It used to take a lot of time to be organized.
For years, I did my lesson plans on Adobe PageMaker (yes, I am that old), which listed all the print resources needed for each subject. I've had countless folders on my computer desktop with documents, pictures, videos and PowerPoints for each core subject. And if anything needed to be printed, I had to hope there would be ink and paper available for the copy machine. Links for online videos and resources were kept in a special section of My Favorites.
I've had to be really organized – which translates into spending a lot of time – in order to be able to find all the resources needed for each lesson. And when you teach fifth grade, you teach all subjects – that's a LOT of resources in just one day! I learned to chat calmly with my class while frantically searching for the next thing, which I know is here somewhere, right? Please?
Sub plans were a nightmare. I don't like leaving videos and worksheets; I like my students to remain on their learning trajectory. If I was sick, I would have to drag myself in to work early so I could spend the time necessary to get all materials downloaded, printed, collated and ready on my desk with the details of each lesson carefully written out so the sub wouldn't miss a beat. Frankly, if I had to come in anyway, I would much rather just come in to school and work through my cold. And that isn't healthy for anyone.
This summer, I decided it was time to switch to OneNote.
Simplistically, you can call it a digital binder, but it's really an amazing timesaver.
First of all, it allows all of my resources to exist together in one beautiful place. If I find a special YouTube video of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I can add it to my OneNote. If I have special Visual Writing Prompt pictures for specific lessons, I can add those to my OneNote. If my principal wants to see old-fashioned lesson plans, I can print them from Adobe PageMaker directly to my OneNote. All my documents, presentations, videos, pictures and links are neatly organized and in their proper place in my new Lesson Plan OneNote.
Here's a screenshot of the lesson:
With my lesson plans organized in OneNote I have more time to focus on my students. And if I find anything more I want to add, I can add it quickly and in such a way that I will be able to find it exactly when I need it.
I've also had more time to curate our OneNote Class Notebook. This amazing addition allows all my students to have their own digital binders with:
One collaborative area where they can manipulate all materials and work together on a project
One content area where I can put materials I want them to have access to but not change
One personal area where they can copy-and-paste from my content area and then get to their digital classwork
With digital inking, I don't even need a copy machine: I can easily print a worksheet into the content area of our Class Notebook, have the students copy it into their personal area and start writing on it.
Finally, if I do get the occasional cold, I don't have to go in to school at all. I simply drop the content I want my students to work on into their Class Notebook and invite my sub to view my OneNote so he/she knows what's up for that day.
As I said, it used to take a lot of time to be one organized teacher – now it just takes OneNote.
Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., S.T.E.M., and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, has trained hundreds of educators and presented at educational conferences around the country. She currently teaches at Manteca Unified School District in the central valley of California.