The Paperless Classroom Experiment


My school has been 1:1 with laptops for 2 years now.  Eventually the tech coordinator and I believed that going 1:1 would gradually lead to a decrease in printing, photocopying and general paper use but it hasn’t really worked out that way.  Two weeks ago I was preparing my lesson for the next day and began printing some copies of example assignments I wanted to show my students.  The thought just popped into my head and I hit Command+P and printed without even thinking about.  Like a reflex.

So I challenged myself for one week to use no paper in the classroom.  I continued lesson planning like normal, but I had to find ways for myself and my students to work without the use of paper.  I just wrapped this up on Friday, so here are my main reflections on how it all went:

To each their own

Each of my students are different.  There are some students that thrive in a digital environment with hyperlinks and online filing cabinets.  Other students find that harder to navigate and understand.  I tried to, for the most part, give my students digital copies of everything the day before class in case they wanted to print them out on their own.  Is that cheating in a paperless classroom?  Maybe, but I felt like I had to give the students that option.  Almost no students chose to print anything out though.

Sometimes there is no substitute

Sometimes paper is just the best option.  This week I introduced new vocabulary to my Spanish 2 students.  They normally get a paper vocab sheet with the words.  They use that sheet as a reference when we do different activities and I’ve seen them use it for an easy way to study during lunch or before the quiz.  This week they just got a digital copy of the sheet.  I think it definitely impacted the way they studied and learned their vocabulary.  I wasn’t very pleased with assessments results associated with the vocabulary this week.  The students definitely seemed weaker without holding that solid reference sheet.  If I ever did decide to make the move to a 100% paperless classroom, this would be my biggest concern and condition to consider.

Just do it

Kind of like a diet or a lenten resolution, there were some times throughout the week where I just thought I could cheat or cut a corner here and there.  I could have the students write down those answers and turn them into me on paper real quick.  I could just make a classroom copy of this or that.  But this was a challenge/game for me, so I just did it.  And for the most part, everything was just fine.  I think the biggest obstacle in creating a paperless or paper-lessened environment is the decision to plan it that way.  It requires a decision from the teacher to go that route.  It becomes like a discipline behavior.

Worth it?

Sounds like a lot of work or willpower for the teacher.  So is it worth it?  There are certainly benefits to a paper-lessened environment.  I never took home anything to grade — every piece of assessment data I had was on my computer in one form or another.  Easily organized and accessed.  I used digital assessments (on Canvas LMS) vs. regular paper quizzes and that allowed the students to get immediate feedback.  They knew their score before I did.  Which makes sense since it is their score.  Physically less photocopying and printing makes my tech guy happier with the budget, so there are monetary concerns if you look at this large scale.  I also found that doing things this way made it easier to get things to students that were absent.  Normally I have a little table in the corner with handouts, and when I student is absent, they come and ask for a handout that they missed and we search through the piles until we find what they need.  Everything was online for everyone all week, so there was no lag in the distribution of materials.

Future Implications

I can’t go full on paperless.  At least not until the students get more accustomed to that lifestyle.  I only have them for about 50 minutes of their academic day.  When they leave me, they have to go into classrooms where paper exists, so it isn’t helpful to them to put them through that shock just for the heck of it.  But I am going to try and be paper conscious and create a paper-lessened classroom, with less photocopying and printing.  And I’m going to promote this with other teachers to try and create that environment everywhere.  Once the students learn to learn without paper consistently, we can talk about a truly paperless classroom

A funny thing happened on the way to the paperless classroom

I’m going to add this anecdote as a post-script to this paperless classroom blog.  It’s an interesting little thing that happened with my Spanish 3 class of mainly junior students.   Using Doctopus (a truly lifesaving Google Script), each student had a personal online Google Doc where they needed to take notes over Argentina.  I introduced the notes in class but students were supposed to read and take notes on their own outside of class and come back in two days ready to discuss and talk about the information.  As they got settled in to their document and to the online notes, one student asked why they just couldn’t work on this all together.  They had previous experience using Google Docs and Presentations to collaborate with each other and take group notes, and they wanted to know why they couldn’t just do that.  I explained that for future activities that we were going to do, I wanted each student to have their own individual copy of the notes.  I said that I would be checking their personal note sheet to see how they did—but if they wanted to find a way to work together they could.  Then I kind of stepped back.

