Has the Paperless Classroom Made Learning Better in English 11??

It's the end of the semester, and students are wrapping up final projects, getting ready for finals.

Teachers are getting ready, too.  I know that I'm already looking forward to my classes next semester.  I will teach two blocks of English 11 honors as well as German 2.

More importantly, I'm studying the grades my students have earned this semester.  How are they?  Are students failing?  Why?  Probably the most important question for me is this:  could I teach this class any better next time?

This was the 5th year I have taught English 11 at SCHS.  Nearly every year has been different, but this year I took a huge step in my teaching, bringing computers into the classroom and teaching with Google Docs.

I had "experimented" with using Google Docs last spring with two honors English 11 classes, and the response was encouraging.  We learned more, and students were more enthusiastic about the class.  Plus we got to do some awesome, unbelievable projects.

The results of a paperless English 11 standard aren't quite so cut & dried.  I'd like your help interpreting them.

The best measure of how well students have learned in my classes is the grades they earn. I posted grades today, and they were one of the most bizarre sets of grades I have ever seen.

First the good news.  Of the 23 full-semester students I have, ten have a B or higher, including four with 100% or more in the class.  Needless to say, this is the highest ratio of A's and B's I have ever had in a standard class.  Usually standard classes have one or two A's and a high number of B's and C's.  Not this year.  Only three students currently carry a C (see pie graph).

There are several conclusions we can reach about this record number of A and A+ students:

  • These are brilliant 11th-graders
  • They know how to use Google Docs and Google Sites
  • They have a very good teacher who made learning fun and easy
  • English 11 was probably a little too easy

Now the bad news.  The largest share of students--as of Wednesday--are students who are failing:  8 of 23.  There are several qualities that these eight students share
  • Only one had completed the Final Draft of the 19th Century Research and s/he had earned a 60% on that draft
  • Absences were a major problem, with the average number of absences being 9.5--a maximum of 16 and a minimum of 0 absences
  • They know how to use Google Docs and Google Sites
  • They have a terrible English teacher who bored them into a failing grade
  • English 11 was probably a little too hard

(Let me emphasize here that these are final grades, and I expect to see many current F's raise themselves to passing over this final week.  Still, it is an important look at the class.)

For me, the two biggest factors in the failing grades had nothing to do with computers.
  1. Students were assigned Huckleberry Finn to read over the first 11 weeks.  We had musical lessons to build interest--we even staged a rafting race--yet only five of 23 students completed the last blog post--that means only five of 23 students bothered to read an assigned book.
  2. The 19th-century Research paper, our first researched assignment, was another lesson that too many students failed.  On the day it was due, only nine of 23 had uploaded a completed essay.  We took three weeks to prepare for this paper, and we had the computers in the class (we didn't have to go to the library or wait for the mobile lab), still the vast majority of English 11 students were either late, or they still haven't completed the assignment to this day.

What has English 11 really been like for you?  It's easy for me to compare the class of '13 to the classes of
'09, '10, '11 and '12 that I have taught previously, but how has this class compared for you?

More important, beyond the students and the teachers in the room, how has the Paperless Classroom helped you (or hurt you)?  Would you recommend it for next year's English students, or is a return to paper a better idea?

Your feedback is really important to me, and I'm offering up 15 bonus points (about two daily assignments) to get your feedback on English 11 and the Paperless Classroom.


  1. I think that the paperless class was really helpful for me. I don't like to write out my essays when we have technology now that we can use to write the essays on. I do think that some of the kids are easily distracted and start to play some games instead of paying attention. In my opinion, I like the idea of the paperless class and being able to type my essays out onto Google Docs. I also don't like it because it can cause distractions around the room.

    Writing research papers are much easier and better when we have the computers. We can use Google and search for whatever we need to research. You wouldn't have to send people to the library to do research and make them pay to print out the typed research papers.

  2. REGGIE Drennon: Yes, the paperless classroom has helped me out a lot this year. I have learned different ways to work Google docs and also learned in a whole different environment. It is a bunch of stress relief off of me and others to do a paperless class room. That is the good part is doing something new and enjoyable. The bad thing is students get distracted of playing games and not listing to the teacher and that is why they fail. I'm glad i learned to do a paperless class room and hopefully the younger generation learns too.

  3. Shaun London: I think the paperless class was awesome it was a fun new way to learn. Also it was so easy to keep up with all of my work instead of having to keep up with a bunch of papers. I also liked that you could comment on my work in the matter of minutes and I could comment back. On top of all that I could do all my work from home when I was absent and still communicate with you through google docs. So yes the paperless class room was awesome and helped me out a lot

  4. I think the computers are very helpful to this class, its just a matter of people completing the assignments. It makes the class better and much more enjoyable. I look forward to this class and its probably my favorite of the day. Keep the computers your future students will be greatful.

  5. I think that the paperless classroom would be a better idea with honors students because they aren't as lazy. Being lazy was most likely the issue, especially when there is failure to turn in work.

  6. Yes, they helped. I was sick a few days ago with Influenza, and I'd have no idea what to do if we didn't use the internet. Also, It took less time to just copy and paste sources and notes, than it would to write them all down.

  7. Yes, the paperless classroom has helped me. I have never used Google Docs before, and I didn't even know it existed. But, learning how to make the sites and other interesting things. I have terrible hand-writing and writing the essays and other work online helps my teacher be able to read what I am trying to say, clearly. I loved the paperless classroom. I wish all classes used computers.

  8. I think the paperless class really helped me. I personally do not like writing because it makes my hand cramp so I would much rather type. It makes it easier because while on Google Docs you can open up another tab and research whatever you need too. You should continue the paperless class.

  9. From: Tabitha Morton;
    Honestly, I dont think this paperless class has helped me. It has brought me way down. I think you should switch to paper, its alot easier. Using computers is a distration for me and some from others like playing games, talking to other people while on google docs, and doing other stuff on line.

  10. Ozzy: The paperless classroom worked to me because it was fast easier to keep track of things. Only problem I had was when the internet was down I couldn't work on anything and just sit there. Also it is distracting some times because of games. You should keep the computers in this class because it is so much better than paper.

  11. Scott: I believe the paperless class room helped because it was easier to do work and keep track of whats going on. The only thing was when we couldnt do our work because the internet was down and it cause a dilemma in my grade.

  12. Cory Browner: The paperless classroom really helped me because i could really stayed a lot more organized in this class because i didn't really have to come to class with anything. You should definetely keep using this method because it is just a lot easier than doing everything on paper.

  13. Rachael Hawkins: I loved the paper class, like Cory Browner said above me, it did help me be more organized. It was a little harder to grade for Mr. Dittes, but I think he did a good job. One of the things I wasn't a fan of was the computers not staying on the internet, and having to reset the router every 10 minutes. Also, the games didn't help us stay on track, but made the class go by faster if you finished your work.
    I'm also a really fast typer, which is easier for me, to just type it, and if i make a mistake, I can push cut, or backspace and not have to restart my work if it's to an extent. I really think we need to get new computer, since the seniors can use the Ipads, I think the Juniors deserve just as much. Last, I loved the google docs, besides it messing up with internet, it worked greatly.
    Mr. Dittes should most definitely keep the paper class, and continue with the computers. :D

  14. Tara Swint:I think the paperless class helped me alot. I highly suggest it for next year. It helped me stay more organized, I could never lose papers cause they were all on the computer. It was also easier to stay knowing what we were doing cause it was all posted on bison scribe.


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