Technology Tips for Teachers  

January 16, 2012

Paper. It is a part of a teacher's life. Worksheets, post-it notes, essays, and the technical cliché, "The printer is out of paper!"

With all the technology at our disposal it amazes me how much paper we go through in a single day. This month's article will look at a couple of ways we can reduce the amount of paper we use in our classrooms.

The first tool is the site Print Friendly. The purpose of this site is to make web pages more print friendly by removing advertisements, images, and even delete parts of an article you don't need. You can use the home page or add the bookmarklet to your web browser and access the print friendly option from the site you are on. The other useful parts of Print Friendly are the options to save the information as a PDF or email it to someone. This is a great tool for students, especially when they are involved in a research project. Print Friendly will save a ton of paper (but I don't guarantee it will eliminate the printer is out of paper cliché).

Stixy is a great web tool for postit note lessons. Stixy is basically a digital bulletin board. My students inspired me to start using a tool like this because of their use of Stickies on their (Mac) computers. I noticed that they used the stickies to record homework, messages to each other,and other fun or educational information. I started using Stixy boards for quick posts. As a teacher you can have a number of different boards, and even make them password protected.

The surest way to save paper is to go paperless. If you are using a learning management system like Moodle or Angel, this can be accomplished with just a little work. Each system has its own options, but many of the everyday activities, like crossword puzzles, are built into these learning management systems. A bonus is that they are automatically graded.

For more in-depth writing, the text based drop boxes allow the students to write paragraphs and even essays (if you don't mind the basic formatting) to hand in digitally. For more serious essay writing, students can attach a word document in the drop boxes or email them to you.

There is a negative side to this paperless option, your time. During the first semester I decided to go paperless with a writing course. Essays and journals were word attachments. It was nice to use the "track changes" option as I graded, and I have a copy of each assignment for every student. Even though it doesn't seem like much, the added steps of downloading, grading, renaming and saving the file, and then finally entering the grade and uploading the graded file for the student made for a stressful semester. A two page journal took me on average seven minutes to go through the complete cycle. Times that by 40 students, and time becomes a huge factor. Be prepared to spend extra time grading.

Reducing the amount of paper in the classroom is easy, from simply making sure to print only what you need, to changing some of the daily activities to a digital form. Share how you are reducing paper in your classroom on ESU 10's Facebook page or with me on Twitter (jdog90).