10 Technology Transitions for the Paper-Based Classroom

Just hearing the word "technology" scares some teachers. But perhaps it's not the word that's the problem. Maybe it's the context. What if we thought about technology in more transitional ways?

edtech, educational technology, paperless classroom

Through acknowledgement of paper-based media, we can better understand the concepts and pedagogy that may get lost in a paper-less setting.

1. Name: _________ = Login: Username / Password

The importance of writing one's name at the top of the paper does not change when students turn in digital documents. Actually, it becomes more important in the paperless classroom because it's hard to identify individual handwriting. Teaching this skill on paper is still relevant, especially if students can transfer what they learned to the digital world.

2. Heading = Naming Conventions

Every year, I hear students complain about how English teachers expect them to write a specific heading on their papers. I've never required it in my paper-based classes, but I've learned that paperless work flow must include a naming convention that makes the work searchable on the cloud and identifiable by students and teachers.

3. Addressing Envelopes = Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

The concept of a web address is easy for me to understand because my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Brown, taught us the anatomy of an addressed envelope. In addition to snail mail formalities, students need to learn the parts of web address. The sooner they learn the basics of computing and the Worldwide Web, the better their chances of becoming more efficient and effective at work and play.

4. Reading Packet = Portable Document Format (PDF)

I'll never forget the e-mail I received a couple of years ago. It was a PDF of the grading cycle failure report. The principal apologized for the almost 60 pages that we were expected to search (manually) to find our students. I felt bad when I realized that not everyone (in fact almost no one) knew that the PDF, like most digital documents and webpages, could be searched using CTRL+F.

I likened this tool to skimming a paper-based reading packet for keywords. Again, a skill my awesome teachers nurtured in my elementary school years. Sometimes I feel like learned everything useful from those teachers. No offense high school Ts. You were important in different ways because I knew everything, right?

5. Worksheet = Google Apps

This one is simple. A bad paper-based worksheet is a map with political boundaries and physical features. A good paper-based worksheet is an outline map, only. A great paper-based classroom expects students to draw the map and choose the style based on the nature of the data used to respond to a problem. Google Apps allows students to do any of these worksheets collaboratively. Guess which one is best outcome for students.

6. Assignment Notebook = Google Classroom

Students need to commit to completing their assignments. In fact, they are about 30 to 40 percent more likely to complete them if they write the time and date in a planner or on a calendar. But they don't have to write all of the details or maintain a copy of the materials if teachers use Google Classroom.

I use Classroom as an online lesson planning space. I actually have two administrators acting as students in my class so they can see how it works. Consequently, they also know what we are learning each week.

7. File Folder = Google Drive

The benefit of a file folder is the visibility. You can see the big cabinet and quickly scan your color-coded folders and neatly labeled tabs. The great thing about Google Drive is that you can access your files anywhere with Internet, which is almost everywhere you would need to, these days. Plus, you can share a folder with someone on the other side of the world with a few clicks. Try doing that with your manila.

8. Notebook = Google Docs

I love writing in journals. I love writing in my Google Docs app even more because it's on my phone and I can search a few keywords and come up with notes I forgot about. Paper-based note-taking cannot do that. Also, I can take notes for a meeting on a doc in a shared folder so team members can follow along and add details, comments, links, and fix my mistakes. Next time it will be their turn.

9. Flashcards = Quizlet

Making card decks is important. They work great as study aids to practice recall, but they are also good for organizing ideas on the table or taped to the wall. Quizlet is a great place to start if you are thinking about making the transition from paper-based to digital technology. You can use the materials in either medium. I still like printing the words and having students sort them. I can't say enough about how important this tool can be for a class with one computer or one for every learner.

10. Scantron = Google Forms

Do you love the speed that bubble sheet readers provide? Personally, I like the sound a Scantron machine makes. You know, the telltale grind when most of the responses are wrong. It's bittersweet for my auditory proclivities.

Google forms is quiet, but you can edit the test up until the moment you share it with students, and marking the assessments is quick and easy with the Flubaroo add on.

Thanks for reading. I hope you feel strongly about both paper-based and digital forms of media. Here's a sample Quizlet deck based on the list above. Play around with the options. Click on the label in the bottom left to access the site. It's a great place to start.