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Live Mesh + Scanner = No Paper!

It’s the summer, so in addition to relaxing, I’m finally making huge progress on something I call Project Scan.

I just finished my 12th year teaching, so this means I’ve created and accumulated thousands of documents. No matter how organized I am, I’m still left with piles of paper: student records, readings on educational equity, a random lesson plan a colleague gave me. Some of these piles make their way into binders; others stay in file cabinets; still others are on a table in my classroom, ready for me to organize them when I get back in August.

Up until now, I’ve had two strategies to organize this whole mess: (1) Recycle stuff quickly, (2) Get as much of the stuff in electronic form as possible.

I’m good at throwing stuff out. My belief is, If a paper document is important enough, it’ll come back to you. One year I tested this philosophy by never taking handouts at staff meetings, and I have to say, nothing horrible happened.

On the other hand, I haven’t much liked converting documents into electronic form. Before Google Docs, my colleagues would habitually print out their work and then wonder why nobody could find it the following year. Even when they sent an email attachment, it would get lost. When kids are buzzing around you, who wants to click the attachment, download, find the precise folder, and save?

I knew I needed to do something about this, so last year, I splurged ($339 on Amazon) and bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap S510. I like gadgets, especially when they’re helpful, and so far, this scanner has been wonderful. It can scan stacks of 50 pages at a time, and it’s very quick. Immediately, I resolved to get my piles of paper down to a reasonable size.

Everything was going great until I hit a snag: Where should I save these files? After all, the scanner could connect with only one of my three computers (home computer, school computer, laptop) at a time. It would make sense that everything would go on my school computer. But what if I’m planning a lesson at home and need a document I scanned at school? What if a parent called me in the evening to inquire about her child’s student records? And what if I wanted to scan my bills and personal documents?

For a few months, I lugged the scanner around, coming up with a crazy system whereby all three of my computers housed some of the documents. I found myself holding on to documents waiting to scan them in a different location. That meant organizing papers to get ready to organize them. I got anxious. After all, shouldn’t technology make things simpler?

Enter Live Mesh. I’ve already written about how Live Mesh can organize your Microsoft Office documents. With a high-speed scanner, Live Mesh’s power becomes even more apparent. It means that every piece of paper — a colleague’s hand-written notes, a student’s essay, your electric bill — can disappear.

Better still, saving it on my home computer means saving it to all of my three computers. No matter what machine I’m at, the document is in the same place. When a student asks for something, it’s nice to be able to find it in less than five seconds.

I’m happy to report that I finished up Part 1 of Project Scan today. All of last year’s school documents are safely stored on my Live Mesh. What’s Part 2, you ask? Stay tuned!

Please share your brilliant insights!