Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Get Real – How Much LEARNING Came Out of That

What is the learning
Get Real – How Much LEARNING Came Out of That

Digital Does Not Have to Be Hard

I am adamant that switching to digital tools is a change in mindset. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it should be different.

Worse Than Paper

Taking all your stuff and throwing it online is overwhelming and confusing. Learning how to deal with that mess is hard. It does not make learning better.

Same task = same learning.

I have stated many times that annotating PDF’s is a bad lesson plan. I am frequently asked, “how can I mark on a kids paper?” I respond with “Do not do that.” It is EASIER to do this task on paper. Why do you want to go through the hassle of doing this digitally? I would rather go through a stack of papers than have to open up 30 to 150 digital documents, and figure out how to comment on it.

For all that effort, how much did the kids LEARN?!

I ask this question all the time. When you take all this time to put comments on the side of a kid’s paper, what happens to it? They cram it into the bottom of their bag or throw it in the trash.

At least with paper, I handed it to them and put it in their face that maybe they might see the comments. Digital, the student has to make the effort to open the digital document and look for the annotated comments…. yea right. Get real, the amount of learning that comes out of this is slim to none! You spent hours, battled a slow network connection, made over 1000 mouse clicks… FOR WHAT? It truly would have been better to do this on paper.

Paperless is Not the Goal

“I am going into teaching so I can save trees!” said, hopefully, no one. Being paperless is not a virtue. Inspiring kids to love learning is the goal. Do not ditch a paper task just to save a tree; does the digital task improve learning and a love of learning?

[tweet]Use digital tools to interact better with students.[/tweet]

Use paper for paper tasks. Trying to make all your stuff digital is overwhelming. How does the digital task change how your class interacts? Try one new tool to hear more from students.

Try One

Post your directions online.

When students walk in the door they know to go online and find the directions for what to do. This allows you to use your time to interact more WITH students. Instructional minutes are saved as students are not waiting on you for what to do. Be consistent, do not say directions. Post them. This has the added bonus of students who, for whatever reason, are not in class. They are able to get up to speed.

Ask a Question

Google Classroom has a feature to poll the class. Click on the plus icon in the bottom right and choose “Question.” When posing a question verbally to the class, you can not usually hear from every student. Research shows it is the quieter students who have the most thoughtful answer. Starting a discussion digitally gives students time to think and thoughtfully respond. You then get to hear from EVERY student, not just one or two.

There are many great tools that let students respond digitally. Sometimes I will just use a Google Spreadsheet or Padlet or Today’s Meet.


Modern classrooms are defined by the 4 C’s: Clearly communicate ideas, Critical thinking, Creative thinking and Collaboration. Digital tools make collaboration more effective oftentimes.

Choose one tool that allows students to collaborate. To collaborate in Google Docs, students can click on the blue share button to invite another student to their document. Students can collaborate around ideas using Twiddla or Trello. Collaboratively brainstorm and create mindmaps with Bubbl.us.

Peer Evaluate

Having students provide feedback comments to each other has multiple benefits. Using commenting features on Google Docs or other products allows students to “critique the reasoning of others.” Create a class where “we are a community of learners who help each other get better.”

Other Suggestions

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