Edtech & Equity and Engagement Series – Part 4: Paper Learning – An Edtech Tool & Service that Bridges Equity Gaps for all Students

By: Matt Rhoads, Ed.D

Dr. Matt Rhoads is a Tech and Instructional Leader and Innovator with hands in Adult Ed, K-12, and Higher Education. He is the author of several books and is the host of Navigating Education – The Podcast.

Welcome back to Part 4 of the Edtech Equity and Engagement Blog Series. As with the previous three blogs that are a part of this series, the purpose of this series is that we are looking at various educational technology tools and services and evaluating how they are engaging and equitable for all students. This week we are focusing on a game changing edtech service that provides opportunities for student’s grade four through twelve to receive one-on-one on demand tutoring support from a college-educated tutor at anytime and anywhere. Right now as much of North America is engaging in either online or blended learning settings, Paper Learning is trying to help schools and districts support students beyond the brick and mortar confines of traditional tutoring. This could be a major game changer moving forward as education continues to innovate amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Paper Learning? On Demand 24/7 Tutoring Services

Paper Learning is an on-demand one-on-one tutoring and essay review service that can be accessed through computers, tablets, and smartphones. Its primary purpose is to support students in their learning and help their teachers meet the needs of all of their students. Many teachers, especially middle school and high school teachers, have over 100 students each. With many schools in distance learning or blended instructional settings, it’s impossible for them to meet with every student on a consistent basis to receive additional help and support. In addition, after-school programs are generally not as available as they once were for students to receive tutoring services from teachers or local college students. However, with the help of Paper Learning, students can now receive that support on any subject and at any time if their district has subscribed to their services.

Paper Learning works by having a student log into a user interface that allows them to openly communicate with a tutor via a live text chat stream. Students can type in the problem or can upload a snippet or image of the task/assignment they are working on. Also, students can upload a writing sample that can be assessed for grammar, punctuation, and relevance to the essay prompt and then delivered back o students with feedback to help them edit/revise their writing sample. Tutors use the Socratic method of teaching to help lead a student to the answer without giving them the answer. By giving them clues along the way, they will lead the students in the right direction to problem solve.

Paper Learning allows teachers to monitor student and tutor conversations. Teachers can monitor the student and tutor conversations to see what they are working on and see how they are doing. This is powerful to first see which students are accessing the tutoring services, in addition to, what they are asking for help on. Teachers can strategically use this to focus their efforts on re-teaching concepts and targeting students who they may need to meet with based on their analysis on the student/tutor conversations to further support them.

A Summary of the Services Provided by Paper Learning
How Teachers can use Paper Learning
How Students can Access Paper Learning

Implementing Paper Learning

Paper Learning is very easy to set up in any learning management system. Teachers should provide a bulletin that can be easily accessed within their learning management system that includes the link to the Paper application and step-by-step instructions of how to use it. Then, teachers should provide a video of how students can interact with Paper as a resource they can look at for to review how to use the resource. Also, teachers can screencast a video of how a teacher logs in as a student and interacts with a tutor to model how to have a productive conversation with a tutor. With this sin place for students, students will have the ability to access the application and understand how it is used.

To fully introduce Paper outside of posting it on the learning management system, teachers need to introduce it multiple times and mention it throughout the week. For example, at the beginning of the semester, send emails out to parents and students on what Paper is and how it’s used. Then, in class, model how it’s used and show examples of how it can help your students in the context of the class you are teaching because students will now know how to interact with applications interface and the tutors. Ultimately, this will ensure students have a framework of when and how Paper can be utilized to its fullest extent to help as many students as possible in your classroom.

Math Class, Advisory Class, & Special Education Caseload

In terms of its implementation in my classrooms and Special Education caseload, I created this bulletin in my Google Classroom for students to access Paper. I have modeled how to use it for my Algebra 1 and Advisory classes and taught students how to use it in the context of the class. I plan on providing practice and challenge problems for students to take to the tutors if they need additional practice.

For students on my Special Education caseload, I have sent my students and families emails and a video tutorial of how to use Paper. For several of my students, I met with them individually on Zoom (sometimes with their parents) to show them how to use Paper and show parents how to support their student while they are using Paper. I plan on continuing to meet with students and families as well as reiterate Papers use in Individual Education Plan annual meetings and in meetings/emails I meet with students on my caseload to check in with them as they navigate distance learning.

Paper Information and Links on a Math Class Google Classroom

Why Paper Learning is Bridging the Equity Gap

Paper learning provides students with opportunities to receive support when their teacher is not available. Also, students can receive help whenever they want and for as long as they need help. Here are two examples of how Paper Learning is equitable for general education and Special Education students.

General Education: General Education students have the ability to seek help on almost any topic at any time. This is so powerful as private tutors and after school tutoring programs generally were the only options for students to receive tutoring outside of teacher’s office hours. Now, students who belong to a district who has purchased this service, can receive help 24/7, which means student support is not bound to school hours. Rather, it is asynchronous in nature, which creates equitable opportunities for students to learn when they can, anywhere with an internet connection, and at their own pace.

Special Education: Paper Learning provides one-on-one support for students with special needs at any time. While the platform has no way of allowing the tutors to identify students with special needs, it provides the opportunity for them to easily communicate with the tutors with the chat and whiteboard feature. In creating successful opportunities for students with special needs to access Paper Learning, create opportunities to model conversations with tutors as well as how to navigate the Paper Learning student interface. This includes showing students step by step how to upload images and snippets from the assignment/task they need help in with the tutor. Once the initial modeling of how to use Paper Learning occurs, students are using the service from my math courses as well as my Special Education caseload to receive extra help and support.

New Features & Updates it Needs

Ultimately, Paper Learning needs to provide several updates to make it more friendly to students with special needs and English Language Learner students. A speech to text feature needs to be added as an option to communicate for students to use, in addition to, allowing the whiteboard feature to be collaborative and interactive between the tutor and the student in real-time. These new additional features would be game changers for all students; especially students with special needs and English Language Learners.

Paper has several updates coming. A new update involving having the ability to access Spanish speaking tutors will make it much more accessible and user friendly to English Language learners whose primary language is Spanish. Also, Paper CEO Phillip Cutler has told us that Paper is planning on coming out with a new pod feature, which allows students to collaborate in groups in a collaborative interface on their application. During times of group collaboration, students can call in a tutor, when needed, to receive additional support while collaborating. Thus, I believe these new updates along with further improvements to its platform will continue to improve the service; especially, when honing in on areas that make it more equitable for all students.


Districts who can afford and implement Paper are providing equitable opportunities for students to receive on demand support in their classes. This is powerful as private tutoring is expensive and can only be afforded by families who have the means to hire one. Therefore, Paper truly is a game changer because those services are available to the masses when districts subscribes to their services. Nothing like this has been offered in K-12 education, which will make it an intriguing educational technology company to follow in the coming year. Furthermore, I recommend districts and schools across North America to look to invest in their service because it not only helps students. It also helps teachers support their students much more strategically than they could in the past and can improve their ability to provided needed interventions to students on a 24/7 basis.

For more information on Paper Learning and their services, you can access their website at www.paper.co. Also, continue the conversation below or on Twitter by tagging me in the post @mattrhoads1990. Does your district subscribe to Paper? How’s it going for you? Do you think districts and schools should prioritize funds for this service?

Published by Matthew Rhoads, Ed.D.

Innovator, EdTech Trainer and Leader, University Lecturer & Teacher Candidate Supervisor, Consultant, Author, and Podcaster

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