10 Tips for Going Paperless in the Classroom

Monday, July 28, 2014
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There are many reasons for a teacher to take their classroom paperless, but what happens when someone else decides it is time for your classroom to kick your paper habit?

In the best situations, the rate of technology integration in a classroom would be in the individual teacher’s control and each teacher would be allowed to augment their approach, moving toward a paperless workflow at their own pace. In many cases these days, schools or districts adopt technology and want to see the change it promises happen quickly.

Juggling the demands from their school and district, teachers often end up having to train students to use devices in a paperless workflow before anyone feels comfortable with the tools. In these cases, the huge range of tools available can be challenging and the learning curve overwhelming. So, what can you do in your classroom on day one to get started on the right foot?

Here are some ideas that guide me:

1. Acknowledge you are learning the technology along with your class – We are used to teachers being the experts in the classroom, but the average history teacher did not study wireless workflow management. Share what you learn with your students as you go and recruit them to help you whenever you can.

2. Expect change – I used to set up my class protocols at the beginning of the year (i.e turn in your paper in the book with your block number on it on my desk). This would never change. But with my students on iPads, I have changed our workflow a few times throughout the year. Sometimes it’s because I found a better tool. Sometimes it’s because an application that was free was no longer. Being connected means you cannot escape the forces of change.

3. Use Google Drive and the “Publish to Web function” – This is a really simple and easy way to make your Word and presentation files available to your students. You can upload your existing documents to Drive and select the publish to web option under the “file” menu to create a URL address for your documents. This allows you to get started without having to create all new resources. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We need that water for later.

4. Learn one thing at a time – There will always be more tools to learn than time to learn them. Focus on learning one new tool at a time.

5. Let someone else try it first – While new tools come out all the time, you should focus on learning tools that other teachers have already had success with.

6. Find a tech mentor – You should look for someone in your building or online and follow their example.

7. Avoid perfection – As you create and share content with your students, avoid perfection. Create the best work you can in the time you have but allow your students to see your process.

8. Listen to your students – They are your audience so make sure your technological choices meet their needs. If they don’t use the resources you are creating, ask them why. Make sure your resources are accessible and useful.

9. Sharing is your superpower – Digital work is easier to share, send home, and share with other teachers. I love how sharing student work regularly can change the conversations I have with my classroom’s parents.

10. Share your journey – Whether it is with a teacher you see as a tech mentor, or just a personal friend, share your challenges and successes with others. Sometimes I do this by blogging, other times I pick up the phone.

Is this all there is to it? Nope, but it’s a good place to start. I could also add “keep it simple” and “forgive yourself” to the list because beating yourself up over the process will not help. I think if Matt Gomez were going to add something to this list, he would add “Be Brave”. And, any one who taught primary this past year might also add “Let it Go.”

So many of us are on a journey of tech integration and going paperless in the classroom, so let me end by coming back to number 6. My tech journey has taught me that we are all better together, so there is no reason for anyone to face these challenges alone.

Sam Patterson
ScanSnap Squad, Education

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