Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Powerful Paperless Handout

Over the last few years, many school districts have urged teachers to create digital copies of course material for their students.  Although some teachers feel intimidated by this 21st-century task, it’s not as difficult to implement as it seems.  In fact, once you begin the creative process of enhancing your handouts with technology, it’s actually kind of fun!  Here are a few advantages I’ve discovered while creating paperless handouts for my students:

Students will never misplace their paperless handouts.  Storing a handout in the digital realm makes it easy to find.  Students won't have to worry about placing a sheet of paper in the wrong folder or accidentally leaving it in class when the bell rings.  This also increases the accountability of students, as they are no longer able to lean on the age-old “my dog ate it” excuse. 

Teachers will never have to photocopy a document more than once.  We’ve all been there; giving students an IMPORTANT document and begging them to keep it in a safe place.  Fast forward a few weeks (or days) and multiple students will lose the physical handout, making the teacher’s job unnecessarily inconvenient.  Having a digital version of the same document can make a teacher’s job easier.  Once a document becomes paperless students will always have access.  Gone are the days of having to make photocopies of the same document over and over again throughout the school year. 

Digital handouts are more functional than physical handouts.  When teachers create a physical handout and give it to their students they are somewhat limited to the words/images on the page.  But, with a little imagination, digital handouts can foster an interactive experience for all students.  In my classes, I’ve used links to incorporate websites, pictures, surveys, videos and much more.  This may be the largest advantage of a paperless handout.  

Creating a paperless handout is easier than you think.  As a Google Certified Educator, Docs is my application of choice for this task.  However, you can also use Microsoft Word or any other word processor for that matter (just remember to save as a PDF).  To begin enhancing your document go to the “insert” menu.  From there will you'll be able to bring in images, hyperlinks, tables and/or anything else you'd like.  The key is creativity.  To get started, take a handout that already exists and ask yourself "how can I improve this by making it digital?"  Once your document is complete you will need to share it with your students.  There are a number of ways to do this including a class Website, Google Classroom, Dropbox, and/or through e-mail.  Speak with your building technology support staff to figure out what will work best for you. 

Every teacher has a few reliable handouts they use year after year.  I challenge YOU to take one of these handouts and make it digital this year!