Going Paperless

Chromebook Conundrum: The Pros and Cons of Going Digital

This school year is the first year my school has gone one-to-one with students and electronic devices. During the first week of school, each student was given their own Chromebook to use in school and at home. A lot of exciting changes are happening, as teachers transition their classrooms from paper and pen to completely digital. As educators, we are fully aware that education is constantly evolving, and with these exciting changes comes new issues and challenges that need to be dealt with. But, let me start with the pros of going digital…
Copier Lines are gone, and so is classroom clutter!
Let me just start off with this – There are no more lines at the copier. Hallelujah!
I spend a fraction of the time I used to spend at the copier. There will always be the need to print something off, but seriously, you’d be surprised how much you can do digitally.
In addition to less time at the copier, classrooms are less cluttered. Nothing was more annoying to me than students with piles of textbooks and supplies on their desks. I was constantly asking kids to put their stuff off to the side, or place their textbooks and notebooks in a corner of the classroom we weren’t using. I need to see their faces, and the clutter would give me anxiety. Now, our students can access most of their textbooks online, so there is no need for them to carry around a ton of books from class to class. The students and parents are happier too, not having to carry enormous textbooks  that weigh a gajillion pounds around with them.
students and parents are happier too Click To Tweet
Information is literally at our fingertips. You don’t know what allegory means? Look it up. You need to know the difference between sedimentary and metamorphic rocks? Look it up. You lost your calculator? Use the one on your computer. I can email out reminders at any time of the day for students if an assignment is coming up or there is a test or quiz to prepare for.
Using a digital program like Google docs has changed the way I grade student work. Feedback is immediate, as I can help students while they are writing, as opposed to after they have finished a draft. Since everything is digital, there is also no “I forgot it at school/home/wherever” excuses.
Learning is more personalized
I can easily modify assignments and send them to different students, all with the push of a button. Not to mention there are also a ton of great computer programs that are tailored to meet the needs of all students. One example of this is the  ALEKS  program. My school is currently using this math program for each student, and it is completely aligned to each individual student’s math levels. Let me be clear, computer programs could never take the place of high quality instruction from a teacher. But, using digital programs like this one make it easy to differentiate for students. They also provide a lot of data for teachers to use in planning more targeted instruction for students. 
Student Engagement
This one is huge. Kids love computers. I’ve asked my students what they think of their chromebooks and 100% love the fact they have a device to use at school and at home. They told me it makes school more fun when they have assignments on the computer, and they enjoy using the internet, making videos, and taking tests online.

Let’s talk Cons of going digital…
The WI-FI can be unpredictable sometimes
When the internet goes out it’s as if the entire school goes into panic mode. This happened just this week, and I swear I  heard the entire school gasp at the same time. Teachers were scrambling for alternate lesson plans, students were frustrated, and you could hear different teachers throughout the morning shouting “Is it working yet?” as they ducked their heads outside of their classroom doors. My advice for this con is always have a back -up plan that does not rely on WiFi.
New Classroom management needs
I think it was the second day of school when teachers started discovering that students new how to send each other messages on their chromebooks. Of course, teachers have always had to deal with the passing of notes, but it gets a little trickier when your students are tech savvy. What has helped alleviate some of the distractions from devices is using a program like Hapara (a program designed to be used with G Suite), Hapara helps teachers manage off task behaviors. It lets you limit  the websites that students can go to while they’re in your class, and also allows you to see each student’s screen from your computer.

Tangible school supplies are going to be obsolete.
Maybe it’s just me, but I really think I read better when the words are on paper, than when they are on a screen. I understand the convenience of having everything in one place, but for me, when I sit down to read something, I need to be seated comfortably, and have my highlighters, post it notes, and pens ready, before I can dive into a book. It’s so different in front of a computer screen. Yeah, I know I’m a bit older than my students, but there is something about school supplies and the tangibility of them all.  Highlighting on a screen with the computer- given highlighter doesn’t give me the same satisfaction as popping the cap off of my brand new sharpie highlighter and releasing its colorful magic on paper. But I guess you could consider me old school. Also, I do wonder what being 100% digital will do to students’ fine motor skills. If handwriting, cutting, and coloring are all skills of the past, then what will fine motor skills look like in the future?
There’s a serious need for Media Literacy skills in Middle school
With the convenience of having information available to us at virtually any time of day, teachers also have to devote some of their academic time teaching students how to spot fake news stories and what reliable sources are. Students are bombarded with biased news from irreputable sources all day long. With digitizing schools, there comes a responsibility for teachers to stress the importance of source verification. All teachers need to take time to discuss credibility, bias, and satire in their subject areas.
With digitizing schools, there comes a responsibility for teachers Click To Tweet
Less face time
This is probably the one con that gets to me the most. I witnessed an example of this just the other day in homeroom. In previous years, students would watch the morning news together in homeroom, so they could hear announcements about field trips, clubs and activities, food drives, that sort of thing. This year, each student watches the morning news in homeroom on their individual chromebooks. So, as students enter their first class of the day, they pop their ear -buds in and watch the news on their own. It is almost completely silent. There is no excited discussion about when clubs are meeting, or if they have their money for the field trip, or even the occasional trash talking with other homerooms during the school’s color wars week. Everything is so isolated. It’s kind of creepy to watch students go from their chatty selves in homeroom in previous years, to these isolated zombies staring at screens. I can’t help but wonder, are we losing that sense of community by going digital?

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