Tag Archives: paperless

Google Drive & the Paperless Research Essay!

Even though I am “techy,” I always espouse that it’s never technology all the time. In fact, my classroom is always a hybrid environment. As such, my students write traditional, robust research essays every year. This assignment requires that they engage in sophisticated academic research, build a thesis, and then structure an academic argument. For many of my students (I currently teach 10th grade US History), this is the first research and argumentative essay that they have written. It’s a challenging project. In conjunction with our new roll out of Google Apps for Education, I decided to make this year’s research essay a paperless endeavor. This met several academic and school-wide objectives – building Digital Fluency and digital literacy across curriculum as well as promoting Ransom Everglades’s Greening initiative.

All Work Must be Written Within Google Drive

One of the benefits of drive is that it allows you to import documents from other platforms (such as Microsoft Word) either by converting them to a Google Doc or

Screen Capture of "Revision History"

Screen Capture of “Revision History”

using Drive as Cloud storage. However, this would defeat my intention of better watching how my students’ essays developed. As such, I required that all work be created within Google Drive itself. Students were not permitted to import content from another tool or copy and paste from a word processed document.

I did this because I wanted to watch how my students’ writing evolved throughout the assignment using the “see revision history” tool. This feature allows you to see how the document progressed – when content was added, changed, or otherwise revised. It’s incredibly useful in long-term projects as it not only allows you to keep tabs on your students’ progress, but it allows you to see what changes they made (substantive and minor) throughout the project.

Break it into Steps

I believe that larger projects should be “chunked out” so that students work on the process – focusing on the necessary elements step by step rather than trying to throw everything together all at once. As such, students had to submit to me: A thesis statement, Annotated Bibliography, Detailed Outline, Rough Draft, and Final Draft all through Google Drive.

I explained to them my expectations on each of the assignments and showed them how I would view their process using the track changes feature. I believe in being transparent with my students – I let them know why this process was important.

Peer Review with Comments Rather than Changes

Highlight content and select "make a comment" button to leave comments.

Highlight content and select “make a comment” button to leave comments.

One of the biggest changes for students (and teachers) in revision is that you’re doing it on screen – this means you cannot circle and underline, rather you highlight and comment. Still, it lends to a different focus in the revision process. Some students like to correct spelling and grammar for their peers. However, I find that when developing writing skills, it is always better for the author to make the adjustments and changes themselves. A such, I instruct students that if they noticed a lot of typos, they should leave a comment directing their peer to proofread. If a phrase was awkward, they should leave a comment explaining why the phrase was problematic and suggest that the student rephrase it.

Providing Feedback to Students

One of the best features of Google Drive is that it allows me to leave student comments in a variety of ways. I wrote an article a little while back entitled “Google Drive: A Better Method for Giving Student Feedback.” It highlights the fact that by working in the cloud, students and I can engage in a conversation; the comment process is no longer static. Additionally, it provides both me and the student greater flexibility in the process. Another cool tool that works in conjunction with Google Drive is Kaizena, a cloud based app that allows you to leave voice comments on a student’s a paper.

Watching the Evolution of Writing

The best feature of Google Drive is that, using the track changes tool, I can view the evolution of a student’s work. Overall, the writing process is the most important element of the work. Even if a student’s final product is not up to par, I can look at how often they worked on it, what changes they made, how they addressed their peers’ and my critiques, and overall how their paper evolved over time. Additionally, it provides greater accountability for the students – they know that they cannot just throw the paper together at the last minute, as I can see when content is added.

Engaging in a paperless research essay was a new journey for both me and my students. While the change in context and kinesthetics at time was uncomfortable (I don’t always like reading on a screen and neither do many of my students), there were numerous benefits that outweighed those drawbacks. The primary benefit was that students could work on the project wherever they were – on any computer on campus, on their cell phones while riding the bus to a game, or at home making changes before they turned it in.

I know that my students and I both need to engage further with Drive to feel fully comfortable with this tool (we had to with Word as well, although the 1980’s and 1990’s may seem far away). Still, I’m excited to move forward with a more portable, flexible, and greener assignment.

