minimize dependence on the copier.

    The second level is professional development on using the copier. Sounds strange, but how many teachers are trained to use the thing? And, how many paper jams occur because doors are slammed, paper is incorrectly loaded, or paper jams are cleared incorrectly? Also, how many teachers know how to change the toner?

    Like always, there is no abracadabra wave of the wand. I do think a systematic solution to make the copier a useful tool and not an instrument of anxiety and panic is worth a schoolwide discussion,

    • Frederika says:

      Interesting comments. Journaling is great. Conservation of pages was always a goal of mine and part of the plan. And, I quickly learned that one always had to have a Plan B. But there are lessons and projects that require individual copies. Of course proper use of the copier is essential. It is a machine and like any machine has very specific requirements for optimum performance. The BIGGEST problem, however, is that schools are generally equipped with office copiers not intended for the heavy-duty use they get in schools.

  12. Uncle Bob says:

    Oh, wait a minute. We forgot a very important part of this issue. Many, many schools put stringent limits on how many copies teachers can make in a day, a week, or a month. Or limits on paper availability. The copiers have counters on them; teachers each get a code; supposedly someone monitors use. Teachers recieve warnings and written citations for exceeding their quota. Teachers are known to purchase their own paper supplies just to do the job they are assigned to do in the way they know it needs to be done.

  13. teacherx says:

    Of course they are sometimes waiting to the last minute. My day is filled to capacity with very little time to devote to copying. My 45 minute planning time is eaten up by taking kids to gym, picking kids up from gym, using the bathroom, catching up on school, district, and parnet emails, and getting ready for my next round of classes–cleaning up and handing out materials, etc. There is often a line at the copier when I get there, somethimes I have to leave right at the end of the teahcer day to pick up my own kids.

  14. jax2816 says:

    Wow so much information here!

    If we had textbook and workbook money this conversation probably wouldn’t need to take place. However, we are expecting teachers to engage and educate all students with no books, no workbooks, and limited paper supplies. Some textbook companies and other online vendors do supply masters in electronic form, but if there is no money for computers how can we justify the expenditure for online subscription services like that? I would rather have classroom supplies than have a place to easily print worksheets.

    Networked and zoned printers are nice, but not the answer. Our district won’t repair printers, and if all the teachers are printing to a zoned printer it has a much higher chance of breaking down and taking at least a month to replace. The copiers can be but are NOT networked to send documents from classrooms. If they were, someone would need to spend the bulk of their day refilling paper, replacing toner, and clearing jams, not to mention sorting and delivering all the print jobs. And sadly many buildings keep paper and toner under lock and key, and teachers are not allowed to refill or replace either. If we are “caught” using a library or office printer or copier, much less an administrative one, we are disciplined.

    Many buildings do have a tech coordinator who is supposed to be able to handle basic issues, but that person is often a teacher with a full course load. And what does it matter if the teacher is making copies for the same day or next week? At the start of the school year, all your teachers are running all their outlines, parent letters, safety sheets, etc., and if the machine goes down THEN… Heaven help us all.

    No, the answer cannot be “better planning” or “print 450 copies on your ink jet desktop printer”. We do need better supplies, including a working faculty copier, in every building.

  15. Frederika says:

    You reminded me: At one time–maybe three-four years ago–schools in my home district had to submit a request for toner for copiers and printers when it was needed. They were not allowed to have more than one cartridge on hand at a time.

  16. Janice says:

    To Eddie, I agree with you regarding PD for the copiers. If you are going to use the copier, you should be trained in how to unjam paper, replace the toner (fortunately in my school there is usually ample refills in a locked closet) and to report immediately any other problem. Fredericka, every school should have a heavy duty copier to handle the volume of copies that need to be made by all the teachers in a building.

  17. Mike Matthews says:

    Hey, everyone. Let me join in here. Mike O: I’ve followed your posts for some years and I respect your enthusiasm for public education. That being said, I’m going to be a bit more direct than Frederika here. Too often your posts are laced with such complicated hoops of fire that they don’t actually seem to be based in any practical reality. Someone could make a relatively simple and innocuous comment on a blog opining on the unreliability of, say…a school copy machine and you turn it around into some thesis on what teachers SHOULD be doing. You do this a lot. Teachers SHOULD use their in class printers to make copies (obviously not realizing we are advised AGAINST that because the cost of class printer toner cartridges FAR exceeds the costs of printing them on the heavy-volume school copier). Teachers SHOULD be updating HAC fifty times a day to keep parents up-to-date on junior’s progress, not realizing that most teachers already do an adequate enough job of keeping parents informed. Teachers SHOULD be using their time more wisely so they don’t have to be so pressed at the last minute to make copies, not realizing that there are so many requirements on us because of RTTT, PLCs, CCSS, DPAS-IIR, DCAS, that we are often just playing catch up to get down to the job we were hired to do — teach!

