Dropbox, iAnnotate and the Paperless Classroom
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”- Paul J. Meyer
As teachers, we are always trying to think of ways to maximize our classroom minutes, create a better workflow and increase our productivity. This year, our school, Fairmont Preparatory Academy moved to a 1:1 learning environment and our teachers have revolutionized the way in which classroom teaching is executed. One goal this year was to move towards a paperless classroom and the transition has been phenomenal while also being environmentally friendly. The ease at which assignments are distributed, completed, graded and returned has streamlined our classrooms and allowed us to take back valuable instructional minutes, smooth our workflow and increase productivity. Having students create presentations and other multimedia projects and submit them online has been wonderful. However, what has not been so wonderful is the number of emails teachers receive when students submit work.
The paperless classroom is a model of excellence in education and can be initiated through an array of strategies. At the heart of the solution is how you organize your workflow and carry out three crucial tasks: Delivery of content/assignments, organization of knowledge, and collaborative feedback.
Delivery – Organization – Feedback
Say good-bye to the copy center, because gone are the days when you walk into your classroom with stacks of paper, stapled, collated and hole-punched, ready for distribution. Say hello to your online document distribution center. Deciding how to deliver the documents/directions etc. to students is a key part of this process. You want something easy to maintain and user friendly. Some cost money while others are free, so do your research and see what’s right for you. Many schools have learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard or Edmodo, or you can create your own class website or blog.Next, you want to avoid numerous emails and to solve this there are quite a few solutions depending upon budget and needs; we’ve highlighted our top choices Dropbox + iAnnotate and Turnitin.com.
As we step away from the traditional use of pen and paper and into the 21st Century classroom, students are producing, collaborating and using their creativity and critical thinking skills to produce quality projects, while teachers redefine their learning experiences. There are many different ways to take the wonderful lessons you already use in your classroom and tweak them to enhance and develop the 4C’s. The SAMR Model designed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura was designed to help teachers evaluate how they are using technology in the classroom. The model features four levels - Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. Teachers in the substitution and augmentation phase can use technology to accomplish traditional tasks, but the real learning gains result from engaging students in learning experiences that could not be accomplished without technology. At the Modification and Redefinition level, the task changes and extends the walls of the classroom. To assist you through the steps, Dr. Ruben Puentedura has developed a series of questions to guide you as you work to transition to higher stages. By applying these stages to your traditional classroom, you not only intensify the quality of your students learning experience, but become part of the everlasting impact on higher education.
Feedback – Developing the Art of Collaboration
One of the greatest challenges that come along with redefined lessons and moving away from traditional paper assessments is how students will send you assignments and projects. Of course, the obvious way would be email; however no one likes an overly cluttered inbox. There are many other solutions that allow your inbox to remain clutter free. Instant feedback is critical to student success. According to research from Black and William (1998), comments have a strong impact on students and the quality of feedback is crucial to student learning. I’ve always wished for more one on one time with students to offer them feedback on essays and projects. Being able to hear and see a teacher’s response is so much more meaningful than a simple number or “good job!” Many tools designed to work in a paperless environment offer an advanced and new way to provide student feedback, such as voice annotations. A true advancement for student feedback!
There is an old Chinese proverb that goes like this, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”
If we truly want students to understand the feedback that we as teachers provide, then we must have them do the corrections. No one likes to spend hours on a project or essay only to find out that they have to go back and start all over. The paperless classroom allows for redefinition in teacher student collaboration because now teachers can provide students with feedback along the way instead of just at the end of a project. This advancement in collaboration truly allows the student and teacher or student and peers to actively engage in the work in progress, understanding the corrections as they work to “do” them. Students have a meaningful opportunity to apply the feedback given from their teacher or peers instead of just reading it at the end and saying, “Oh I’ll remember to do that next time.”
Here are our two favorite methods for creating a paperless classroom in an economical manner
Dropbox and iAnnotate Overview
These two apps make for a dynamite combination if you are looking for a streamlined workflow in your 1:1 learning environment. The shared folders eliminate the need to email work back and forth and help you build your paperless classroom.
Dropbox increases your storage space when you invite new people. As the teacher you should invite your students to create a Dropbox account. If they have one, encourage them to make a separate account for school. Once students have set up their accounts they will create a shared folder. It is important to give students instructions as to how you would like them to name their folder. For example, the folder name could be : Last Name – Period #. Once they have created their folder they will invite you, the teacher, to share.
You will need to choose how you want to deliver documents to your students. You can choose to use a learning management system (LMS) or perhaps you have your own class website. Students will visit this location to download the file and upload it to Dropbox.
The next step is to open the file in the required app so they can begin their assignment or project.
Since the teacher and student are sharing the folder, the teacher will automatically receive the assignment. The teacher can then use iAnnotate to provide the students with feedback and a score. Students are automatically notified that the document has been updated and they can go in and read your feedback. Peer collaboration is a meaningful experience; students can also share Dropbox folders with each other collaborating on projects.
For multimedia projects include a rubric alongside the directions. When you are grading the project you can open up the rubric in iAnnotate and provide feedback to the student. Don’t have students upload videos as this can take up a lot of space. The preferred method for any multimedia presentation is to have students create a YouTube link.
In this exclusive article, Sabba takes a look at the importance of developing the art of collaboration in the move towards a paperless classroom. She also spotlights two core apps - Dropbox and iAnnotate