December 12, 2016

The 100% Paperless Goal

Joseph's Paperless Workspace | TOM BIHN

I left my textbook at home. I lost my homework. I grabbed the wrong binder.

These are the excuses I no longer hear as I have adopted a paperless classroom. My goal, which had humble beginnings a few years back when I started my virtual classroom, is to be near 100% paperless in my classroom by the end of this school year.

My name is Joseph and I'm a secondary school teacher in Edmonton, Canada. I teach a variety of subjects but my main focus is Social Studies and Career and Technology Foundations (a mix of construction, 3D design, programming, photography, and other hands on areas).

Going paperless began because all too often students would forget to bring their textbooks to class...but they never forgot to bring a device. So I thought having a place they can go to online to get the textbook was the perfect way to solve that problem. And that’s where the paperless journey took flight.

Parents are spending a lot of money for their children to have a device of some sort (phone, tablet, laptop) and I thought that their best return on investment would be to utilize those devices properly in an educational environment - students do spend countless hours at school. Soon I found myself uploading all my notes and slides to my virtual class. Then I introduced students to the idea of keeping a digital binder on their devices - a binder they can essentially always have with them, wherever they go, on any device they have at that particular moment. From there, paperless assignments and assessments.

Great, awesome, but I can do more. I found various sites that allow students to show me their understanding. I now have exit slips, polls, discussions - all digital, all paperless. I can check for their understanding in seconds, from my own set of devices. If I’m attending a meeting or at home ill, the beauty of a digital world comes into play. Using the virtual class, I can inform students of what will be happening in class that day and the substitute can facilitate the lesson I planned… I can even check-in on them to make sure they are using their time properly.

What about those students who don't have a personal device or who forgot to charge their device for school? Our school has purchased a few "backup" devices students can borrow on a per-class basis. Students log in and are able to access their classroom and the digital binders they set up.

So now I have students on board. They have taken ownership of their learning. Emailing written assignments, uploading student-made videos, voice recording group discussion, taking pictures of notes on the whiteboard. They have the technology and are excited to be able to use it in class, all while not wasting a single piece of paper in the process.

I've also saved a great deal of time by going the paperless route. No more waiting for the photocopier. No waiting for large jobs to be returned from our Printing Services Center. That extra time has allowed me to focus more on individual student needs. If a student needs an altered or accommodated assignment I can do so in a fraction of the time it once took me. I can consult students on their work more efficiently because they have the ability to share work with me before submission and I can comment and make suggestions - all without the assignment or project leaving their hands!

Then I looked at my own situation and how I can make the paperless classroom succeed for me. It began by looking for a new work bag. If I limit the amount of paper I can carry then I’m more likely to adopt the paperless idea. That's when I found TOM BIHN’s Large Cafe Bag. It fit everything I needed to, and then some. I used it for a few months but I still found myself bringing home paper. If I'm bringing it home then am I really pushing the paperless learning environment? I needed something smaller to push me further. Tom Bihn’s attention to detail and craftsmanship brought me back to their site and Medium Cafe Bag was the purchase for me. Just big enough for my laptop and a few everyday carry items and it looks good too. Perfect. No excuses to not move paperless.

I reduced all paper consumption from a professional standpoint. Equipped with a laptop and smartphone, I am able to manage all my lesson plans, notes, slides, student feedback, marking, meetings, everything I need to accomplish on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis.

Then there's the environmental impact. I now have less waste in the garbage and recycle bins. From my years of teaching experience, most paper ends up in the bins once a student looks at it because it’s too much of a hassle to take care of - rips easily, falls out of binders, etc. Then when it comes time for any type of review it’s, “I lost my assignment, I left it at home, it’s in another binder.” Not so in the paperless classroom. Digitally, with all the apps we use, students go back and find that assignment or re-download that video we were discussing in class.

My paperless endeavour has also saved my department approximately $2500 a year in printing! Not a major impact for a school's annual budget but if the trend continues and more departments join the paperless revolution (and some have this year!) that number raises and that saved money can be then spent on students and their needs.

Now we keep our fingers crossed the school network doesn't go down...

Joseph Filiplic is a secondary school teacher in Edmonton, Canada. When he’s not teaching, Joseph and his family are trying out different coffee shops in new and exciting destinations. You can follow Joseph’s paperless journey on Twitter @MrFiliplic, or through his website at

Joseph's Paperless Workspace | TOM BIHN
A look at Joseph's tidy paperless workspace.


Joseph Filiplic - November 19, 2019


The accessory pouch is a Maxpedition EDC Organizer (bought before I came across Tom Bihn). Inside I have:
- Mints. Love my coffee so I need to make sure it’s not lingering.
- A pen and pencil. Despite me being paperless, not everyone is so I keep them on hand if someone needs to borrow one.
- Leatherman screwdriver bits to go along with the Wave. Being a Tech Coach at my school I use it for any hardware issues.
- Aleve/Advil/Tylenol.
- OLight S15 Baton flashlight. Can’t beat a dedicated flashlight, especially when under a desk following wires and cords around.

The laptop is a maxed-out 11" MacBook Air, inside a Tom Bihn vertical cache, and a Magic Mouse.

Then I have the iPhone 6 and an Ainste Evan wallet. Rarely use the wallet as I use Apple Wallet for most transactions.

What are you carrying? I’m always interested in what other people keep on hand.

Beverley - November 19, 2019

I’m a rural librarian and I worry about the digital divide. When you say the school lends a device on a class basis, does this mean they are only available while the student is in your class? Do students have homework? If they have no device or home internet access what happens?

Joseph Filiplic - November 19, 2019

@Beverley Hi Beverley,

A student who does not have access to a device, because they either forgot to bring it or are not allowed to bring it, are given a laptop to use during the class. Once the bell goes to end the period then the device is returned to the teacher.

There is homework on a daily basis and all students have access to the internet and a device after hours. We know this by polling our families at the start of the school year.

I began the digital classroom slowly, by only offering the textbook. Over time I began introducing students other class resources. Once families became familiar/comfortable with the digital classroom I then began the blended learning environment I have now. It was small steps to begin but now I feel my students are becoming the responsible citizens we want them to be. A lot of effort went into proper digital citizenship and students are held to a high standard when it comes to living digitally.

Mary Ellen - November 19, 2019

Tell me what the accessories are that you show in your picture. What is the item that holds the Leatherman, pens, etc. What are all the items in that accessory? And what size is your laptop? I have a Toshiba Satellite – big and heavy by today’s standards. Thanks.

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