Education Continues Outside the Classroom on

Last month, we attended the Modern Language Association’s annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts, and had a great time talking to educators about how encourages in-class conversations to keep going and keeps students and parents up to date. Today, we’re taking a closer look at how some tech-savvy teachers are using to create educational experiences that seamlessly blend the traditional and virtual worlds.

The Paper-Free Class Experiment

My name is Mr. Hays and I teach 8th grade Language Arts. I am a National Board Certified teacher, and I have been reflecting on my role as a teacher this past summer. This year, I  have decided to try a radically different approach to teaching. I want to step away from the traditional classroom for a while and see just how much we can do online.

With The Paper-Free Class Experiment, Florida middle school English teacher James Hays has built an incredibly robust site with everything from discussion questions to writing resources and test prep materials to a page for communicating with parents. Using the Morning After theme, which allows him to create custom menus and designate sticky posts to highlight important information, he’s created a site that’s packed full of useful information but still easy to navigate.

the paper free class experimentAlong with providing resources, assignments, and a place to continue classroom conversations, The Paper-Free Class Experiment connects to a variety of other online education tools. Students can create their own blogs on (which is powered by, enter private chat rooms, and log into the school district’s own portal to submit assignments electronically — students and parents can even keep up with classroom news on Twitter.

Mr. Hays isn’t only knocking down traditional classroom walls, he’s preparing his students to succeed in a digital age.

English 250 @ Iowa State University

Instructor Jackie Hoermann, who teaches English 250: Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Communication at Iowa State University, goes beyond simply using a site to enhance the in-class experience — she requires every student to set up their own site, and their final grade is based in part on their online portfolio.

English 250Using the Grisaille theme, she’s created a clean, focused space for students to interact. Blog posts and tweets keep the class talking between sessions, a custom contact form allows students to submit assignments via Google Docs, and the “Blogs I Follow” widget makes it easy for classmates to find one another’s portfolio sites, along with other sites Ms. Hoermann recommends.

To help students who may have never blogged before, she’s even created a demo portfolio site to walk them through the process. Thanks to the online component, students not only hone their online writing skills, they end the semester with a portfolio they can be proud to show off.

CRS 5th Grade: For All Things Fifth Grade!

Massachusetts fifth grade teachers Rachel Miller and Rachel Kellar are dedicated to making sure parents know what’s going on in the classroom so they can provide the best support at home. With CRS 5th Grade, they both keep parents up to date with administrative details like field trip plans and share day-to-day classroom happenings, fleshing their posts out with images and video to give parents a real feel for what their kids are experiencing.

CRS 5th GradeThey’ve got a perfect theme for this in Suburbia — the layout lets them highlight a number of posts on the home page, giving parents the ability to see the breadth of classroom activities with a glance, while a custom background creates a primary school feel. A “Need to know…” page reminds parents of key events, like school closings and upcoming activities.

The two Rachels aren’t the only elementary school teachers keeping parents in the loop via the web. Ms. Turcot’s Blog does the same for her second-grad class, as do the Mountain Brook Presbyterian Preschool and St. Joseph’s Indian School.

Individual educators, schools, and districts are using website and blogs to transform education in a myriad of ways — the flexibility of creates all kinds of opportunities:

  • The West Des Moines School District uses a blog to keep their teachers up-to-date with how new technologies can enhance both teaching and administration.
  • Roding Valley High School maintains a blog as a place for teachers to share pedagogies and teaching tools with one another.
  • William Penn University posts tips and resources for students participating in its study abroad program, since a blog can reach anywhere a wifi signal does.
  • High schooler Gordon Lee communicates with students in the middle school mathlete club he coaches on
  • Canada’s Heritage Christian Schools use their website for everything from sharing reading lists to recommending useful educational apps to housing their school wiki.

There are even more sites that we can’t share because their creators have set them to “private,” allowing parents, students, and teachers to keep their conversations out of the public eye — an option with any blog, but one that’s especially attractive for sites with student participants.

If your classroom (or your child’s) is using a website or blog, we’d love to see it — feel free to share in the comments. And stay tuned for new features just for the education space coming next month!

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  1. Honie Briggs

    This is terrific! I forwarded the link to a friend who teaches high school English & Composition.


  2. Deli Lanoux, Ed.D.

    Yes, yes, yes. Of course. This is what I’ve had in mind for a looong time. Thanks!


