Teachers love handouts, for many they are the primary activity that students complete in a classroom. While there is nothing wrong with handouts they do cost a lot to make for printer and copier supplies. This then leads to the question of what happens to these handouts once they have been passed out to the students? Typically, about portion of the class will lose the handout before the end of the period and most students will complete the handout and submit as requested by the teacher. The teacher then grades the assignment and passes it back, because frankly the teacher doesn’t want to hold on to this mass quantity of paper assignments. These assignments for the post part then get stuffed into a backpack, binder or locker to be forgotten about until the end of the semester if not longer. I am suggesting that with a bit of learning and some initial effort, most classroom in our digital age can go mostly paperless.
Why Go Paperless?
First and foremost, there is the budgeting aspect of going paperless which can free up funding for other items such newer equipment or field trips which have a deeper impact on the overall learning process for students. Doing away with the physical copy also has the added benefit of reducing the stacks of papers that most teachers have on their desks, thus helping them to organize. Instead they simply log into their course website and assess any submitted assignments. Additionally, this digital workflow helps to prepare students for the digital work methods that are seen in most professional work places. We as teachers need to be preparing our students to work in the “real world”, this means they need to have the intellectual skills, physical skills, but also the digital skills to work effectively. What do I mean by this? They need to be able to work through a digital workflow model. Most documents are no longer copied as put in a mailbox or dropped off at someone’s desk, they are emailed. Most documents in the business world are types. For example, I did a project for a company this past year in which they were building a putting green that would be placed on a building roof top. They knew how to do the installs, but wanted CAD plans to precisely layout the “Michigan Mitten”, so I built them a CAD model and went through the revision process by emailing CAD files back and forth. Most of the communication was done through email based on my cell phone. Our students need to be able to use the technology they have on hand to complete business tasks.
What Does a Paperless Classroom Look Like?
My definition of paperless is NOT removing paper entirely, this is unrealistic, but to reduce the amount of paper I use as much as possible. There are always going to be times when paper is required, for example in my district the special education department is required to give 504 and IEPs to teachers in paper form. What do I do, I scan documents with my cell phone and digitally file the documents on my Cloud drive. As for the day to day classroom activities let me describe how my students get their assignments, I have built what I call a Techfolio or a technical portfolio that goes along with all their projects. This Word document is a form that they must fill out to with each project. This does two things, it documents their design process and it gives me another way to assess their work. They then submit this through my course website Moodle which I can then grade with comments as needed. As I converted my classes to a digital workflow model, I had to reassess what I was doing and I realized some of the assignments that I was giving my students didn’t need to be done or I could put some of my work on them. For example, now before my students submit their assignments they can use my grading rubrics to assess their own projects. This has resulted in me getting higher quality work. This also allows student to show their parents what they do in class, my parents are now very involved in my programs.