By Sue Botos
Back in one-room schoolhouses where paper was rare, students used slates and chalk to do their lessons. To celebrate Earth Day, classes at Magnificat High School became modern pioneers last week, using iPads and other technology in place of pens, pencils and paper.
The “No Paper/No Pencil Day” was the idea of Magnificat’s director of educational technologies, Valerie Yarmesch, after she noted the piles of paper being consumed during a regular school day in the Surround Learning Center and computer lab.
“I started tracking it and then started also tracking the copies that the teachers were making. Upon realizing that we were using over 4,000 pieces of paper daily, I thought that something should be done,” stated Yarmesch, who shared her findings with Marilyn Arundel, dean of faculty and academics. “(We) took it to the Leadership Team and from there we decided to have a No Paper/No Pencil Day to draw awareness (to) this issue. Since Earth Day was coming up, we thought that would be a good day to have it.”
Just in case anyone was tempted to cheat, copy machines, faxes and printers were shut down for the day.
Classes ranging from science to foreign language came up with creative ways to kick up their lessons using nontraditional aids. Lori Koss’ advanced biology classes set their lesson on body movement in the muscular system to music with dance, exercise or other imaginative moves, using the classroom laptop and handheld devices for their presentations. In addition, the students submitted a Word document with explanations to Koss online.
“Some of the video productions could be award-winning! Plus, these girls were able to incorporate explanations using handheld devices rather than note cards. Quite impressive,” Koss observed.
In Caitlin Lynch-Huggins’ sophomore theology class, students had the opportunity to study the U.S. Bishops’ statement on climate change. “Students are able to connect an issue associated with Earth Day to the wider Church community and access material from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. Scripture passages needed for the assignment are also available on the website, and the assignments are being turned in via Turnitin.com,” she stated.
Student Sammie Anderson felt the day brought her classmates closer together and generated more conversation. “We got to know each other more. The class had more of a personal feel. We threw a ball of yarn around, and if you had the ball of yarn, you had to say something about your faith,” she recalled.
Foreign language students also felt that putting away the paper and pen led to more discussion, in their language of study. “We got to practice speaking the French language,” commented freshman Anna Broughton.
Prior to No Paper/No Pencil Day, Yarmesch sent out a list of suggestions (online, of course) outlining the almost endless resources available, including apps from organizations such as NASA, National Geographic and various zoos throughout the world. Students were also encouraged to take photos and make videos pertaining to lessons as well as reach out to other students via Face Time and Skype.
“Students loved the day because they were able to use their phones to take pictures of lab experiments, and use tablet laptops to practice math problems. Not being able to use paper and pencil forced teachers to think outside of the box when developing their lessons and utilize some of the different types of technology that I have been sharing with them all year. Not only were we able to save paper for one day, but hopefully, all members of the Magnificat community were inspired to think of alternative methods of teaching and learning,” Yarmesch commented.