Is a Paperless Classroom Possible?


Last year, we saw a massive public response to reduce the impact of plastic waste in our oceans, owing largely to the impact of Sir David Attenborough and his documentary Blue Planet II had on us. But let’s face it, plastic isn’t the only culprit to have a damaging impact on our environment. In our classroom we use huge amounts of paper and paper products; be it graph paper, lined paper, tracing paper, plain paper, printing, photocopying, exercise books, jotters, scrap paper, display backing paper… I’m certain this is not an exhaustive list.

Perhaps it is the lesser of two evils? But reducing or even eliminating the use of paper in our classrooms can contribute to salvaging some of our woodland ecosystems and the reducing the impact that deforestation is having on biodiversity around the world.

Perhaps if you haven’t set a New Year’s Resolution for your classroom, you could consider reducing the amount of paper, or even go a step further and challenge yourself and your students to go paperless for a week?

Some of my top tips for reducing paper use in your classroom would include;

  • Use mini whiteboards and pens. The students love them. Granted, they can be messy and its nightmare finding ten extra pens because half of them were left last time without lids, but perhaps explaining why you are using them more often to students and that they have a responsibility too will help to improve the longevity of these valuable classroom tools.
  • Don’t print everything out. Do your students really need the question sheet printed out and on the desk in front of them? Can you display them on the whiteboard instead? If you have differentiated tasks or questions, consider splitting the screen into two sides or having the task slides on a rotating loop. If you work with secondary students, ask them to take a snap on their phones from the board and then use that as a reference on their desks instead.
  • Make them share! If you really must print something out, try to print enough for one between two, and double check the number of students you have in your class rather than automatically printing 30 plus a couple of spares.
  • Book the ICT suite. Familiarise yourself with the ICT equipment your school has, you could be pleasantly surprised; I once worked in a school which had its own media recording equipment including a green screen! You can ask students to complete quizzes online (if you’re savvy, they can be marked instantly too!), carry out research on the internet and produce posters or presentations using the computers rather than paper or printing.
  • Reuse worksheets. If you work in primary, try sharing your planning with other teachers in your year group and take turns to use the worksheets with your classes. If you work in secondary, chances are you might have more than one class in the same year group and can reuse worksheets when you teach the topic again later in the year. A good filing system will help keep them organised, so you know where to find them when you want them later.
  • Recycle! If you don’t already (it surprises me that some schools and colleges still do not have a paper recycling point in every classroom!), then try to recycle any paper products that you can.
  • Digital records. Record students work digitally by taking photographs of practical work or group work and storing them in individual student files on the PC rather than printing them out for folders or glueing into books. Instead of printing out tracking sheets for the learning outcomes of a topic, you could store these on your computer and even share access to them with individual students, so they can be involved in their progress and understand how to move forward in the subject.

These are just some ideas. Of course, they might not all be practical or supported by your schools overarching policies or procedures. What are your best tips for reducing the use of paper in the classroom? Is it possible to go completely paperless in our schools?

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