Paper, or Plastic… I mean, Digital?

Complete this statement with an adjective: Teaching during a pandemic has proved to be___________.

Did you say- interesting? Difficult? Sh**ty? All of the above?

Like many of you, I can say that I am at a point of my career where I should be able to kick back, feet up on my desk, and bark orders to students with ease (NY has a very strong union). After 15 years in the field, my curriculum is strong, my lectures are on-point, and I am officially a “veteran teacher”. But, alas, a Pandemic has fudged all of that up.

Interestingly enough, this current school year- as difficult that it continues to be, has awakened a familiar friend: the use of paper (sorry to my tree-loving friends. I recycle!).

You may be wondering why this is worth blogging about. Let me explain.

I work in a lower socio-economic school district. When the pandemic hit, we had not made the 1:1 shift. Our students (and teachers) were thrown into a digital form of learning without even a walk-through. By the first full-year, we were fully integrated. Paper use was discouraged (for tests, worksheets, etc.) as a means to prevent potential transmission. Year two began this past September with students feeling completely comfortable with a digital classroom, albeit in-person.

HOWEVER… (here is the reason for this blog, if you haven’t figured it out yet)…

I have noticed an increased demand by students to want to bring paper back. Knowing now that schools are low-transmission places, and Covid does not spread on surfaces (like desks and PAPER), year two of the pandemic allowed for more paper-freedom. It started with note packets that I use for my sophomores. They all have access to digital notes, but I printed a few paper copies for my students with IEP’s or 504s. That led to a few other students requesting a paper copy. Before I knew it, all students were using the paper notes!

So I experimented on my AP Government & Politics students. They have notes that are digital, but I made a few paper copies and threw it out there, saying “if anyone would prefer to hand-write their notes, I did make some print-outs”. A couple of students took the bait. Now, almost ALL of them are paper-heads (I made that up. Kinda like sneaker-heads…?).

I currently have a student teacher. He grew up in the digital age and has been fully trained in a digital classroom for years. I asked him if he found it strange that my students prefer paper over digital, and he said “no”. He admitted that during lectures from his professor, he hand-writes everything, and so do most of his peers!

I thought that preferring paper over digital made me a dinosaur. I spent MONTHS converting all of my resources into digitally-compatible resources to reflect the evolving digital-age and to meet the needs of kids who grew up in said digital-age.

Of course, this conversation can easily lend itself to how digital learning is more environmentally conscious, and I agree- we are just currently experiencing an interesting crossroads in education and the modern world. I assumed that the shift to digital learning was the new and better methodology, and that paper was dead. But what do I know. I am just an educator.


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Hi! I’m Teri, a.k.a. the “Mad Historian”. I enjoy fitness, heels, and history, but most of all, I love creating effective classroom resources and sharing my strategies.

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