Lesson Planning Moves to the Cloud

A New Kid in Town: Planbookedu

Planbookedu Logo

It’s been quite a while since I’ve added any posts to this blog. The reasons are many but chief amongst them is my work on my dissertation research, enrollment in a new certificate program with LMU, and my first year as an administrator.  For my lack of posting, I apologize… now onto the good stuff…

Nine months ago I spoke very highly of Hellmansoft’s Planbook.  It integrated well with my mac, my iPad, and dropbox.  I still highly recommend the program, however within the time that it takes to bring an infant to term a new lesson planning software has been born.  I introduce to you, Planbookedu. This is the first cloud-based lesson planning solution that I have found to truly be versatile and simple enough for my faculty to embrace and use.  By no means am I denouncing Hellmansoft’s planbook… instead, I offer this review of planbookedu for those who are trying to move an entire faculty (with those who traditionally resist technology) to interactive electronic planbooks.

While I was quite comfortable utilizing the Helmansoft program, I knew that, for some, setting up the lesson plans… creating the schedule…. and the use of CSV files to import standards would be too much for some people to handle.  I was looking for a solution that was as close to the Helmansoft planbook as was humanly possible while providing a format and interface that was intuitive and easily adapted to the everyday teacher (including tech resistors). I also wanted to ensure that there was an easy way to share lesson plans with anyone and to have a centralized repository for the lesson plans so that administrators could easily review them.  After many trials I found the solution, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in revolutionizing their lesson planning.

What’s this? It’s Free?

That was my reaction… when I first looked at the website.  They offer a free plan (with a few features missing that are offered for a paid subscription) so testing out the planbook is really a no-lose situation.  What do you get for free?  lets take a look under the hood:

  • True cloud lesson planning – No software to install – and 24/7 access to your plans
  • Awesome rotation options such as: Weekly, A/B, A/B Week, and 4-6 day rotations
  • WYSIWYG editor -for ease of implementation and use
  • Supported by all major browsers (I’ve used firefox, IE, and Safari with it)
  • iPad and iPhone supported

Not too shabby for a free trial.  Of course they hook you with all the great features that you get when you subscribe to the paid plan. Oh before I forget… you can get a free 14 day premium trial when you sign up for the free plan… that is what got me hooked!

What’s this, the paid plan is super affordable???

Most of the solutions I looked into cost a great deal of money.  If you’re at a school that has the funds then that’s great.  If your at a school that is watching its budget, then you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck.  Here is the rundown of what you get with the paid subscription:

  • Everything in the free plan
  • Ability to attach files to your lesson plans
  • Common Core, State, and Custom standards (built in – No CSV files necessary)
  • Ability to embed your planbook in your website
  • Ability to share your plans with anyone for any specified timeframe
  • Print from browser in single page or two page layouts
  • Export to MS Word or PDF extensions
  • Built in Spell checker
  • Unlimited number of planbooks

Okay, sounds great… but the question is, How much? If you’re looking to purchase it as an individual… its only $25 a year… wow! dirt cheap. For the price of five coffees at the local coffee shop I can have a year’s worth of lesson plans in the cloud.  Hold on… it gets better… Group Discounts are available   the price plan is as follows:

  • 5-14 users $22 a year
  • 15-49 $19 a year
  • 50-250 $16 a year
  • anything over that call them for a quote

In my situation the $22 a year plan worked out great.  For a faculty of 10 the price for a year is only $220.  Outstanding!

There’s one more really great thing you say???

yes… just when you thought it couldn’t get any better… it is completely able to be integrated with Google Apps for education! that means that your faculty will not need to remember new login names or passwords… its all accessible from within google apps.  This was one of the major selling feature that had me hooked. A simple email and they had me set up with my entire faculty.

How does it hold up?

After only one day of training with the faculty (and a great video tutorial from planbookedu) they were off and running.  We’ve been using it for four weeks now with no major issues. Even the most technology resistant teacher has found the ease of implementation and use to be outstanding.

