3 Tips to Blend Paper and Digital for Meaningful Lessons

3 Tips to Blend Paper and Digital for Meaningful Lessons

I’d like to discuss digital burnout and how to help remedy it and create meaningful lessons for students by blending paper and digital. The key is to do it in a consistent and organized fashion.

You may know that I’ve been blending for a while–mixing digital and paper into my lessons, but for the past year and a half, most of us had to go completely digital. HERE are some easy ways to digitize your existing resources.

At the start of this school year, I was still assigning everything digitally. I’ll be honest–I have copy limits, and it was just easier on me. I’ve also got four preps, AP World History, Sociology, Psychology, and IB Theory of Knowledge. That’s a lot (for me, at least–I cringe when I hear some of you say you’ve got more), and like all other teachers, I need to find ways to make my life easier.

But I started to notice that students weren’t completing digital assignments consistently. So I asked them about it. 

The consensus was that they were just sick of doing everything on a screen. Sure, we’d still get up and move and have discussions and whatnot, but I had them taking notes and completing reflections digitally.

That’s when I made the executive decision to go back to blending (at least until we have to go virtual again). You can check out my free Blended Interactive Notebook Guide on TPT and my Transparent Lessons Template in my Free Resource Library on this website (you get the password the day after you sign up for my email list) for tools to help you blend. 

But for now, here are

3 Tips to Blend Paper and Digital for Meaningful Lessons

Tip 1: Decide What Works Best in What Format

Students are eager to take notes on paper right now (and research shows that this is the most effective method [though this is debatable]), so keep your notes on paper if possible. 

There are some super cool digital task cards out there right now, but students like having those laminated cards in their hands. Don’t underestimate the value of tangibly holding and manipulating resources. They also like a small number of things that they can color, cut, fold, and glue, so keep some foldable graphic organizers.

Webquests, assessments, and review games can absolutely be digital. Webquests are just easier 100% digitized and Kahoot, QuizletLive, Quiz Games, and Gimkit are student favorites.

Tip 2: Keep the Base Notebook Pen and Paper

I do interactive notebooks, so my base notebooks are 11″ x 10″ spirals. Students separate each unit with a table of contents. The table of contents serves as the organizational tool for each unit. List everything students will have on the paper side and on the digital side on two separate tables or on two separate columns on the same page.

Tip 2: Keep the Base Notebook Pen and Paper: Sociology Blended Notebook Table of Contents. Students get one of these as the first page for each unit. It goes in their paper notebook and lets them see where everything is.
Sociology Blended Notebook Table of Contents. Students get one of these as the first page for each unit. It goes in their paper notebook and lets them see where everything is.

I give students the same number of pages on the first day of each unit: table of contents, notebook rubric, unit organizer, vocabulary list, vocabulary activity, and study guide. Some of these templates are available in my Free Resource Library. You get the password the day after you sign up for my email list.

Here’s how the digital unit is organized in my LMS:

Tip 2: Keep the Base Notebook Pen and Paper: Keep LMS organization consistent for each unit within a course. Post paper handouts, as well for extra clarity and for students who may be quarantined.
Keep LMS organization consistent for each unit within a course. Post paper handouts, as well for extra clarity and for students who may be quarantined.
Tip 3: Be Smart about Digitizing

Those activities that work just as well digitally? Use PDFs that you already have and let students edit in DocHub or Kami. Take a screenshot and put the image in the background of a Google Slides presentation. Add textboxes so that students can type their answers. This post demonstrates how to do that.

You don’t have to completely reimagine something for digitization unless it’s a transformative activity (SAMR classifications post for more info). Transformative activities redefine the activity and are amazing in small doses, but they’re not foundational. We’re focused on substitution here for the purpose of organizing.

I’ve started organizing my courses to make it easier to do this, with editable resources and small PDFs to post. The editable resources can even be saved as images and inserted into the background of Google slides with textboxes overlaying. I have a cheat sheet and a video to show you how to do it. It’s tip 2 in this post.

My new curricula organization allows for blending options. Economics and World History are fully structured this way. I'm in the process of updating all of the Sociology units.
My new course organization allows for blending options. Economics and World History are fully structured this way. I’m in the process of updating all of the Sociology units.

Blending now is about creating a foundation for the new classroom through a consistent organizational structure. Whatever that new classroom turns out to be…

3 Tips to Blend Paper and Digital for Meaningful Lessons
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3 Tips to Blend Paper and Digital for Meaningful Lessons

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