TEACHERS ARE ALWAYS SURROUNDED by piles of papers to hand out to students and other piles to correct and hand back to students. This article will introduce teachers to several different ways to eliminate the paper clutter in their classrooms.
In her article The Paperless Classroom, Alicia Holdner Campen articulated several reasons for having a paperless classroom when she wrote, “The paperless environment is growing in all areas of classroom instruction including lectures, homework, quizzes and examinations. A paperless classroom allows professors to provide immediate feedback to students on papers and exams and can save professors a great deal of time in preparing presentations. For example, a professor can deliver lectures using Microsoft Power Point. Power Point allows presenters to enhance the delivery of the lecture by providing a selection of graphics, animation and other features.
This type of presentation not only enhances classroom instruction but can also help students who miss a lecture have direct access to materials covered in that class period” (The Paperless Classroom).
Creating a paperless classroom
Teachers have many different stacks of papers that they face everyday. There are stacks of papers to hand out, stacks of papers to grade and stacks of papers to return to students after being graded. More and more the teaching profession is being bogged down with papers to shuffle from one place to another.
As teachers we have an endless stream of papers that we need to hand out to our students. After we hand out the papers there is, without fail, an absent student who will ask for the paper when s/he returns the following day. Every class also has a handful of disorganized students who always lose the first (and sometimes second) copy of anything handed out in class. So, how do we deal with this ongoing duplicating nightmare?
Mr. Bill Watzke hands out stacks of paper.
One option is to hand out assignments electronically. How do you do this? A couple of possible but impractical solutions are to make CDs or floppy disks for each student, or to make a class email list and send out documents as attachments to the students for every assignment.
The most practical option is to create a class website and post assignments for students to access as they are need. When students are absent, they know to go to the website to download any homework assignments. This also promotes greater student responsibility in the learning process.
Mr. Watzke receives hundreds of papers.
Students turn in a large quantity of paper work to teachers. In turn, teachers take home mountains of papers to grade, only to bring them back to school again to return to the students.
On average, the upper grade teacher has 30-40 students per class, and teachs 3-6 classes per day. Let's assume that the teacher only does one assignment in class and assigns one assignment for homework every day. That equals two assignments per student per class; so using the lowest numbers that equals (2x30x3) 180 papers per day. That is a lot of papers! Unless the teacher takes home the papers to grade every night the papers can stack up very quickly. So how can a teacher lessen the paper load?
There are several ways to have students submit work electronically. Depending on the type of assignment, one may prefer one option over another. Some viable options for turning in digital work include: floppy disks, CD ROMS, flash drives, email, posting to blogs/listserves, and digital drop boxes.
Floppy disks are (becoming) obsolete, but are still available. They are very inexpensive, but also limited in space as larger files do not always fit on a single disk.
CD-ROMs are another option. Just about all current computers have a CD drive, but not all have a CD burner (to write information to a CD).
Another portable media is the flash drive. Flash drives are becoming less expensive, and they are instantly compatible with most newer computers. The downside to flash drives is that not everyone has one. A teacher could encourage his/her students to have a flash drive for the class assignments.
Some free options for students and teachers are to turn in assignments electronically by email, to a digital drop box, or post to a class blog (web log) which a teacher has created (see www.blogger.com).
In addition to having students turn in work online, students can also take quizzes online. There are several sites that offer this service. Online quizzes are a benefit to both teachers and students. Teachers post the quiz and the key. Once the students take the quiz, the online service will score the quizzes and give the teacher a listing of student scores with statistical break downs of scores, percentages correct/incorrect for each question.
Some will even export the scores directly into the teacher grade book. This relieves the teacher of some grading time and gives the teacher valuable information to guide future instruction, such as which concepts the students understand and which need further instruction. For the student, s/he receives instant feedback on how s/he did on the test.
Mr. Watzke working happily paperlessly!
Less paperwork to hand out to students
Absent students have access to assignments/ PowerPoint information
Teachers have fewer student papers to transport and potentially lose
Online quizzes provide instant feedback to students
Online quizzes provide statistical data to guide teacher instruction
Less time spent on grading
Lower paper costs for School/department
Where there are advantages, there are also disadvantages as well.
Students who do not have computers are home
Students may not possess strong computer skills
Students may require direct instruction on how to access computer based processes they are being asked to do
Students may have difficulty learning from a computer screen, and might require more multimodal means of insruction (e.g. needing to print out materials, which might be inconvenient and expensive)
Computers may malfunction.
For related information on paperless technology, see the EET article on Emerging Technologies.
James Mitchell, Graduate Student
SDSU Educational Technology
Mitchell, J. (2005). Creating a paperless classroom. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Technology.