Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gone Paperless with Schoology...Never Going Back!!!

A Little About My Classroom
In total I have 28 iPads for my classroom, not quite a 1:1 ratio but close enough that students can fill in the gaps with their own devices.  I wanted to just go over a few of the perks I have benefited from as a teacher since switching to a paperless classroom with Schoology.  In this post I will focus mostly on the benefits for my workflow as a teacher.

Grading by Question
This was an unexpected benefit but probably the most welcome and loved.  I usually give end of unit assessments that feature 4-5 short essay questions.  Traditionally with a paper classroom I would have a huge stack of papers to take home, hopefully keep sorted and look through one at a time.  I didn't really know how much more time I was taking to switch gears each question when correcting student work.  The first time I gave a test in schoology I noticed a "View by Question" link which was exactly what it sounded like.  I clicked on it and was presented with a link for each question to see and grade student responses.  I could now focus on one question at a time when correcting, get a really good sense of how well my classes did on each question, and when I was done see a graph of the grades for each question.  Another bonus... no adding scores together to get a final score.  After all the questions are grade each student automatically has a final score.  Amazing!!!

No More Stacks
As I said earlier, grading with paper means taking home stacks of papers that can get lost, disorganized and have to be physically carried back and forth.  With paperless grading my students work is where ever my laptop/iPad/Phone is.  Open up Schoology, click on the assignment and viola you can view, grade and even annotate work with notes, highlighting, etc... No more messy stacks on the dining room table at home not to mention the inbox is pretty empty these days.  Oh and that whole passing back work thing... Done!

No More Copies
With digital delivery no more photocopies are needed to give every student their own copy of a document to work with.  No more hassles with the waiting in line for the copier or hoping the printshop delivers in time.  For a more interactive notebook approach on the iPads, students can open a .pdf file in Adobe Reader which lets them annotate, type, draw write on the document.  This works great with graphic organizers.  They can then import it right back into Schoology and save it in their resources to work on again later or submit the assignment if they are done.  Students can turn in almost any kind of file you can imagine, whether they are making a song with garageband, a paper in Pages, a PDF document, a voice recording or much more. If you want to use the teacher annotation feature the files should be pdf or docx.

Clean Floors and Pencil Sharpeners
With no papers and not pencils there is just less to get dropped on the floor.  My floors are pristine almost every night.  It is actually kind of weird...

No more "I Forgots"
In a paperless classroom students come with nothing but their brains.  No pencils, binders, paper, etc...  I don't need to tell a dozen students to ask their neighbor to borrow a pencil or paper because they are out.  The amount of time saved by that one thing alone is amazing.  They also can't forget to put their name on their papers because Schoology does it for them.  No more "I forgots" is restoring more and more of my sanity everyday.

Much Much More...
Student engagement has skyrocketed with apps that allow unique expression such as animations, comic strips, drawing, music, the list goes on.  There are also great educational games out there for TAG enrichment like Packet Law Firm, where students open a virtual law practice matching customer complaints with the lawyer that specializes in that amendment to the Constitution.  There are also options for students with disabilities like using dictation instead of typing, having text read aloud by the iPad, etc...

Any Drawbacks???
I would be lying if I said there are no hiccups or problems with the paperless classroom.  One thing that happens with technology is errors and unexpected crashes.  I have to have a backup lesson plan ready in case power goes out or the Internet is down.  There have been a few times where students have lost work when they submit it because they lose wifi at just the wrong time.  One thing I have started having students do is take a screen shot of their work right before they submit and then erase the picture if the assignment uploads correctly.  That has saved me a few times.  The few glitches however have not come anywhere near outweighing the benefits teachers and students have received from this system.

Any questions about the paperless classroom.  Please feel free to ask.