How to Print Essays at the Convenience Store

netprintAs usual when I teach, I hope my students learn as much from me as I do from them.  Last week, the first draft of their essays was due.  Most of these kids are either in a home-stay situation or in a dorm, neither of which allows much access to a printer, so they ran to the computer center at school to print out their essays.  However, a few of the students had their essays ready, so I asked them about their method of printing. It turns out that the convenience stores, which are omnipresent in Tokyo, have a system called NetPrint.

The first step is to pick your favorite brand of convenience store – most likely the one closest to your house. Then go on their website, which will be only in Japanese, to sign up for a NetPrint account.  Once you are signed up, you can upload whatever type of document you want to the site and in return, you will get a confirmation ID.

Then you can go to any convenience store at which you have signed up for an account.  So if you’ve signed up for the Lawsons account because it’s closest to your house, you can use the Lawsons store right by your office or school as well.  It’s only one program for every branch of the shop.

The NetPrint machines in the shops often speak a little English on their touch-screens.  All you have to do is enter your confirmation number and the document you’ve uploaded will print.  You can’t edit from the convenience store machine, but you can change some formatting.  If you don’t upload the document, but have it on a USB key in PDF format, that’s okay too.  You can’t print a .doc or .xls, but you can print a PDF from the key.

You pay right at the machine, inserting coins as needed. It’s 10 yen ($.10) per page for black and white, 20 yen ($.20) per page for color.

To my students, I say sorry – no more excuses for an unprinted essay.  To everyone else, I say, geez, I love this city.  What a system!

Writing – Teaching It Is An Art

Besides teaching part time at the International Secondary School, I’m also teaching freshman composition at Temple University’s Japan campus.  Today was my second class of the semester.  What a total blast!

First of all, I could go on and on about the elements of good writing forever.  But get me up in front of a class of students who HAVE to be there to get credit – and who have actually paid to be there, and I’m on fire.

In the first half of the class, we had fun discussing the two assigned essays they read.  And I do say “we” discussed them – it wasn’t just me in front lecturing.  In fact, we rearranged the tables in the room to make them discussion-friendly, as my dear mentor-professor, Dr. Dulce Gray, taught me to do.  The students participated beautifully and we had lively back-and-forth chats about the articles about which they will be writing.

Then, I gave a mini-lecture on the value and necessity of the thesis statement.  It was very brief – perhaps three minutes.

After that, the real fun began.  I broke the class into four groups of three and made them stand in the four corners of the room.  On a piece of paper  each group wrote a topic – it could be anything: beer, children, movies, libraries – anything.  They left the paper on the table and moved clockwise to the next group’s paper.  On the next group’s paper, they had to devise a thesis statement about that topic and write it.  Then I made them move clockwise around the room again, and repeat the exercise.  They did it one more time so they each looked at each topic.

More fun ensued.  I asked each group in turn to give me their favorite thesis statement written on the page.  I wrote it on the board, and devised a quick outline of a potential paper that could be written using that topic and that thesis.  It was off-the-cuff silliness: on the topic of schools, one group wrote that Japanese school-girls’ skirts should be longer so as to keep the sexual urges of men at bay.  On the topic of  food, we had a good time with a thesis about fast food and obesity rates.  I mentioned defining terms such as “fast food” and even “obesity” for their readers.  I did all of this while jumping around, talking, writing on the board, challenging the students to think harder, think deeper and have a general blast.  It was two of the fastest hours I have had in a while.

Call me a geek all you want, but I love this.  I love the challenge of shaping these first-year students into good writers.  I love the challenge of making them think. I love the way they grow in only 13 weeks.  And I love writing.  I love writing enough to be overjoyed to share it with others.

This is who I am.