Becoming “100% paperless” in the classroom

In higher education, faculty and students alike go through a lot of paper in the course of a school year. Paper is used every day. Long reading packets, writing notes and to-do lists, and hand-editing draft after draft of a paper make up only some of these activities and tasks. David Andrade, an edtech blogger and teacher, published on his blog Monday a list of tools he has been using on his way to becoming “100% paperless”, both in school and at home. Becoming paperless is now a possibility, thanks to technology, and can save both energy and money. Here are the top tools David Andrade recommends:

  1. Scanner – the first step to transforming paper documents into electronic ones.
  2. Evernote – a helpful tool (most popular in its “app” form, but a desktop download is available) used for taking notes by capturing information in nearly any form. Also allows the user to search the text.
  3. Google Docs – cloud computing that allows you to create, edit and share office work (text documents, slideshows, spreadsheets) all online.
  4. Google Calendar – tool that allows you to create and share both group and individual calendars.
  5. Google Tasks – a virtual to-do list that pops up in the corner of the main page of Gmail.
  6. Use an electronic grade book – that is, if your school isn’t already. Andrade points to Engrade, an online service for just this. It’s free, and also allows students and parents to view grades.
  7. PDF Tools – instead of printing, use PDF tools to convert files, mark them up, edit them, and even convert them to another format later. This is especially useful for long papers and packets.
  8. Student online services – there are many tools to help students become more organized- tools that track assignments, help them take notes, set a schedule for the week, and more. The names Andrade drops are Notely, Soshiku, Dweeber and TrackClass.
  9. Smartphone (+camera) – a smartphone is a great tool for paper-free work. A smartphone allows the user to work anywhere, anytime. The reason a camera-equipped smartphone is preferred (although a vast majority of smartphones do have built-in cameras) is because it makes capturing information very simple…just take a photograph! There are a few programs (such as Evernote, which I mentioned before) that will even allow you to search the text of your photographs!
  10. Websites and blogs – a website and/or blog is an easy way to share information and communicate with other people.
  11. Digital textbooks and reference sites – save paper, money and make your bag lighter!
  12. Tablets, computers and netbooks – If you’re reading this, you probably have access to at least one of these things. Although they may be “obvious” technologies, tablets, computers and netbooks are essential in going paperless.
  13. Digital assignments instead of paper – Andrade suggests to assign digital projects or assignments instead of paper-based. Instead of paper assignments, have students contribute or post on a blog, webpage, or a Google Docs document. Assign digital creation projects- such as video or a slideshow presentation.
  14. Electronic bulletin boards and digital displays – instead of using paper to post announcements on a bulletin board, switch to digital! Use an electronic bulletin board or an electronic display- like a digital photo frame!