Many moons ago, I too stood in front of a classroom eager to mold young minds and make the world a better place… until I realized that teaching teenagers was hard and dealing with their parents was even harder. However, my love for learning and teaching has never subsided; now I work as a writer in the field of technology and I get to share amazing tools that can make life easier for educators. Here are a few of my favorites to help you stay organized and transition your classroom to paperless.
1) Smartboards - I am obsessed with this newer technology. Good bye whiteboards and dry erase markers, hello projection screens with the ability to write on the screen. Smartboards allow teachers to save interactive presentations and download pictures and videos into their lesson plans. Smartboards are one of the incredible solutions to help keep kids interested in the classroom when teachers have the insurmountable task of competing with video games, television, and smart devices. Moreover, teachers are busy and on the go. You can easily create your lesson plans, make slides, embed videos on your laptop and link it all to your smartboard when you get to school the next day. This also means fewer handouts and papers to shuffle as examples, stories, and diagrams can be projected for students to follow along simultaneously.
2) RenWeb - As a teacher, you may have about 25 kids in your classroom but you are managing at least 50 people when you add in a minimum of one parent per kid. While your primary job is to teach students reading, writing, and arithmetic, you are undoubtedly spending an equal amount of time and effort on classroom management, responding to parent e-mails, making packets for absentee kids, updating your gradebook, checking voicemails, and a million other demanding tasks. With RenWeb, parents can answer a lot of questions for themselves such as: “Is my kid turning in his homework?” “What did Johnny get on his math test last week?” “Susie is sick today. What homework should she be working on?” “Is my son behaving in class today?” All of these questions and more (like lunch menus, tuition balances, report cards, etc.) are all available on this one website. Additionally, RenWeb has a great mobile app so teachers can peruse the room with a iPad and mark down grading points, monitor behavior bucks, or make notes to call or e-mail a parent. This also means that students won’t “accidentally” lose notes or grade reports on the way home and less paper will be used to print out report cards, missing assignment lists, lunch menus, school information packets, etc.
3) Bookshelf - Wouldn’t it be nice if you saw a teenager pull out her iPhone and instead of texting, she was actually reading?!?! With Bookshelf, this can become reality (but probably needs some coercing). While this tends to be more of a middle school/high school app, it’s great because students can highlight and make notes in the book, export notes and text passages for when they start writing a report, and can type in keywords to search for a part of the book they want to find. Another great thing about e-readers is that many publishing companies are creating ebooks that have free, ready-to-use curriculum for teachers to access and that are interactive; students can take quizzes online which are automatically graded. Paperless interactive books and paperless, graded quizzes….less cost to the school for books and printouts and less time grading for teachers (talk about a win-win situation!).
4) Educational Apps - Teenagers today have a lot on their plates between sports, after school activities, a part-time job, and thinking about that hot girl that sits in the third row in Algebra. One way they can keep all of their assignments from their various classes in one place is through a custom app creator like AppSheet. They can write down homework assignments (organized by due dates or by class), record their graded assignments, set up study dates (with that hot girl from Algebra), and teachers can even distribute, collect, and give instructions for assignments using this app. No paper and no excuses why an assignment wasn’t turned in.
Let’s face it: teaching is hard work and anything that can make this job easier is worth looking into. While your school or district may not have the funding for big technology like SmartBoards and software like RenWeb, more than likely older students have access to smart phones for educational and custom mobile apps. There are many benefits to creating a paperless classroom, and success for you and your students are certainly the two best.