  3. Jim Wright

    My wife is a second grade teacher and created a site on WordPress to highlight writings by students in her public elementary school. This creates a great motivation for kids to master the art of writing, as they see their work published on the blog for their families and the world to see.

    I think it turned out really neat (if I must say so myself)! Scottie Scribes (named after the school mascot) at


  4. reauxbeaulove

    Reblogged this on Reaux Your Boat and commented:
    As a future educator I really appreciate articles like this!


  5. simonhamer

    Reblogged this on Simon Hamer and commented:
    This is the way the world should be headed.


  6. sunshineholley

    Reblogged this on Entrepreneurship and commented:
    Paperless education is here to stay. The best opportunities for a paperless education are online.


  7. CatholicReligionTeacher

    I started building my class website about a year and a half ago. I use it as a hub for a lot of my unit and lesson resources, and also host all kinds of pictures, videos, and other goodies for my students (and passerbys) to enjoy. I’m SO happy with my decision to try this and look forward to continue building it for other educators to use. Thanks, WordPress!


  8. PiedType

    Electronic media and the Internet offer endless potential, limited only by the creativity of educators. I worry about the digital divide, but it’s still a wonderful time for education.


  9. masone209

    Reblogged this on masone209 and commented:
    Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.


  10. AP Calculus Stillwater

    Here’s another WordPress educational site for high school AP Calculus…

    The site contains over 135 high quality AP Calculus tutorial videos ( all free ! )


  11. michelle w.

    Those of you who are sharing sites you’ve built — thank you! Expect to hear from me soon; I’d love to get your thoughts on how we can make an even better tool for the classroom.


  12. zookeeperprojects

    I think this is a great initiative,for a teacher to walk the extra mile to insure that he/she is never out of reach…fantastic,I love it!


  13. marshalljr

    This is beautiful! I run after school programs at a middle school in Portland, Oregon. I’m always looking for new ways to connect with our youth. Thanks for sharing!
    Marshall Jr


  14. Linda Farah Dee

    Reblogged this on LindaFarahDee and commented:
    Good sense to enlighten our education


  15. amateurboatcommunity

    I wanat to start right away with my students boatbuilding!


  16. Gastón Guerra

    Like the idea very much. Congrats and success!


  17. ericabuteau

    This is great and I love your approach. I’m the mother of two Junior High Students and also an Associate Professor of Office Technology at a community college. I teach both on campus and online and am gradually moving toward a hybrid model of both on and off-line learning. It’s quite amazing how moving things online teaches students to become more accountable and ultimately more resourceful in their own learning environments. Best of luck to you as you finish out the remainder of the school year. I look forward to follow your progress!


  18. Carl D'Agostino

    Retired in ’06 but near end of career Miami Dade schools made transfer to computer for all students grades and attendance mandatory for teachers available to parent home print out.


  19. Liz

    What about the Language support in the UK? Educationalists here also use wordpress to support teachers and children. Its good that you have highlighted language education though because bilingualism is such an important aspect of global citizenship these days.


  20. primarylanguageawards

    Thanks for highlighting language and teaching. We have currently shortlisted UK schools who have shown good practice in a whole array of projects and using all types of resources including blogs. Winners will be announced at the UK Education Show at the NEC Birmingham on 15th March 2013 at 2.00 and you are all welcome to attend this ceremony and help us to congratulate the winners.


  21. australianteacher

    WordPress has been great in bringing our ideas, suggestions and lesson plans to teachers in Australia and more than 100 other countries around the world. We are currently averaging 180 visitors per day.


  22. biologypost

    Reblogged this on biologypost and commented:
    The future of education on wordpress. I stumpled across this post tonight and it turns out I’m not the only one using wordpress to try to encourage my students to engage with the digital age (I came up with that rhyme myself!).
    Guys, please have a look at the sites mentioned in this post and if you see anything you think would work on biologypost then let me know.


  23. cbnwali

    This is very impressive. Education has improved greatly this last decade, quite innovative I must say. I would ty to use it myself.


