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Greg Hughes

Why schools should ditch the paper

Greg Hughes from The de Ferrers Academy discusses the benefits of paperless communication

Posted by Stephanie Broad | January 20, 2016 | Sustainability

As a school, we are incredibly conscious about reducing our carbon footprint and instilling this sense of responsibility in our students. It was this that sparked our initial desire to go ‘paperless’ as much as possible, however we didn’t realise just how much using technology to achieve this would actually improve teaching and learning, in addition to making us more green.

We were introduced to a classroom management app, Showbie in early 2013 at edtech show, Bett. It’s designed to digitally issue assignments, monitor progress and provide feedback, completely eliminating the need for paper assignments. It also allows for parents to monitor their child’s progress in class and access their ‘portfolio’ of work.

The de Ferrers Academy

In addition to the environmental improvements, the benefits of paperless communication are endless; some we’ve experienced include:

Rapid & meaningful feedback – The ability to provide audio feedback is great. When helping students prepare for mock exams, I can go through the paper they’ve submitted via the app, and give them audio feedback on each section rather than only assigning a grade at the end, which is all I would be able to do if I were marking by hand. Even if they get an answer wrong, I can highlight areas where they’ve made a good effort, or offer examples of how they could improve sections. Feedback becomes far more personal and emotive, and as such is more beneficial to students, while the facility to provide this audibly makes it a more efficient process for teachers. 

Facilitates and encourages student engagement – We’re also big advocates of peer assessments and class tasks at de Ferrers. I’ll often set a task and give students a certain amount of time to complete it digitally, after which, I select a few anonymously for us to assess together as a group, especially if they contain interesting misconceptions. We mark the paper together, and students can offer suggestions as to what they can do to improve their mark, or to get an A*. All the feedback is really well received, and it genuinely helps students. Also, the time setting functionality allows them to see how far they’ve gotten and where they may need to improve on time management in an exam setting. 

Reduces waste and saves money – I went to photocopy some papers today for the first time in over five weeks, which would have been unheard of before now. By using technology, traditional tasks such as running to the photocopying room which would have taken 20 minutes, now take 10 seconds! It saves us vast amounts of time, and less printing means we are saving large amounts of money too.

By introducing paperless communication, our teachers are able to reinvest the time they’re saving back into the task that matters the most: teaching their students, and as a result, our students are really flying!

Greg Hughes is Vice Principal - Learning Technologies and Curriculum, and Apple Distinguished Educator at The de Ferrers Academy.    

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