Going paperless

One of my dreams, right from the start of my journey with technology, is that one day I could eliminate paper entirely from my job. Pipedream….perhaps, and up to now I’d never quite cracked a method that would allow the dream to become reality.

Recently, I was helping out at a Moodle workshop and I was shown a method that may head me closer toward the paperless classroom. It includes using Moodle, a photocopier that can scan documents into PDF format, and Microsoft OneNote. It’s funny how all these conditions suddenly coalesced one day, not only in my thinking, but also in reality.

One of the biggest spends at my school is the printing of coursework booklets for students. Just about every faculty prints booklets that contain “learning” activities. I could spend a whole blog post discussing the merits (or otherwise) of these booklets, but that’s for another day. A guestimate from my boss was that we spend $20K+ on printing costs each year! Imagine what you could spend that sort of cash on, rather than on “one use” booklets that inevitably get tossed away at the end of each semester.

So what if we could make the use of these booklets electronic in nature? The obvious question was how do you make the electronic version editable to the extent that students could submit work, without having to print out pages, write on them and hand them in? That would just defeat the purpose of trying to go paperless.

So, in a wonderful combination of serendipity and old fashioned professional networking I have a potentially workable solution to play with. I have to thank Pam from Newcastle High for her insights in showing it to me.

Firstly, my target group. In my case, the participants will by our Year 10 (2010) students, who will have their DERvices (netbooks) and will hopefully, by then, will be skilled in the use of them. These netbooks have Adobe PDF readers and creators and OneNote preinstalled, making the whole process possible.

OK..here’s how it works.

Take your paper version of your booklet. Stick it through your photocopier, so it produces a complete PDF copy (in my case 40 pages). Upload the PDF booklet to your Moodle course, and make it available as a resource file. At the same time, create an “Upload one file” assignment activity that is named after the worksheet, or whatever, and put it in the same area as the booklet PDF.

Now, in class, when you want to use a resource or activity that is in the booklet, the kids can open the PDF booklet to the required page. Select the page for printing, but instead of printing it to paper, in the print dialogue window, select “Print to OneNote”. The page selected will now appear in a OneNote notebook. For those that know OneNote well, you know you can click and type anywhere on the page. In this case, the kids can click and type anywhere on the selected page imported from the PDF booklet. The kids can now do their work on the page, and when they finish, save it as a PDF file on their PC.

They head to Moodle, and upload their work as a PDF to the assignment activity. The teacher can open the file, grade the work and feedback to the kids….without touching one piece of paper! Samples of student work can be collected and presented electronically as an ePortfolio, without carting folders, books or paper to your Head Teacher or Principal.

Sure there will probably be limitations that don’t suit everyone’s workplace, but I my humble opinion, it’s a right step in an exciting direction.

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5 thoughts on “Going paperless”

  1. Sounds like a fantastic idea – alternatively you could put the electronic version on the new DET blog as a resource. I would love to cut down the Maths faculty $3500 (approx) paper cost each year – plus save the trees!

    • Thanks Simon,
      I’m excited by the possibilities, along with the savings. Just imagine what you could spend that saved cash on! Let along saving a LOT of trees!

  2. And shall I join you in your journey? A paperless school. $20k+ you say…Wow…It is essentially a culture change. I think a combination of the three: edmodo, moodle and edublogs could create that culture shift.
    I had a HSC student request a textbook today. I inquired…we discuss the reassurance she felt, as she had used textbooks since year seven and had ‘succeeded’. With this class we use edublogs and it is popular, but the class generally still graves notes from the board, photocopies. They, generally, want to feel like they have done ‘work’, whereas I am continually talking about learning…and I think we should have the discussion about the role or merits of these booklets.

    • Thanks Troy,
      As I heard at the same Moodle day that I discovered the paperless possibility, a colleague said “teachers need to change from being out the front, to over the shoulder”. I think the strategies you mentioned will go a long way to creating that new way of teaching.

  3. i think most of our staff can see the possibilities but are a liitle reticent about technology ‘breakdown’!!! Maths of course are the stumbling block unless you have graphics tablets.


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