The Paperless Classroom Challenge: What Happened?

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Episode 2 of The Teaching Space podcast is all about the reality of a paperless classroom. 

Podcast Episode 2 Transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 2 of The Teaching Space podcast. I'm Martine, your host. Thank you for joining me today.

In episode one, I mentioned that part of my role is a digital lead. I am responsible for working with my teaching colleagues to help them use technology in the classroom more effectively.

Going Paperless

Keen to lead by example, last year, I decided to go predominately paperless in my classroom.

What's Online?

All assignments were produced online. All of my handouts were saved in Google Drive and accessible via Google Classroom.

What's Paper?

In terms of what didn't make it online, we still do several starter activities that are simply better on paper.

If we have a discussion activity we get the flip charts and pens out. However, I photograph the flip charts and upload the photos to Google Classroom (via the Google Drive app) so I'm classing that as partially digital.

Some learners prefer to have assignment briefs printed on paper so to accommodate their needs I also do that. However, the assignment briefs are accessible in a digital format.

Today's Episode

In this episode, I'd like to report back to you and explain what went well and the areas for development. I've based all that follows on learning feedback as well as my own observations.

What Went Well?

Assignments

The vast majority of my learners have expressed a preference for completing and submitting assignments via Google Classroom.

I should mention that I teach adults. If I was teaching 16 to 19-year-old learners they would have used Google classroom at school. So my group has a considerable learning curve to conquer in order to get comfortable with Google Classroom.

Feedback and Marking

Being able to leave specific feedback as comments within Google Docs has been a massive benefit to learners. It's also sped up my marking workflow. 

Chromebooks

We operate a bring your own device policy at college but not everyone has a laptop. So I provide Chomebooks to people who need them. I have noticed is there is a preference for my adult learners to go for the larger Chomebooks rather than the teeny tiny ones. 

No Photocopying!

A great benefit of going paperless is that you don't do any more photocopying. I used to spend ages and ages photocopying so it's a revelation not having to do any of that.

All teaching resources live in Google Classroom.

Catching Up Absent Students

If I have a student who's off sick it's a lot easier for them to review what was covered in the lesson and then I will make a point of seeing them before the next session. However, I don't have to spend quite as much time catching them up as I would have if I hadn't put things in Google Classroom.

Tasks

While we still do some paper-based tasks in sessions. We do some based on the Chromebooks as well or laptops depending what people are using. I don't put those tasks through Google Classroom. 

Instead, I create a template and then I generate a link that forces everyone to make their own copy into their own Google Drive.

Here's how it's done:

Independent Learners

The biggest benefit I have found going paperless is that my learners have become far more independent and self-directed because I'm not handing everything to them on a plate.

In other words, they're not getting a package of all the handouts and having everything done for them. They're having to work a little bit harder and this has had a really positive impact on the flow of sessions and also me giving feedback.

The whole experience has without a doubt been improved by taking this paperless approach. 

Areas for Development

But what about areas for development? I hear you ask. I mentioned earlier that the vast majority of my adult learners got on really well with classroom and our paperless approach. 

However, some didn't some found Google Classroom clunky and certainly not intuitive and they got frustrated and thought that it wasn't going to work for them.

I'm pleased to report in the end it did. But the journey getting there was more complicated than it needed to be.

Google Classroom Onboarding

This tells me I need to do more work onboarding new students to the paperless approach. I need to help them navigate Google Classroom better and really understand the benefits of going paperless.

I think this is something I'm going to do during my induction process. It is certainly an area for development.

Barriers to Communication

The other interesting point which was picked up in a recent lesson observation I had and that was people sitting behind laptops have a barrier between them and me and it is, of course, the laptop screen.

I had a really interesting chat with my lesson observer about this.

We talked about the benefits of having screen 'downtime'. I think this is really important and it's something I'm working on.

It is a good reminder of the fact that you need to break your sessions up and get learners up and moving around and talking to each other rather than just being glued to a computer screen the whole time. That's not good for anybody.

Initial Assessment

My final area for development relates to initial assessment.

Before learners joined my course I conduct a rigorous initial assessment to find out all about them and their particular needs. However, I think I need to emphasise the paperless classroom/ I.T. side of things a little bit more.  

Other Areas for Development?

It's been approximately a year that I've been paperless so I'm still trying to identify areas for development. I'm sure there are more than I've mentioned already but that gives you a bit of an idea of how the past year has gone. I hope this has been interesting to you.

Will I Ever Go 100% Paperless? 

I'll wrap today's episode up with the big question:

Will I ever be 100% paperless?

Honestly, right now, I think the answer has to be no. Sometimes paper and pen are the right tools for the job.

I don't believe in using technology for technology's sake. 

But what do you think?. I would love to hear your views on this topic and it would be great if you could share your experiences of going paperless either in the comments or in our Facebook group.

Wrap Up

That's it for me today. I hope I've given you something to think about.

Please join The Teaching Space Staff Room on Facebook by clicking the button below.

I hope you've enjoyed this episode of The Teaching Space podcast and I hope you'll join me next time.

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