How Technology Changed My Classroom
The new paperless classroom
I pulled out one desk drawer after another hunting for a little blue sticky note that held my photocopier code on it. It was February 24th, 2017 and it was our first school year as a G Suite for Education school, and I had not used the photocopy machine once all year. I needed to find that code because someone had given me a hard copy of WiFi passwords that needed to be copied and then passed out at our upcoming Science Fair. I finally found the code behind the stapler and boxes of paperclips (also both becoming obsolete!) in the middle drawer.
When I made my copies and carried them back to my classroom, I quietly laughed to myself about how great it felt to have become almost entirely paperless in 6 months time in my classroom. I sat at my desk for a moment and reflected that going paperless was so much more than just a neglected copier code but truly about how the G Suite for Education tools have turned my classroom upside down with authentic project collaboration and deep student learning.
Limited Collaboration, Limited Learning
Let me explain my journey toward a paperless classroom by sharing how the same project, assigned one school year apart, provided drastically different learning outcomes and transferable skills for my students.
Last year I created twenty page paper spiral-bound logbooks with graphic organizers, areas for note-taking, boxes for sketching, timelines, and checklists for my grade 6 passion projects. Students carried these logbooks around for the 6 month duration of the project. They were the sole owners of the logbooks, unless I collected them to provide feedback and review of their work, which in turn left them without access to continuation of their project until I could return them.
Students who worked in groups during the project couldn’t share the same logbook and therefore in class the collaboration was slowed as group members tried to copy the same ideas and research into multiple logbooks.
Outside of class, group members had to try and coordinate schedules to all physically meet each time they needed to work on the project. And finally, as the facilitator of learning, I felt limited that I couldn’t update pages in their logbooks as their projects changed and developed, I was locked into what was already printed and bound. At the end of the project, the amazing visible thinking and processes of learning that took place inside the logbooks couldn’t be shared with a wider audience because they were stuck inside an analog book to then be left at the bottom of a locker or thrown out.
The Paperless Classroom
Fast forward to my current projects. The projects were entirely created, curated, critiqued, collaborated on, and shared on the G Suite for Education platform. Students used Google Docs to gather research, draft writing, create sketches of prototypes, and comment and receive feedback from their group members, peers, teacher, and experts. Group members seamlessly connected in class and from home in the same document in real time. Everyone in the group had a voice and the opportunity to show their thinking in visual ways using digital tools.
As the teacher, I was thrilled to give instantaneous feedback at all points in the project process
to help students more rapidly grow and improve, whether in note taking skills, gathering reputable sources,
or writing with stronger voice.
I also introduced the use of Google Classroom for this year’s project. I was able to assign project pieces on a time released schedule and use the platform for discussions, reflections, and turning in pieces of work. Students were held accountable and motivated in their various stages of project work. Students began using Google Hangouts to connect to groups members and to experts in their field both near and far and then share and send pieces of their project for critique. At the conclusion of the project, students uploaded their work to their Google Site to share to a wider and more public audience. Their Sites connected to their Drive so that they could upload Docs, Sheets, PDF’s, Forms, Slides, Videos, and Photos right onto their pages and then provide reflection on themselves as a learner through the project.
A More Rewarding Way to Teach
This is the same project, launched 12 months apart – one on paper and the other paperless via G Suite for Education. The pedagogy of a great student centered and passion driven project was carefully designed and implemented in both school years but it was the redefinition of this year’s project that lead to the accelerated growth of student 21st Century Skills that previously seemed inconceivable.
Going to G Suite for Education and thereby going paperless
was the best thing that ever could have happened for student learning at my school
It was not about substituting paper with technology, but amplifying collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity.
Aspiration to Implementation
As a teacher, and innovation coach, I have to give a shoutout to i-Tech Support for their assistance in making G Suite technology possible in our classrooms. We aspired to bring the technology to our classrooms, but needed the expertise to implement it.
i-Tech Support took the reins, and worked with our teaching and administrative staff to set up our own G Suite for Education environment, customize it according to our needs, troubleshoot issues and train our staff on how to use the technology for teaching. By working with a certified technology partner like i-Tech Support, we were able to seamlessly implement the technology in record time. Today, we have a fully operational collaborative teaching and learning environment to amplify our students learning skills.
Evelyn McCulloch, Google Certified Trainer
Evelyn McCulloch is an Innovation Coach and Grades 5-6 Educator in a Maker Space at Park Maitland School. She is also a Digital Learning Strategist for i-Tech Support, Inc., with expertise implementing G Suite for Education in schools as a Google for Education Certified Trainer. In addition to being a Certified Trainer, Evelyn is also a Google for Education Level 1 and Level 2 Certified Educator. She brings 8+ years experience as an educator and teacher leader in local and global classrooms. Evelyn is passionate about utilizing innovation and technology in teaching and learning to help students make thinking visible, give students a voice, and provide them with a wider audience to share their work.
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