There IS a Printer and a Xerox Machine in Your Classroom That You Can't See!
by Dr. Rob Reilly
Most classrooms that have a computer also have a printer. In a typical classroom the printer is a cheap throw-in on a package deal---"buy this computer and get a free printer!" But that "free" printer usually proves to be well worth the price; it does not withstand the onslaught of child-use. It seems that printers in general, and cheap throw-in ones especially, create more problems than the computer or any of the software does---it's always jamming, it keeps running out of paper, it's constantly running out of ink. Yanking paper out of the paper track, restocking it with paper, and running to the office to get yet another printer cartridge is annoying; not to mention that it's time-consuming---becoming the "electronic janitor" is not part of a teacher's day job! But such-is-life with a cheap printer.
Wouldn't it be great if you could have a high performance printer in your classroom? Even better wouldn't it be terrific if you had a Xerox machine connected to your computer? With either of these devices connected to your computer the quality of printing will greatly improve. With either of these devices connected to your computer, you can load a ton of paper into the paper tray---wouldn't that be nice? You won't have to be limited to10-20 sheets before you need to reload the paper tray!
Even if you have a computer with no printer keep reading because there may be a printer in your room that you can't see---really! There may also be a Xerox machine in your room that you can't see! (And…there may be a scanner there too!) No kidding, all this stuff may be in your room but you can't see it.
If the computer in your room is connected to the Internet, and if there is a high performance printer connected to a computer somewhere else in your building, then you can use that high performance printer from your computer. And…if there's a Xerox machine in the building you can use that from your computer. This is all very possible. Let me explain how you can make-this-happen.
But first, I need to explain a bit about a LAN. A LAN is an acronym for local area network. If your school is connected to the Internet then you most likely have a LAN, which is a wire that goes from one computer to another and eventually to a techno-gizmo that connects your school to the Internet. That is an oversimplification, but my point is that each computer in your building is connected to the Internet because they are physically connected to each other. Given that each computer is able to get to any other computer, any computer can 'talk' to any other computer. This means that your computer can use the printer that another computer has plugged into it. If your computer has a poor quality printer and, let's say, the principal's secretary has a powerful high performance printer, then you can configure your computer to use the secretary's printer in the same way you use your dog-of-a-printer. Configuring your computer to recognize the secretary's printer is a 5-minute task, then configuring the secretary's computer to recognize your computer and allow his/her printer to be shared is another 5-minute task. But I'm not going to explain how to do that here, because if you don't know how to set-up shared resources on a LAN then you need to read up on it (it's time consuming), or have someone who is familiar with LANs do the configuration or show you how.
Now if you have a Xerox machine anywhere in your building, it too can be utilized as a shared resource in the same way you can share (use) the secretary's printer from your computer. The trick here is that Xerox machine needs to have a LAN card installed. Typically Xerox machines do not come with LAN cards so you'd need to call your Xerox service consultant and purchase a card (and have them install it). Then if you'd like to use the Xerox machine as a printer from your computer you'd just need to configure it as a shared resource.
The downside of this is that after you run a printing operation you'd need to send a student to the Xerox machine or to the high performance printer to get your material. Schools that use their LAN as I have described find that it works well. Teachers just need to be sure that the stack of Xeroxed papers does not include material from another teacher's printing operation. But this seems to be a minor organizational problem. It does appear that those school buildings that have explored what their LAN can do, in addition to connecting them to the Internet, have been pleased.
If you have a tech person on staff, ask them about what I have said here. But if you don't have a techie on-staff and/or if funds are tight, then ask your students if any of their parents are computer technicians. Chances are there's an expert out there among the parents. Chances are that they'd willingly donate some time to lead a short-term well-defined project such as sharing resources over your LAN.
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