    You’re talking about a DCET survey on the number of printers in school districts and some other stuff I can’t even get into right now. You make good points, Mike, but you do yourself no favors in offering up such argument to a kindergarten teacher who just needs to quickly make 20 copies of a cut and paste activity for the letter “M” because class starts in seven minutes and the copier is down.

    I could really go on and on here, but other people have answered far better than I have. All I’m saying is you’re definitely a valuable part of the dialogue. We need active and engaged parents like you. I’m just a little worried that in all the technical speak you offer on the blogs, you simply don’t get it. And I say that with all respect. I really don’t think you get it. Frederika’s post was actually quite simple. A school has a piece of equipment that should be working and it’s not. How do we remedy this in a timely and as-cost-effective manner as possible? Printing on a local or network printer is generally not an option as the materials many teachers have are from books whose licensing agreements do not allow for them to be published online, therefore not being able to be printed from a computer.

    One of my favorite quotes I use in my classroom is “Don’t be simple. Be complex.” I’ve actually got this quote blown up on my wall in my own handwriting. With you, I’d modify my quote. Be a little less, complex, Mike. Not every response has to have a ten-paragraph dissertation on data management and dashboards and how teachers could do their job better (something you do quite frequently). On this and many other issues, Mike, you really just need to keep it simple. The copier doesn’t work. It needs to be fixed. What are the current obstacles to getting it fixed and how do we overcome them?

    Good conversation here, all!

  18. Mike O. says:

    Mike M. – don’t patronize me. I’ve worked with those stupid machines longer than you have been teaching. And ever since then I’ve been working with computers and networks. So please don’t tell me I don’t get it.

    Yes, when I see teachers hitting themselves in the head with a hammer, I try to tell them how nice it would be to stop. I’d rather they spent the time teaching our kids. I know most teachers are too busy to save themselves, but you and Ms. Jenner are leadership. That’s why I’m posting this info here. I thought there was possibly some interest in solutions. Parents can help, as long as you don’t resist them.

    And if you can, please let me know the names of a few programs that allow copying but not electronic storage. I’d like to check out their terms.

  19. Marc says:

    An outsider here who stumbled on this blog. I have worked in schools with technology and now actually work for a copier/printer company and handle many school accounts. You have to remember that MFPs (copiers) are machines with lots of moving parts. Cheap paper, slamming doors, yanking paper jams out and general poor use of the machine will definitely cause more problems than it will fix but those things are not entirely to blame. Often we see schools put out RFPs for copiers and service. These RFPs range in their detail and some are obviously better than others. One thing that happens is that a school district will decide where they want devices and what specs they want on the device. As the vendor we submit our pricing without the opportunity to suggest any specs. Sometimes the specs included in the RFP don’t match the volume coming from the device so the device is underpowered and will fail more often. I have plenty of school accounts that have very few problems with their copiers but I also have a school that somehow broke a door right off the copier so we see it all. Having a plan B or a backup copier or printer for times when a repair might take a day or two is a good idea. We actually will bring in a spare device if a repair is going to take too long.
    Good luck to you all this school year.

  20. Frederika says:

    Marc: You are so right. Cheap paper and/or generic toner cartridges, rather than the copier manufacturer’s brand, can cause problems with both copiers and printers. Districts have found that out the hard way. Copier capacity is a frequent topic during liaison meetings between the locals that represent teachers and their respective districts and also during contract negotiations. Unfortunately, RFP particulars are controlled by the district and user feedback is not asked for.

    It is too bad that ther districts do not ask for recommendations from the vendors who are probably the real experts in copier use, location, and specifics.

    And, trust me, experienced teachers always have a Plan B. You learn that by the 2nd or 3rd week on the job! My school always did training on the copier use and remedies procedures. The school secreatary was the ultimate “fixer”, but there were always a few champs on the staff who knew how to bring “Bertha” back to life.

  21. Mike O.: There just seem to be so many points in your response to me above that are debatable. Like above you tell me not to patronize you on the topic of computers and networks. Anyone who read my comment above would take from it that I wasn’t arguing your take on networks and computers. I was arguing your assumed authority as a classroom teacher who often has these challenges day in and day out. You are not a classroom teacher (from what I understand) so it just seems a bit disingenuous for you to claim some authority on the topic.

    And your comment about interest in solutions. Yes, we are very interested in solutions. But when someone offers solutions that have little grounding in practicality, then I feel it’s our job to, perhaps, set the record straight and just get out there what we feel the best ideas and most practical solutions are because, y’know, this is our job. I wouldn’t dare claim to offer solutions to a copier and network guru.

    And who said anything about resisting parent help? I surely didn’t. Parent help that isn’t based in much practical reality should be graciously listened to and thanked and then perhaps kindly refused, which is sort of what I did above. It sounds nice and all, but it ain’t ever happening with me. And I’m a pretty organized guy when it comes to planning and preparation.

