As an English teacher, I know as well as anyone how overwhelming the paper used in a classroom can become. Currently I am running a 50% digital to a 50% paper classroom, but I am probably going back to 90% digital to a 10% paper classroom soon. My desk is almost always a disaster (fortunately I have a wonderful co-teacher that helps keep me together). When the paper is under control, I feel under control. When you teach more than 120 students every day and each student turns in multiple sheets of paper a day, it can spiral out of control within a few moments. If you feel this way too, but are unsure how to begin the move away from paper, let me give you 3 tips for reducing the paper used in the classroom.
3 Tips for Reducing the paper used in the classroom
1. Embrace change. I know that is so much easier said than done. As teachers, we are constantly trying to hit a moving target, so if there is anything we can hold onto, we do. Once you create a great way to present information to your students, the last thing you want to do is change it. But this is one of this skills we are trying to teach our students, we need to be adaptable, just like them, if we will succeed in this ever-changing world.
Try a new website or program that will allow you to complete a task digitally, look through Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook and find something new. Some of my personal favorites are Quizlet, Kahoot and EdPuzzle. These websites allow you to assign work or assess students in a digital format for no cost. Try it and see if it works. Children love trying new things, if it works, yay, you have a new tool and if it doesn’t, you have an opportunity to show the students how to be adaptable in the face of difficulties.
2. Join the world of Google. Google Apps for Education (GAFE) has changed my life. Google has given every single person who signs up for a Google account access to a Google Drive, which is a cloud based storage drive. You can save anything you want to this, photos, documents, even music. But the best feature is that you have access to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms, which is basically the Microsoft Suite with extras.
All of this is free. Google Docs allows you to work collaboratively and share documents with people. Google Slides is an amazing presentation tool, and I use Forms for all of my tests. The features built into these programs allow you to complete so much work digitally, you will immediately feel the pressures of paper drifting away. I personally am so attached to Google that I have become a Level 1 Google Certified Educator and have full intentions of continuing my certifications.
3. Pace yourself. If you try to switch everything all at once, you will become overwhelmed and get turned off. There are millions of ways to use technology in the classroom that allow you to eliminate paper. If you try to go from a traditional classroom to paperless classroom all at once you will burn yourself out. Consider converting a test to an online format, or have students complete and turn a project in digitally. Once you begin the transition, you will fine that many of the tedious tasks of teaching have been automated. We have a wonderful job, but it is hard and why not take a little help from technology.
Now I know that some people feel very strongly about the need for paper and pen in school, and I am not disagreeing. However, our world is changing everyday and the way we teach needs to prepare our students for the future, not the present. We are role models for our children and if we want them to push themselves and adapt to a new world, we have to do it too.