Before Google Docs, the No. 1 thing excuse my students gave me on due dates was, “My printer didn’t work.” Or: “My printer ran out of ink.” Or: “I don’t have a printer and didn’t have time to go to my friend’s house.”
As teachers, we know that some of those excuses are just that: excuses. But for some students, it’s a legitimate concern.
No matter how much I replied, “If you don’t have a printer at home, it’s your responsibility to print it here before class begins,” I found that the same (underperforming) students would inevitably come in the next due date (late or right on time) with the same excuse.
Instead of repeating that teacher-y refrain, I looked for a solution to this mess. And I think I found it: PrinterShare. Although Google Docs is still the best answer, if you’re not on Google yet or still prefer a hard copy of students’ final drafts, PrinterShare is a strong alternative.
PrinterShare lets you share the printer in your room so that students can print to it from anywhere with an Internet connection. This means they can print from their house, their friend’s house, the library, or even from their iPhone!
PrinterShare requires a quick download (Windows, Apple, and Linux are supported). Once you do that, the PrinterShare console comes up on your desktop. From there, you can name your printer and share it with your students.
The only hard part is that your students have to download the program at home. (This seems easy, but I’ve found that unless it’s LimeWire, some of my students struggle with this part.) Then, when they go to print their document on Microsoft Word, PrinterShare comes up as one of the available printers! All they have to do is search for your printer and press OK.
PrinterShare comes with some great options. For example, you can require that you approve requests before printing, which will decrease wasted paper from students who like to print their documents 100 times. On the other hand, the free version prints a cover page (like a fax) before the actual document, which is annoying.
One more annoying feature: In order for you to share your printer, your computer needs to be on all the time with PrinterShare running. (This might bother environmental folks.) You can choose to have it always running in the background, but then you run into possibly slowing down your computer.
Despite those problems, PrinterShare is still a great choice to offer your students. Instead of racing to school early to print their essay right at the last second, students can get some extra sleep knowing that their document will get to you safely.