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5 Ways to Be More Productive in the New Year With Evernote

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 3.26.14 PMIf you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I love Evernote! I’ve written about it several times:

Evernote: A Great Tool for Organizing Teachers & Students

Using Evernote to Go Paperless in the Classroom

Using Evernote for Research

Evernote is an excellent tool to help you organize your projects, ideas, notes, and more. If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to be more organized, then check out these 5 great tips to help you become more organized and productive in the New Year with Evernote.

Evernote: A Great Tool for Organizing Teachers & Students!

This has been reblogged from my post at PLPVoices 

evernote-logo-300x298If you are not familiar with Evernote, now is the time. Evernote is a free web tool and application that helps you to organize your notes, emails, images, and, well…. everything. It’s hard to describe, but this 50-second video highlights some of the key features and abilities.

Evernote can be a great application for teachers, both to keep yourself coordinated and to facilitate student learning. I want to highlight a few ways that I have employed Evernote not only to make my life a little easier as a teacher, but to help my students and my classroom stay more focused and organized.

First, if you need to familiarize yourself with a quick tutorial, try out the “Getting Started Guide For Teachers.” This will help you with the basics of setting up an account, creating notes, and syncing across platforms. Trust me, it’s very easy and you’ll be up and running in just a few minutes. If you are already a more advanced user, then make sure that you set aside some time to browse their blog and YouTube channel for more advanced tips and tricks!

Organizing myself

Teachers have tons of “stuff” on our plates. Most of it is in the form of emails, calendar events, notes, homework, and to-do lists. If you’re like me, you probably have this scattered across more places than you would care to admit. The great thing about Evernote is that you can use it as the repository for all of that “stuff.”

JENC-EVERNOTE-Screen

The key to Evernote success is that you set up some basic parameters first. Begin by coming up with some categories — don’t worry about being all inclusive, you can always add more later. I started with a notebook for each class that I taught (above). In these various class-related notebooks I stored links to articles, primary source material, books, and more. I also added notes on my lesson plans. This is a great way to organize all of that additional content that I find on the go, as I scan my personal learning network feeds. I’ve also created notebooks for my side projects (my blog, the clubs I organize, my favorite recipes, you name it).

What’s great about keeping a digital notebook of material is that it’s paperless (more green, less clutter), it’s portable (I have My notes on my cell, computer at home, and computer at work – really, anywhere I can access the internet), and it’s readily searchable! Have you ever misplaced that article you wanted to distribute in a large stack of papers? Not anymore!

Using Evernote with students

Evernote is also a great tool for students to organize all of their own content. I encourage all of my students who bring a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to my class to download the application. They can organize all of their notes and handouts in an Evernote notebook – it’s portable, searchable, indestructible (even if you they lose their phone, their data is safe in the Cloud).  In addition to systematizing notes for class, it’s a great tool to use for research activities – students can store images, PDFs, and even hand-written notes (using their device’s digital camera or a free add-on app like Penultimate). Did I mention that hand-written notes are also searchable?!

EvernoteForStudentCollaborationIf a teacher distributes PowerPoints or handouts electronically (I like to do this via PDF — I highlighted my approach in an earlier PLP Voices article about DropBox), these can also be opened and stored in Evernote notebooks. It’s a great way for students to keep all of this material at hand and in one place. When they prepare for a quiz or a test, all of that content is in one location. Likewise, as they prep for a paper or presentation, they have all of their research at their fingertips. Literally. (Evernote can also be a cool collaboration tool — check out the Nerdy Teacher webinar by clicking on the image.)

Another great feature that enhances the student-teacher relationship is that Evernote notebooks are shareable. I like to examine students’ notebooks from time to time (for a grade or just to ensure they are on task). Students with an Evernote notebook simply share it with me. This eliminates the need to collect 85 sloppy, hand-written spirals or three ring binders. Instead, you can access all of their files (whenever you choose) from your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Maximum portability.

Should you go Premium?

