Students in my board collect over 17,000 sheets of paper in handouts in their k-12 school careers. Most Canadian schools are probably similar...
Every piece of finished paper has measurable environmental costs: http://bit.ly/p9wpqq
We burn a 60 watt light bulb continuously for 159.1 years so that we can hand out those handouts, one for each student... we burn plutonium to keep them in handouts.
We put 76.5 kilos of carbon into the atmosphere for each student who goes through our system... just so we can give them handouts.
Each student consumes almost one whole tree in paper in handouts from k-12. Think of the tens of thousands of students going through the system. We deforest just to give them handouts.
At 6 cents per copy that's $1020 per student during their k-12 career. Over one thousand dollars spent on EACH student, just so we can give them handouts.
That's all end-product related. The paper industry is one of the most polluting industrial processes we maintain, even giving oil a run for its money: paper pollution.
Last year, the wood/pulp/paper industry produced more particulate pollution than oil production in Canada. Only stone and metal based heavy industry were worse polluters.
In addition to all those handouts, I haven't even gotten into the millions of dollars we spend on the tons of paper in text books, all supporting that polluting paper pulp industry.
I don't doubt an electronic solution has its own problems, but I can't believe that with some intelligent design, we couldn't come up with a dependable, tough tablet device that would take paper and the massive polluting industry out of our schools. A simple reading and data entry device along the lines of a Kobo or Kindle would end the tyranny of paper; we're close to this technologically now.
Individualizing technology in education isn't just more efficient, it's cheaper and more ecological too.