A task that once took a week now only takes a few hours, thanks to a switch to paper-free attendance recording in Texas' Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, Director of Digital Learning Chad Jones writes for eSchool News.
Jones said the 33,000-student district struggled to record attendance in a timely fashion prior to the “Paperless First Day” initiative, which he described as a "game-changer" that now allows the district to become immediately aware of absences.
The decision to take paper out of the mix also came with plenty of planning for training, with staff informed on how to use the new system through a series of training videos, and Jones also credits a willingness to make changes that drive efficiency as key to making a program like this work.
Districts considering major paperless transitions should heed Jones’ advice about providing ample training ahead of time. Videos work well for new processes in many cases because they can be viewed independently and rewatched for further clarity.
The long-term benefits of going paper-free also pay off on the initial investment. Printing, copying and distributing paper documents is a waste of time, money and resources, with schools spending an average of $50,000 a year on paper and ink. Today's students also often prefer to work on screens rather than paper.
District administrators and principals can implement similar paperless programs at their schools by creating a culture that embraces technology. If completely transforming your school to paper-free is unrealistic, consider implementing the plan on a smaller scale. For example, a first step could be encouraging teachers to direct students to online learning sites when they have finished their schoolwork rather than printing out additional handouts.
As with all forms of change, collaboration and input from teachers can make the transition smoother. Paper-free classrooms may also not work for all students, including those with certain disabilities, requiring schools and districts to factor in accommodations.
Additionally, making parent-teacher communication channels paper-free solves a couple of problems at once. Digital newsletters sent straight to parents’ email and text message accounts save time and resources, but they also ensure that important information won’t get shoved to the bottom of the backpack, taking the sometimes unreliable student delivery method out of the equation.