How To Never Teach With Paper Again

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Going paperless is a lot of work. I am not joking. But the payoff? Never having to teach with paper again. Imagine…you will never have to print out another copy of a worksheet, test, email, reminder…yeah, anything. I basically haven’t had to print a thing since 2014.

It is no secret that having 1-1 Chromebooks makes things easier for me to go paperless. Before I had Chromebooks, I had to print out things for students. But I stopped using paper for my personal record keeping and lesson planning. Then in 2013, I ran my class as a Bring Your Own Device and I stopped printing out every single assignment. That is what I am going to help you try and to do: to show you how to never teach with paper again.

Maybe you have 1-1 technology, maybe you are Bring Your Own Device, or maybe you have zero technology in your classroom for students. The point is the same, start going paperless with your own material and it will be easier to eventually go paperless with your students too.

My (Mostly) Paperless Workspace

Step 1: Choose Your Tools To Start Going Paperless

You are going to need to settle on your tools for this job. I am not taking about some lightweight notes app on your phone, tablet or computer. You are going to need tools that can do more than you think you’ll need. You are just starting your journey and don’t know what will be useful or not yet. You can always change tools later but trust me…when you start going paperless, you don’t want to have to do that a lot. It gets messy.

You Will Need Tools In The Following Areas:

  1. Storing Lesson Plans: I recommend a tool that can gather lesson plans that you formally come up with,  take pictures of lesson plans you write down on paper or on your white/black board, can scan and search documents, and you can easily tag and search for your files. Something that can easily capture ideas is also a bonus. I would highly recommend either Evernote or the combination of Google Drive and Google Keep.
  2. Organizing Your Assignments: You will need a tool that you can easily assign, collect, and grade assignments you distribute to students. Google Classroom is a favorite among many teachers because it is easy to use. But I would recommend something more robust. You will find that Google Classroom starts to fade in usefullness the more you want it to do. A full-blown LMS is where its at. If you are digitizing quizzes, tests, worksheets, homework assignments…(anything, really!) you want to do it once in one system. The more you bounce around from tool to tool, the easier it is to be come disorgsanized. Trust me. The best tools would be ones that allow you to hit “reset” on your course at the end of the year and have it ready to go again. If you are going paperless, why do it more than once? My recommendation: Edmodo or Schoology. I currently use Schoology for everything and it works great.

Step 2: Establish Your Habits

It is so easy to print. It is a lot harder to digitize because we all have the habit of writing, printing, and filing. You will need to retrain yourself to do this. My recommendation, do it in chunks. Don’t try to go all digital all at once. You will burn out super-quick. I started by listing homework assignments online.

Then I started having student take quizzes online. Then a couple of months later, students were turning in their longer essays online. Then I started giving feedback on almost all assignments online. It was a slow process and I am still doing it. Go slow and try to build on what you do every day, week, month, and year. I am not going to lie. This is going to be a war of attrition.

That is to say nothing of the student’s habits. You will probably have to retrain them for your new digitized class. But that is for another blog post.

Step 3: Plan For Paper

It took me months before I was able to retrain my students to go paperless the first time I tried it. That was September 2013 and my first attempt was an utter failure. You may have every tool and habit in place for you to go paperless but you will find that not everyone is in the same place as you. Maybe it is your students, colleagues, adminsitrators, or parents. Someone is going to be slowing you down when going paperless. That is just how it goes.

So as you progress in your paperless adventure, just remember that everyone is going to be at a different place. Just keep going as best you can, get advice from those ahead of you, and be patient with those who still cling to their paper.

Question: What challenges do you face when going paperless? If you have started, what is your secret to success? Let us know in the comments or on social media!


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