Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post on Bringing Tech to the AVID Classroom: AVID Is Awesome, But...

Here's the second in our series of Weds guest posts on TeachPaperless. Today's blogger is teacher Ben Knaus.

Ben is a middle school AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) elective teacher and coordinator at Cityview Performing Arts School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He is in his tenure (third) year of teaching, 2nd year with the AVID program, and 8th year working in a school (all at Cityview). Ben is also a devoted husband, father of two beautiful little ones, and a huge technology fan. In his spare time, he is an adjunct professor at Saint Mary's University-Twin Cities co-teaching (with @wwolfe105) the Technology in the Classroom course in the Master of Instruction program. Ben also blogs at and posts on Twitter as @learnteachtech.

What is AVID?

"AVID is a fourth through twelfth grade system to prepare students in the academic middle for four-year college eligibility. It has a proven track record in bringing out the best in students, and in closing the achievement gap. AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination." [Source:]

Basically, AVID takes students who wouldn't normally be thinking about college, who have parents who didn't go to college, or who need an extra push to get to college and gives them the skills they need to make to college. How many times did I write college? Four. Yes, four in one sentence. Did I mention there is a push in the AVID program to attend college?

Why is AVID Awesome?

AVID is awesome because students who don't know how to be highly effective students get the skills they need to be highly effective. In the AVID elective class, we learn questioning, note taking (Cornell Notes), discussion and debate, public speaking, organization, and study strategies. We also learn a lot about colleges and careers from field trips and guest speakers.

I love just about everything in AVID. One of my favorites is that we have tutors. We have four adults (2 college students, 1 retired teacher and 1 adult from the business world) who help twice a week. They guide students on questions from other classes and ensure that they are getting the necessary support. The students eventually take over the tutorials and run them with tutor assistance. It's an amazing process to watch and be part of.

The other amazing thing is that I get to work with the AVID students for up to three years. I'll have the 6th graders until they leave for high school. The program and the class structure build relationships, which is the key to being successful in any area and I preach this whenever someone will listen.

But... The Technology

There are 8 general standards in AVID that are broken down into 42 objectives. Here's standard 2, objective 6:

"2.6 Refine research skills, including the use of technology, for all academic classes."
[Source: AVID Standards, link not available]

Out of 42 objectives to meet, only one deals with any sort of technology.

There is a serious lack of technology built into the program.

How many jobs have you had where you don't use some technology during your work day? How many college students do you know that don't word process, take notes on a computer, or research regularly on the Internet? How do you expect future college students to be successful if a college-prep course isn't requiring technology? (See how we use questioning in the AVID program?)

So, what's the solution? In my dream world, every AVID student would be given a netbook to use at school and at home. I would also request the City of Minneapolis to give AVID students access to Wireless Minneapolis. This proposal would give the students access to everything they need both inside and outside the classroom, 24 hours a day.

In the real world, AVID students need access to computers, at the very least, in the AVID classroom. No student, especially the typical AVID student, is prepared for college if they don't have the basic technology skills needed in the world outside of the school.

And since when is school not part of the real world? (Again with the questioning...)

That said, what am I doing now?

We use the Promethean board in the room for note taking and brain storming.

We use Activexpressions for short answer responses.

I have students use Wordle to brainstorm and reflect.

After the winter break, I'll have students start portfolios using eFolioMn and, hopefully, start some blogging.

Personally, I blog, Tweet, research, and RSS constantly to find new ideas, concepts, and strategies (both tech and non-tech) to bring into my classroom. That's done with two old eMacs, a teacher iMac, and my personal MacBook.

Finally, I've covered my back wall with whiteboards. We don't use chart paper for group work or other activities. The students just start writing on the wall.

How fun is that? (Sorry, had to sneak one last question in!)


  1. Our avid class is interested in skyping with your avid class if you are interested feel free to contact us at we will be waiting for your response!

    1st avid class in IA

  2. I would love to do something with your class. I teach the 9th grade English and AVID elective classes. I've noticed the lack of technology in the AVID objectives too.I can be contacted at
    paulv8 on twitter

  3. We are really interested in skyping with your class. We are in 11th grade so we are wondering if u have an 11th grade avid class? Our teacher will make contact with you pretty soon. She is wondering what hour you meet and if you would rather do it individually or as a class.


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