First they tried to share their personal note taking sheets with each other, but I had blocked that option.  So then a student created a new document and invited the class to all be collaborators.  They worked together to take notes on that document.  Then they went through those group notes and copied them into their personal note taking sheets.  I watched them work through that and thought how transformative that was.  It was completely something that didn’t and couldn’t exist with only paper and no technology.  And it turned out great.  The notes they took were very good and the students were ready for the tasks we had in class later that week.  Certainly they did it because “it was easier” but I choose to focus on the fact that they wanted to collaborate and figured out a way to make it work.

Infographic Syllabus


A class syllabus reminds me of a good restaurant menu.  It is informative and should be easy to scan for the information that you want.  Design in my classroom syllabus has always been important.  Blocked text and paragraphs of info just aren’t that exciting.  Imagine going into a restaurant and getting a 8×12 piece of black and white paper with point 12 Times New Roman font.  What message would that send about the restaurant?

I’ve been dabbling with using infographics in my classroom as assessment tools over the past year and this summer came across some articles on infographic syllabi.  What if you take all the information that you normally share through a syllabus but present it visually, with a mixture of graphics, charts and text.  It’ll be easy to refer to and gives a great first impression of my classroom.

Our 21st century world is full of stimuli competing for our attention.  Never has design been more important in gaining and keeping the attention of a viewer as now.  The education world doesn’t need to be exempt from those principles.  Below is my attempt to create an infographic syllabus.  I’m not a designer but it accomplished what I wanted it to: 1) easy to refer to, 2) contains important information and 3) attractive graphic elements that gain the attention of the viewer.

Syllabus Spanish Infographic

 

Nearpod: Mobile Learning + Interactive Presentation App


For classrooms that have 1:1 access with IPads, Nearpod would be one of those tools I would say absolutely had to be used in classroom instruction.  Mandatory use in instruction.  It combines presentation and lecture, quizzes, polling and formative assessment, video and hands on demonstrating.  There are two sides to Nearpod: the teacher side and the student side. From the teacher side, one can create interactive lessons by creating a presentation in Nearpod that is like a PowerPoint on steroids. There are six different types of features a teacher can add into a presentation.  The presentation can have multiple features, all one feature or a mixture of whatever the author wants.

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A few observations about the features:

  • If a teacher already has PowerPoints created and wants to incorporate those slides into a Nearpod presentation, it would be complete possible!  Just go to PowerPoint and save the PPT as images (this is an option in the File Menu).  Now each one of your slides is an image file that can be uploaded to Nearpod.  I think the whole “Save as Images” option is key in using Nearpod with materials you’ve already created.
  • The quizzes and Q&A make great formative assessment.  It’s a little bit tricky to do an open ended question or a question with multiple answers, but it is do-able.
  • “Draw it” is pretty awesome.  I tested it out in a math presentation at halfway through the presentation, the teacher included a “Draw it” slide where the students had to work through the problem.  The teacher sees all responses on his/her IPad.

The teacher creates an interactive, instructional presentation or lesson on the web.  When it’s time for the lesson, the teacher uses and IPad and logs in to the Nearpod app as a teacher.  The students type in a code assigned to that presentation and are immediately taken to the lesson.  It’s a teacher-paced presentation, so students are only able to see the part of the presentation the teacher wants.  When the teacher is ready to move on to the next screen of the presentation, the teacher swipes the screen and all student screens will go to the next feature.  It’s a great instructional app that allows the teacher to move through content while allowing students the opportunity to get involved and participate, all while collecting data on understanding.

