Clutter Be Gone: Tools for Environmentally Friendly Teaching

Written by Jason Ribeiro

One of my colleagues happens to have two children…and therefore he has two stacks. Stacks you ask? Yes, two stacks of handouts, assignments, projects, newsletters, booklets, and a myriad of other former trees he keeps in his attic. By the end of June, each stack had reached over four feet in height. Necessary? I think not. With the 2015-16 school year fast approaching, let’s make a commitment to do away with the clutter and try to become educators who not only preach sustainability, but practice it as well.

Below are some simple and innovative ways to not only save you time and energy in your teaching practice but will also help save a rainforest or two in the process:

Enviro_leafCloud Storage

Have you ever forgotten a really useful handout or lesson plan at home? Is your USB stick not working? Don’t panic, because cloud storage allows you to remain mobile at all times and have access to every file on your desktop computer, laptop/tablet, and phone using your school’s internet connection. In fact, many services offer offline storage for easy access to your files when the Wi-Fi signal is weak or when you do not have an internet connection. Several of these applications are free and offer several GBs of storage. Uploading lesson plans, PowerPoints, and videos in one organized platform allows you to do away with the binders and gives the photocopier a well-deserved break. Bar none the best feature of being “in the cloud” is that it allows you to push content seamlessly to your students and in real time. With a month left of summer, see how much of your teaching materials you can transfer online in the hopes that you are making the first step to becoming an environmentally friendly teacher.

Suggested Applications:

  • Google Apps for Education
    GAFE is becoming an increasingly prominent force in the K-12 education space. Offering tools like Google Docs and Google Slides, this productivity suite will allow you to store the majority of your teaching materials in the cloud for easy access. Contact your school or district today to see if you have access to these tools for September.
  • Dropbox
    Dropbox offers educators a secure storage platform for their materials and allows users to push content to their students (and vice versa) with the click of a button. It integrates with applications like Turnitin and Blackboard for increased functionality.
  • SugarSync
    Though not as well known as some of the other cloud storage providers, SugarSync is great for first time users. It’s easy to keep organized and its multi-sync feature allows for easy collaboration between students and teachers.

Enviro_leafNote-taking Solutions

If you happen to have a responsible upper-year class (with access to devices), why not let them experiment with taking notes on their computers or phones? Knowing they will more than likely have to possess this skill in their future postsecondary environments, we should show them the best ways to organize their notes now. New apps include calendar, audio, camera, and cloud storage features – but most importantly, they save paper and allow students to learn anywhere, anytime.

Suggested Applications:

  • Evernote
    Evernote is the premiere note-taking solution for both students and teachers. It has a wide range of features that support assessment, planning, and organization. Key tip: keep a grading template in Evernote so that if you ever decide to assess work on the spot, you have access literally at your fingertips.
  • Microsoft OneNote
    The highlight of OneNote for students is its collaborative features and easily editable environment. Notebooks can be shared with teachers, classmates, parents and even administrators
  • Notability
    Notability combines handwriting (with or without a stylus), photos, and typing to create vibrant and beautiful notes. Key highlight: once students share their notes they can receive written or audio comments from their peers/teachers.

Enviro_leafEbook Projects

Teachers and parents both love to have a final product that demonstrates their kids’ learning in the classroom and so they should. However, oftentimes this leads to multiple trips to the art supply store and many dollars spent. Why not go digital? Numerous free sites and apps allow students to easily create online projects or eBooks that include image, audio, and video functions. These works can be shared amongst friends and family, the school’s website and remain in pristine condition forever. I wish I could say the same about some of my 6th grade projects. A quick trip to the computer lab beats an expensive afternoon at Michaels any day of the week.

Suggested Applications:

  • Liberio
    Liberio allows teachers and students to write, design, and publish their eBooks for free. Not only does it integrate seamlessly with Dropbox and Google Docs, it does not require you to handle the tricky ePub files most eBook applications tend to use.
  • KooBIts Editor
    KooBits is an animation dream. With access to over 50,000 art clips at the click of a button, your students will turn out masterful creations that allow their characters to come alive through self-animation and movement.
  • Book Creator
    For the last year or so, Book Creator has been one of the most popular book apps in the world (even winning the coveted “Best Educational App” award at the 2015 Bett Show). Sharing and printing your students’ creations has never been easier.

Clearly there is a wealth of opportunity for us to cut down on the amount of waste in our classrooms while also embracing the benefits of these cutting-edge 21st century tools. Over the next few weeks try and find ways to decommission some of your more costly teaching practices and instead welcome a leaner, more tech-enabled approach. Your students, administrators, and the environment will all thank you.


About the author

Jason Ribeiro

Jason Ribeiro is a guest contributor to the Learning Bird blog. He is a Ph.D. student at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada specializing in Educational Leadership. Jason is also a K-12 teacher and EdTech consultant dedicated to working with districts wishing to tap into the relevant educational technology research to guide their decision-making. Follow Jason on Twitter at @jason_ribeiro.

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