27 Feb 2018

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 Notes App to Scan Documents (iPad)

Use PhotoBooth to Scan Documents (MacBook)

Grade Using the Canvas Teacher App (iPad)

09 Nov 2015

I think I speak for the entire DLC team when I say, “Wait. It’s already November?” This school year has been an exciting and busy start the school year. The DLC team has been busy working to support teachers and PLCs across the district as they integrate technology into their teaching practices to enhance the learning of students.

Last year was the first year where a building was 1:1 with iPads. This year, that initiative has expanded from one grade to all of 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grade. In Kindergarten last year, each classroom shifted to an all-day schedule. Each classroom was also equipped with a cart of 12 iPads. That initiative has moved up to 1st grade this year.

In addition to all of these devices being deployed to buildings across the district, each certified staff member has been provided a MacBook Air. At articulation meetings, vertical teams, PLCs, and while rotating classroom, staff members have been using their mobile technology to increase their productivity. While switching operating systems for the majority of staff in the district comes with a learning curve, being able to use these devices for months prior to the removal of desktop PCs should ease the transition to a predominately MacBook environment.


At the elementary buildings, we have been working with Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers often. The DLCs have been into all elementary buildings. Many of the K and 1 classrooms are starting to use an app called SeeSaw. It’s a multimedia digital journal of student’s work and has been very well received by staff, students, and parents alike. Students can upload pictures, videos, and files to SeeSaw, add a drawing and voiceover to their creation, and share their work with their teacher and parents. For example, a student might take a picture of counting manipulatives and draw a dot on each object as they count the number of objects outloud. Staff have also really enjoyed using Book Creator for projects and using their iPads at learning centers to provide differentiated instruction to all their students at the same time!

The media centers at all elementary and secondary buildings have also received a cart of iPads. In addition to the influx in devices, each media center is now equipped with a green screen studio! Students are using it to record immersive and authentic videos to demonstrate their learning, practice public speaking, and showcase their creativity.


The DLCs have been meeting with PLCs on a regular basis during PLC meetings, duty hours, and preps. A huge focus for our work with secondary teachers this year has been the adoption and on-going use of Canvas, our learning management system. Staff are using it to provide a one-stop-shop for due dates, distribute and collect digital files, administer quizzes, participate in discussion boards, make class more self-paced, provide detailed feedback, and much more.

With the start of another year in a 1:1 environment for Pearson, technology has empowered them to personalize learning for their students. One of the interdisciplinary teams of teachers and students has initiated a personalized learning environment. In addition to changes to their bell schedule, they plan to enable students to take more ownership of their learning. Each day, students will schedule what sessions they attend. The content of their courses will set up in a way in which students prove mastery of concepts and proceed at their own pace using Canvas and other digital tools. With a device in every kid’s hands, learning can happen anytime and anywhere. And the variety of creative tools at their disposal allows them to collaborate in real-time or asynchronously.

At the Junior High levels, all students have a device of some kind. 7th and 8th grade students are equipped with iPads and 9th graders have MacBook Airs. We’ve seen some awesome projects at the Junior High level, including a iBooks Author project where Spanish 2 and German 2 students made e-books and read them to 5th grade students at Sweeney. Some staff have also started recording their own screencasts so that students can listen to a lesson on how to learn to write an argumentative paragraph if they need more support with the skill. Then students used an app called Edpuzzle to answer questions about the video. Finally, students practiced the skill in a written assignment on Canvas. New electives, such as Digital Art and App Creation, have made the most of these digital tools while training students to use their creativity and critical thinking to master skills they can use in their future careers.

The DLCs really look forward to working with teachers on projects and lessons that infuse technology to enhance the learning of their students, engage every student in the room, expand the audience of their work, and develop critical skills they will need for their entire lives. We would love to come in and meet with you or your PLC to plan a lesson or project so fill out a request today!

20 Mar 2014


With AirDrop on iOS devices, you can wirelessly share a photo (and many other documents) from one iPad to another. Watch the video to see how!

06 Mar 2014

Last spring physics students in Shakopee did a project where they could choose the topic of study, the methods of investigation, and the product, as long as the project was an inquiry into the physics of the situation. Students investigated volleyball bumps, guitars, Nerf guns, and many other interesting situations, including the investigation into Ocarinas below. 


Among other things, this student used a Vernier Microphone and LoggerPro to measure the frequenices generated when different holes were covered to then generate a model for how the holes affect the frequency, then utilized video editing software in conjuction with Youtube to convey her message. In short, technology access allowed her to learn science by doing science

The secondary science team in Shakopee recently decided to forgo purchasing expensive textbooks in favor of using free resources on the web, such that we could invest in student technology for data collection. Overwhelming evidence (examples here and here) indicates that students learn best when first given opportunities to investigate and explore through inquiry. Shakopee science teachers have taken this to heart and are making significant strides to increase lab and exploratory time in science classes, enabled through technology. Shakopee students learn science by doing science!



Students in Chemistry perform titrations using Vernier data collection equipment.



A student in Environmental Ethics shows of some data.

A student in Environmental Ethics shows of some data.



Students in Chemistry explore computer simulations for microscopic events 

Students in Chemistry explore computer simulations for microscopic events



Experiment and Formative Assessment with iPads

6th grade students in the background perform an experiment and collect data using iPads while students in the forground complete a formative assessment. 



 7th grade students explore cells using iPads


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