While the basics of Evernote are free to all users, there is a premium service that costs $45/year. In all honesty, the basic features meet most users’ needs. I was a basic user for over a year before I upgraded. I found that the more I used it, the more I needed the higher upload rates, faster customer service, and, my favorite feature, searchable PDF documents. The upgrade became worth it. My advice here: play with the service for a while and decide whether or not you need the extra features.

Concluding thoughts

What I really love about Evernote is that it is inherently flexible. I find new ways to use it almost every day. I love it that — other than my initial investment of time — I don’t have to put a lot of thought or energy into organizing the digital pieces of my teaching (or personal) life. The search features make everything so readily accessible (whether or not I remember to put it in the right binder or give it the appropriate “tag”). Best yet, it’s free!

Using Evernote to Go Paperless in Your Classroom

I often dream of going paperless in my classroom. If it is an objective of yours, Evernote is a great tool to help you get there.

If you want some great tips on how to go paperless in your own life and in the classroom, check out Jamie Todd’s (Evernote Ambassador for paperless living) Evernote Blog Feed: Going Paperless. It has some great tips, how to’s, and more! It’s a great location to get some ideas for use in your paperless classroom!

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The Paperless Classroom with Google Drive

If you’ve wanted to try a paperless classroom, or just want to explore Google Drive this document explains it all to you. From the nuts and bolts “How do you share a document?” to process, “How to get students to name things properly,” it’s all here.

The Paperless Classroom with Google Docs | Diigo.

Google-Drive

iPads for Administrators by Chris Casal

Jen Carey is LIVE blogging for us from the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit USA. You can also find these posts on her site – indianajen.com.

Concurrent Session #1: iPads for Administrators – Chris Casal

While the title of this talk is iPad for Administrators, the focus is less about administration and more on working as a leader (in every capacity) in the school. Chris works for a public school in NYC of about 1,000 students.

Administrators view iPads primarily for three things: communication, collaboration, and observation. They often have a fourth goal as well: going paperless. iPad is an amazing tool for communication and for being able to do so silently. Using a traditional PA system is loud and disruptive. In a school environment, we seem to either be inundated with information via interruption, or we are entirely out of the loop. In terms of communication within a school, we have the old standby of technology: the email distribution list. This way, we can limit information to a select group and send it out electronically. If teachers have iPads, they are not tied to a computer, they can get it on the go.

In addition to traditional list serves, there are also new media being used by schools: blogs and Twitter that can readily be followed by students and faculty. While using hashtags is new, administrators seem to be embracing it. The school has various hashtags that they use to disseminate information, and since so many students, as well as parents, are on Twitter that it can be a faster medium by which to distribute information.

casal-dropboxCollaboration at PS10 in Brooklyn is primarily in the cloud (they are a Google Apps School), and they also use DropBox to share information. The school has various shared folders that they use for administrative details, staff, and/or students. This is another quick and easy way to distribute information as it limits paper distribution and inbox clutter. In addition to DropBox, the school uses Google Drive.

By using Google Drive, not only can staff and students share information but they can also edit them live. Google Drive is still fairly new, and it is not as iPad friendly – yet. Chris said that they currently prefer DropBox as it is more adaptable for various programs and more cross-platform friendly. The great benefits of the cloud is that content can always be accessed regardless of device or platform. Chris also likes to use the program DROPitTOme for student submission of work. It helps to keep all content for a class in one place. Using DROPTitTOme means that you no longer have to manage folders or sharing permissions. It is purely a submission element. However, Chris does say that ultimately they will move entirely to Google Drive in the next few years.

Another great element of iPad is that it allows for real-time observation and feedback. If you look at his presentation, available here, you can see a variety of his favorite applications to use for collaboration and observation on iPad. Chris demonstrates the ability of annotating a PDF observation form using the app Good Reader. He quickly accesses and annotates the form via DropBox and then posts it within seconds. This demonstrates how easy it is to use iPad for portable and paperless record keeping – making the bane of education a little more palpable 😉

Chris’s ultimate message is that you have to try things out. Fortunately, iPad apps are cheap or even have free “lite” versions. Two dollars is a worthy investment for exploration. If you want to try something new, try it out. It’s about being flexible and finding options. Ultimately, iPad can help administrators and educators achieve that fourth goal: to become paperless (or at least less paper-y). Take the printer out of the thought process. Send it to iPad!