  24. alexobrien271

    Reblogged this on You May Have Tennis Elbow… and commented:
    This could be kind of cool. I wouldn’t mind having it at my school anyway…


  25. thec00p

    I am a CT certified English teacher at the Fairfield Alternative High School and I also teach Journalism as an elective. I have benefited tremendously from using a wordpress blog! My body of students change every marking period, about 10 weeks, and keeping track is a piece of cake with our site I invite new students to join as authors and they are allowed the freedom of choice when it comes to personalized ‘author’ names. They brainstorm interest areas and pick categories they are interested in exploring and writing about. As a part of their grade they are required to post an article every week. We have a no homework policy at school so keeping track of entries by paper was excruciating! Now we cover material Monday-Wednesday and they get Thursday and Friday to research and post. When grades are due I simply go to the dashboard and give credit for the number of post versus looking for papers that were never turned in. I love that they can save their articles as drafts and I have the freedom of being able to look over them anywhere. Beats carrying stacks of paper around! When they are finished and approved they click publish. So easy!

    Students get very excited when people from the outside world comment on their writing and some have even downloaded the app on their devices to start posts from home. A HUGE plus considering the no homework policy! 🙂 This is my first year utilizing the site and I can’t say how much time and frustration it has eliminated from my schedule. I’m hoping to find time in the very near future to actually start posting on my own blog. 😀

    I also love that I can personalize our site and every so often I will change the theme, the falling snow over the holidays was a huge hit 🙂 I don’t want to write a novel but wanted to share our story and thank you.


  26. martinschmidtinasia

    When I finished my EdD in 2009, I wanted to keep writing, but didn’t know what to do. A colleague recommended starting a blog, which I had never considered until that moment. The rush of energy that I got in creating that blog that first week surprised me, and I’ve been writing about my experiments with social conscience education on a monthly basis since 2010. I try to also make my research, both from the dissertation and more informal research with my classes, available through the blog. Sometimes I have students comment on the blogs, but for the most part it is a repository of my ideas as well as my classes that implement ideas related to the social conscience. About a month ago a new journal for educators in India said they read my blog and asked me to write a piece for their journal, which should be coming out soon. I expect to remain committed to blog writing for the foreseeable future.


  27. Pamela Third

    I think Jackie Hoermann’s course at Iowa State, incorporating WordPress blogging, is a wonderful idea. Skills like this are so important these days.


  28. michelle w.

    Thanks for taking the time to share how you’re using blogs with your students — you’re giving lots of others teachers some great ideas!


  29. thebookybunhead

    Really cool idea!


  30. Addie Johnson

    What wonderful ways to engage young people in the educational process.


  31. Eyagee

    I am always on the look out for great tools. I plan on opening a ‘creativity school’ here in South Korea and want to make use of online tools. This was an awesome find!


  32. Jun

    wow ,it ‘s really a great idea that i have heard .Teachers can teach online on! And i think it really cool when teachers and students can become like friends and discuss something interesting^^


  33. Anurag
  34. Veronica Volk

    This is fantastic. Teachers who strive to keep up with new media and implement it in their students’ education are heroes!


  35. Shailesh Telang

    This is awesome thing. I really appreciate the time taken to create such a wonderful platform for educating students. I’ll try this on my blog to educate students in Environment and renewable energy fields.


  36. giannec

    Great idea! This is the way we should be moving. This is excellent for the younger generation and it’s something they can “connect” to. I have to say I envy them, but as always, the next generation is always better off than the last . C’est la vie.


  37. soulharmony4u

    Reblogged this on Soulharmony4u's Blog and commented:
    An interesting take on education today and where it is heading.


  38. Viktorya

    I think it’s a great idea to encourage students to use a blog to express their thoughts.
    Actually, a WordPress blog that one of my professors created for the class is what inspired me to consider blogging!

    Students are too distracted with Facebook and other social media websites these days, so I feel that blogging is “productive procrastination” that can actually improve writing skills, something that everyone could use.


  39. patanaparkin

    Love this article. Would love to have seen my class blog showcased!

    Andy Parkin
    Head of Curriculum Year 2
    Blog – The Wonderful World of 2P


  40. patanaparkin

    I’m a UK qualified Primary school teacher now teaching in Thailand (International School) my school have their own blogging platform, but I have been trialling the use of a WordPress blog with my Year 2 class (6-7 year olds) and it has been a HUGE success. I am confident that we as school will now be shifting to such blogs, if not whole school then certainly those who want more from a blogging platform. Please come and put your blob on our globe better still leave a comment 🙂


  41. twrkenya

    Reblogged this on twrkenya and commented:


  42. naturaxiz

    A great tool to help teaching and learning. Thank you!