For administrators, we have the ability to view every teachers’ lesson plans as they click the “turn-in” button and to review the standards they have entered.  The ability to attach files to the lesson plans means that worksheets, blackline masters, etc are easily accessible.  If a teacher is absent there is not mad rush to find their plans or to go to the emergency substitute teacher lesson plan folder.  The administrator can simply print up the plans and give them to the substitute.  Even better, they can download any files that have been added by the teacher… no more looking for worksheet pages.   I also envision leaving an administrator account open for accreditation committees so that they can view all of the lesson plans at will as they make their recommendations for school accreditation.

An active Social developer

Another great feature is that “liking” the planbookedu page on facebook gives you direct contact to the planbookedu team.  they are very responsive to suggestions, requests, and questions.  When I was going through the installation process they were extremely responsive and quick to answer and help with any questions I had regarding implementation.  I can’t say enough good things about their product or their customer service.

Your Input

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about planbookedu.  Have you tried this product? What do you like and dislike about it? How do you think it compares to other lesson planning software? Share your thoughts. This is an exciting time to be in education!

 

Ps. Here’s a video of planbookedu in action:

 

The next evolutionary step in lesson planning

The old method of lesson planning

The need for change

I remember when I was first introduced to lesson planning during my teacher education coursework in college. We were required to write, in great detail, the many sections of our lesson plans.  I thought that every lesson I would ever write would need to be as detailed as those first lesson plans I created for my credential coursework.  Then, I became a teacher.

I was shocked to learn that most lesson plans were scantily written. In speaking with colleagues from various schools I learned that most lesson plans were short statements designed to fit nicely inside of a small square box within a lesson plan book.  These lesson plan books are what I remember teachers using when I was in elementary school nearly three decades ago.  Is this really happening today?

While this may have been acceptable in an era when the computer was just being introduced to schools and homes, it seems unfathomable that current educators are still using this antiquated method for recording lessons.  Furthermore, the small space almost ensures that very little informative content will ever be provided in the lesson plan book.

Minimally, lesson plans should indicate the specific instructional objectives that students are required to master, alternative ways of learning, and the identification of which way of learning is most appropriate for each student based on their cognitive-processing and perceptual styles. Students also need to know when and how mastery can be evidenced, and the plan should indicate these points. (Dunn et al., 2010, p.195)

This is an excellent framework for the minimum information a lesson plan should include. Yet, very little room for such detailed information exists within the typical lesson-planning book. What then is the modern teacher to do?

Greetings Programs!

I am surprised that most teachers have not tapped the wide resources available that help one to create detailed lesson plans.  We are often trying to infuse technology within our curriculums yet we are expected to maintain our records with pen and paper.  The time has come to graduate from these archaic records and, like Kevin Flynn, enter the world of the computer.

There are many programs that are designed to help teachers create, maintain, and store lesson plans.  After searching for a program that could help me store, print, and search through lesson plans I came across Planbook by Hellmansoft.  This program allows me to keep detailed lesson plans at my fingertips.  The ability to write lessons, incorporate standards, homework, and resources makes this program one of the best that I have encountered.  Currently, I am running the version made for Macintosh, but there is also a PC version available.  I will provide a full review of the software in my next post, however I believe that programs such as this are vital for any teacher who wishes to take lesson planning seriously.

If you’re a teacher, I highly recommend that you conduct a search to find computer programs that will help you to maintain your lesson plans. Not only will hit help you be more efficient, but detailed lesson planning is the first step in helping your students learn.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think about the current state of lesson plans in schools?  Have you found any computer software that you prefer to use for lesson plans?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Maybe we can start to build better learning environments if the foundation upon which we build them is strengthened through our dialogue and ideas.

Photo credit, CaptPiper

References

Dunn, R., Craig, M., Favre, L., Mrkus, D., Pedota, P., Sookdeo, G., et al. (2010). No Light at the end of tunnel vision: Steps for improving lesson plans. Clearing House: A journal of educational strategies, issues and ideas, 83(5).