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Tech vs Paper

Tech vs Paper

I’m very fortunate to teach at a school that has a one-to-one laptop program.  Each student I teach has their own laptop that has scribing capabilities, students can use a stylus to “write” on their screens.  With my students having instant, immediate access to the internet, it has opened up learning opportunities that probably wouldn’t have presented themselves otherwise.

In my math classes, I create OneNote files for my students to use instead of worksheets on paper.  It’s an attempt to cut down paper use and it allows them (and me) to stay much more organized.  All of my students do all of their work on their tablets and it seems to work pretty well.  However, when it comes time to gives quizzes or tests, it’s always on paper.

Is this right?  It seems like an odd question, but am I preparing students to take these assessments on paper?  Does it even matter?  Is it ridiculous to make my quizzes in the same OneNote format as their assignments?

The other issue I have with using our tablets all the time is time.  In the chemistry course I taught last trimester, we used POGILs (process oriented guided inquiry learning).  In POGILs, students work in groups with specific roles and they are guided to discover whatever concepts are covered in that  topic.  I spent a considerable amount of time converting all the paper packets to work Google Docs so the students could collaborate within their groups.  For me, it was really valuable to be able to peek into any of the documents, add a few comments here and there, and then move onto the next groups.  I thought the students would find it a refreshing change compared to the paper they are used to seeing.

I was wrong. They didn’t like it.  They found it tedious and, I think in a couple of cases, one person just took charge and ended up doing most of it by themselves.

At one point in the trimester, I realized that my class had fallen behind and we were going to have a tough time catching up to the other sections that were going on.  I decided to try to go back to paper for these POGIL activities and reduce the group sizes from four per group to two per group.

I don’t have any data, but I would guess that my students completed these packets almost twice as fast as previously.  Maybe it was the reduction of group size, but I think it had more to do with the switch to paper.  I don’t know why this was, but I was really surprised since I thought the use of the tech was something they enjoyed.  I thought maybe it may have something to do with my students being proficient in using the tech tools we have, but I mostly dismissed that idea because most of them have been using it since they started at the school and many of them are using the tools in other courses.

I’m going to investigate this idea a bit further this upcoming trimester.  Have you seen results similar to this in your class or school?

Photo Credit: Svadilfari via Compfight cc

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    Environmentally, the idea of a paperless classroom is very intriguing. However, as educators, I don’t think that we should assume that all students will be happy with the switch. Some students just need to have all of the resources they need spread out in front of them when they work on a project so that they can see, and easily reference, all of them. The picture you have with this post clearly represents what I mean. There is no way to replicate that ability on a computer or tablet.

    As for your math quizzes, I don’t think that it would be a ridiculous thing to try using OneNote at all! It actually sounds like a good thing to do: maybe if the quizzes better match the assignments it will increase your students comfort level and confidence about their quizzes. I know that little seemingly meaningless format switches would often take me by surprise in math classes (for instance, practising graphing on graph paper, then using blank paper for a test). Just be sure that your students will use the tablets for the quiz, and not to look up the solutions on WolframAlpha, or a similar site. My suggestion would be to ask your students if they want to do their quizzes in OneNote – if they have a strong preference for it, give it a try. If they have a strong preference against it, maybe it’s something you should leave for a different group of students.

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