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Nearpod is one of those progression instructional tools.  Content used to be delivered through lecture.  Then overhead.  Then PowerPoint presentations.  Now the presentation includes interactive elements and is right there in each student’s hands.  It’s best used in situations where there is 1 IPad for every 1 student involved (either a 1:1 environment or a small group setting).  I think that in the future of IPads in Education, Nearpod will be the instructional tool that all others are measured by.

Choose Your Own Adventure in Google Forms


Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions
Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books or Games?  A new feature in Google Forms now lets users branch multiple choice responses so that each response leads you to a different page.  There are many potential applications for this in the classroom, but branching allows someone to craft a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

When drafting a Google Form, the creator can write part of a story in the “Page Description” box.  Underneath that text block, the reader can be given selection of choices.  Each of these selections give the reader the option to choose what will happen next in the story.  By checking the option “Go to page based on answer”, the creator can decide where each possible answer leads.

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Because the Google Form makes the creation of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story very methodical, its necessary to plan out all of your options and where they might lead.  I attempted to try this by creating a CYOA activity associated with a movie that we watch in class called ‘El Norte’.  I thought that this activity might be a good thing to do before we watch the film.  Anyway, as I started to mind-map my story and all the possible options, it easily got out of hand and complicated.  These webs can get quite complex if you want them to.  I would suggest that beginners limit themselves to only a few layers of options.  My CYOA story required 25 pages in a Google Form and I tried to be conservative in the last few layers.

There are a lot of concluding activities that could accompany this type of activity: a discussion, written essays, going through it until you get a desirable outcome, etc.  I think the educational impact of this could be great:  making the student think about choices and consequences and what actions lead to different situations.  I saw a lot of this application in Social Studies but think that it could be stretched to any discipline.

One thing that excites me about the ease of the Google Doc format is the fact that students could be writers of their own CYOA story.  What a great activity!  Make students draft out a series of choices and possible outcomes and put together an activity they can share with classmates.  They could examine the choices made by Romeo & Juliet, or John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or a scientist working through a hypothesis.  Just as in a Choose Your Own Adventure story – – the possibilities are endless!

My Choose Your Own Adventure Activity: El Norte

IPad Integration: Intro and Audiobooks


Basic Apps to Know:

Dropbox  Free (App Store)

Share information from your computer to your IPad by installing Dropbox on the Ipad (and possibly on your computer).  You can also access Dropbox on the Internet.  Great for sharing files (documents, PDFs, photos, videos, etc.)

IBooks  Free (App Store)

The standard reading platform on your IPad.  Reads document files you share through Dropbox, EPUB files you download from the internet and anything you purchase in the store.

Edmodo  Free (App Store)

I’m a big fan of Edmodo as a classroom management portal.  It’s an easy way to send students links, files, notes, assignments and quizzes, and safely allows them to collaborate, write and share.  Students can log in and out of their individual Edmodo profile so that each individual user can access their individual Edmodo account.

Another great plus with Edmodo is its Apps (so, essentially, there are Apps within the App).  There are a lot of great ones – – some that you have to pay for and some free ones.  One really great literacy app is No Red Ink.  (Click here for a review on No Red Ink)

I want my students to be able to read Audiobooks on the IPad.

IBooks  Free (App Store)

It isn’t an audiobook platform by nature, but IBooks includes a feature where you can highlight text and have the computer voice speak it to you.  Simply double click the text, highlight to portion you would like spoken and hit the “Speak” option.

AudioBooks  Basic Version, Free; Full Version, $.99 (App Store)

Over 5,000 public domain works are available directly in the app. Audio books are streamed directly within the app and can be downloaded to an in-app library as well. The audio book will also continue to be read when running in the background, allowing a user to take notes in another app while listening to the audio. The free version gives you access to all books in the public domain. Purchasing the premium version of the app opens up access to additional content.

LibriVox  Free (Online Website)

Though not an app, Librivox is a web site of thousands of public domain recordings that can be downloaded and then played via iTunes on the iPad. In addition to providing the full recording, Librivox also allows for downloading books in smaller segments and posts additional resources about each title such as a book summary, a link to a Gutenberg e-text, and references to related Wikipedia articles.

