We are officially at the half way point of the first semester of the 2015/16 school year and I have not made a single photocopy for my classes nor our department. Nothing revolutionary, I know, but I set out this year to go paperless thinking that it would be a difficult task – and it hasn’t been.
It has been easy because of the shift that has occurred in many of the classrooms in the Social Sciences department here at my school. Many of us have moved away from the “sit and get” model and have made our students become more responsible for their learning. A more inquiry based (or even problem/project based) approach to learning doesn’t need a lot of paper, rather it requires a lot of thinking, discussion, and reflecting. Having fewer (or no) traditional tests has helped reduce runs to the photocopier and in the process helped us move forward with our assessment practices.
Of course, technology has certainly played a large role in this process. Using Google Classroom to provide students with readings, assignment instructions, rubrics, and other resources reduces my photocopying and helps the students go paperless as well. Socrative helps us with digital assessment and using Sesame for “returning” rubrics, feedback, and other assessment tools has not only helped some of us go paperless, but it has improved the quality and timeliness of the feedback we provide to students.
I set out to reduce photocopying across our entire department two years ago with the intention of saving money (and we have… photocopying has dropped more than 50%). The extra money in the budget has been nice, we have invested that money in technology for our classrooms. But the extra money didn’t end up being the most important outcome. Reducing paper forced some teachers to get away from the “tried and tested” approaches to teaching and learning. It has, in effect, forced teachers to be innovative in their classrooms. And you can’t put a price on that.