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> 3 Ways to Start Moving Towards a Paperless Classroom - Instructional Tech Talk

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Published on April 9th, 2013 | by Jeff Herb


3 Ways to Start Moving Towards a Paperless Classroom

We’ve heard it before – the constant push to go paperless to help streamline our workflow (and to also counter budgets that constantly reduce paper supply). I have to admit, I don’t envision a day in the near future where we will be 100% paperless in our classrooms – there is always that one activity that lends itself to putting that pen to paper and expressing your thoughts. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t digitize the bulk of our classroom correspondence. It can be a daunting task to start going paperless from scratch. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:


1.Create PDF versions of your self-created documents or scan your paper documents to PDF format.

Why: By having a document that can easily be shared and opened you create a lot of opportunities for distributing assignments and information digitally with students, parents, and colleagues.

How: If you are the creator of the document (whether it be a Word doc or PowerPoint), you can ‘Save As’ a PDF directly from the Office application. If you are not the creator of the document, you can scan the original via a ‘smart’ copy machine with scanning functionality, use an app on your phone, or use a standalone scanner to digitize your piece of paper. Many of these devices have the option to scan directly to a PDF – check with your scanner to see if that is an option. Otherwise, open the file type that was generated and follow the ‘Save As’ method mentioned above.

2. Organize your digital files using a program such as Evernote.

Why: What good are digital documents if they are more difficult to find than the hard-copy ones in your file cabinet? Harness the power of Evernote’s search functionality by importing your PDFs, emails, and notes into the software and let the system index each note for an easy (and free) search solution.

How: Download Evernote. Make sure you get the app for each of your devices to get the most use of it. Evernote can import batches of files by importing folders instead of just files. This makes life a LOT easier when you have hundreds of files to start with. Tagging and Categorizing your ‘notes’ will make it very easy to group lessons together and will simplify your document recall process.

3. Create video-based notes instead of handing out lecture note packets. 

Why: There are some great programs and apps that allow you to narrate, draw upon, and manipulate your slides/handouts and then export that sequence as a video. There are plenty of times where you would prefer students paying 100% of their attention to you as opposed to frantically taking notes or attempting to fill out a fill-in-the-blank note sheet while you’re talking. Have a video available for students to review after your class that conveys the information you want them to have, rather than what they chose to write down.

How: You have a couple of options here. If you are looking to narrate and make notes on your slides or notes, Explain Everything is an awesome app for the iPad that can help you with this. If you’re looking to do a screencast, is a great (Free) tool – but Camtasia and Screenflow are great desktop-based tools. Either way, load in your core documents and progress through your notes as you explain what you’d like for the students to remember. An additional option is to record your lessons. Simply using the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch Camera app will allow you to record perfectly. This way, what happened in class is captured and can be shared with students that were absent or that need some additional clarification.


There are tons of great ways to start going paperless in your classroom – these of course are just a few ways to start the process. Have some great ideas to add to the list? Add them in the comments!

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About the Author


Jeff Herb is an Educator, Blogger, and Podcaster focusing on Instructional Technology and finding ways to innovate the classroom using technology. Follow Jeff on Twitter to keep up with the latest in Educational Technology.

  • JudyArzt

    I would add to this list use of blogging, creation of class websites, strong use of Google Drive for docs, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, and a variety of online tools for broadcasting and sharing information. Allow for creation of online materials that are interactive to empower students as learners as well as to take the focus off the teacher at times.

    • Jeff Herb

      Great suggestions, Judy! I am a big advocate for blogging in class – provides students an authentic audience and opportunity to write for specific purpose.

      Thanks for your comment and suggestions!

    • Mike Elings

      http://www/ is a new, free web-tool for teachers that can organize all these materials and communicate them to students and parents. It even has a built in lesson viewer for anyone creating original lesson videos. Summer is a great time to give it a try!

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  • Showbie

    Great tips Mike. In my first couple years of teaching I spent many hours digitizing the materials of other teachers. They were happy to share them with me as long as I sent them a copy 😉 win/win.

    When taking the next step in the paperless classroom educators will need to distribute and collect paperless assignments. Showbie can help with this, especially if you have a tablet classroom. It’s especially effective because you can give rich annotated feedback to students in the way of voice notes etc. I think your readers will also be interested to know that we currently have a sale on for Showbie Pro :)

    If you are interested, check us out at

    – Justin

    • Jeff Herb

      Thanks for the info about Showbie – I’ve heard great things and definitely need to do a segment for the website. Please feel free to get in touch with me, Justin, with any other information you feel needs to be shared regarding showbie – jeff at


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