Project Gutenberg  Free (Online Website)

With over 40,000 public domain titles available on the site as ePub files, students and teachers can directly download files to iBooks for offline reading. Once the book is in the iBooks app, the text can be read back by turning on Speak Selection in the iPad accessibility settings.

OverDrive Media Console  Free (App Store)

With a valid library card, download eBooks and audio books from the library. Browse from the titles available through public and university libraries. Much like physical library books, these titles are borrowed and then returned. At the end of the lending period, they simply disappear from the app. Both eBooks and audio books are “read” through the Overdrive app and cannot be transferred to iBooks for annotation purposes.

Itunes  (prices for titles vary)

Also check out the selection of audiobooks available for purchase through ITunes.

TripWow!


Recently came across TripWow.  This is a site sponsored by TripAdvisor that lets users make visually stunning slideshows with pictures including a map of the locations.  As a user, the only thing you have to do in the presentation is choose your title, find pictures, select the order you want the pictures displayed, give each photo a location and a caption.  TripWow will do the rest of the work.  What you are left with is a very professional looking product that can be helpful in Geography, History or any subject where locations across the globe are of interest.

Famous Hispanics Slideshow: Emily’s trip to 9 cities including Spain and Canary Islands (near Spain, Spain) was created with TripAdvisor TripWow!

Check out the Hispanics one I made earlier tonight (total prep time to create: 10 minutes).  http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-06ed-d134-121c?lb

Content Creators


One great advantage technology gives to students it the ability to take ownership in learning and assessment through becoming content creators.  Students have exposure to many different tools that allow them to customize and create projects for assessment.

The positive thing about this is that students will individually produce their own unique work, revealing a personal style and understanding of the material.  Gone are the days of cookie-cutter projects and strict parameters.  This can also be a struggle for teachers, however.  Teachers receive several different interpretations and projects rather than one standard.

Here is the goal in adopting Student Content Creation:  Teachers set assignment parameters and expectations and access the students meeting those standards using any method they choose.

Here are some example methods my students have used in the past when giving “generic” assignment guidelines:

Essay (Written):  Never underestimate the power of the written word.  Some students prefer to organize their thoughts in essays.  It doesn’t include a lot of visual elements, traditionally, but if content is your main focus, it will work.

Essay (Video):  One assignment I had students do last year required them to do a five part essay addressing specific questions and observations they had following a movie we watched.  I gave them the option of doing a video essay:  recording their verbal answers by recording video of themselves in PhotoBooth.  It was much more informal than the traditional written essay but gave me a very personal account of each student’s understanding.

PowerPoint:  It does it’s job as a presentation tool, allows students to add pictures and make is attractive and easy to read.  Slides cleanly present material.

Prezi:  Think of Prezi as a non-linear, spread out PowerPoint.  Instead of having “slides”, all the material is attractively arranged on a plane.  The presenter tools let you order material, creating zooming effects.  Also easy to embed photos and video content.  It’s a website and a log-in is required.

Poster:  Sometimes a nicely designed poster is the best way to go.  It allows students to be artistic and posters can also be used in your classes in the future.

Blog Entry:  Having the students add their thoughts to an online blog is like doing an essay but it’s an essay they can share with the entire world.  Blogs can be informal places to share general, personal observations related to class, or you can use it as a place to upload and share assignments and project.  Check out our ongoing Spanish 2 Blog here.

Baseball Card:  This works particularly well with personalities.  Students create a baseball card of a figure: picture on one side, stats and important information on the back.

Fake Facebook:  This also works well with personalities.  Students create a Facebook profile, friends and correspondence embodying the character.  Download the PPT Template here Fake Facebook.pptx.

IMovie:  I-Movie can be an attractive way to put together information, to narrate pictures or explain a process though demonstration.

