A paperless class is something I, as a classroom teacher, have been slowly working on implementing. Over the years I have tried using wikis, moodles, online journals, and even email. Lately I have been using our grading package, Parent Portal, and Google Docs to make this a reality. Surprisingly the biggest resistance seems to come from my students, as many of them are reluctant to use email or Google Docs as they are not seamless enough for them. Access to computers and the proper software is also an issue as gaining access to both requires effort on their part and many are not willing, oftentimes, to make an effort. I had hoped that going one-to-one this coming school year would help with that, but that has been put on hold. Instead I may have to think outside of the box to make this a reality.
Paperless classrooms can change how learning takes place, and even my role as a teacher. Take for example this blog post. I have never been one that likes to blog as I could never envision anyone caring about what I wrote. I have written a blog or two in the past for a class, but never like what I have done for this class. For some reason I have really taken to writing my thoughts down on my blog, even if no one is really reading it. In a way it takes the inner dialogue in my head and makes it a permanent published thought that is out in the ethersphere. It is also a living space in which I can add to or modify, link to or share. The same can hold true for my students. Work can be published and shared with their classmates who can also comment or critique. This allows classmates to be more like facilitators. Students may come to enjoy writing if they believe it is meaningful and will be seen by others.
I also like the idea of adding multimedia elements to paperless assignments, such as links to charts, animation, videos, etc., that could never happen in a hard copy. Another advantage of paperless assignments is the ease of grading, commenting, and editing. In Google Docs students can share their papers with me. I can then watch as they type, see a history of edits, comment on their paper, or even make corrections in real time so they can learn as they go.
I think the best way to measure learning in a paperless classroom is through a series of objectives and the use of rubrics. When my students write, they have a rubric that I have created that they use to self-assess their writing. Students are not allowed to turn in work without first self-assessing. I do this so students see it is not just me giving a grade while allowing them the chance to learn what is expected and to make corrections before assignments are handed in. It is a process that I teach and one that I think works well. I think this would be a natural fit in a paperless classroom.
I think the creation of a paperless classroom would make it easier to build a learning network. Your work is easily accessible by others and can be linked to or commented on. It is easy to send a copy through email or otherwise give others access to your work. In turn you can comment on others work or gain ideas through the reading of others’ ideas. I am really considering having my English students have their own blog this school year, keeping all of their writing on their blog and having others comment and read each other’s work. I think it has helped me to blog throughout this class, and I think it can benefit my students also. Only time can tell.