Tag Archives: Technology

Going Paperless: Take the toolkit . . . out of the box!

This is the second article in a series discussing the journey towards a paperless classroom.

Now that we are in the right frame of mind to start the journey towards becoming more paperless (see previous article), it is important to make sure that we have the right tools in our bag for the tasks that lay ahead.

What does an engaged classroom use for technology?

Tools that are frequently mentioned are laptops, wireless tablets, pulse pens, netbooks, interactive whiteboards and similar high-tech tools. I think that the single most important tool in our teaching toolkit is the creative minds of our students. Without our students taking an idea and running with it, the technology tools are pieces of machinery. The most innovative uses of technology involve uses for which the technology was not originally intended, and it is often our students who find that alternative use.

As educators, we must find ways to create valuable lessons that engage the creative minds of our students. It is entirely possible to have a really well-built high-functioning piece of technology equipment that still serves the same purpose as a piece of paper and a pencil, and students are able to spot a pointless lesson from the moment it is proposed.

When your student discovers a new way of looking at a lesson or a new use for a piece of technology, give them room to get out of the box.

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Going Paperless: Packing for the Trip

This is the first in a series of articles discussing the process of making the transition from a traditional to a more paperless classroom.

Making the decision to go paperless can be a difficult one. Depending on how many years a teacher has taught a subject, they may have mountains of paper-based lessons in their teaching arsenal. The idea of losing all of those resources can in itself be enough to keep a teacher from going paperless.

My proposal is to make the move toward paperless by changing one lesson at a time. Making an effort to change one or two lessons per grading period is a step in the right direction. Some classes (including my own) may never be truly paperless, but they can all be closer to paperless than when we start the journey.

The first step is to take stock. Take a look at the lessons you currently do that require the use of paper. Are there things that you can do with the same lesson that do not involve paper? That is a step in the right direction.

But it is not enough to simply replace paper with technology.

Evaluating the value of the lesson is important if we want our paperless classroom to be more engaging, more effective, and more valuable to our students. In my presentation last week, I showed three pictures. One was an old film projector, one was an overhead projector (the transparency variety) and the other was a ceiling-mounted projector (the type that connects to a computer). I asked “what do these three tools have in common?”

All three of them project something on a wall. The film projector converts film to something viewable, the overhead projector converts plastic sheets to something viewable, and the ceiling-mounted projector converts ones and zeroes to something viewable. Making electronic copies of transparencies so they can be shown through the ceiling-mount is not a move toward anything. It is replacing one method of delivery to another.

In order to use technology effectively, we must evaluate our lessons and enhance them with the use of technology. One example of this is assessing whether students “get” a lesson. Making the switch from a paper quiz to a quiz I’ve developed on Blackboard isn’t enough. Opening a CoverItLive session during the lesson so that I can see how engaged my students are, what questions they have, and what the lesson makes them think might be a step in the right direction.

As teachers, we are taught to reflect on our lessons and make them better. This is an absolute necessity when we are transitioning toward technology. Otherwise, we might become satisfied with the same lessons in a prettier box.

Why does it always surprise me?

I’m blogging from TCEA (Texas Computer Educator’s Association) this week. Yesterday, I spent the day at a pre-conference for Discovery Education, learning some great ways to digitize my classroom. The keynote speaker, Hall Davidson, had two interesting videos to show as a comparison of teachers and administration to show us who needs to be convinced about the need to go digital.

The teacher video showed rows of teachers in a session at a conference – all of them with laptops on, some of them with iPhones working, some with both going at the same time. Backchannels, networking, oh my! 

The administrator video showed a room full of well-dressed individuals. In the entire room, there was one netbook and a whole slew of laps with notepads (and I mean the paper and cardboard type), hands gripping pens busily taking notes.

This morning, I sat in a room full of people waiting to hear about Web 2.0 tools. I looked around and realized that there were only about 4 people, in a room of about 100, who had laptops. Unbelievably, the presenter started out talking about handouts. I had to stop and wonder – is this really a technology conference?

A person next to me, when she heard where I teach said “oh, that’s the paperless school!” She was all excited about it – the comment sort of depressed me. Although we were built to be paperless, actually getting every single teacher in the school to go paperless has been daunting and in fact, we do have copiers in our school, which is evidence that we have not gone paperless.

Even a presenter in the afternoon who is supposedly a 21st century leader in education talked about the fact that we would never be able to get rid of books altogether. Really?

What will it take for us to be able to let go of the paper?

What is it about mushed up, watered down, then dried out wood that makes us so dependent upon it? Is it the toasty warm feeling we get when we throw it in the trash after a class of students leaves the handouts lying on the floor? Is it the hefty weight of it in a backpack that we love to condemn our students to? Is it the chuckles we get from reading outdated information and pointing it out to students in the hopes they won’t believe everything they read in their textbook?

Why is it that we feel so compelled to give students something in their hands to read? Why can’t we let them find information on their own on the web?

Are we afraid they’ll read something that isn’t correct and take it to be fact? Then teach them how to discern.

Is it that we are afraid of them not being able to recall the chemical symbols for the first 20 elements on the periodic table on demand? Then teach them how to access the information another way.

Is it that we are convinced that if textbooks are found to be obsolete, so will we? Then learn how to teach without a student in view.

Anthony Robbins once said “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” It’s time for the education world to forget what they’ve always done and strive to do something they’ve never attempted. If I can’t find people who believe this at a technology conference, where can I find them?