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, Screenr.com 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!