The pros and cons of a paper-free classroom

09 Apr 2018 Maria Di Mario no responses

We are living in a digital world. Online teaching is on the rise, smart technology is becoming more and more common in classrooms and blackboards, piles of paper and textbooks are starting to feel increasingly outmoded. But should a paper-free classroom be our goal? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of going paper-free?

Paper-free pros

Access to a wide variety of resources

There are infinite resources online for language learners. In a digital classroom, your students can choose to access information in whichever way suits them best, guided and supported by you. Different learning styles will no longer present a hurdle when it comes to lesson planning, as technology will give teachers the means to offer lots of varied resources from a breadth of sources, making for a more inclusive and balanced classroom experience.

Building digital as well as language skills

If your students are young learners, their education is preparing them for a digital world, and using technology to facilitate language learning will give them transferable skills that they can use in other subjects. Whether that’s creating power-point presentations, doing online research, using moodle, recording themselves or simply being exposed to different learning styles, they’ll be better prepared for using technology in other areas of their lives.

Better organisation and easy reporting

Going paper-free means you can wave goodbye to waiting in line at the photocopier! You’ll still have to prepare handouts, but creating physical copies, whether you print or photocopy, won’t be necessary any more – you’ll be able to share your worksheets digitally with your students. Your classroom will feel more streamlined, and if you upskill and use Google forms you can create self-marking assessments. Keeping track of student assessment, attendance and homework completion digitally also allows you to monitor students as individuals and as groups, and means it’s easy to pull the data and create reports for the end of term.

More environmentally friendly

This one is self-explanatory, really. Doing away with physical textbooks, folders, handouts and photocopies will save a ton of paper over the course of the year, and what’s good for the planet is good for us!

Paper-free cons 

Student distraction

It can already be challenging to command the attention of a room full of students in the smartphone age, and if they are using their devices for work, the temptation of accessing social apps like Whatsapp or Instagram will be irresistible for some students. It could be difficult to get students to focus on learning English when you’re competing with social apps for their attention.

Taking time from teaching

Getting your students (or yourself!) up to speed with the technology you’re using can take time away from your main subject, and guiding students through websites, moodles or apps can be especially tricky in a second language. It might be worth planning an introductory class purely dedicated to teaching students about the software you’re going to be using in the term ahead – for paper-free to work, students have to be confident and comfortable with the medium in which they’re working.

Inequality of access

Not everyone has access to a smartphone or a tablet, and unless this is something provided by the school, it will hinder any attempts to go paper-free in your classroom, as it is much harder for students to share a tablet than it is for two people to look at the same handout. You’ll also need to consider student access at home – if students need internet access to do homework, this will negatively affect the educational outcomes for students from less privileged homes.

Quality of resources

When you’re teaching from a textbook, you can have confidence in your material, but when it comes to online, you’ll need to thoroughly check the quality of your resources. The democratic nature of the internet is one of its strengths, but it does mean that anyone can put anything up online without the benefit of an editor, a publisher and a proofreader, so when using online resources, make sure they are of the professional standard you want for your class.

Have we missed any advantages or disadvantages of going paper-free? Do you think it’s the future of teaching? As always, let us know in the comments!