Monthly Archives: March 2013

Save a Tree…Go Paperless!

I first heard the idea of a paperless classroom I believe my first year of teaching. I was attending the Iowa Science Teachers Association Annual Conference and one of the speakers I listened to talked about having a paperless class. Unfortunately, the information must have gone in one ear and out the other because I don’t really remember much of anything they said. It was too far above my head as I was just trying to survive my first year of teaching. “Paperless class?” Yeah right, I thought- “that guy is crazy!” However, I was reintroduced to the idea of a paperless class recently and finally feel like I can take a breath from teaching and really dig into this idea. A paperless class is just what it sounds like- paperless! All reading assignments come through the student’s computer or other technology. Students submit homework assignments via technology such as email or an LMS and the assignments are marked and given feedback from the teacher using various colors, before returning them to the student. This allows the class to proceed and the students to interact with each other and their teacher without using any paper for the class. Intriguing, right?

There are obviously many ways that creating a paperless class would change teaching and learning. From my perspective- I would need to find resources for students to use that are an alternate to the traditional textbook. Those resources could include an online version of a textbook, online articles, videos, blogs, or similar resources. I would also need to make those available to my students to be able to access them whenever and wherever. Access could occur through an LMS such as Moodle (which is the LMS my school uses), or a class website, blog, or wiki. I have always thought of myself as a facilitator and not just a teacher and I think that role would increase in a paperless classroom. If you think about it- you can’t really teach anybody anything. If I could- all my students would have 100% in my classes! However, I am a facilitator for students learning- I give them resources to read, questions to discuss, projects to create, and explain information to them. So I think this facilitator role would increase in a paperless class. Going paperless would also change how students receive feedback- instead of writing on a physical paper, I would insert comments, ideas, and suggestions into the document or project that students submit online and return it to them online.

A paperless class would change learning because I think it makes the student more active in their own learning. It can create a better community of learners because students can share their ideas and thoughts with others with a quick click on a keyboard and then discuss those ideas in a face-to-face class. It also changes learning because access to information opens up when students purposefully read information through a computer rather than just a textbook. It also enhances their learning because it can provide more than just the written word like a textbook- audio, video, images, and other media can be incorporated into the learning process for a student. I think learning would be measured in a similar way than in a traditional class, with the main difference of how assignments are turned in, graded, and returned. Teachers still assess learning through monitoring discussions, assessing homework, projects, and tests, and having conversations with students.

One last question to think about is whether a paperless space makes it easier or harder to build a learning network. I would have to say that depends on the situation and how the teacher facilitates it with their students. In some regards, it could build a better learning network through the collaboration and conversations between the teacher and students, if the teacher is good at setting up a collaborative learning network. However, if the teacher does a poor job of setting up expectations and building a network, then learning in a paperless classroom would not be very easy. I think it all depends on how the teacher runs the class, sets and holds expectations, and their teaching personality in creating a positive learning network. That can happen with or without being paperless.

So…what do you think? Want to try going paperless? Good luck! I know I will give it some thought!  🙂


Shift in Education

I have recently been reading the book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. The book discusses Web 2.0 tools and their uses in education. The final chapter of the book talks about big shifts in education that have occurred as a part of the Read/Write Web. The shift that struck me the most was the first shift- “Open Content”. Richardson describes education of the past where schools and teachers “owned” their content through the textbooks they used, along with films they showed and resources in the library that could be accessed. This is very different in education now where it only takes 2.8 seconds for a student to “Google it” and find any information they want. This is a dramatic shift in education. I found the following picture the other day and it fits perfectly with this topic- Image

How funny and true is this picture? It speaks exactly to this big shift in education. I grew up in the era where we used card catalogs and did research in actual encyclopedias (remember those?). It was towards the end of high school and beginning of college that technology found its way into my learning and school.

This shift has affected my teaching in many ways. From even before I actually started teaching, I was using the internet to find ideas for lesson plans, videos to watch, images to share, and anything I could use as a teacher. This is very different than the resources my teachers had when I went through the education system as a student. I think this shift of open content will continue to affect my teaching because I will continue to use the internet to search for resources. I now am a part of social groups and listserves that are specific to high school science education, which allows me to find resources in a more direct way. I am learning more and more about how to incorporate this shift in my teaching and to teach my students differently than how I learned in high school. Through the use of wikis, blogs, websites, and other resources my students can learn science in a collaborative, inquiry-based way with the help of technology. It is much easier for students to find answers and information to questions they have with the use of technology that was not available several decades ago. I am excited about the future of technology with these Web 2.0 tools that making education better for students.


Richardson, W. (2010) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Third edition, Corwin Publishing.

Image retrieved March 26, 2013 from:

Connectivism. vs. Constructivism

Connectivism vs. constructivism- what do you think? These are both learning theories that describe how students learn. I was recently helping create a wiki about the pros for connectivism but when I read another group’s wiki against connectivism, I have to say I agreed with many of their points. (Want to read the wiki against connectivism? Click HERE.) There were several reasons why I agreed with this wiki. Their reply that connectivism was really a reworded form of constructivism made sense to me. The wiki stated “No, we believe Connectivism is not a learning theory. It is the Constructivism theory reworked to fit the digital age.”  The main basis of connectivism is the digital age and all the technology that goes with it, but I agree that it’s really a form of constructivism and not necessarily its own brand new, distinct learning theory. The 8 main principles of connectivism the group discussed on the wiki and their counter explanations to the principles explains how connectivism is really constructivism with an emphasis on the digital age we live in now and how that affects student learning. The principle of connectivism that stuck out to me the most was principle #2. It stated “Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.”. Their reasoning why this was really constructivism was interesting. It stated “In Constructivism, students are encouraged to explore and use all technology available to them to have a variety of experiences. These experiences are tied to previous experiences, making connections to those previous experiences. These experiences include social media. Students are encouraged to talk about what they have learned in order to share with others. This exchange between students helps students to clarify, rework, and make the knowledge theirs. Constructivist thinking also states that learning is a social activity, which is a method of connecting specialized nodes or informational sources. Constructivism states that learning can occur among family, peers, and/or experts. It is not limited to a teacher-student relationship.”.  I agree with this because I have always thought students learn best when they are making connections to knowledge they already know and new information. And those connections can be from social media or technology but obviously aren’t and shouldn’t always be from those places. So once again, that relates it back to constructivism. I encourage you to click on the link above to read this wiki and see all of the 8 principles and the counter arguments yourself!

