Should Teaching Go Paperless?


Aug 10, 2021

- Why do school children still write in textbooks when offices across the developed world are reducing their use of paper?

- Why do we continue to support libraries when Kindles and iPads can provide access to a far greater range of content?

- And why is so much of our time still spent filling forms in by hand when document sharing technology is reaching full maturity?


These are just some of the questions that some in the education world are currently grappling with.

See, the concept of a ‘paperless classroom’ has become far more realistic in the last twelve months – and that means we have to start taking seriously the ways technology will change teaching in the future.

During the pandemic, we saw how quickly and effectively technology can be integrated into the education environment.

But for many, the education sector doesn’t lag behind – it actively shuns full digitisation as a means of preserving vital elements of the teaching process. 

So, in this article, I’m going to try and articulate the strongest arguments for and against a paperless classroom – and let you decide for yourself.

Going paperless can save time, money – and the planet

Perhaps the most obvious argument for going paperless is environmental: deforestation is a serious threat, and unnecessary use of paper contributes to that.

But this is not the only argument for reducing paper usage.

In most schools, much of the administrative and compliance work – like authorising employee sick leave – is still predominantly done using paper.

Are there not practical benefits to moving to a digital, paperless system here?

From making these jobs easier to generating useful data that might make HR and management functions more effective, going paperless could be synonymous with a whole bunch of major efficiency gains that would make education professionals’ lives easier.

There is also a financial argument: many schools spend as much as £65,000 per year on printing – all of which could be reallocated to other underfunded areas.

And, of course, the lack of clutter would make schools easier to maintain – and documentation easier to locate when needed.

Combined, these points form a formidable argument for the paperless classroom.

But hold on, hold on… I hear you shout, what are the arguments against this?

Paperless learning may not be as effective

The most common argument against going paperless is simple: teaching is more effective when paper is involved.

Working with paper produces what Naomi Baron calls the ‘Four Cs’: continuity, concentration, concepts and contemplation.


Because most students use digital devices as their primary means of recreation, it is difficult for them to fully focus on learning when using them.


Writing with a pen and paper has been found to produce greater retention than using a computer.


This is in part because working by hand forces students to think more about what they’re doing.


And while there may be other benefits to working on computers, many students actively prefer to work by hand.


So fully embracing a ‘paperless classroom’ runs the risk of losing much of what makes the classroom work in the first place.


Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

As we’ve seen, the arguments for both sides are very compelling.


And while I don’t want to pass strong judgement either way, I will say this:


The question should not really be being considered an ‘either/or’.


Because while there are good reasons to continue using paper in many areas, there are also many areas - from recruitment to registers - where digital technology is almost entirely a positive.


So, the real quandary isn’t really about choosing which side you’re on - it’s about where you draw the line, and what constitutes ‘baby’ and what constitutes ‘bathwater’.  



At Front of Class, our recruitment technology is all about making life easier for educators and schools, so that they focus on what they do best – Request a demo today.

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