Reflections on going paperless in class


Teaching without textbooks or notebooks

This term my students and I continued our digital journey together. We had our notebooks in Google Docs, and most of the content and learning resources were found online. At the end of the term, they have all their notes from class and homework, inserted with images from the blackboard, the projector screen and pictures of their brainstorming maps. All kept for as long as they want them, without demanding physical space. This will be very useful next school year!

However, some of my students expressed that they missed the textbook. They felt they lost control, and didn’t get the big picture without it. This became apparent before tests. The tests were designed to capture concepts and ideas we had discussed in class, not pages or tasks from a textbook, but I understood their concern. We brought the textbook back for our last topic, and the relief was apparent among these students, and quite a few parents too, who felt it was hard to help their students without a textbook! This is something to keep in mind when going paperless. We have both the students and their parents who need to find and understand the content we teach.

Most students kept the same Google document for all notes and images in one subject. This document became quite long by the end of the year! We found that using the outline function in Google Docs helped us navigate long documents. Whenever a student make a headline, it will pop up as an entry in the outline in the left margin of the document. Very handy! Nevertheless, not all my students chose to keep only one document for the notes in a subject. Some made a new document every time they had a lesson, or did a homework. If they used titles wisely, this was not a big problem. On the other hand, those who forgot to use titles, had endless documents to search through to find the right one, when prompted to share their homework in pairs or small groups in class. I learned from this that I will have to include digital structure, using folders, titles and outlines in documents in the beginning of each class I teach next school year.


Going paperless hasn’t meant we have not used paper at all. We have! This year I introduced my students to Sketchnoting. My inspiration is Sylvia Duckworth. (You can follow @sylviaduckworth on twitter, and maybe you will be inspired by her work too.) We made sketchnotes mostly when summing up the work we had done on a topic, and used a presentation to prompt ideas. The students loved making sketchnotes, and I was glad to set aside time to ensure everyone could make a good one.The actual paper with the sketchnote might soon be lost, but when the image is inserted in the Google Docs, the students keep their work, forever? You can see an example here. It is in Norwegian, but I think it illustrates the concept well:20160523_130753

International collaboration and co-creating content

Some of the materials we used this year, we created along with fellow students in other countries. My students in the elective subject “International Cooperation” wrote letters with their Italian and Lithuanian partners in our eTwinning project “Hostel Europe”. We used the eTwinning platform to establish teams, and they co-wrote letters in Google Docs. We wrote suggestions to our local administrations with suggestions to help integrate people who have had to migrate from their own country because of war. We printed the papers, signed them, and sent them to the Mayor in our towns. You can see our letters below. We also received a letter back from our Mayor, thanking the students for their concern and good ideas about integration!


In one of my classes, we also created an ebook using Calameo, with all the stories we made in our eTwinning project “The Old Man and His Fiat600”. This was a lovely project where my students collaborated with partners in Italy, France, Finland and Portugal in creating stories about a fictional figure “The Old Man” who we made a paper copy of, and sent from country to country. While he visited each country, we wrote stories, and made presentations about his visit, and shared in the eTwinning portal with all our partner students. We also used Padlet to let the students collaborate in international groups to create padlets about their free time, favourite dishes and summer greetings. Padlet is super easy to use, and a gift to all educators. It is free to use, and has endless possibilities! Go try it, if you haven’t checked it out yourself yet. Here is a picture of “The Old Man” when he visited us at Ramstad skole this term:


Each class added a small bag with small pictures of typical items from their countries. My students went on excursions outside of school in order to take better and more interesting photoes of him, from our neighboring city Oslo, and some took him along to their cabin in the mountains, to show our project partners more of our country’s nature. It was touching! Everyone was a bit sad too, when we sent him along to Portugal!

Next term, let’s make the textbook ourselves!

Going paperless has been a process for me. It started gradually, with using eTwinning and Google Docs, Evernote, Skype, and making videos in class. This year I went all in, and left the textbooks and notebooks behind. My students never questioned why we did this. It seemed natural to embrace technology which they use all the time anyway. After a while, some students missed the safety of the textbook, and some parents thought it was easier to help their teenagers when they had a textbook too. So, I keep this in mind going forward. Most students benefit from having book or a booklet when working with a topic. What I am thinking now, is that we are going to make that booklet ourselves next term!

I’d love to hear your ideas, and learn about your experiences when going paperless too. Inquiring minds want to know!



End of term reflections 2015


This last term I went paperless in class. My students opened notebooks in Google Docs, and we hardly used any textbooks at all in any of my subjects (English (ESL), social studies, religion and an elective called international cooperation). This was a new approach for my 8th graders, but they didn’t bat an eye before diving into it.

All my students bring their smartphones to class. We have a BYOD policy (link to Edutopia), and I have embraced this a few years already. Now it was essential! Without notebooks, they had to use their phones to access their Google Docs, and of it meant starting our journey together on digital citizenship (Edutopia).

Needless to say, some time was lost due to lack of battery, wifi troubles and password confusion when working with new tools and apps, but I believe we encountered these obstacles earlier, and have learnt from them, rather than thinking we could have avoided them altogether.

The tools and apps we have used the most are Google Docs and Google Slides. This has allowed my students to work collaboratively in groups and as a class without regard to time and place.

Creating a global classroom is something which has been important to me for a long time. All my classes are involved in eTwinning projects, with project partner schools in Italy, Portugal, France, Lithuania and last but not least; Lillesand, my hometown in the Southern part of Norway. Activities differ according to the topics of the projects, but they are communicating and they have a real audience for sharing their work. They will experience collaboration across time zones and borders next term, and increase their cultural understanding, which are some of the primary goals when using eTwinning.

This term my students also used Soundcloud and shared stories in Padlet. Sadly not everyone managed to access Soundcloud from their device, but the lesson was a powerful one: recording and sharing their best work. Audacity might be a smoother working alternative, so I will continue exploring tools for this kind of work next term.

Kaizena proved to be almost exactly the sort of tool I was looking for when grading English texts. My students add their Google Docs in Kaizena, and I can edit their documents in Google, and give feedback on their skills, and post lessons which are relevant to each student according to their needs to improve. One drawback is that Kaizena is not compatible with Microsoft Explorer, so when using the school computers we came up blank trying to connect to Kaizena. This meant that we had to rely on the smartphones, or our computers at home to use it. The upside is that the students can keep track of their skills and play posted videos or read articles about skills they need whenever they want to.

We started out enlisting in Curriculet for reading novels online. It was easy to set up the whole class, but the available books turned out to be a bit hard for my 8th graders, and the free classics only appealed to a few of them. I have to explore other apps and reading experiences for them this term, and maybe come back to Curriculet next term, when we have classics lined up as a topic in our English classes.

Formative assessment (Edutopia) is something I have used always, to some extent, but I haven’t been conscious of the term or how to best use it to improve my student’s learning. This term I used Socrative and Answergarden more and shared it with parents. These tools have lit up my understanding, and I recommend them to everyone!

A new tool I have tried in my English classes this term is noredink. It assesses each students’ grammar ability, and gives them new tasks according to their skill level. A gift for any teacher! It is calibrated for native speakers, so choosing the grade level with care is important. I look forward to exploring this tool further in the upcoming term.

My school, #Ramstadskole, will start giving each student an ipad 1:1 this next term. Before this happens our broadband facilities will be improved, and the teachers and students will get some training. I hope that the experiences we have gained so far; going paperless and using edtech tools will make the transition to ipads easier.

Which experiences, ideas and tools were the most important in your teaching this last term? Inquiring minds want to know!