My paperless extension Year 11 class – who said DER was DEAD?

I have been teaching six wonderfully inquisitive and charming young people entirely paperless for the last 8 months. They’re Year 11 students who have had their DER lenovo netbooks since 2009 and it has been a breeze!

Interestingly, this successful paperless classroom has not translated to my larger classes – not even the students in Year 10 whose netbooks are one year younger. There are a whole host of reasons for this but I think the central reason has been my unconscious, silent refusal to use paper and the tacit consent of the six students to follow suit. To be honest I didn’t even realise I was teaching paperless until two nights ago when I was marking first drafts of my students’ webpages.

We meet as a class once a week for two hours. It is the only class they have that day. I let them charge their netbooks if necessary and I always let them run to the TSO to get a health check if the situation is grim. All work has been sent to edmodo the night before (or that morning depending on how rushed I am to plan my lessons) and all assessments are set and marked on edmodo. The only time paper has been a prerequisite was for a timed essay under examination conditions.

In class we sit at a board-room style configuration of tables – I am at the head facing them all and the six of them face one another. We have wonderfully rich discussions about the tasks at hand, share our ideas about the texts being studied, help each other find the right sites and tools to complete tasks. (We also have great chats about all sorts of other things too!)

The latest project I had my students complete is a real favourite of mine – a technology-amplified transformation of a task that I had created a couple of years ago. I am going to attach it below for you to look at, but I’ll also briefly outline how it’s been working. It’s also a means to prove to myself that PBL and senior school do mix.

Our Driving Question for this project is: IS LITERATURE (RE)SHAPED BY OR FOR THE WORLD?

Students were given a copy of the assessment notification below via an edmodo assignment. I then posted a timeline of tasks as a note on edmodo as well as posting each task as a separate assignment. Here is a link to the assignment outline, Part A investigation questions and marking criteria.

As you can see, a central component of the assessment is the creation of a website. In class students created individual weeblys to house and present their work. Yes Weebly is blocked at school. I get around this in class the only way I know how – and am happy I do. Filters are stupid. As soon as the students got in to weebly they wanted to beautify their sites by adding images. They all raced to google images. I raced as fast and got my ‘just in time teaching’ hat on. I spoke to them about copyright – they had no understanding of the different types of licences – and tweeted an ‘SOS’ to get tips on finding copyright free images. Thanks to my wonderful PLN I quickly had a series of links to post to the students via edmodo. The students spent about 10-15 minutes looking through the links, watching a video about Creative Commons licensing and then went off looking for images the could use legally. Here is my post with links about copyright.

Over the next week I watched the student’s websites bloom into wonderfully colourful pages. This project is awesome. The kids are loving it. The fact that the assessment is both formative and summative runs in line with my PBL vision for school. The final presentation (the tradiational ‘speaking’ task for this course) is the presentation of learning. Students present their websites, their research AND their product – an appropriation of their original text. I love that the students got to choose the form of their appropriation. They have 10 minutes to present, I gave them some ‘must cover’ elements but did not prescribe the order and style of the presentation. I’m working hard to get student voice into this course.

Students just submitted Part A of the task via edmodo. They sent me through the links to the appropriate webpages. I wanted to give feedback directly on to their website, so called on twitter again and was recommended a cool web tool Mark Up . This allowed me to add comments to the student’s page AND gives them a chance to respond using the annotation tool. Pretty neat. The students will be using this feedback to edit their work – just in time! Want to see what it looks like? Here are my comments for one student’s webpage: 10 Things I Hate about Shrew!  When I completed the obligatory marking criteria and feedback sheet, I just highlighted the criteria level student’s achieved and typed my comment below. I then sent this to the students via the edmodo assignment with the link to the markup annotations on their webpage and their grade. No paper!!

Here are the links to my student’s webpages.

10 Things I Hate About Shrew

Second Star to the Right,  and Straight on til Morning

Lost in Wonderland

Red Riding Hood

The Hyde Complex 

Pig on a Stick – A Threat to Civilisation


10 thoughts on “My paperless extension Year 11 class – who said DER was DEAD?

  1. Good on you Bianca! I too, am teaching a year 11 ancient history class. I have refused to print any material. I use edmodo and keep saying ” it is on edmodo”. The only time I had to print something was when their laptops were in for updating. I have not had 100% success but slowly getting there. I allow them to use their mobile devices if they don’t have their laptop. I also commented on the expectation of the use of the laptop in their reports. I am trying to engage the kids in collaboration on edmodo. It is a struggle but I refuse to give up.

    • Good on you Cassandra for persisting! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, change is slow and requires a bunch of un-learning for teacher and student. Good luck with it!

      • I really appreciate your blog with real applications of PBL in the English classroom. It’s difficult to find examples of Problem-based Learning in a literature context. I am hoping to implement more elements of student choice and to tell students what they need to demonstrate, then letting them get started.

  2. Hi Bianca
    I enjoyed this post and looking at the fine work your students have been doing. I too have a paperless class: my year 9 English class. I post resources and tasks to moodle and they use their netbooks exclusively (today I showed them a moodle site I created to store 10 graphic novels I’d downloaded free from the internet).
    I get them to email their assignments as pdfs so I can use adobe markup tools for annotated marking, which is very easy. Recently, I have also given them simple marking grids which they must complete and submit with the task. Then I place my marks over the top of theirs and return it with the assignment. I type my comment on their work and then copy it into OneNote, where I have a page for each student, which is my profile and mark book. I can show this on Parent-teacher night and can also call up their assigments as well, which I save in class folders for each task. It is the way to go I reckon.

    • Hi Greg 🙂

      Thanks so much for your comment! Sounds like you’re doing some cool stuff with Year 9! Love the use of the PDFs for marking, I use ‘word’ and the ‘comments’ feature for general word-processed stuff.

      Sounds like your assignment process is multi-staged. If you use edmodo it’d be pretty streamlined as it automatically generates a markbook for you that can be exported to an excel spreadsheet. Just a suggestion – I’m sure you’re happy using moodle anyway ;0)

      Keep in touch!

  3. Was there a reason students chose Weebly? I am doing a PBL project with Year 7 (see my blog) and I’m not sure whether to use weebly or wix. I have started a neat wix flash-based page, but i’ve never used weebly before.

    • Hey 🙂

      As I said in this post, weebly is blocked so not best for a large class. I have six students – no problem getting ‘around’ the filter for them.

      Are wix unblocked? If yes, try that. I have a feeling all website-making tools are blocked. Bummer.

      • Yeah what’s up with that? A student can make a glogster and publish that, or an online comic and publish that, but a blog? or a webpage? Hmm.

  4. I have no idea why the DEC would want to block website creation tools. I guess in case kids use the power for evil? It’s so stupid and VERY frustrating. We have to work around it … with Year 7 I’d suggest a wiki (which need to be requested to be unblocked!) or a blog (also requires lodging a request to unblock).

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