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Managing Educational Resources With PDF Tools

by Jen

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French, Indonesian and Italian.

Educational resources are critical to any sound curriculum, but how can teachers manage them digitally?

In the not-so-distant past, when the traditional classroom was the norm, printing, photocopying, and handouts were fairly standard activities in creating and distributing information among teachers and students. But how are teachers managing their teaching resources as they shift to a digital environment?

Ask a Teacher

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Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.

At Smallpdf, we're always interested in learning more about how people manage their documents, because this helps us to make better PDF tools for people from all walks of life.

Since teachers have had to stay committed to their students and navigate a whole new world of digital documents during this season of remote or hybrid learning, we spent some time with a handful of secondary school teachers in the US to find out how they were struggling with documents and what they wished they had in document management software.

PDF Resource Packs

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In many secondary school settings, teachers are most often provided with approved learning materials for the year, and these are usually packaged in a large, single PDF document. While access to resources like this is a boon for most, the format can seem overwhelming for many teachers who will need to organize these materials without the help of any special PDF tools at their disposal.

Ownership & Control of Resources

One school representative we spoke to reminded us how, without the right tools, teachers can potentially lose complete ownership of the way they organize their teaching materials.

In this particular case, the teachers’ resources first had to be transferred to the district level to be organized, something that included the simple task of splitting the PDF resource packs into sections, and further into chapters, or pages. This made the experience of organizing these PDF resource packs not only cumbersome, but inefficient, too.

Another scenario we learned about was that of a school that hosts therapy sessions for students. These therapy sessions are also reliant on multi-page PDF resource packs they need to split in order to use appropriately. This became a time-consuming and laborious process that hindered preparation for these therapy sessions.

When we think of teachers as the live conduit between students and learning materials, we need no convincing how important it is for them to have agency over the way they manage their teaching materials. A teacher's direct access to tools to split, merge, and compress PDF documents, and convert all types of files, comes with a host of benefits for both the teacher and the school. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Time savings
  • Fewer dependencies on school resources
  • Fewer dependencies on county or state governing bodies
  • Teacher enjoys closer contact with learning material
  • Teacher has the tools and flexibility to organize, manage, and present materials in a way that suits them and their class best
  • Quicker access for students to appropriate, well-prepared learning materials
  • Fewer resources needed to share and store smaller documents

Splitting PDF Resource Packs

For a teacher, the simple task of splitting a PDF resource pack into semesters, months, or even chapters, can be a daunting task, especially without the right tools. In the traditional classroom, this might have been done by simply printing and then photocopying the desired material, but the remote and hybrid classrooms of today have come with one distinctive demand: digital documents.

In order to meet this demand, teachers have had to embrace digital document management in a way that covers every aspect of their job—and it all starts with resource management. The very first step to getting started with a hefty PDF resource pack is to split it into parts, not only for easier access to more specific materials, but for easier storage and more efficient sharing.

Granular Resource Preparation

One teacher we spoke to needed to give her remote students one worksheet per week for four weeks, but the worksheets she received from her school were all bundled together and she ended up sending her students this entire bundle all at once. Another teacher needed to unlock a form students needed to fill in, but had to remake the entire form from scratch, because he just didn't have the right tools for this task.

This highlighted for us that teachers need far more detail-oriented tools than just splitting PDF documents. In fact, when it comes to the details of a lesson plan, or a day's learning materials, teachers need several PDF tools in their toolkit to prepare digital documents that are both useful and accessible to students.

Sharing & Storing PDF Resources

The days of scanning, photocopying, printing reams of teaching materials, and then storing them in a folder or paper basket are soon to be over. With the upsurge of remote learning, teachers have had to contend with storage and sharing their digital documents far more efficiently.

When teachers have access to PDF tools that can easily split and merge documents, this comes with even more benefits than document flexibility. With smaller documents to work with, teachers can save and store materials more quickly and efficiently, and use less data and energy to share materials with their students, who will also save on data and storage space on their end.

A Personalized Learning Experience

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Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels.

From learning materials to the student experience, teachers know best. A personal—and personalized—learning experience can make all the difference for a student and, with the right PDF tools, this is something a teacher can easily provide.

Representation Matters

One teacher we spoke to was deeply frustrated about the learning materials she was supplied with, because the characters in the PDFs all had the same color skin tone, which did little to reflect the diversity of her classroom.

Because all the learning materials she had were in PDF format, she found it very difficult to switch up the characters' skin tones in order to give her students access to learning materials that showed characters that looked more like them.

When teachers have access to PDF tools that help them edit documents so that they're more reflective of their students skin color, hair type, body shape, or ethnicity, they have the agency to foster a far more enriching, relatable learning experience for their students, and contribute to a sense of dignity that comes with seeing oneself reflected in everyday media—including educational materials.

Bringing Language To Life

Editing the text in a PDF document is almost never as simple as it sounds, but access to editing PDFs, and being able to add or remove text can be a game changer for teachers.

One teacher we interviewed knew that her teaching materials could be doubly useful to her students, if only she could swap out the English labels with Spanish labels. This would not only give her native-English-speaking students more integrated access to Spanish language resources, but she realized this had the potential to translate this learning material into any other language.

This type of document flexibility not only offers additional resource potential to students learning a new language, but has endless possibilities for resource translations and therefore greater accessibility to educational resources.

What Teachers Want From PDF Software

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

When teachers talked to us about managing their resources and finding the right PDF tools, their students and their access to digital resources took priority. While teachers may use PDF software to organize their learning materials for themselves, this and any further document preparation they do is primarily in aid of the student.

Based on our interviews with these teachers, we created a quick list of the top tools teachers find useful to make digital documents more accessible to their students:

  • Convert PDFs to Word documents
  • Convert Word documents to PDFs
  • Convert PDFs to Excel documents
  • Convert Excel documents to PDFs
  • Split PDFs
  • Merge PDFs
  • Extract images from PDFs
  • Edit PDFs
  • Make PDFs editable

If your school is looking for simple tools to manage PDFs, why not start with a free trial of Smallpdf for Teams and get access to over 20 premium PDF tools to help teachers manage their resources?

Jennifer Rees
Jen
UX Writer