Sarah Antle instructs students on the day’s assignment Wednesday at Adair County Middle School, which the students will do sans pencil and paper. Google Chromebooks and dry erase boards are the primary tools of the trade in Antle’s classes.
Eighth grade students in Sarah Antle’s fifth period math class sit at attention, listening intently as Antle offers instructions on the day’s assignment. A couple boys in the back of the class whisper to each other when the teacher’s head is turned. It’s mostly a standard Wednesday at Adair County Middle School, in a mostly standard classroom.
One difference, however, is what’s missing. There are no notebooks, no worksheets, and no textbooks in sight. Instead, every student has before them, on their desks, a white, dry erase marker board and a Google Chromebook. Antle, now in her sixth year teaching, and third at ACMS, experimented with paperless assignments last year before making the plunge this year to a fully paperless classroom.
“Sarah is very innovative and not afraid to try new things,” says ACMC Principal Alma Rich. “That’s why she’s a good math teacher. I’m excited for our students because they’re so into technology and now that enthusiasm carries over to math.”
Antle says the decision was a practical one. “The main thing was, kids don’t keep up with their papers,” Antle says. “Papers were everywhere, they would lose them, I would lose them, and I thought there had to be a better way to do it. So at the end of last year I began to look at how to get their notes online, rather than in a binder.”
Turns out, the shift was not difficult, not for the teacher and definitely not for her students. “They liked it right away,” Antle says. “It’s one less thing they have to keep up with, because they can look at everything we do from home, on a computer, or right from their phones.”
Antle’s classroom features 30 technology devices, which she says are absolutely necessary. “I couldn’t do it without them, because you have to have that one-to-one student-device ratio,” she explains. “The technology is what allows us to move away from paper.”
Technology is not used exclusively, however. This is math class, after all. “We still write things out – you have to write to do math,” Antle says. “We use a marker board and then they take a picture of their work and save it to a document. They really like using the marker boards.”
Antle says there are only two instances when paper is used in her classes. The first is for students that might not have internet access at home, in which case she will print out materials and notes. The other is for tests. With the exception of those two, specific situations, it’s Chromebooks and marker boards every day. Other teachers are now shifting away from paper as well, albeit to a lesser degree. Antle hopes to continue the practice for the rest of her career. “Overall, it’s just easier,” Antle says. “These students are so adept and so comfortable using technology, it’s as normal to them as pencil and paper.”