  43. outintheair

    Reblogged this on outintheair and commented:
    great stuff, finally some excitment in literature, teachers innovating the way of delivering education to students.definitely what we need in South Africa.


  44. Tanya Hudson (@chaselibrary)

    Wow! I am so impressed with the many creative ways that teachers and students are using blogging as a way to learn and to share their learning.

    Our school has just recently joined the blogging world, but we have several great blogging projects going on! As the school librarian, I’ve been keeping up a blog about the goings-on in our library, from lessons to special events to new books arriving. Our art teacher began a blog on tumblr to share students’ creative work. And I have a group of 5th grade students who post weekly about what’s been happening in their classrooms and around the school! We also have several teachers who blog about all of the great learning that their students are doing. 🙂

    Here’s a link to our library blog:

    And this post contains links to other blogs and websites kept up by folks at our school, including the ones mentioned above:


  45. abotahahmed

    Reblogged this on amintaha2009 and commented:
    Education is the key for a better life for all, so we need to make it available for all, anywhere, anytime. In the same time we can make it online for those who can not attend for all levels of education.


  46. titi2843

    Very interesting I think a lot of people would love this idea


  47. info38

    It is so refreshing to see and hear of such transformations. As a 37 year veteran teacher and administrator in rural, suburban, and mostly inner city schools, I have come to the conclusion that all students can and want to learn. In this digital age, all students are engaged with technology, so why not capitalized on that. It is great that you have tapped into that and found a way to use their current interest to captivate and engage them in and out of the classroom and to enhance communication with families.

    My travels across the country as a State Education Agency employee (retired), interacting with educators and policymakers from other states, confirmed that we share common concerns and can learn from one another, so congratulations and thanks for sharing your breakthrough. I am sure others will find it inspiring and will look for opportunities to impact children through technology just as you have by changing the way we (the adult) use our resources both in and out of school settings. I am going to share this information with friends who are still working in schools and school systems.


  48. rtcteech

    I love the idea of a paperless classroom. I would like to do the same in the Art Room, but would need many cameras (student’s phones could work I guess. but any tips on a Paperless Art Room would be greatly appreciated. I have an Art Blog where I post weekly on various topics that we are covering. Feel free to check it out, subscribe and follow
    Thanks for the great article


  49. cronton

    We are a small primary school in the North West of England. I trialled blogging with my Year 5 class last year. It was a huge success. We have now moved to a whole school blog. Each class has their own blog, plus much more – check us out…leave us a comment! We have international status with the British Council. The children would love to hear from people all over the world!


    • profhugodegaris

      The Paper War

      Im a retired computer science professor who has my fathers longevity genes, so I expect to live another 30 years. I have taken up a new career making home video lectures at PhD level in Pure Math and Math Physics, which I put on YouTube to provide PhD level education for the planet for free. I am also constructing an extensive bibliography of pure math and math physics graduate level texts that I put on my site ( I would love to put links to the CONTENTS of these technical books but they are copyrighted. Im therefore waiting with great impatience for the paper book to die, together with the paper technical book publishers, so that the contents of these books can be freely distributed to educate the world. An educated middle class always pushes for democracy. Advanced democracies do not go to war with each other, so a fully democratic educated world would be war free. Standing in the way of this highly desirable state are the paper technical book publishers, which is why I label them “Paper Albatrosses.” I have as much respect for them as I do for the tobacco companies.


  50. matthewnairblog

    Reblogged this on matthew nair blog and commented:
    We need this in all schools!


  51. grumpytyke

    In 1993/94 I was using internet, specifically email, to teach English in Romania, at both primary and high school levels. No Windows (no ‘blogs’?) or any such user interfaces; we emailed using MS-Dos or Pine on ‘obsolete’ computers. Nevertheless, the Romanian classes did projects with schools in the UK, Canada and the USA, including between special needs classes in Suceava, Romania and Pensacola, Florida, and the results were amazing – the children loved it and learned at an extraordinary rate. I presented two papers on these projects from Romania via internet at a conference – one location in USA and one in Mexico – but I had to travel 600km to the capital, Bucharest, to find a location capable of doing that. The papers were eventually published in the ‘Conference proceedings’ book but unfortunately until now I haven’t been able to find this. However, this post motivates me to do a post about these projects; so far I’ve only referred briefly to the special needs one with a photograph in another context a few days ago.