    As far as copying and electronic storage, many of our teachers use purchased materials from teacher supply stores. I suppose, theoretically, they could scan in the contents of the DOZENS — potentially hundreds — of books in their collections and then store them electronically, but, again, this is a matter of time. What time do we have to do that when all Mrs. Mcgillicuddy wants to do is make 20 copies of the cut-and-paste ditto. Please. Trust me on this. I’m not trying to be patronizing.

  22. Mike O. says:

    Mike M., I think you get that this isn’t really about copiers. It’s about being hidebound. As a parent I simply cannot have that attitude in my children’s schools. Improvement in teacher working conditions, if it comes, will apparently have to come from the top down.

    At this point I don’t even think you understood what I suggested, which you proved in your comments. But there you are dismissing it in some kind of tribal response.

    One lesson learned – I’m not letting teachers get any more mileage out of griping about how little time they have or how little support they get.

  23. Janice says:

    To Mike M., To quote you, ” As a parent I simply cannot have that attitude in my children’s schools,” What is the attitude exactly for which you are referring? Often times, teachers have “a-hah” moments where they discover something (while they are eating lunch at their desk) through their browsing on the computer ,that will really engage their students in the next lesson, thereby requiring a working copier on the floor where your classroom is located. I can’t tell you the number of times, just this year, when I have run from one floor to the next (on my lunch 1/2 hour), then from one copier to the next and am not able to get one stupid copy to use as an overhead or as a handout to give to the students. It would be nice to know that you can go to a copier and not have to make sacrifices to the copier gods for it to run. Period!

    You could only a lucky parent to have your child in Mike M.’s class. He is a hardworking, caring HUMAN being who happens to be a successful teacher of children. You should really walk in a teacher’s shoes for one day to appreciate what teachers do for children everyday. You could not handle it.

  24. Mike O. says:

    It would be nice to know that you can go to a copier and not have to make sacrifices to the copier gods for it to run. Period!

    Do you want to find ways to make that happen, or would you rather just complain about it?

    You should really walk in a teacher’s shoes for one day to appreciate what teachers do for children everyday.

    Or… teachers could COMMUNICATE with parents and give them details about your frustrations rather than just assertions. Parents are eager to be your allies and help you sweep away any obstacles preventing you from doing your best work with our children. It isn’t helpful to be dismissive, patronizing, and say things like “you could not handle it.”

    And speaking of details, can anybody give me the names of a few of those instructional programs that let you copy materials but not store them electronically? I’d like to review their terms of use.

  25. Frederika says:

    This conversation has taken a weird turn. No need to get one’s knickers in a twist. I cannot stand to have teachers and the profession of teaching insulted or laid low. Brings out the Tiger Mom in me.

    My mother always told me that if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. This is tough. Sorry, Mom.

    Mike O.: I said that I would follow up with IT and tech folks at schools and districts to review your suggestions. I will. I told you that I appreciated your suggestions. I do. I do not understand all the bits and pieces, but I will, after talking with appropriate parties.

    I do feel that your reaction to teachers’ reactions to your comments is over the top and a tad snarky. “didn’t realize you wanted sympathy, not solutions”; “appalled to find out some teachers are waiting until the last minute”; “I know most teachers are too busy to save themselves”; ” It’s about being hidebound.” (meaning inflexible–unwilling to consider change)

    “As a parent I simply cannot have that attitude in my children’s schools.” This statement sounds so imperious–rather like Queen Victoria’s, “We are not amused.” Should we take steps to alert said teachers to your wishes?

    Finally, this statement was the one that really got my goat: “Improvement in teacher working conditions, if it comes, will apparently have to come from the top down.” Nice one. Touche. I get it. Chalk one up for you.

    Really? My colleagues and I work every day advocating on behalf of kids, classrooms, schools, and education employees. I would guess that employee-driven change would represent change from the bottom up. School improvements come from every direction in the world of public education: from the bottom up, organically, laterally, and yes, plenty from the top down.

    But rarely do they come from outside. I am pretty confident that my experience matches that of other teachers. Your sometimes subtle, but unrelenting tone of insult and superiority is not appreciated and not welcomed. IMHO

  26. Frederika says:

    On the other hand, this is the greatest amount of traffic that I have ever had on this blog. Woo-hoo!

  27. Frederika makes a good point above and I suppose I’ll stop after this.

    All I’ll say is I feel you’re using a lot of generalization, Mike O., in your assessment of what we do as teachers. It seems to me — based on your very clear comments above — you’re coming from the assumed position that most teachers are lazy who — if they only had better time management skills — could get their stuff together and better serve their students and thereby send those DCAS scores through the roof. Again, I’m making this assessment based on the cumulative effect of your comments above. It’s very clear you’ve got at least a MILD distaste for this profession in your attempt to overcharacterize many of us as being poor managers of our time. And I suppose I have no way to come back from those opinions because I just don’t see it those opinions being backed up by any observable fact.

    I’ll stop now, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.

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