Mid-Year review of paperless learning

Reflections on 1:1 Tablets and Paperless living


For me, the school year has drawn to a close. With the exodus of pupils,  the paperless experiment  must be put on hold for a couple of months until staff and students return refreshed and rested to do it all again next year. I thought this would be a good point to review my attempts to grasp the 1:1 nettle and go paperless.




I have found it very difficult to get my students to embrace this move from paper to pc. Within the context of the school, real work has always been synonymous with writing endless essays in  silence…or at least, the South American version of silence. The virtual banning of paper and all things print in my class was initially interpreted as, “because we don’t have to write anything, there will be no work taking place in this class whatsoever”. Consequently it has been a struggle to get the students to accept that computers can be used for serious work and also, (obvio) what we are doing with the computers, is in fact serious work !!!!!


I also think that by approaching this idea of substituting pcs for paper in isolation, hasn’t really been that successful in creating a paperless culture amongst my students. If other teachers and classes were doing the same, then perhaps students would perceive this methodology as somehow “legitimate”. At the moment, i think that they think that i am some sort of tree hugger who got the teaching job when i came in to sweep up leaves and the real teacher was off sick.


Anyway, i digress. As well as the battle to fight over the perception of computers as tools for entertainment not education…(i am sort of getting towards a halfway house compromise of computers in school as a type of “edutainment”), i am fighting a perception that learning is in fact achievement, qualified through a very specific number grade. This perception manifests itself in students not really bothering about the process of learning, but being more interested in the final grade. Consequently i have tried to remove end of unit summative tests and go full-on-super-turbo-charged-assessment for learning with them….but i have found that their interpretation of this is….”if it isn’t a formal exam at the end of a unit, how can you justify the marks that you give us in the report…?” Furthermore, they also seemed to say, “those silly projects, presentations and bake-a-cake-in-the-style-of-the-person-you-think-influenced-the- development-of-neo-realism-in-Danish-cinema-in-the-1990’s practicals mean nothing, you fool. Give us paper and pens so we can write stuff and actually learn !”


Another factor to consider, is that i am trying to take on this cultural change in a regular classroom. I think that the students would be more open to the notion of breaking traditional working methods if we were working on a gleaming, bleeping space ship type bridge. This would immediately ground the notion of working with computers in an appropriate context.

Until students integrate school with non-school, within their own technology and we persist with providing a physical classroom context, there will still be a paper vrs technology divide as there will be a technological vrs physical division of learning and school and social / not school.The next stage, which i call “teaching from my couch/ the beach/a hammock or “ virtual classrooms”, as people doing educational research chose to call it, will have to wait for the foreseeable future.


Finally, after trying to do everything to peel my students away from Facebook, (i have used edmodo, dropbox, school email, personal email…) i have given up and started to use Facebook groups as a means of obtaining immediate virtual, and more often than not, effective communication.




In relation to teaching using this new technology and paradigm of learning….in short, Old dogs can learn new tricks ! Anyone can learn new skills if there is motivation, support, time and the room to experiment, fail and try again….

The bigger battle is the narrow minded, content based curriculum that is followed …even the interdisciplinary IB becomes suspiciously single-subject and formal summative test based at times. A brave move would be for schools to dump the IG and IB and create their own curriculum linked to society’s needs: languages, interpersonal skills, media literacy, technology savvy, experimental sciences….How many of these skills are add-ons in our current curriculum, or pushed half-heartedly because they don’t contribute to a grade or a way  to measure student success…or…dare i say it, teacher performance…….?




You have a role to play in this….school is not 7:45 – 4:25…it is now 24 hours and teacher responsibility and teaching technology habits can only stretch so far….the great thing about raising independent learners, who use ubiquitous technology, is that you have a grandstand seat in the process and can be present during the new, equally ubiquitous school day. There is no excuse not to know or play a part in technology and education as more often than ever before, “school” is taking place under your very own roof ! With more and more schools utilizing online monitoring and assessment tools such as engrade and ManageBac, to name but 2, parents are getting close to a 24/7 account of what their kids get up to whilst physically located at school and with this greater knowledge, there must be an increased, active role for them to play.


Finally, buying your kid a tablet/laptop/ipad is a way of investing in skills that will not be the education that your kid forgets when they leave school and have to deal with the “real” world.


What do i want to do next year ?


Ok, so that was my ramble around some of the bigger issues and ideas that have become apparent to me so far. Here are some specific goals that i am setting down for myself for next year !!!!


  1. Effective integration of tablets into the curriculum….not a point at which you “get out your tablets”….may them a part of the uniform of the classroom.


  1. Establish a virtual structure and clear processes for my students and the classes i teach. I think i have assumed that they know more than they actually do and that they know, automatically how to navigate around platforms…Was it wrong for me to enjoy telling the cool kid, with the latest gizmos, how to find the documents he had filed in dropbox and how to share documents ?


  1. I am going to try to give out grades and written feedback through google docs and engrade, so that my students are always aware of their grades and gpa, as well as  aware of this very process of sharing information….extending the classroom hours and teacher-student information contact time to boot !


With these three targets i hope that i can also slide subtly from the center of things and sit more comfortably in my facilitator chair to allow the students to find short cuts, better platforms and more efficient and effective ways of working with the technology.


That’s it !

See you in 2014