Just over five years ago I made the decision to try and substantially reduce the amount of paper I used in my teaching. This was a result of seeing crumbled up worksheets left behind at the end of a class, witnessing students throw away their books at the end of the year and pragmatically, to save money from my ever decreasing budget!
The article originally appeared in the February edition of UKEdMagazine,which is freely available on Issuu
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For the last two years I have been completely ‘paper-free,’ in part due to working in schools that have 1:1 technology provision. With the plethora of tools that are available in 2016, there really is no excuse to, at the very least, reduce the amount of paper used in your classroom.
If you have always wanted to create a paperless classroom but do not know where to start, below are a number of mostly free tools you can use.
When used effectively, a Learning Management System (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) such as Moodle, can be used to create a paperless classroom. You can share handouts, worksheets, digital books, articles etc.., which students can read online or download. You can create quizzes and surveys, create online glossaries for key terms, have students take part in an online discussions via a class forum, students can submit their work and you can easily grade/provide feedback online. Students submit work using the Turnitin app (turnitin.com) and have it checked for plagiarised content. You can store students grades in the grade-book, collect feedback from students about modules/courses and provide instant feedback using the chat tool.
Google Drive (drive.google.com)
When it comes to organising, sharing, and collaborating on documents, Google Drive is an excellent paperless classroom tool. Why not create a shared folder in Google Drive, where you can place notes, worksheets, articles, videos etc… for students to access. All you need to do is drag and drop the documents into the folder and share the folder with your students (remember you can set the folder to view or edit). This works equally well for work you may want to share within your department (unit plans, minutes from meeting, schedules etc…)
Students can also create their own folder (which they can share with you) and add any work that they do into that folder for you to access and mark. If they use Google docs or slides, you can easily add feedback (using comments or the Kaizena add-on, see below), which provides instant feedback to your students. The great thing about this is that there is no more ‘lost homework’ excuses or worksheets left behind in class. Again, this can be equally beneficial for teachers who want to collaborate on curriculum planning documents; schemes of work, lesson plans or resources.
OneDrive onedrive.live.com (originally SkyDrive) is the Microsoft equivalent to Google Drive.
Google Classroom (classroom.google.com) provides teachers with an app where they can create, assign, and collect student’s classwork and homework paperlessly! Being a Google product it allows for the seamlessly integration of Google Docs, Google Drive, and Gmail to create assignments, provide feedback and communicate with students.
Showbie (showbie.com) markets itself as ‘the heart of your paperless classroom.’ It is a really user-friendly app where you can assign tasks, students can complete and submit assignments, and the teacher can easily view the work and provide feedback.
Notetaking and more…
Evernote (evernote.com) is an ubiquitous tool, which can be useful in creating a paperless classroom. Evernote is basically a note-taking app, which can be used to create and organize lesson plans, manage workflow, clip web content etc…It is fairly intuitive to use, free, and compatible with mobile devices and laptops. Like Google Drive, Evernote automatically syncs across platforms, which means you can share information with students and vice-versa. If students need to make notes whilst watching a video (Youtube) they can use a Chrome app called videonot.es, which allows them to watch a video, pause it and take notes (the notes are automatically saved into a folder in Google Drive).
Noteshelf (IOS – bit.ly/uked16feb18) and Squid (android – bit.ly/uked16feb19) are apps that enable you to write handwritten notes on a mobile device (phone or tablet.)
Annotating/Marking PDFs iAnnotate bit.ly/uked16feb20 is a iOS app. It comes at a cost (£7.99). However, it is really useful for highlighting, marking, making notes on PDFs. Providing feedback doesn’t get easier than this – Kaizena.com!
Quizzes, Discussions and Polls
Socrative.com, Google Forms (part of Google Drive) and GetKahoot.com are tools which you can use to create games, quizzes and other learning materials. With Socrative you can also offer feedback to your class, and both Socrative and Kahoot allow you to take polls and have class discussions. Today’s Meet (todaysmeet.com) provides teachers with an easy solution for asking basic questions and for providing instant feedback. Whilst padlet.com, is a great online collaborative noticeboard!
Textbooks are often large and heavy. Students take multiple classes and having to carry around a number of heavy books. E-textbooks provide students with the option of having all of their textbooks compressed into a mobile device. Purchasing e-textbooks online is often a much cheaper option than buying hard copies. They can also be easily updated, which means that you do not have to reorder new textbooks when the content becomes outdated. There is also the added bonus that the ebooks do not become worn and shabby over time! For a large selection of e-textbooks (International, UK and US) go to coursesmart.co.uk/search.
To Do Lists:
Both Wunderlist.com and keep.google.com help you to create online ‘to-do’ lists, which can be shared with others. You can also create ‘alerts’ to remind you when a task needs to be done, or, is overdue!
Blogger.com can be used by students for writing exercises of any description (reflective, formal, creative etc…) You can choose to make their work private (only them) semi-private (they can add their teacher,peers, parents) or public (anyone can view).
There are a range of tools that will help store and organise the links you find online. Diigo.com, Pearltrees.com, Evernote.com, Pinterest.com and edu.symbaloo.com are five great and different options (all with their own benefits) for connecting students with the right resources.
There are a range of tools but the one I most use in my classroom is Classdojo.com, which is perfect for Primary through to the start of KS3. For older students, I keep track of their grades, behaviour and any other relevant information in a Google Sheet (part of Google Drive), a great tool for keeping all of your information in one place!
In 2016, there really is no excuse not to reduce the amount of paper we use in schools. And, if saving trees does not convince you to go paperless, living in a world where lost planners, carrying class loads of heavy books and grading quizzes is a thing of past, just might!
Gail is a Technology Integration Specialist and Computing teacher based at a British School in Portugal. Throughout her teaching career Gail has been involved in running CPD, predominantly tech focussed. She has presented at a number of international conferences and is a Google Certified Innovator/Trainer. Gail blogs at techieeangel.blogspot.pt and is on Twitter at @gailabbitt