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:

 

Synthesizing photosynthesis in 7th Grade

ps3

Blogs are your friend!!!

Okay, I am a firm believer in never having to re-invent the wheel.  There are so many great educators in the world and many of them share their ideas and lessons freely on the Internet.  I ran across one such lesson which utilized technology to help 7th grade students learn about photosynthesis.   Educator Tara Raymon’s blog details a very nice lesson that is highly engaging for students.  You can access the lesson here.

Some Assembly Required!

Now every school site is different in terms of its technology resources and every teacher has different teaching styles.  That means that you cannot simply go to a blog and tell your students to start working on the instructions verbatim.  Some changes will be necessary because only you know your technology resources, skills, and the students who are in your class. Taking the time to evaluate the lesson and adapt it to your own classroom situation is vital to students successfully mastering the concept. I have 7th grade technology courses once a week for 45 minutes of instruction.  That means that a lot of what we do is built upon previous lessons in the technology lab.  Using what the students already knew, I adapted the lesson with only minor changes to help the students garner a firm grasp of the material.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… OPEN SOURCE OPENS DOORS!

I’m a firm believer in the open source movement.  It helps schools to drastically reduce operational cost of technology while putting quality materials into the hands of teachers and students.  For this lesson I utilized Mozilla Firefox as well as Tux Paint.  I know what you’re probably thinking… ‘Tux paint… isn’t that for little kids?’  Well yes… and… well no. Yes little kids can utilize tux paint (and they do so regularly in my class).  However I explained to the 7th grade students (who were already familiar with the program) that they would need to broaden the use of the program .  That I expected quality work from them.  And I was not disappointed in the results.

My Adapted (only slightly) Version of this lesson

So here’s how it all works.

I provided students with URLs to the materials by utilizing TinyURL to help them see the benefits of using a web 2.0 tool to shorten URLS and to ease in their entry of the URLs into their Firefox browser.

Step I.

Students are asked to type in http://tinyurl.com/jh6kg into the address bar of their browser.  This, of course also allows me to assess if students know what a URL is and where to correctly enter the address.  Strict attention to detail is necessary because an incorrectly typed URL will not lead to the correct page.  This is something that is vital for my students to learn before they get to the 8th grade when they will be taught HTML and CSS using only text editors.

This takes students to the NOVA website where they can launch the flash animation Illuminating Photosynthesis.  I instruct students that they are to explore this animation and to pay careful attention because they will be expected to produce something with what they are learning.

Step II

After visiting this site, I ask students to type the following URL into their address bar: http://tinyurl.com/qtfywl Once more I ask them to explore the entire site and to pay careful attention to the material.

Step III

I ask students to open Tux Paint.  They are expected to produce a picture depicting how photosynthesis and respiration occur in plants and animals.  This must be representative of a cycle. I inform students that I am looking for creativity and for everything to be neat and labeled.

I also instruct students on the popular hot-key command ALT-TAB to switch between the full screen view of Tux Paint and their Firefox windows. I allow this so that their affective filter is lowered with regards to trying to memorize the entire respiration cycle.

Step IV

Students save their work and then are told that they can type in the following URL into their address bar: http://tinyurl.com/4qkjvkw, this is a very fun and interactive review of photosynthesis and all the students loved finishing with this portion of the assignment.  I was thoroughly impressed with the level of creativity and mastery that my students demonstrated in their pictures of the respiration cycle.

So, What’s your Story?

So what’s your story? Have you used tux paint to help students demonstrate mastery of a topic? What are your thoughts and questions?  If you try this lesson, please comment, I’d love to hear how you used it or altered it to make it work for your class.  Was it a success? A failure? Share your story, we’d love to hear from you!

*Note: the pictures here are actual student work in progress… Not completed but on a great start!

ps1