Paperless Grading: Story of a Digital Seamstress

seamstressI did it.

I cut the clutter.

My classes went paperless.


Surprisingly, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Yes, I was forced to re-evaluate and re-create the type of assessments I’ve used in the past (and that has been more time-consuming than I wanted), but overall, making the switch from being a Paper-Monster to a Digital-Seamstress has been fairly painless.


Digital-Seamstress—even as I type those words from a half-formed thought, I realize that it’s a wonderful name for what we do. We twenty-first century educators use a variety of websites, apps, and software to sew together a unit for our students. We collate links, design assessments, tailor content, and stitch together a proper course of study. We are designers, pattern-makers, and seamstresses of data. And let’s face it, we are also the judges, the Tim Gunns of Project Learnway.


The past four weeks of school have taught me a few lessons about going paperless:

  1. The class must have one website or learning platform that is considered Home. Students need one consistent place to come back to: a place for lesson plans, teacher announcements, and directions.   I love Haiku Learning, but Edmodo, Moodle, or Blackboard are great options as well.
  2. Remember that sometimes the tech will let you down. Websites crash and systems experience glitches. Always have a backup plan and be willing to laugh with your students when it all goes terribly wrong. It will. That’s okay though; what better way to teach your students flexibility and persistence?
  3. Don’t be afraid to try different apps or sites for different types of assessments. Our students are digital natives; they can navigate the web far better than most of us ever will. In addition, learning to code switch is an important skill for today’s graduates.
  4. Take the time to teach digital citizenship. Just as we wouldn’t simply hand car keys to a sixteen year old without first teaching them to drive, we shouldn’t give digital freedom to students without first teaching them how to navigate the online world safely and appropriately. Discuss your expectations with your classes and add a tech policy to your syllabus!
  5. Using a system like that allows you the freedom to give feedback on PDFs, powerpoints, pictures, and documents is invaluable. AdobeAcrobat is great for writing notes on student essays, as is the MarkUp app, and Microsoft Word/Google Docs even work fairly well, but nothing I’ve used is as flexible and comprehensive as Turnitin. Check it out if you haven’t before; it’s more than just plagiarism detection!

A paperless classroom is not only wonderful for getting rid of those mountains of paper, it also keeps you organized, and it is an incredible way to save money (Go Green!).  Most schools use in excess of $50,000 a year in printing costs; I kept a record the first week of school and saved almost 3,000 pieces of paper by putting the content online! I put my syllabus and lesson plans on Edmodo, had parents complete the syllabus return form on a Google Form, gave a quiz and exit ticket on Socrative, and added all reading assignments and gave summer reading quizzes through Haiku Learning. All of this in just one week of class.


Guess what? My students never missed a stitch.



Want more information on Paperless Grading? Take a look at my Haiku Class.

Nikki Morrell

Educator at Lake Mary Preparatory School

Nikki Morrell is a freelance writer, poet, and black belt. She holds a B.A. in English from King College and a Masters of Humanities from Tiffin University. Morrell teaches at both a small private college preparatory school in Orlando, FL, and at Tiffin University. Over the past twelve years, she has taught English literature and writing, dance, cheer, and drama. Her childhood was spent in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Tennessee reading everything she could get her hands on and telling ghost stories around a campfire. These days, most of the telling takes place in the virtual world.