Sharing documents with others has been a part of most business and school offices for generations. The first method, the facsimile machine, came into prominence in the late 20th Century even though the idea comes from the mid-1800s.
After more than 100 years of innovation, change and improved communication infrastructures, including AT&T first sending photographs of then-President Calvin Coolidge to a receiver in England by radio wave in 1924, Xerox made its first compact and commercially viable fax machine using telephone lines in 1964. By the mid-1970s, the idea of sending a document from one location to another instantly became a part of our business, educational and personal cultures.
Modern fax machines are lighter (the first Xerox office model weighed 46 pounds) and easier to use, but the advent of the Internet, with its connectivity and ease of use, has taken fax machines off of the must-have equipment lists for most businesses and offices, include school offices.
The need for a fax machine has faded because a majority of our documents, already generated electronically, became transmittable via email attachment, shared Google Drive, networked servers and the like. However, there is still a need to change a paper version of a document into an electronic version, either for document storage or transmission.
Receipts, non-digital photos, hand-written documents, manually completed forms or simply an original paper document cannot be sent via email or shared on a website or through a shared folder without it first being changed into an electronic version of some type. And while electronic signatures are acceptable (and legal) in most situations requiring that verification in the United States, businesses based in other countries often do not have that option due to the laws of their country.
That’s where desktop scanning devices can assist in storing, sharing and sending documents quickly, easily and inexpensively. Most current large business copiers can scan documents and either send the scanned image to an accessible folder or send it by email. Portable scanners work in a similar manner by creating an electronic version of a document. Most send the scanned image to a computer while others have the ability to save documents to portable media such as flash drives or SD chips.
So, why spend money on a desktop or portable scanner when the copier/scanner is just down the hall or in the main office? The obvious first response is convenience. There are times when you cannot access your copier, have a quick document to scan and send immediately to someone or want the image saved in a specific format. Having a scanner on your desk or a portable scanner in your drawer allows you to stay in place, create the document while you are finishing up the email to send it or save it in various formats for a variety of uses.
Scanning odd-shaped documents like receipts, photos, tickets, etc. can be challenging on a copier/scanner, especially when you have to scan them in one place and then check your work back at your computer. Having that capability right on your desk, where you can adjust the way the scanner accepts the original and see the results immediately can save steps, time and frustration. Documents that require your signature can easily be sent once you have signed them.
Hand-held scanners have the ability to scan items that won’t fit in a traditional scanner’s document feeder or document glass. If you have an article that you want to share with your administrative team, coaches or assistants, you can move the hand-held scanner over the page, click and send. Photos, documents, yearbook pages, magazine or newspaper pages or tickets can all be easily scanned and stored for future use or shared with others.
Desktop scanners or portable scanners not only offer the convenience of scanning and sharing documents, but they also increase the opportunity to share papers, forms, signatures and photos. Turning any paper or flat object into an electronic version for archiving or distribution easily, quickly and accurately makes these devices worth the cost for any school leader.
Steffen Parker has worked with computers since the mid-70s and has been a Macintosh user since its introduction in 1984. Serving as an IT support person for the Vermont Principals’ Association and the Information Support Specialist for Vermont’s Lamoille North Supervisory Union, Parker supports computer use for adults working in education, administration, finance and publication including the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee where he also serves as the Performing Arts representative.