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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

The Paperless Classroom
Ann Stephenson

Many teachers are jumping on the conservation bandwagon and getting their classes into the recycling mode. While that may be the appropriate road to take today, why not try to eliminate the need for recycling altogether by going paperless. Even though schools may not ever go completely paperless, the acquisition of more technology each year can assist them in consuming less paper.

The biggest concern of teachers is that there are not enough computers in the classroom. It’s possible to remedy that by finding out which companies in the community donate their retired computers to charity and schools. Most businesses are only too happy to provide them to schools and have a tax write off as well. It also keeps them out of the landfills for awhile. Usually there are so many available that many students may use them at home. If the computers are not powerful enough to be networked with the school, they are perfectly useful for typing practice, making graphs, using colors to make fractions, writing essays, and making Power Point Presentations, depending on the available software.


The first order of business in an elementary classroom (3rd through 5th grade) is to teach the students touch typing. The QWERTY method can be found on the following free websites:

Typing Lessons

Free Typing Game

Assign them one lesson a day for homework and one quiz a week during class using the websites. If you still feel the necessity to distribute papers for a test, then laminate them and use them again each year.  Don’t give students too many typing homework assignments until they master this, as they will use the hunt and peck method and it will slow them down.

Once students have the confidence and ability to type proficiently they will be excited about getting into the swing of a paperless classroom and conducting assignments online. Most textbook companies have an online presence. Remember, this generation was raised on computers and they are more than willing to forego writing with paper and pencil, especially cursive.

To further enhance class enthusiasm, teach a lesson, watch a video or read a book on trees, papermaking or deforestation. This will encourage the children as well as a reluctant administrator on the advantages of easing up on paper.

The next important lesson, although a simple one, is to demonstrate how to save assignments and homework. This can be accomplished using a memory stick, a disk or even e-mail.

"The dog ate my homework!” has been replaced by “I saved it on my disk but it doesn’t open on the classroom computer.” You can eliminate the excuse by assisting students in the process of saving their work. Have them conduct a trial run at home at the beginning of the year, perhaps by having them type important phone numbers and vital statistics that can then be opened at school and added to the student’s personal file.

Parental Involvement

Parents love it when they receive e-mail from the teacher. The daily homework can be sent to all, or a private note may be communicated to just one parent if necessary. The method for accomplishing this task is to place the parents e-mail addresses in your global address book. Just be sure that a private message is addressed privately and not sent to the group. The directions for creating a global address vary depending on what software (Outlook, Mac Mail, Eudora) or web interface you use, but which ever you use, be sure to back up this list and update it when necessary.

All those notices that are sent home and somehow never make it there can be sent via e-mail if there is a scanner attached to the computer, thus saving reams of paper over the course of a year.

During Class

Depending on the number of students in the classroom, there will probably not be enough computers for the entire class to use at the same time. No problem. Simply write an assignment, upload it to several computers and have the children complete the task and/or save it to their file on the computer or take for homework. While they are using the computers that are available, the teacher can be conducting reading or math groups.

And what happens if the computers should crash during the day? Use a paper and pencil, and then recycle the paper!

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail me.


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