LIVE@CoSN2024: Exclusive Coverage

Digital tools help this educator turn historical events into even more engaging paperless lessons that bring complex history to life.

3 resources for building engaging paperless lessons


Digital tools help this educator turn compelling historical events into even more engaging digital learning experiences that bring complex moments in history to life

As an inner-city U.S. History teacher of 17 years, I often reflect on my instructional practice in an effort to find new ways to improve. As I recently reviewed some of the videos I have of own instructional practice, I was struck by the massive amounts of paper-based assignments being handed out and collected.

While COVID-19 has forced educators to rapidly embrace digital resources, I have taken the opportunity to lean deeply into “green instruction” and attempt to go completely paperless. Thankfully, when the Duval County Public Schools went completely virtual in 2020, our district put into place a host of digital learning applications teachers could use to support blended instruction.  While my district has thankfully gone back to in-person teaching and learning, the resources we used to teach in the remote or hybrid environment are now supporting efforts to move to paperless teaching and learning.

A good example of what paperless lessons can look like in practice can be seen in how I teach my students about the history of D-Day. As the Team Historian for the Round Canopy Parachuting Team USA—an organization dedicated to honoring America’s paratrooper by performing the same types of parachute jumps that occurred on D-Day—I had access to a treasure trove of materials about the Allied landing in Europe.  Using these resources, I created a unique digital lesson on the history of D-Day using content from Discovery Education and the Airborne Special Operations Museum Foundation.

While this is one example, the following critical ingredients in building a paperless classroom can be used for any teaching environment or lesson plan:

Hands-On Learning Opportunities. Part of my role as the Round Canopy Parachute Team’s Historian is to create and maintain paperless STEM/Social Studies lessons designed for the high school level.  After reviewing numerous possibilities, I decided to build a hands-on traveling exhibit that featured not only resources from the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, but the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum.  In this lesson, jumpers from the team take students through a simulated exit from a C-47 Sky train and try on a parachute and reserve parachute with no additional gear. Then students walk through the artifacts my great uncle sent home from the war, including everyday items from canteens to winter clothing to letters. This allows students to get hands on with the history while learning the science and history around parachute drops and the D-Day Invasion. 

Thanks to this program and through the support of local partners such as sponsors Skydive Palatka, Jacksonville’s Firehouse Subs national franchise, and Grunt Style, I’ve been able to successfully participate in five, real, World War II-style parachute jumps.  These jumps not only provided me the opportunity to earn my jump wings, but also improved my understanding of what our paratroopers experienced on D-Day, which I now pass onto my students.

High-Quality Digital Resources.  I pair the hands-on learning about the D-Day invasion with dynamic digital lessons full of rich content.  Our district uses the Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook and platform for history and social studies instruction, which I’ve found to be a particularly useful resource.  Not only is the content incredibly powerful, but the Studio feature in Discovery Education’s resources is really useful in creating digital lessons that include additional content from other sources.  I then pair the lessons I’ve created in Studio with various guided reading strategies. 

Additionally, the lessons I create in the Techbook are perfectly suited for the Gradual Release model of instruction as we move through the content (I-Do, We-Do, and You-Do). For example, I would use the Techbook’s videos or reading passages to introduce a lesson and then assign students an elaborate investigation that students can complete in the You-Do section of the lesson. The additional reading features like Text-to-Speech are very helpful with readers of lower Lexiles and our ESOL students.

Microsoft Teams.  While many of us began using Microsoft Teams during the remote and hybrid portions of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have found that it is incredibly useful in creating paperless lessons.  I can embed all my assignments and content straight into a Teams post for my class to access directly. I also take a lot of the essential questions that the Techbook provides and create online posts that students can respond to during a lesson that has been created in Discovery Education’s Studio. The Studio feature can also be connected to Teams and the students can access it right away. This has made becoming a paperless educator much easier.

Thanks to these resources, I’ve been able to turn compelling events like the D-Day invasion into even more engaging, digital, learning experiences that bring complex moments in history to life.  I encourage all teachers to find new ways to combine the resources of local community groups with state-of-the-art edtech resources to create exciting almost-paperless learning opportunities.  To learn more about this work, visit this link

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.

New Resource Center
Explore the latest information we’ve curated to help educators understand and embrace the ever-evolving science of reading.
Get Free Access Today!

"*" indicates required fields

Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Email Newsletters:

By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.