OneNote and AVID—positively impacting my students and teaching career

Today’s post on OneNote for Education was written by Madeline “Brandi” Collins, AVID elective teacher/site coordinator at San Jacinto Intermediate School in Pasadena, Texas.

There is an old saying, “When you find a job you love, you will never have to work another day in your life.” For me, no words have ever been more true and I can say without a doubt that I stopped working three years ago when I began teaching AVID at San Jacinto Intermediate in Pasadena, Texas. AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. AVID began with one teacher’s extraordinary vision for one group of students and more than 30 years later, AVID reaches 800,000 students in 44 states and 16 countries/territories.

AVID teachers are taught to focus on what I like to call the big three: Binders, Cornell Notes and Tutorials. Out of those three, the foundation for introducing valuable organization skills is the AVID three-ring binder, intended to help students manage their school work. These binders can range anywhere from two to three inches and are chocked full of loose leaf paper, dividers, Cornell Notes, calendar pages, planners and even a pencil pouch. So you can imagine how quickly the binder can become overstuffed and cumbersome to manage especially for a junior high student. I would see the students struggle on a daily basis to keep up with ripped out assignments and stray papers that were once neatly snapped in tight. I even went so far as to create a binder first-aid station in my classroom containing some necessary repair essentials such as duct tape, extra paper and dividers. My students embraced the challenges and took great pride in carrying them around everywhere. I whole heartedly supported them in their efforts to maintain their binders but I could not help but think there has got to be an easier way for all of us.

This past summer I was approached by our Pasadena ISD technology guru, Sherrie Grounds, and asked to pilot the implementation of Microsoft Office 365 in my classroom for the upcoming school year. Immediately the light bulb went off! This was my answer.

Pasadena ISD is a large district serving ten junior high schools and five high schools with numerous middle schools and elementary campuses. My 86 AVID students and I were chosen out of all those schools to pioneer this amazing project. We started by giving each student a district email address, which allowed them easy access to Microsoft Outlook. Immediately, their communication skills began to skyrocket.

OneNote for Education 1Feeling comfortable with our progress, we quickly made the transition from the AVID binder to a fully electronic binder through the use of OneNote. Each of my four AVID classes created their own OneNote Class Notebook with a Content Library and Collaboration Space. In the Content Library, students can find documents and assignments that I have shared and copy them directly into their personal student notebook.

The great thing about using the Content Library is that only the teacher has edit rights and the uploaded content is read-only for the students.  Inside our Content Library, students can find a tab for nearly every essential AVID component. Here, templates for the most widely used documents such as Cornell Notes and Tutorial Request forms are easily accessible and ready for use with just a few clicks of the mouse.

OneNote for Education 2AVID relies on a proven support structure known as the WICOR—Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading—skills that are essential to possess in grade school, college and beyond. It is in the Collaboration Space of our OneNote Class Notebooks, which shares its name with one of the founding principles of WICOR, that we brainstorm solutions to problems, debate social issues and collectively work on challenging projects with the philosophy of strength in numbers. One of our favorite ways to use the Collaboration Space is to conduct a Philosophical Chairs session. I begin by proposing a hot topic question under a tab called, “TAKE A STANCE.” The students then go to that tab, read the question and post their answers either in favor, not in favor or undecided.

Since, everyone has edit rights in Collaboration Space, I saw the need to give a disclaimer that reads: ALL RESPONSES IN THIS FORUM WILL BE EDUCATED AND RESPECTFUL. PLEASE DO NOT DELETE OR MODIFY ANOTHER STUDENT’S THOUGHTS OR THE THOUGHTS OF YOUR TEACHER! Once I established this expectation, I had no issues with inappropriate student responses.

In just a few short months of incorporating OneNote into my AVID classroom, the positive impact on myself and my students was apparent. We all were more confident in our use of technology and more secure in our organizational skills. My classes were the first on our campus to operate in a completely paperless environment. This alone made other teachers sit up and take notice. It didn’t take long for what we were doing in AVID with OneNote to catch on and spread like wild fire throughout our campus to all core classes in both the seventh and eighth grades. Many of our brave teachers jumped right in and tailored OneNote to fit their needs with ease. Not long after that, I was asked to conduct several district-wide OneNote trainings for other AVID teachers. We even had the opportunity to take our OneNote experience all the way to the state capitol in Austin, Texas. Four of my OneNote student rock stars presented our use of classroom technology to the state legislature in hopes of procuring more funds for future technology use in schools.

OneNote for Education 3

Throughout this journey, I have experienced over and over again the countless benefits OneNote brings to my classroom and to my life. The time it frees up alone from such tasks as conducting binder checks and tutorials is worth its weight in gold. I am extremely proud to welcome OneNote into our San Jacinto Intermediate and Pasadena ISD families. I look forward to our bright future together.