How far would you go?

I want to be paperless. Teaching and learning without paper! No paper. The question becomes, how far am I willing to go and what am I willing to do to make that happen?

Here's the steps I've taken, just on the hardware front:
  1. Work for hours to get 15 of 40 old Compaq laptops working.
  2. Beg the building tech to get log-ins for 3 other laptops that would work.
  3. Beg the tech for more old iMacs (we're talking old). Got 2 so far!
  4. Share my school issued laptop with the students (it's a daily raffle).
  5. Share my "teacher" computer with the students.
  6. Share my prized OLPC XO laptop with the students (I share the story at least twice a day)
Here's the steps I've taken on the Web 2.0 front:
  1. Registered my class for Ning. Shut that down due to not enough teacher control.
  2. Registered my class for Edmodo. Shut that down because it wasn't robust enough. I here that is changing though.
  3. Registered my class for the Minneapolis Public Schools wiki/blog/podcast page. Never used due to confusing interface.
  4. Got entire class working on Moodle and have been there all quarter.
  5. Used Wordle for a few assignments.
  6. Explored Toon Doo and another cartoon generation site.
  7. Tried to use Vimeo for some how to videos. District promptly blocked the site.
  8. Tried to use Twitter for class updates, homework assignments, and parent communication. District promptly blocked this one too.
Have I given up? Nope, not a chance. I've got a good thing going with Moodle. My students are more engaged, more willing to do the writing assignments, and more willing to interact with each other and me in the evening and on the weekend.

Here are a few of the pluses:
  1. No missing work.
  2. No waiting for copies that could take days.
  3. Dogs can't eat computers.
  4. I don't have to carry notebooks back and forth to school.
  5. My assignment basket is going away.
  6. I'm much happier using things that I like and that engage my students.
  7. Behavior incidents have decreased.
Those are my thoughts on being paperless. Am I there yet? Not quite. It will take a while and a shift in the thinking of me and my students. Education is all about shifting thinking. Can't wait to tackle school in the fall. I've got a lot of work a head of me.


  1. I appreciated your list of attempts and outcomes. I have it a lot easier since I am at a private school. Our school server software has the capacity for individual blogs and a wiki space as well. I will be using some version of Moodle for the university course I teach. I enjoy following your blog as it informs me about what my next steps should/could be.

    As for being 100% paperless, in my case, in math, in particular, algebra, I suspect it is a nice goal, but perhaps not quite achievable due to the notation issues and such. I also wonder what new types of difficulties some of my students find as I push them towards a more intensive cyber experience. I am already experience a certain level of push back from some of them: even though they use Facebook and such. I wonder if they feel I am encroaching on their territory and taking the "fun" out of it.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this!! My classroom in the fall will be headed in just the direction you talk of--as paperless as possible! I'm so glad moodle worked for you as that's what I'll be using as well. I'd love to hear more (what class(es) you teach, grade, etc). I follow you on twitter, so any updates you offer on your blog I'd love if you put a link back as you did with this! Hope the rest of your school year is great!

  3. Great Job! I appreciate your efforts to go "paperless" I really think it is a journey, rather than going cold turkey. Keep pushing the limits.

    I personally have found Google Docs to be a useful site to have students write on and share with me. The nice thing about it is that students can use the same Doc. all year and it is constantly updated to me. I also can leave comments to them about their writings.

    Are you able to use any wikis or blogs at school or are they all blocked? I use wikispaces and edublogs with the students. Keep sharing and we can help each other!

  4. Glad I found your blog, Ben. Just across town a bit, I've been using Moodle for almost two years now - Oct. '07. That first year I had my class on a site that I set up through GoDaddy. I had to use GoDaddy because the district wouldn't give me a Moodle course until I had done all of the seat training.

    After actually using Moodle for a year, the district gave me a course last year. It's been great. It will be even better once we've developed a community of teachers who are using the tool. I've only survived with the help of the Moodle forums and some of Nings I belong to. Let's get the MPS Moodle users group that Matt V started moving.

  5. Hey Dan! Thanks for the comment.

    I'm not sold on Moodle. You're using it with 4th grade? It seems overwhelming as a teacher and for the students.

    Why did you choose to use Moodle? Have you seen the district wiki/blog site? What about Edmodo or Edublogs?

    Just want to get your perspective. I'm starting web-based activities next week (blogging, mostly) and haven't chosen a tool yet.


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