Dubai: Some Dubai schools have gone fully or mostly paperless with all teaching and learning materials shared on digital platforms.
Copybooks, worksheets and printouts have been replaced by editable soft copies that are downloaded and uploaded by students and teachers.
Schools said going digital provides easier access to coursework and tracking of student progress, saves time, and helps the environment by cutting demand for paper.
Another factor contributing to the switch lately is the COVID-19 pandemic, as going paperless also means a lower risk of cross-contamination through exchange of printed material.
Uptown International School has phased out all paper materials, with no photocopies or other teaching materials in paper form handed out to students any longer, said principal Andreas Swoboda.
“An example from our primary school is that students take a picture of their work and upload to our learning platform. Teachers access it there and give feedback digitally as well. Students and parents can view the result in their account. In secondary school, we make use of the same process,” he added.
“We had been on the path of reducing paper in our classes already when COVID-19 hit. The pandemic certainly functioned as an accelerator to the new form of an environmentally-friendly, paperless learning environment.”
At The Kindergarten Starters (KGS), a GEMS Education School, classrooms have adopted “a completely worksheet-free culture … we are working to be a paper-free school in the coming years”, said principal Asha Alexander.
KGS students in older grades use a digital platform to upload their assignments. While younger students still use paper notebooks to write in, most of their assessments are also done digitally.
All KGS certificates, such as motivational ones, are now also digital. Moreover, lesson plans and documentation completed by school leaders are in electronic form as well. The administrative work too has moved online.
Shrinking the carbon footprint
“[KGS] has been delivering a blended model for the last nine years and has also curtailed the use of paper in its bid to create awareness about reducing our carbon footprint. As the first school in the world to embed climate literacy in all of its 162 classrooms with trained UN-certified ‘Climate Change Teachers’, we see ourselves not only responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also setting the trend to move towards a paperless school as far as possible,” Alexander said.
She agreed that “without doubt, the pandemic has forced all schools to make a paradigm shift in the way lessons are transacted, leading to paper and printing material being reduced in all our schools”.
Freeing up time
Doing away with paper also saves another precious resource — time.
Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-Principal, Credence High School, said: “From printing and stapling together handouts and tests, to filing forms and letters, paperwork takes up a lot of time for teachers and administration teams — time that could otherwise be spent developing students and working on bigger school projects. We have found that both our teachers and students welcome the opportunity to reduce paper consumption.”
At Credence High, the online apps allow students and teachers to save edited documents in the ‘cloud’ system in just a few seconds. Markup tools like highlighting, drawing and adding text let teachers easily edit documents, and students can see these changes and make annotations of their own.
“It is easier for everyone to keep track of [digital] documents. Giving feedback on student work is a much more efficient process with these tools,” added Singh.