Friday, 14 March 2014

Hot Topic: The Paperless Classroom

Updated 13 April 2014

I'm a minimalist. I'm constantly giving away things I don't need and I hate clutter. I'm the type of minimalist that annoys other people because I'm always begging them to let me organise their closets. Yet despite all this, I've been wary to go paperless.

Don't get me wrong, I hardly use paper in the classroom as it is. Of course, students have books, but I'm talking about extra worksheets and all that.

Despite being young I have a fear of technology. I grew up with a TV that you could fix by smacking it or sticking a coat hanger in to make an antenna. You can't do that with stuck now; it breaks. they just don't make things like they used to.

I'm starting to use technology more and more and recently came across 40 Android Apps for Teaching and Learning from the Chronicle, though I've recently converted to an iPhone and finally see what everyone's talking about.

It seems like Facebook has taken over the world and everyone's online. Just take a look at the post I wrote about personal learning networks. I'm afraid that my computer ate my homework or someone will hack in to my account. Once something is gone, it's gone. It's not like paper that you can fish out of the trash. With that being said, I haven't gone completely paperless, although eventually I'd like to. I use paper in my classroom for a couple of activities.

1. Grading. I usually use rubrics. To cut down on the amount of paper and toner/ink I use, I try to print out a couple complete rubrics for students to see and then just use score sheets for their grades. By doing this, I can fit 4-6 score sheets on a page. It's not pretty, but it saves paper. Online grading is great. I've used edu 2.0 and engrade and love them.

2. Answers. Students work at different paces. When doing activities such as proofreading, it's really hard for students to compare their answers to the correct answers. I'll put the entire paragraph on paper and bold the correct answers. I can usually fit about 4-6 paragraphs on a page. That means for a class of 30, I only need to use 5 pieces of paper, max. BUT, it gets better. I reuse the papers for the next class. Gotta give me points for that.

Two other alternatives for using paper for answers would be to email students the answers and have them check at home or upload them to the intranet.

3. Grade Sheet. I've semi-converted to cloud computing, but computers at my work are slow and when they're shut down they automatically delete everything you've downloaded on them. That means I'd have to re-download the program every time I want to use it. I can't be bothered, so I use a usb. The problem with this is that usbs tend to break and you lose everything. I print out my grade sheet and have a hard copy available just in case. I suppose that using edu 2.0 and engrade would eliminate this issue.

4. Student Work. With over 100 students per semester, I really don't know if I want to get 1000s of emails a semester with student assignments. edu 2.0 and engrade are supposedly good at managing that. I've been told that the former can even help grade easy quizzes/tests, such as multiple choice or true/false. Essays, CVs, or Cover Letters are more difficult.

I'm one of those people who like to curl up with a good book, not with an ereader. There's the whole debate that books are better since they can be recycled and sustainable forestry requires two trees to be planted when one is cut down. Plus, egraders require batteries/electricity and are harder to recycle.

I find it easier to grade papers when I'm writing on them, not looking at a screen. This also means that I can stick papers in my purse and grade anywhere, rather than lug my laptop around with me. However, I think I should change. There are two reasons why grading on the computer is better. First, I personally type a heck of a lot faster than I can write. Second, you know what it's like when you hand back a paper to a student, they crumple it up, and throw it away. Then at the end of the semester, they come and complain about their grades but have no evidence to back it up? Using a computer would solve both of those. I could save all their work and eliminate paper use.

5. Quizzes/Tests/Exams. Once again edu 2.0 and engrade are supposedly good at managing that. However, I don't think I could do that. I wouldn't trust students to take quizzes at home alone without help. Second, most of my classrooms only have one computer in it, so students couldn't take the quizzes in class. I try to make quizzes, tests, and exams short. For my classes, students take 8 quizzes and 4 exams. One paper is needed for the 8 quizzes and they use that paper all semester. Half a paper is used for the 4 exams and they use that paper all semester. Granted, I'm using paper, but not that much.

The only alternatives I see to using paper for quizzes would be to create open-book quizzes which can be taken at home or to have the school buy enough computers so that they can be taken in class.

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