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! 🙂