My husband’s real estate business is completely paperless (you can check it out here–it’s awesome), and he is constantly harassing–I mean encouraging–me to become a paperless teacher. Ha! I mean, seriously. I was just down in our “dungeon” (most people would call it a crawlspace), where all of my teacher materials are stored, and I think that it would probably take me a year on sabbatical from work and motherhood to go through all of it! Hence the urgency in my husband’s request…
Well, this year is the year. My goal is not (yet) to become a paperless teacher, meaning that I don’t use any papers in class, but rather it is to become a paperless hoarder: to continue to hoard all of the ideas and activities and strategies that I’ve gathered over the years, but to do my idea-hoarding in the Cloud. I’ve been slowly eliminating papers, but my system so far has been to recycle only those things for which I have ready-to-use digital copies. This means that I have been saving all of my old activities until I have the time to “comprehensify” them to work in a TCI classroom. No more! Everything must go!
Here are a few tips for anyone that would like to join me as a Paperless Hoarder in 2015.
Tip #1: Get Evernote
My husband is obsessed with Evernote. He uses it for everything, and his clients love it too! These are my top three favorite things about Evernote:
- Digitizing your life is easy. All it takes is a tap of the camera button on your phone or tablet. Evernote captures images of all kinds–documents, business cards, photos, etc–and creates a clean, digital image. If you are taking pictures of a document, you can take many sequential pictures before clicking the “done” button, so saving a multi-page document is easy. Once you’ve accepted the digital images that you’ve captured, you can edit them, add more images to the same file, re-name it, and more.
- You can find stuff. Evernote’s search feature is robust, and it will even search the text from a document that has been captured (not just the title that you give the document). This is waaaaay easier than you reading through documents on your own in order to find that one hidden diamond in the rough that you recall from your Methods class 30 years ago. Since Evernote can capture anything–websites, sketches, documents, etc.–you are able to gather everything that you have on a topic into one Notebook (similar in this way to a board on Pinterest). Then, when you want to write a lesson plan on something specific, you’ve got it all in one place. And even if you organized your notebooks poorly, you’ll still find everything because the search feature is that awesome.
- It’s always with you. Evernote syncs across all devices and platforms, so there is no longer the problem of, “Oh, I have the perfect thing for this lesson! It’s at home…in my dungeon…buried under sombreros…maybe next year…”
Tip #2: Respect Copyright
I almost cried a few times because of this one. In my hands, I held a beautiful, amazing, wonderful, successful worksheet that I had used in the past. But alas…it was a photocopy from a workbook that belonged to a school that I used to teach for, or something that a friend had given to me…and I no longer have the legal right to use it because I do not personally own the book from which it was copied. WAAAAAAAAAH! Life is so unfair!
Well, life is definitely unfair, but what is really unfair is violating copyright. Awesome people work really hard to create awesome things, and many of them can only do so if they are able to eek out a meager income from the sale of the awesome things that their awesome selves create.
When you find yourself staring down a worksheet and you break into a cold sweat because you know what you should do but it just too intellectually painful to handle…close your eyes, ball it up, and throw it into the fire before you lose your willpower! It’s probably a good idea to write down a note first that contains any information you know about it–like the title of the book it came from, the author, and a quick overview of the activity in your own words so that you could create your own, adapted version with credit to the original author for the idea. You could type up this note in Evernote or hand-write one and then take a picture of it to add to Evernote. Either way, you have a permanent, digital record of the activity so that you can purchase it and therefore gain the legal right to use it.
If you get rid of everything that you happen to have that you aren’t legally allowed to use, you’d be amazed how quickly your recycling bin fills up.
Tip #3: If it’s dumb, ditch it
If your file system is paperless, there is little harm in keeping around activities that you know you’ll never use. That being said, there are some things that are not even worthy of the two seconds it takes you to click the capture button on your device’s camera and then the accept button in Evernote. I created many activities in the past that I would now categorize as “bad practice”. Some of them can be resuscitated and brought to life in a TCI world, but others are beyond hope. If you know that you would never use it, recycle it. If there is something in it that you’d like to cover in a different way, recycle it…but take a picture or jot down a note first. If you know someone else that might be able to use it, take a picture and send it to them. Then recycle it.
Tip #4: Make a to-do list
My hang-up with making my file system paperless is that I had a built-in to-do list in my paper files. I had a crate (okay, still have…for now) with files with which I am intending to do something–whether it be to work them into a unit, write a blog post about them, correct an error, whatever! A much better option, not only because of its inability to feed a fire, is Wunderlist. I have Wunderlists for everything: things I need to put in my next Amazon order, things I want to buy the next time I go to Joann Fabrics, things I need from Costco, posts I want to do on the blog, lesson plans I need to work on, questions I need to remember to ask my husband…this app is the bomb diggity. One great feature is the ability to share lists. So, for example, the list of questions to remember to ask my husband is shared with him, so he can see the questions that I add in real time. Then, he choose to call me right away with an answer, if he’s able, or formulate a response and let me know later, or ignore the notification and just talk to me about it when we see each other. It. is. awesome. I have an “on-the-way-home” list for him that he checks before he leaves work each night so that he can grab milk or swing by the bank or whatever it is that I need him to do. I LOVE WUNDERLIST! I’ll shout it from the rooftops. And there is something so wonderfully satisfying about the “ding ding ding” you hear as you check items off your to-do list (I love grocery shopping with Wunderlist!), and you can even go back and see all of the task-items that you have completed, which further serves to make you feel like a superhuman. Like Evernote, Wunderlist syncs across devices–get it here.