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Strategies for the Paperless Classroom

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

Whether it’s because you’re environmentally-minded or simply want to save on the weight you have to lug around every day, making your classroom as paperless as possible is a worthwhile goal. You don’t even need a bunch of devices for the students to use (although that would help…) Some steps in making this goal a reality are obvious by now, but others take some creativity. Let’s break it up into tasks.

Assessment

Assessment is one of the easiest facets of your classroom to take paperless. Using paper for formative assessments (quizzes and such) is just wasteful. Start making a conscious effort toward more regular informal assessment rather than milestone assessments during a unit. There is an unlimited number of informal assessment strategies to check out, but here’s a great list from the AFT to get you started.

When it comes to formal assessment, if the states are spending so much money on online tests, you should take that as a sign to move away from your worksheets and Scantrons. Any LMS has online assessment tools, as does any supplemental software curriculum your school is employing.

Homework and other practice tasks

Speaking of worksheets, they are often the go-to option when assigning homework. First, that kind of homework is ineffectual and not in line with the kinds of real-world practice that college and career readiness requires. Therefore, your first step would be to start thinking of collaborative tasks that better reflect what students need. Then, figure out how those kinds of tasks can be accomplished in a paperless setting.

For many, that means employing Google Docs and Drive in your classroom. If Google’s free suite of productivity tools and online storage is good enough to be deployed in countless professional settings, it’s good enough for your kids. Using Google, kids can take their group work home with them, leaving more class time for new content or targeted help.

Parent outreach

Nothing says “paper drain” like endless notes home about the upcoming bake sale and how to file for free/reduced lunch. A lot of that paper is out of your hands (but feel free to bring up the waste to whoever is responsible). However, there are things you can do to make sure you’re not contributing.

First, depending on your district’s policies, start being more active on social media. Your classroom could have a Facebook page, wiki, Twitter feed, or anything else that you think would be helpful in getting the word out to parents. In fact, take a poll during the early weeks of school to see what parents would prefer.

Second, email and texting should be replacing phone calls and notes home. Think about what you pay attention to most; I bet a text is read before your email and certainly before you check your voicemail. An all-of-the-above approach can reduce paper output and improve response rates.