Sunday, August 17, 2014

Less Paper, Not Paperless

This past week's #flipclass chat exit ticket was to write a post about our workflow, which I have to admit I didn't even know where to start with. Then Brad Holderbaum helped me out by asking me this:
This is in response to my answer for Q2, which was about how paperless our classroom is. Now that I am actually thinking about it, I'm not sure mine's as paperless as I thought. Since I teach online, everything that flies between me and my students has to be, at some point, in digital form, but as it turns out, there are wildly varying degrees of paperless-ness during the year. To measure the degree, I'm looking at how much paper is involved in each task at each of these stages:
  1. The actual task
  2. How I deliver that to them
  3. What they do
  4. How they deliver that to me
  5. How I assess
  6. How I deliver that to them
I looked at five different types of tasks, and filled out this table with green = no paper, red = paper. It made it easy for me to see that the most recent things I've been giving them are, or can be at least, 100% paperless.

A little more detail about those tasks:


When I give a test, I email it to each of the schools' secretaries, who then prints them up. The students then write on it, and it then gets either scanned or faxed to me. If it's faxed, obviously, there's more paper used. Either way, from then on, it's paperless. I don't put my corrections on any paper. By now their tests are all in digital form, either as an image or a pdf, so I send them to Smart Notebook, where I can mark them up with digital ink, stickers, whatever. Here's how that actually looks in real life:


These might be a worksheet, or a set of problems, or one big multi-step problem (called a situational problem here in Quebec). I deliver it via our CMS (Sakai) but I know most of the students print it up right away. I always give the option to do it on paper, but unlike the tests, they can also do it using some digital tool, such as voicethread, or geogebra, or whatever they choose. I usually offer bonus points for that - questionable I suppose, to motivate using marks, but hey. At any rate, as long as it's presented so that I can follow their reasoning, it's all good. If they go with the paper, then it's exactly the same degree of paperlessness as the test, but if they do it digitally, for example, like this, I create a rubric in Smart Notebook, fill it in with digital ink as I do the tests, export to pdf, then upload that to their dropbox on Sakai. Here's what that looks like to the student:

Blogpost / Geogebra / Portfolio entries:

My students all have their own blogs, as well as digital portfolios. The blogs are of course viewable by anyone, and they are linked from the classblog, but the portfolios are only viewable in our immediate community. Usually the post or the portfolio entry is about an applet they're creating using Geogebra, my favourite dynamic geometry software. Regardless of which of these three they're doing, the degree of paperlessness is the same - 100%!

Toward the end of last year, I gave them a task involving all three of these things. I wanted them to use their portfolios to track their own progress and to get feedback from me, then use geogebra to confirm and organize their learning, and once they were ready to commit, share it with the world on their blogs.

Here's how that looked: assignment description, assessment descriptionstudent's post, and a filled-in rubric:

Note that all of these points came directly from the assessment description that I linked above. I didn't want my students to be surprised at how I would be assessing their work! Next year, I plan to get them involved in creating the rubric itself.

I can't show any students' actual portfolios of course, but I did do a post that showed snippets from their reflections for another assignment, this one involving just creating a geogebra. (I got their permission to share, and they're anonymous anyway.) You can read about that here if you're interested to know what I mean by portfolio entries.

Good on paper:

Full disclosure - several times a week, my students write notes, on paper, based on the voicethreads that I create for them to watch. If I put that into the table above, IT WOULD LOOK LIKE THIS. I know it's a lot of paper, but I also find that writing on paper can be a worthwhile thing to do, so I don't know if I'll ever want to change that. I'll reduce, but I don't see myself ever being 100% paper-free. Besides, like my mother, I love books too much!


  1. Audrey, what device do you and you're students use?

    1. Hey Lea Ann! :-) We're each on a computer of some sort, either a laptop or desktop. The virtual classroom environment we use is just now getting adapted for tablets, so that might be coming this year.

  2. 1) A few years ago, I tried the smartboard for a year but went back to the blackboard. The former was too small, and I did not like scrolling. A ~15 foot blackboard lets students see the whole solution and the connections.
    2) I've run a website ( )for students since 1995. The more mature students use it to check their answers and look up notes if they're absent. A few even follow the links. But some unfortunately just use it to copy solutions.
    3) Smartphones and tablets are not as good as laptops for serious work. In fact most CEGEP teachers do not tolerate phones in the classroom.