The Paper Paradox
Start by watching the video above. Watched it? Great! I hope it was worth a chuckle. More importantly, know that this is the perspective Shakopee DLCs take regarding paper: There is a time and a place where paper is a better choice than using digital tools.
If we cannot explain to our students why it is better that we are using technology for a particular task, then it is probably not worth doing digitally. I heard a teacher tell students, “We are using Notability to highlight this article because then you can undo mistakes and use more colors. It’s also nice to have it in Notability because you’ll need this article for a long time so it won’t get lost or ruined.” That explanation makes sense, and students will understand that there is added value in using technology.
But if a teacher were to simply provide a digital copy to students and not explain the added benefit, students are far more likely to get frustrated with the effort required to type on an iPad screen or draw with a MacBook trackpad.
I am biased in this discussion. I rarely use paper. Meeting agendas, to-do lists, notes, reminders, and nearly everything else I do in the course of my work is digital. I see a lot of advantages: I always have my phone or computer with me, I can type faster than I can write, typing looks neater, and digital files are easier to share with others. For teachers that do not use technology in the ways I describe above, paper is just as essential as my computer or phone is to me. Both methods are equally valid. Whatever works for you is great. But what works best for your students may be different.
As teachers, it’s our job to help students discover how they learn best, even if it does not align with our own preferences. This may require them to get outside their comfort zone. Exposing students to multiple methods of doing tasks is an essential part of becoming an independent learner.
Regardless of the notetaking method you promote in your classroom or your students’ preferences, there are a number of reasons to consider submitting notes and other assignments digitally. Even if your students are completing their work on paper, it is very easy to submit that work digitally through Canvas - see the resources at the bottom of this blog post to find out how to scan documents on an iPad or MacBook.
As I mentioned above, it is important to spell out to students why it is better for them to turn things in digitally. So what are the advantages?
- Students can turn things in anytime, anywhere. They could be absent, in study hall, or even on the bus! They can turn work in when they are done instead of waiting until they are physically in your classroom.
- You don’t need to create a place in your room for assignment collection, spend time in class handing back papers, or worry about losing anything.
- No more “No Name” assignment submissions!
- You can provide prompt feedback on smaller chunks of work rather than waiting for the end of the unit to collect work or check notebooks. Students can submit each page they complete and it can be graded as you go without taking away their notes when they could be using it to study.
- Parents will know if assignments have been turned in or not and they can see the quality of their child’s work. This is great during parent-teacher conferences. No more parent questions about whether work has been turned in or not - and they get to actually see the work, even if their child threw it away.
- Students can look back on their previous work for reflective purposes.
Digital submission is one of the first steps towards integrating technology into your teaching practices. In a future blog post, we’ll examine how technology can be used to create experiences for students that cannot be replicated on paper.
Use PhotoBooth to Scan Documents (MacBook)