  52. Azar Aftimos

    Reblogged this on Azar Aftimos and commented:
    Wonderful ideas. This is the way the world should be headed to promote people from within.


  53. 5realmethods

    What a great idea, I’ve been waiting for some educational-reforming idea like this for a very long time! It’s great to see it finally put into action! Thanks for doing it! 🙂


  54. avoca13

    Reblogged this on coastalfootball and commented:
    All around the world, people are trying to engage the youth and help them to pursue education as a means to ‘breaking free’. Dreams can come true with a little help from your friends!


  55. Mrs. Webmaster

    My wordpress site is an English Handbook, complete with comma rules, quotation mark tips, capitalization guidelines, and more. With each grammar rule, I offer sample sentences using pop culture icons, like Selina Gomez and Justin Beiber. My weekly posts include my handouts, which parents and home-schoolers can download and print.


  56. lauritalynn

    Reblogged this on Mrs. Heath's ESLDO Class and commented:
    This is what we want to see in our ESLDO class


  57. joneslervan

    Reblogged this on joneslervan and commented:
    Education is key to life in the Post-Modern Era!


  58. navedz

    Good idea towards educating generations! Applause!


  59. blackbelttech

    Reblogged this on black belt tech and commented:
    There are tons of great ideas here…


  60. warwickschneller

    I teach at an Australian university and really loved this post.


  61. Harrey Martin

    I simply go to the dashboard and give credit for the number of post versus looking for papers that were never turned in. I love that they can save their articles as drafts and I have the freedom of being able to look over them anywhere.


  62. norwichenglishteacher

    Yes, it’s surprising how effective online teaching can be! I wasn’t convinced at first, but then I started learning French online, and couldn’t believe how well it compared to meeting the teacher face-to-face. Now I also teach online.


  63. iamgaffney

    This is a very interesting article, coming from a student i think transitioning into using blogs and over all using more technology in the class room is imperative if we (students) want to be successful in the real world. I also wish teachers had more incentive to use more technology in the classroom


  64. mozan93

    It’s interesting how much more online involvement there is these days. When I was in high school, they only started to use online forums as a supplement in the classroom. I think it’s fantastic that online education is beginning to be more heavily utilized in the younger generations.


  65. spandanpradhan

    i like the idea of paperless class and teacher and parents insights to the world of education, would promote and share this idea in Nepal too


  66. libshannon94

    I love the idea of incorporating technology into classrooms. Students now have never known life without cell phones, computers and even DVRs. I think it is important for teachers in embrace this shift and work with their students to utilize it. That said, we cannot forget the value of handwriting, paper books and face to face conversations. It is important to remember to avoid the alienation of social skills and real conversations.


  67. ownyourlifeukbrasil

    This is a brilliant concept! I have quite few friends that are teachers and I am sure they will be interested on this. Well done

    Liked by 1 person

  68. Karen @ My Pantry Shelf

    My website is critical in helping me stay connecting with students and parents. Here is a link:


  69. edanymenende

    Here, in Guatemala. We need teachers like you. Especially those ones who think, universally methds of teach, to the students. Beacuse like thise they´re going, be like you. Got important time in educactios life.


  70. watsonwork

    I’m a Canadian high school English teacher and I’ve had a wordpress classroom blog since November 2011. I just keep adding to it every year. All of my students have wordpress blogs, too, and I get them to do a lot of their responses on their blogs. I have well over 200 students and the marking is just so much easier when you’re marking from a blog; the kids also like doing their work on the blog because they can write from their phones in class. They go on their phones to my blog and then go to the page that shows all their blogs. What I love about wordpress is how creative I can be. I shouldn’t be critical, but edmodo and wikis bore me. They’re not visual and there’s not much you can do on them. On my blog, I write chapter summaries of the novels we’re studying, add videos I want the students to see, include info from the news I find interesting or informative, keep track of assignments, add pictures of the students … all kinds of things. The other thing that’s a real plus is the parent element. There’s no way a parent can be uninformed if they have my blog address. The assignments are right at the top of the blog and I update them all the time. I have two favourite things about teaching. One thing is the teaching and the other thing is my blog. Here’s a link to it:


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