We're done with 'em. Now what?

[this post is my contribution to Blog Action Day]

E-waste is an enormous environmental issue. Digital technologies such as computers and electronic gadgets are full of toxic metals and other harmful materials. Proper disposal or recycling of these technologies is imperative.

Educators can't claim to be ignorant anymore. The deleterious effects of e-waste are increasingly well-known. As public agencies, schools have a special responsibility not to harm future generations through irresponsible jettisoning of old computer equipment.

For every school district that has a disposal / recycling plan in place, there's probably another that doesn't. There are countless stories of old computers stacked up in school warehouses and storerooms. Similarly, for every school leader that's struggling with what to do with old equipment, there are several who have never even thought about the issue.

Ask your school leaders tomorrow: "What do we do with our old computing equipment?" If they don't know, help them find out the answer. Investigate what really happens to the computers that get carted away. Even if you think they're being recycled, it may not be what you think.

My School Technology Safety and Security course at U. Minnesota included a computer disposal / recycling unit. I hope to create the same here at Iowa State. Additionally, I have begun making a conscious effort to reduce my technological footprint. It's very hard; I drool over every new cool technogadget that comes out. But, as I noted before, I've got too much stuff.

What are you doing personally to reduce your digital footprint? What are you doing professionally to help school leaders understand the scale and importance of the K-12 computer disposal issue? What are you doing academically to help students understand the technology-related environmental issues that their generation will face?

As Joel Barker notes, "No one will thank you for taking care of today if you have failed to take care of tomorrow."

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