Paperless Classrooms

I’m honestly surprised that more universities have not gone paperless.  I have two children in college, and I’m shocked when all of their materials are still in textbook format, and many of their classes are still in lecture format.  A paperless classroom would definitely change the role of the teacher, change learning, change how learning is measured, and change communication between students.  

The role of the teacher would change from being a giver of knowledge to that of being a facilitator or mediator.    Notetaking and collaborative work would all be done online.  How nice would it be that you no longer have to worry about misplacing your work or forgetting a pencil?    It appears that some classes still meet face-to-face occasionally; however,  It is blending traditional learning with web 2.0 learning.  The role of the teacher encourages deeper thinking and more creativity.  This type of learning, I feel, better meets the needs of our Net Generation students.  I know my own son was frustrated that he had to go to class just to sit through a lecture that he could have read or watched on his laptop.  His grade at one point dropped because of attendance issues even though the work was completed.  I think that we need to begin thinking a little more critically about how this generation of students learn best and decide what is more important… attendance in your class…. or a deeper level of learning taking place online.  That would be a definite shift. 

Learning in a paperless classroom sounds ideal to me.  Even though it would be nice to meet all of you face to face, I love the flexibility of learning online.  As I’m learning more about Web 2.0 technologies, my projects are becoming more elaborate than just turning in a word document.  As the article (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/record/archives/vol26/vol26_iss10/2610_Paperless_Course.html)  stated, students began inserting pictures, videos, and audio clips to enhance their projects.  This would have never occurred if the project were done on paper in the old essay style format.  Small group projects become much more meaningful and engaging when done collaboratively online, using a wiki for example.  Group members no longer have to think on demand or find a mutually agreeable time to meet.  I used to hate that!!  As we saw in this class, we still had deadlines and responsibilities but using a wiki allowed us a space to collaborate and all work together on the same project instead of working individually and then one person trying to pull it all together.  We could all work at times that were suitable to us and our schedule.  Also, the owner of the wiki can see the contributions of the group members to make sure everyone is held accountable.  Also, another important aspect of a paperless classroom is that learning tends to be much more current.  Textbooks quickly become dated.  The internet resources available at our fingertips allow for current, up-to-date information on the content we are studying.  To be honest, I cringe when I have to buy a textbook because I can almost guarantee there are better, more current resources available through articles, journals, etc. found on the internet.  I’m sure book publishers would not like me!  On a side note, I often wonder if there is some sort of kickback to universities for all of those textbooks sold each semester…. just a thought.

In some ways learning in a paperless class would still be measured the same.  Work that would typically be done paper/pencil would be submitted electronically and graded.  Feedback would be included on the assignments using the “comment” feature of the program.  I’m assuming more technology components (inserting images, links, video/audio clips) would be required for certain projects such as presentations.  Participation in discussions could still be graded/measured; however, they would be held online.  Also, plagiarism is kept to a minimum when assignments are submitted electronically.

Communication between students and teachers I feel would be deeper and more meaningful.  Chats, forums, wikis, blogs, and other online resources allow everyone in the class to have a voice.  Being required to respond to topics forces students to think about their response before posting,  and I believe you would get a higher quality conversation going.  For those students that need more processing time, they would have that without others knowing.  Hesitant or shy students would have a forum for their voice also.  One or two people would no longer dominate the discussions, but all students would be part of the discussion bringing in different perspectives and ideas. 

I’m all for paperless classrooms!  What do you think?

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1 thought on “Paperless Classrooms

  1. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that high school students do not do very well at communicating when taking online classes. I almost wish I had the opportunity to work with them F2F once a week just so I can see that they are grasping the concepts. I really do get spoiled by working with adults online since they know how to get assignments done on time, collaborate well with others, or just know how to construct a reasonable answer or question so that we can all understand. Sometimes I worry that the messages I send to my online high school students don’t even get read. I never know because I do not receive a response. Perhaps you are right in that having a F2F classroom and incorporating more online assignments to encourage dialogue is a good suggestion (well, you did say that…just not in so many words!). LOL Great post, by the way.

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