As I write at a local coffee shop, I celebrate this calm time of year with a cuppa Earl Grey...my face-to-face classes have ended, and my Online classes are only getting started. Unlike previous years when my Online classes were on a staggered schedule, this year both Online classes are on the same exact schedule. This simple piece of scheduling luck is making classroom organization a breeze, as I have finally taken the time to create a master spreadsheet gradebook to organize student contact and feedback. In the past, I kept track of grades in the proprietary database provided by my school and used a paper, spiral-bound gradebook for my feedback notes. This made grading a cumbersome project with all of my feedback to students generated and distributed electronically, but all of my notes scribbled in a separate location.
I knew this was an inefficient process; however, I began my teaching career with a paper gradebook and cautionary tales from my colleagues about the unreliability of electronic storage. Plus, it felt strange to work without the tactile presence of my notes. I was reluctant to streamline my grading process because I was too used to the way I had always worked. Now, however, I can accept that letting go of the old way of thinking has made my life easier.
I have been paperless for two weeks, so far, and it has gone swimmingly! I have my files backed up on an external hard drive in case my laptop spontaneously combusts, so I even have a Plan B in place. It is funny that I often use technology in the classroom, but I have been slow to digitize the papers I use behind the scenes. If my students must conform to technological advancements, such as submitting essays through the SafeAssign program and writing journals on BlackBoard discussion boards, why shouldn't I? Change can be scary, but it does not have to be that way. I think my experience will help me more easily connect with older students who are unsure of their ability to use electronic means, especially when they compare their technological skills to their younger classmates. I can better reassure technophobic students, no matter what age, that habits are difficult to break but worth the effort.
What habits do you have that you would be better off breaking? Maybe today you can take the first step to freedom! Good luck.