You can view all of Chris’ presentation materials – as well as those from other presenters – on the iPad Summit web site.

Using your Tablet & Smartphone to go Paperless (or Less Paper-y)

As of late, I’ve been trying to use less paper and to encourage my students to do the same. I certainly have not become paperless, but I have eliminated a lot of my paper-useage. I would love to continue this trend and still am looking for some alternative options to go wholly paperless. I still collect some written homework, students still work with their hands, and I still find reading/editing on paper easier than digitally. Still, there are a few options for me.

Alternatives to “Hard Copy” Assignments

One, when possible, I ask students to post on the class blog as opposed to handing in an assignment. This is especially good for tasks that I would like them to share. This way, they can also easily add links, pictures, and even videos. It’s still not great for all assignments and requires internet access. Currently, my students do not have access to computers & the internet 100% of the time (we book computer lab time), so this generally requires some advanced planning (at least a few days). Also, a lot of my students do their homework on buses to/from extra-curricular activities (often not getting home until 9 or 10 pm). so, this is not always feasible. At my husband’s school, many students do not have computers at home.

However, I have found that this is a great activity so long as I plan ahead for the project. You can see some of my examples below:

Using Blogs in Class – AP Art History

First Week Using Class Blogs

Update on Blogging in Class

This is still a work in progress for me. I’m finding things that work and others that do not work. Plus, I have some students that are very excited about it and others not as thrilled about the technology aspect.

Another great tool for students to hand in assignments is DropBox. I personally don’t like it when students email me their assignments as its so easy for it to get lost in my inbox. Plus, 47 assignments labeled “homework” is not remotely helpful. If I have them do a hand-in via DropBox, then I require that they save it in a particular format, e.g. “Homework57.Last Name.doc”. I have noticed that I must deduct points if they don’t save it properly, otherwise I get 47 DropBox files all labeled “Homework”. With projects, I will even have designed folders, see these AP Art History Assignments:

This is also a great way for students to share their assignments with one another (something I like them to do in Art History).

If you’re not familiar with DropBox, I highly recommend checking out my article: “DropBox – An Excellent and Free Resource for Educators.”

Alternative to Paper Hand-Outs

In all of my classes, I supplement with primary source readings, activities, work-sheets, whatever I feel a particular lesson calls for. I’ve started to distribute these in advance electronically and encourage my students, whenever possible, to not print it up – rather to access it electronically. This is not feasible for everyone, but the 70% with Smart-Phones use them in class.

Again, DropBox is a great tool for this – especially as many of the files I distribute are too large for email. I like to save them in PDF (Portable Document Format), and then I put them right into our “Shared” DropBox folder.

To access these, students have a few options. They can use a free PDF Reader like Adobe and then download, open, and print to bring to class. If they have a Smart Phone or a Tablet, they can download the free DropBox Application, download, and read electronically in class. If they would like to take notes on their electronic copy, they will need an application like PDF Reader Pro or iAnnotate. These will allow the user to highlight, make notes, and more.

Avoiding the Copying Machine

Perhaps the greatest arena of waste of paper is the copier. I’ve made too many copies, not enough, photocopied the wrong thing, dealt with mis-feeds, and seen so much paper thrown in the trash. Likewise, I’ve seen my students make a few dozen copies and then promptly toss them in the trash.

One solution for copies in the library is to encourage students to use their Smart Phones to take photos instead of make copies. There are several applications that will do this, my favorite are Genius Scan – PDF Scanner. This application will allow you to take pictures and convert them to PDF. It is specifically designed for use on documents, so it will focus and improve resolution to enhance text. Additionally, you can upload to DropBox or Evernote, email it to yourself, or simply store it on your device.

There are a lot of other applications that do the same: DocScanner, ScannerPro, Document Scanner, and more.

Not only great for my students, but I can use them in lieu of the copy machine myself.

These are only a few of the tools that I’m using. I’d love to hear others.