Fun with Skype

I was recently able to Skype with a fellow teacher, whom I have been completing projects with in an online course. I have used Skype previously, usually to Skype with my sister-in-law to see her and so she can see my daughter. Using Skype for the purpose of collaborating and connecting with a teacher was a new experience. It was nice to be able to see the other teacher and put a face to the name that I have been working with in class. We chatted about school, our kids, and a few other topics and it was a nice conversation. I can see many benefits to using Skype in education, both for myself and my students. Personally, I would like to Skype with other teacher who teach the same grade levels and classes to get ideas for projects or lesson plans. This could potentially include Skyping with the teachers in my secondary education classes in college. There is one person in particular whom I used to collaborate with but has since moved away. He would be a great Skype buddy to talk with and share lessons. Using Skype has benefits that other technologies don’t have because we could visually share projects and see what the other person does, instead of just talking or writing about our ideas. Skype could be used in class with students in several great ways. We could Skype with other classrooms all around the world to share information and create a newer version of pen pals. We could also Skype with professionals to share their knowledge with the content students are learning. For example, in my Anatomy & Physiology class I could schedule an appt with a doctor as one of their daily appts and have that appt be a Skype session with my class. By using this technology I hope to expand my students’ view of the world and broaden their horizons. I also hope to collaborate in a new, exciting way to enhance my lesson plans and deepen my lesson plan ideas.

Podcasting in School

Have you ever thought about using podcasting for education? Podcasting is a great way to share and gain information and can be easily incorporated into your teaching. I found a wonderful podcast series called “Science…sort of” that I plan to use in my science classes. I found the podcasts to be very fun to listen to- they were entertaining and thought-provoking. According to the podcast authors, the tagline for their podcast series is “Conversations about things that are science, things that are sort of science, and things that wish they were science”. If you would like to check out this series, click HERE.

I chose this particular podcast because it is right up my content alley- since I teach science and this a podcast about science. I have thought of a great way to use these series of podcasts. I would like to listen to the podcasts and find specific ones where the authors talk about topics that students learn about in my classroom. I would then use clips from those podcasts and do one of two things: share them in the classroom and have a discussion about the topic and what was said in the podcast, or have students listen to them on their own and have a forum discussion throughout a week of school on Moodle to talk about the podcast. I think these podcasts could enhance my curriculum and student discussion, bringing a new and unique dynamic to my students’ learning. I can’t wait to start using these great podcasts! Happy listening!

Flickr in the Classroom

Have you ever heard of Flickr? If not- it’s a great resource to use! (You can find it at Flickr is a website where people publish their personal photos and share them with others, allowing other people to use the photos for certain situations. Flickr is a great place to find photos to use in education and many of them are free to use, with certain requirements such as attribution to the photographer. Here is an example of a sample activity that I plan to use with my online Biology class, during the first couple days of class. 



Image Editor (2008, August 16). Fields of Science. Image Editor’s photostream. Retrieved March 14, 2013, from

Look at the above image as you think about and answer the following questions.

1. In your opinion, what is science? How would you describe the field of science to a friend?

2. How do can you tell that the picture is about science?

3. What do you think we will be learning about science in this class?


I would use this quick introduction lesson to explain the nature of science and what students will learn in the class, as well as focus them on the specific area of science that they will be learning- Biology. I always find it very interesting to hear about their perceptions of science at the beginning of the year and see how those perceptions change over time. 

In addition to this type of lesson using Flickr, I would encourage students to use Flickr as a source of photos or images for projects, to upload their own photos to Flickr (possibly ones that can be taken in class from experiments or projects), and to find related images for units that we are in. These are just some of my beginning ideas on how to incorporate Flickr into my teaching- I am sure I will learn lots more as I explore and get ideas from others!

Using Wikis in the Classroom

I recently created a wiki with another teacher on the topic of using blogs for reflective learning. It was a interesting and rewarding process. The biggest difficulty was getting started- determining our topic, content of the topic, and what sections to write about as a part of the overall topic. I was not very familiar with the topic initially, though I did have some of my own ideas on how to use blogs for reflective learning. Once I researched the topic and found some websites that explained it, the topic was very easy to write about in our wiki. I learned a few things from this project- namely, the actual topic of how to use blogs for reflective learning. I gained some new, great ideas on how to incorporate this into my classroom. I also learned the ins and outs of wiki creation. I have previously contributed to a wiki but it was a simple typing in of some info, not as in-depth of using and making a wiki. 

My opinion of Wikipedia has changed some this week. While it is more reliable now than maybe several years ago when misinformation was not updated quickly like it is now, it is still not a resource that I would want my students to use for a formal, research paper or project. But it is a great source to look up quick information. 

I so far am not encountering resistance to using wikis in my classroom. I think students would enjoy using wikis, once they were taught the ground rules from me for their appropriate use. I will need to determine how to best incorporate wikis in my online classes.