Glogster:  Glogster is an online program that allows students to create online posters.  These posters (or Glogs) include text, animation, sound, video and hyperlinks.  You have to have a an account to create a glog.  Check out this Glog on the Human Brain:  http://tehescmarts.edu.glogster.com/parts-of-the-brain/

VoiceThread:  VoiceThread is an online program where students record narrations with pictures.  It moves like a slideshow but can be very effective for comprehension activities, definitions and demonstrations.  See our comprehension activity with a movie we watched in class: http://voicethread.com/share/2433985/

Timeline:  Create a timeline using an online timeline creator like www.timetoast.com.  Timetoast allows students to include photos and extra descriptions.

Twitter Notes:  Students create a list or a shot of recent Tweets that correspond to a class topic or trending topic.

YouTube Playlist:  Students create a playlist of videos from YouTube that are related to a class topic.

Infographics:  Students create attractive InforGraphic of information using a variety of online sources.  Infographics bring together text and pictures in a way that pleasingly and easily conveys information.  Sites that help create Inforgraphics:  http://www.easel.ly, http://venngage.com and a complete list – – http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/infographic-tools/.

Socrative


Socrative is a great online resource for teachers that want to do quick, formative assessment or informal checks on learning.  Teachers can create a teacher account that works like an online “classroom”.  Students go to that online classroom to participate in any activities the teacher makes active.  Here is a list of some of the things a teacher can do using Socrative:

Screen Shot 2012-10-06 at 2.36.51 PM Create Quizzes

This is biggest thing that Socrative can do.  Teachers create multiple choice, true false quizzes using Socrative and invite the students to their classroom to take the quiz.  You can choose between student paced quizzes, where the students cycle through the quiz questions at their own pace, or teacher paced quizzes, where the teacher controls when the next quiz question will be displayed.  I like to use these quizzes as informative formative assessments.  I check for understanding, analyze the results for patterns, and determine whether or not we are ready to move on to the next concept.

Exit Ticket

This is a great way to do a formative assessment.  Students can type in their own words, answer specific questions or give just a general reflection on the lesson of the day.  The teacher can craft these to narrow the scope, but I usually just have a couple open ended questions that I use to get information from the student.

Space Race

It isn’t a perfect game, but Space Race takes any quiz a teacher has created and makes it a game where spaceships fly across the screen with every correct answer.  The objective is to be the first spaceship across.  The thing my students have enjoyed about SpaceRace is the random grouping feature.  I will set it to randomly group the students into 6 or 7 different groups, each assigned a specific color.  Then, once the quiz begins, they know their color and always call out “Who else is Purple?”.  They are cycling through the same old quiz questions, but wrapping it up in a game makes it a lot more fun for the students.

 

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Results:

Results for all activities on Socrative are stored on the website and can be automatically emailed to you.  The emailed results show each response and totals up the number correct too.

How to use it:

Students can access Socrative on the web or through the Socrative App that is available at the Apple ITunes Store.  In the past, I’ve had students download the app to their phone or Ipod and they seemed to like that.  Today, I just have my students go to www.socrative.com, enter the student portal and enter my personal Socrative classroom number.

TestMoz: Online Test Generator


Here are some things I like about student review activities (prior to a big test):

  1. a grade-able quiz where I author the questions
  2. question and answer variability so that students can take the quiz more than once for review
  3. quizzes that give immediate feedback so that students can assess their readiness or competency
  4. easy online access without student username/password sign-in features
  5. easy to access quiz results that make for easy grade recording
  6. free (probably should have put this at #1)

About two years ago, I found a great downloadable quiz generator program called Quiz Creator from Wondershare.  I downloaded the quiz editing software, created unique and special quizzes and was able to publish them as embeddable flash files that I could upload to my class website.  The kids just had to put in their first name and last name and when they finished, the results were emailed to me.  Pretty awesome.  But early on in this quiz creation romance I knew we would have problems.  The software was only available for PC.  And even if I found some compatible Mac software, I would have had some problems getting the privileges to install a program on my school Mac computer.  Doing the quiz writing from home was not ideal, but I lived with it.  Then we changed school website servers and I found that I couldn’t take the PC created flash files and transfer them over to my IWeb website.  With no way to get these quizzes online so my students could take them, I needed a new quiz creator.

