I have been in education for 12 years and there has always been this dream of a paperless classroom. A classroom where students come in and use some sort of electronic device to communicate and demonstrate what they know. As we entered the 21st century more and more educators wondered if that was a possibility. And I have to tell you that I think we are right there and the ability to have a paperless classroom is no longer a dream but a reality.
Now paperless doesn't mean students will never write again. Paperless eliminates the collecting and passing back of papers. I teach math and want to see the steps of the problem being worked out. So students can work it out and either scan it to their drive with Google Drive's mobile app or take a picture of it with their webcam on the Chromebook (thanks Alice).
So what do we need to have this paperless classroom? Well, hopefully your school is enrolled with Google Apps for Education (GAFE). GAFE will do a majority of your heavy lifting when it comes to this transition. So here is my list of how to go paperless;
A solid WiFi network infrastructure: let's face it, you can have all the tech in the world, but without a solid internet connection you are dead in the water.
A class set of devices (with about 3-5 extras): you can't go paperless if you aren't using some device all the time. Extras are their in case batteries die or something else. I have had 37 Chromebooks all year and battery issues are the only reason to pull and extra. If there is an issue with something on the Chromebook itself, a hard reset clears it.
Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, & Forms): here is the big one. Your students have access to online versions of Word, Excel, & PowerPoint. All of them are more than capable of doing the job of their Microsoft counter-part. And on top of that you have Drawings & Forms. Drawings is similar to MS Paint, but Forms is something not available for free. Teachers can quickly gather information from students and have it sorted and analyzed automatically. Never worry about running out of storage either. Google announced that all GAFE accounts would have unlimited storage for their Drive. Students can collaborate on Docs, Sheets & Slides together at the same time. And you the teacher can look at the revision history to see who did what. Students can also share items with you and vice versa, but for that Google created something better.
Google Classroom: Google Classroom was announced almost a year ago and it has changed the way classes are run. With Classroom, teachers can easily post notes, announcements, links to materials (sites or videos), or homework assignments. Everything is done behind the scenes automatically. If you add an assignment, Google will automatically add the folder to your Google Drive keeping everything organized for you.
Google Keep: So part of a paperless classroom would also include getting students to shift away from "reminder binders" and use something like Google Keep. Students can take notes in Keep, set reminders, to do lists, and more. Reminders can be set for date & time or location based. With the last update users can now share Keep notes with others. So imagine if you had 3 students working on a group project, they could set up a to do list and assign each person jobs. When they finish they would cross it off and the other group members could see where everyone was. As a teach, have them. share it with you so that you can see where everyone is.
Socrative.com: Of course to be paperless, we would have to eliminate paper tests. Socrative is a free online test site that allows teachers to make tests/quizzes for their classes. There are options for multiple choice (with more than one right answer), True/False, and short answer. For the short answer, it could be one word or a a few sentences. Socrative will grade it all for you in real-time too. For the short answer, it needs to match word for word or leave it blank for you to grade later. Tests/quizzes can be returned via Google Drive as well.
Textbook w/online version: last but not least the textbook. How many times have we had students raise their hand and ask to go to their locker because they forgot their book? Most textbook companies offer an online version of their book. Spend a few minutes and get everyone logged in so they never have that excuse again.
Extras: As I mentioned at the top having a GAFE account makes this easy. In addition to Drive and Classroom, you also have access to Calendar and Sites. Use Calendar to create a class calendar for students to access to see upcoming test, assignments, or projects. Use Sites to create a class website in conjecture with Classroom. Or use it to have students create and online portfolio of their assignments throughout the year.
So as you can see a paperless classroom is possible. There will be a learning curve for everyone involved, but the pay off seems pretty awesome.