First Love at School Time

Do you believe in first love? I am aware of this since my instructors and administration at Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville, Tennessee, have direct knowledge! Our narrative is not about an instantaneous bond between two individuals (although we are a close-knit family, and there is certainly love and caring that exists in our building). Rather than that, our narrative is about an instant relationship with a digital application called OneNote that met a need and then grew with us to the point where we were inseparable! As our relationship has progressed, we have developed a sense of trust and dependence on this instrument. We like it so much that we want to share it with the world!

The Coulter Grove Intermediate School and OneNote love tale begins in late July 2015, at the start of the school year. I’m sure you’re aware with the enthusiasm and expectation surrounding each school’s yearly beginning. There is so much to accomplish in such a short period of time! However, we had an extra obstacle this year. It was our first year operating in a fully digital environment on a 1:1 basis. To be sure, we had done our homework in preparation for this assignment. The previous year, we tested computers in early adopter teachers’ classes, used a district-purchased Learning Management System (LMS), cooperated and worked to create digital material, and developed our digital abilities. We had investigated digital technologies and were each progressing at our own speed toward providing our pupils with endless learning opportunities. However, like with any travel, our road was not without bumps, and we were forced to detour along the way. As administrators, we were totally immersed in this voyage with our teachers, encountering bumps and bruises along the way. Love at first sight messages will give you the detail description of love.

Several of our roadblocks the previous year included figuring out how to arrange information in such a way that students could readily access curriculum in a timely and efficient manner. We discovered that we and our students were continually digging through folders, restating and redirecting to access stored information. Additionally, locating and providing comments on student digital work was imprecise and cumbersome at best. Additionally, since we created our curriculum online, we were concerned that students who did not have access to the internet at home would be unable to access information and complete assignments outside of the school day. Would the power of a digital tool at home be lost on our most vulnerable students? Yes, there were measures in place to assist, including community partnerships for W-Fi connectivity and check-out hotspots for residential usage. However, we questioned whether this would work. How can we assist our students in being organised, gaining access to material, and submitting high-quality digital work? Our students and I both adored our tried-and-true interactive notebooks brimming with notes, diagrams, and thoughts. Which digital technologies are the most appropriate for our mixed learning environment?

Rewind to the spring of 2015. Our administrative team attended a regional technology administrator’s conference sponsored by ISTE’s state affiliate. We were on a quest to acquire the skills necessary to become digital administrators! Two of us registered for a class on “OneNote for Administrators” taught by Jill Pierce, a long-time friend and colleague. I’d been using OneNote as a personal productivity tool for over 10 years and enjoyed it, but I’d been using it “my way” and hadn’t kept up with the changes and improvements. This session resulted in the development of our OneNote strategy, and it was during this session that I rekindled, refreshed, and rebuilt my romance with OneNote. What I discovered about OneNote Staff and Class Notebooks changed my life. Our strategy was straightforward. During the 2015-2016 school year, we would utilise this application as administrators to manage our staff handbook, collaborate with teachers, and have instructors experience it as end users.

We reasoned that a few instructors may want to try OneNote this school year. We thought it would be a tool that aided our staff while also providing a new tool for our classes. However, we were concerned that if we proceeded too quickly, we might overwhelm our professors. They were already overburdened with revisions and new items. After all, we had a learning management system (LMS), and everyone had been educated and had created material inside that interface for a year. Thus, we would demonstrate the usage of this technology, provide our instructors with end-user experience, and then allow them to choose whether to utilise it as an end user or take it up and incorporate it into their teaching and content production. Perhaps they’ll be ready for 2016’s OneNote Class Notebooks.

Our first day of teacher in-service for the 2015-16 school year was conducted on July 21, 2015. Our administrative staff members arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to kick off the new year in style. Our professional development programme was designed to assure our instructors’ success. Within the constraints of our timetable, I’d begin the year with an uplifting speech and showcase our lovely OneNote Staff Notebooks. We’d demonstrate the usage and extol the virtues of automatic saving, one-click access to everything, and off-line access on many devices. We have a Friday morning professional development time slot reserved for developing individualised learning plans based on our instructors’ needs assessments. As I concluded the year’s first meeting, which was centred on development mindset and included material given through OneNote, I felt optimistic about the next year. This is feasible.

Instead of breaking when I dismissed our teachers for a break prior to our classroom and team collaboration period, a number of our instructors gathered and harassed us with questions. “I require this for my kids,” was the leading statement and query. How am I going to get it immediately?” We deemed it a success when we promised a “how to” session for Friday. Our Leadership team meeting was next on the schedule. A schedule was created but was ultimately reduced due to the fact that OneNote became a point of controversy. Yes, I used OneNote for the year’s CGIS Leadership Team Notebook, which had integrated material and agenda templates for meetings, as well as the ability to share the notebook with other team members.

We knew at the conclusion of the conference. A few of our professors fell in love at first sight. On Friday, our whole teaching staff choose to attend an optional OneNote training session offered by Mrs. Deana Bishop, and at the conclusion of the first nine weeks of the school year, 50% of our teachers had set up and were regularly utilising OneNote Class Notebooks with students. By year’s end, that percentage had increased to 70%. It was nearly everyone at the beginning of this academic year. Today, it serves as the principal tool for students and employees to access digital information.