A few weeks back I wrote a blog on Comment Boxes and ‘going green’ in the classroom in general. Not knowing much about the practicality of certain technological advancements that can be used in the classroom I posted a conversation on the English Companion Ning website to see if “real live” teachers actually used technology in their classroom to avoid using too much paper. I made some very interesting discoveries. My post has been up since April 3rd, I’ve had 9 relied so far, and a few conversations have sprouted off of my topic. One of my respondents even visited my blog and left a comment!
Overall, the ‘paperless’ grading via comment boxes had mixed reviews. One teacher, Jeanette Lans, said she regularly uses comment boxes because, as she states, comment boxes allow her to have, “greater dialogue with a student about their writing than I can if I write on the paper, simply because their often isn’t room on the hard copy page”. Jeanette even introduced me to another feature on Word, similar to comment boxes, “Track Changes”.
Track Changes is a feature where, after reading a comment or while proof reading, students can cross out or add in text and instead of deleting the old text, the Track Changes feature highlights new changes in red. This allows teachers to follow a students progress through the revision step of the writing process. Jeanette even included a great PDF file, which is an example of a handout she used while giving a presentation at a recent Professional Development day at her school.
In my original post on ‘going green’ in the classroom, I mentioned how my teacher said comment boxes would be in the future of our classroom. Well, for another commenter Andy Esquivel Jr., a paper-less classroom is what he teaches in everyday! I was amazed by how well he, and his students, use things as simple as folders and file sharing to make the paper-less process easier. Andy mention his students use of ‘digital lockers’ a feature that allows students to submit assignments to the teacher and then the teacher can comment and send the paper back to the student. Andy also makes in interesting point when he states, “the submission depends on what type of writing assignment we’re working on at that time. It’s not satisfying to print my blog and hand it to people, but it is satisfying to print my essays, stories, and poems”. I think Andy has a good point and has surely found an even balance between technology and old school.
Of course, there are two side to every story. I did receive some comments of people who were completely against comment boxes or going ‘paperless’ at all. For some teachers like Carol S, technology simply doesn’t mesh with her teaching style. Her main concern is the frailty of a system, all the sudden a paper can be due and the system goes down.. ‘then what?’ she asks. Also, not all students have internet access at home which may put them at a disadvantage if they are unable to get all of there work done in school. Carol prefers, “to make revision comments and grading remarks with a pencil on a piece of paper. It is more efficient than on a computer screen. In addition, when a student revises a print paper on a screen, the original stays intact; if s/he reconsiders a change, s/he can see the way it used to look. On a screen, the old is gone forever.” Carol brings up a few valid points, however, if you are prone to technology and it clicks with you, the ‘old’ doesn’t have to be ‘gone forever’ if you Track Changes like Jeanette!
The consensus seems that one’s knack for technology can play a huge role in their enthusiasm and success at using technology in their English classroom to go paperless. For some, they’ve been on this track for years, for others, hand-written comments and edits seem to work fine, so why fix something that isn’t broken? Whether or not comment boxes and change tracking help the students should be a teachers main reasoning for adapting their style. No teacher seemed to think either way was significantly better, in both processes, people though time was saved doing it that way. And perhaps, returning papers to students in a timely manner is more helpful than anything!