I was at an AP Summer Institute (APSI) the past week and one of the activities was talking about “things” that work well in our classrooms. As we went around the room there was one person who said something that made my ears perk up. He said his classroom was completely paperless. Though the term had come up in my readings before I had glossed over it because in my mind it was not possible to go completely paperless. However, his comments made me think I could make it happen.
When I returned from the APSI, I sat down and started to research paperless classrooms for this blog post. My Google search yielded an article by Kerry Gallagher written in 2014 about her experiences of going paperless. While reading the article I found many parallels to what students have said to me when we use various technologies in the classroom. The first thing Kerry’s students said was that the technology made them feel more organized. Having notes in one central location that could be accessed from anywhere was a big plus for many of the students. In my classroom that is one of the main reasons that I have allowed students to use the Chromebooks to take notes. It helps them say organized and it is also good because the can never lose their notes (unless the server at Google crashes).
Paperless classrooms grant us the ability to collaborate more. Students can share Google Documents with the press of a button with me or their classmates. Comments can then be added and revisions made quicker than ever before. Kerry said this was one of the things the students liked about the paperless classroom. Something else to think about it students need to be doing work on the commuter because as time moves on they are going to be doing more work digitally and less work with a paper and pencil (Edudemic).
Going paperless forces us to use different applications that cater to students who need more differentiated instruction. They can find various apps and technologies that make learning truly fun. The no longer have to sit in the classroom and take notes while the teacher rambles in the front of the classroom. Allowing students to demonstrate understanding in different ways fits in with the Teaching for Understanding model that many educators are starting to turn to as well.
This new way of administering a class does not come without its shortcomings. It is difficult to implement in rural schools like mine because students do not have computers when they go home. This means homework needs to be given out on paper. The initiative assumes as well that a school would have to be 1-to-1 or have students who can bring their own devices (which some do not). However, with work and creativity going paperless (or as close as possible) can be a good way to create a good learning environment while also saving our natural environment.