Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Slapping it Online Does Not Make it Better

Slapping it online is not better
Slapping it Online Does Not Make it Better

Slapping it online is not better

Improve Learning

How does G Suite and Google Classroom make learning better? It does not if you are just doing the same old things, digitally. My kid is always complaining about the digital worksheets posted in Google Classroom. They were Word documents (you can still see the docx file extension) that have been converted to Google Docs. NOT MORE ENGAGING. Google Classroom did not suddenly make them magical. My kid is not excited about using Google Classroom if the assignments in there are not that great.

The goal of technology should not be to be paperless.

I have never seen “digital” on a list of things that improves learning. In fact, a predominance of research studies shows that tech has very little impact. Why? We are using the tech to teach in the same old way. Same is same.

Reflect and Upgrade

What does improve learning? How can we design our digital activities to take advantage of what tech can do to improve the activity?

Faster Feedback

Limitation of paper is just the slow rate at which we can give feedback to students. Tomorrow is too late, kids care less. When the question type allows, try to get feedback immediately per question. Success builds success so knowing you’re on the right path is motivating, especially for our students with lower self-efficacy. Feedback per question also prevents students from practicing wrong. The goal is not to fill out a bunch of questions but rather to learn.

Check out my spelling activity where students enter the spelling word and if it is spelled correctly it highlights green.

Google Forms provide the feedback at the end. If you want to provide feedback per question you will need to create sections in the Google Doc. alicekeeler.com/branchingform helps create a branching Google Form by setting up the initial structure of questions and feedback if the student gets it wrong.


Research is pretty clear on the impact of a high-quality teacher on learning. Tech allows you to have more interactions with students to build relationships and provide meaningful feedback. Consider when designing an activity how you will interact with the student, that makes learning better. One of my favorite ways is to use the Private Comments in Google Classroom. It is so much easier (and faster!) than having to open up documents.

Grading does not improve learning. YOU interacting with students does. Do not mistake grading for interacting.


Collaboration improves learning. Cooperation is not the same as collaboration. Students independently doing things in the same document is not collaboration. One thing I learned from Diana Herrington is to have students use the same Google Slides to explore a concept but ask students to actively interact with the Slides. Students in the collaboration group are not all doing the same question, prompt or problem. Give each student something similar but different and ask them to “critique the reasoning of others.” Provide thought questions for the students to discuss and add their thoughts to the Slides.

When students do the same question they check the answers instead of analyzing, critiquing, or comparing and contrasting.

Increase Critical Thinking

If you are unfamiliar with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) it is a 4 point measure of how much critical thinking the STUDENT is doing. DOK is tricky, we often mistake hard for being critical thinking. Many of our hard math problems are still DOK 1 procedural step following. If we get real with ourselves technology has made many things OBSOLETE. If we allow students to have open Internet when doing the assignment would they be able to complete it with minimal thinking? Ask more complex questions (things that can not be answered with a single Google Search.) Take a look at agoogleaday.com for examples of more complex question styles.

Plan for Creativity

Since you are not making photo copies, not every student needs to be filling out the same thing. How can students demonstrate creativity and creative thinking? I like to have students choose a picture and then apply the learning objective to the picture they chose. For older students, give the option to use one of their Instagram pictures.

Include Research

Instead of telling students information, ask them questions to let them find the information. Have students share their findings collaborative on a Google Slides or a single Spreadsheet. alicekeeler.com/templatetab is one of my favorite ways reduce my amount of digital paperwork and have student’s working together. Paste your roster of students into the spreadsheet and use the TemplateTab menu at the top to create a sheet for each student to gather their research on.

Design for Student Engagement

Technology allows us to bring in more relevant and current things to help engage our students. Denis Sheeran has been collecting lessons about using fidget spinners to teach. He has collected over 20 different lessons here. When posting a digital activity really consider the student engagement on the activity. Student engagement matters for learning, especially for long-term retention. We’ve all learned something for the test and couldn’t recall it later to save our life. Memorization without making a meaningful connection lacks stickiness. What are students into and how can we incorporate that into the lesson?


Digital is not necessarily better. Moving around and exercise improve learning. Having kids sit for long periods of time is unhealthy. Remember to plan for students to get their blood pumping also!

2 thoughts on “Slapping it Online Does Not Make it Better

  1. Love it! Whatever makes things simpler, faster and richer. As a parent, can’t stand digital worksheets without enough room to write it out. As an ed assistant, having 2nd graders stick a pencil in the hole by their math answer & then watching them learn as they flip the card over to see if they poked the right open…great! Having them show a book they’ve written on their ipads about their own superhero & his/her story…priceless. 🙂

    1. If we are looking at the 4 C’s we would realize these online worksheets have NONE of the 4 C’s. Do NOT improve learning. Do NOT improve engagement. Suck teacher time opening them with minimal learning that results in the time the teacher spent. Teacher time is hugely valuable, evaluating how to spend that time to maximize learning and relationships is key.

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