Into my life walked www.testmoz.com.  It’s a very simple online generator created by an undergraduate student at Washington State University.  TestMoz allows you to create quizzes online by simply giving a test a name and an administrator password so that you can access the quiz and edit it later.  You can make fill in the blank, multiple choice, multiple response or true/false questions.

You can choose for the question order to be random and you can also choose for the multiple choice answers to be randomized too.  Students have to type in their name before taking each quiz: no sign-up or anything.  All results are stored on TestMoz where I can access them later with my admin password.  It’s so clean and simple and it seems a little too clean and simple, but I really love it.  The flash based quizzes I used in the past were a little more jazzy and then just showed one question at a time, where these quizzes show all the questions at once.

Like I said earlier, I like to use these kinds of tests as review before a big test, where students can repeatedly go over the questions so that they are comfortable with the material and concepts that will be on the actual test.  Students can retake the quiz and, although they are getting the same questions, there is enough variability that they still have to think a little bit.  (Also, if I don’t want to allow the students to take it more than once and they do, I’ll just take the first score submitted by looking at the timestamp that accompanies the results.)

TestMoz seems to fulfill my wish list above for things that I’m looking for in an online quiz that my students can use for review.  Do I wish it was a little more flashy or pretty?  Of course, I’m a girl.  But as an educator strictly focused on outcomes, it’s a match made in online test generator heaven.

A Teacher’s Intellectual Property


About a year ago I gave a short presentation on educational technology to my school board.  One of the board members complimented me but then addressed the board, asking how the district could retain these methods and activities.  He talked about intellectual property and how the school would be at a loss if I took these things with me if I ever left the district.  My only real thought at the time was, “I guess you’ll have to keep me”.

It’s a very businessminded approach.  If an employee for a software developer creates a program as part of his or her job and then leaves a few weeks later, does he  or she get to take that information and program with him?  I would think not.  But if a teacher creates something for a class he or she is teaching, is it his or hers to take to the next teaching assignment?

I’ve taught in three different schools now and each time I made the move, a bin of material and an external hard drive has come with me.  I created things while working at Star of the Sea School that I use now at Denver High School.  My thought was, “I created these, I get to keep these”.  (Although I left copies of almost everything behind too).

But that doesn’t seem to fit a business model.  Over and over again I read that the business sector has evolved into the 21st century and the education system has not in this country.  Should schools operate more like businesses in that regard?  My husband (a newbie teacher) says absolutely not: if everything a teacher creates is property of the school, a teacher has no incentive to create anything new.

If you follow my posts, you may know that I estimate that I create almost 85% of my classroom material.  I tweak and reinvent and personalize tests, handouts, assessments and activities.  I do this for a few reasons: my students notice the non-cookie-cutter-ness of it all, I highlight certain material based on class weakness and strengths but mostly because I love being creative and inventive!  And when I look back at my 7 year teaching career, I have amassed an impressive amount of intellectual property.

But is it protected?  I don’t think I have the right to copyright an activity or an assignment, especially if it was inspired by other information “out there”.  Teachers hate when students use the copy and paste trick.  We call it cheating, we call it plagarism, we lecture them about ethics and morals and tell them the internet is a dangerous place and that all information must be properly cited* or they can’t use it at all.

But don’t teacher’s do a fair amount of this?  Teachers have been flooding the internet in a share of ideas and a search for new methods and ways to connect with their students.  If I find a great activity online that was created by another teacher, I wouldn’t usually think twice about grabbing it an using it.  Is it intellectual property theft?  Or is everything fair game for educators – – as long as it is for an educational purpose?

I know I’ve asked a lot more questions today than I’ve attempted to answer but these are just a few thoughts that got brought to my attention in the last few weeks.  And in the meantime I’m thinking about hiring a talented graphic designer to help me with my copyright watermark.

*I’m not suggesting that material doesn’t need to be cited  – – just commenting on the repeated lectures students get about using information that belongs to someone else.