Reviews

Review: Planbook

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planbook screenshotAs a planning teacher going from school to school, the last thing I want to do is lug a huge daybook binder all over the place with me.  As a 21st century teacher, I am striving to use less paper.  Last spring at Edcamp Hamilton, I was speaking with a teacher who said she is under no illusions that she can be paperless as a teacher, but she can use paper less.  I thought it was brilliant, and have been striving to use less paper myself.  It was this mission that had me struggling to find a way to create a digital daybook in August.

I downloaded a few different apps and programs, and have started using and having some success with Planbook.  What I like about this program is that it is all online, so there is nothing to install on my computer, but at the same time there is an app for the iPad that syncs with my online account.  So I can enter my lessons and plans online on my laptop, and then just pull them up on my iPad.

Planbook is not free, unfortunately.  However, it only costs $12 per year to use, and new users get a free trial for 30 days.  Had I known that, I would not likely have signed up at the beginning of August, but closer to the end so I could really take it for a test drive during the month of September.

Having used Planbook for roughly a month, I am pretty happy with what it does so far.  It was fairly easy to set up my schedule on a rotating 5 day cycle, although it wasn’t quite as intuitive as I would like.  Teachers who are new to this kind of technology may struggle a little to figure out how it all works, but with a little time and some online help, it is fairly straightforward.

My favourite feature of Planbook is the link to the curriculum.  In each lesson, you can actually look up curriculum standards from a bunch of different locations, including Australia, Canada (Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick), Scotland, and the U.S. (both state and national).  Curriculum expectations can be filtered by grade, subject, and category, and once you have found what you are looking for, you simply highlight it and add it to your lesson.  The expectation is displayed right in your daybook for future reference.

You can add lessons by the calendar view, or you can go into each class and add lessons within the class framework, on the cycle you have created.  This is very important for me as a planning teacher at two different schools!

I also like the fact that you can attach files to your schedule within planbook.   When I have a handout or want to print an actual lesson plan, I can find it attached to my daily plans (if I have attached it!) and print it off or just look at it for reference on my iPad.

The main problem I have found with planbook is that if you put too much detail into your daily plans it includes it in the plan display screen.  The best thing seems to be to type a brief summary of the lesson you will be doing and then attaching a lesson plan to the note.  The problem here, of course, is that I do not type up lesson plans for everything I do in the classroom, and I know that not many (if any) teachers do.

The other downside is that there is no way to add class lists or assessments to Planbook.  So if you are looking for a lesson plan suite, this is not your program.  However, since I do most of my data collection on Evernote, Planbook fits well into my system.  For now anyway!

 

My First EdCamp

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I want to start this post by saying that I am feeling overwhelmed right now with all of my new learning and the way I have started using technology in my PLN.  I have a bunch of blog posts in my head and am trying to filter them so that they are relevant and useful to people who may be reading, rather than just spewing thoughts from my head as they appear there.

On Saturday I attended EdCamp Hamilton with my colleagues from the AQ course I am currently taking with Brenda Sherry (Integrating Information and Computer Technology in Instruction, Part 1).  I had never been to an event like this before, and I honestly have mixed feelings about it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the EdCamp model, it is what is referred to as an “unconference.”  Basically, you show up to the event with some ideas of what you would like to discuss with like-minded attendees.  Everyone meets at the beginning of the event to pose their questions, and then the questions are posted on a schedule.  You choose the discussions you want to join, and everyone contributes.  There is no leader.

There are, however, organizers who set up the event and run things on the day.  For EdCamp Hamilton, we had a great team of organizers, who did an absolutely amazing job.  The event ran smoothly, and there was a great turnout.  Lunch was delicious, the space was great, the scheduling was done quickly and efficiently, and the organizers were extremely helpful.

I first want to say that since joining Twitter I have met so many educators online, and the best part of EdCamp for me was seeing a bunch of them face to face.  However, I was a little outside my comfort zone, and therefore didn’t talk to many people or introduce myself to them.  In retrospect, I think this is the problem I had with the EdCamp model.

I took part in some great discussions with some amazing educators, doing amazing things in their classrooms.  But I don’t think I enjoyed the event as much as I could have, simply because I was more reserved and introverted than a lot of the people in attendance.  I also missed having someone to lead the discussions and present a visual to accompany my learning.

In short, I’m not sure what this model can really offer that I can’t do on Twitter or by reading blogs.  Yes, it’s nice to chat with people about what they are doing in a face to face atmosphere, but how is it really that different from a Twitter chat?  I think I prefer the traditional conference model, although I do recognize that my reserved attitude on Saturday may be to blame.  Perhaps if I had put myself out there a little more and introduced myself to more people, I may feel differently right now.

Feeling Twitterpated

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This week marks another first for me: I participated in a Twitter chat.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

For those of you – like me – who are new to Twitter (or at least new to using it as a professional resource rather than a place to follow your favourite celebrities), this is what I have learned about Twitter chats:

 

  • Before the chat begins, the moderator assigns a hashtag, so everyone can follow along.  Hashtags are searchable.
  • When the chat begins, everyone participating uses the assigned hashtag to answer questions posted by the moderator, or to open a discussion with other participants.
  • Moderators label questions Q1, Q2, Q3, etc.
  • When answering a moderator’s questions, participants use A1, A2, A3, etc.
  • Chats are usually limited to an hour or so, and well defined in terms of an agenda.

The chat I participated in was #Cdnedchat.   It was massively successful, and even the moderators were surprised at the participation level.  The tweets were flying by so fast that I still haven’t had a chance to read them all, but I did connect with some new people, and added them to my PLN.  As a result, I have some new ideas to look in to, and will hopefully be posting some exciting uses for technology in the primary divisions very soon.

In the meantime, if you want to take a look at a nice version of the #cdnedchat, take a look at the Storify they made, or better yet, look them up on Twitter!  @Cdnedchat

 

Getting Googley – Originally Published for my Tech class Apr. 22, 2013

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This past weekend I was extremely lucky. I got to attend the first Google Apps for Education Ontario Summit.

I have been telling everyone that the Google Summit changed my life, and it is absolutely true. I really feel that I am looking at education and technology in a completely different way than I did before I attended this amazing event. Yes, I learned a lot of cool things about Google Apps and some impressive tricks that I can wow my friends with. But that wasn’t the best thing I took away from the Summit. Not even close.

What I came home with was a deeper understanding of what it means to be a teacher and a student today. And what I have discovered is that it’s okay to not have all of the answers. As a teacher I have a plethora of tools to help me find the answers, and a world-wide network of like-minded teachers, to help me and inspire me, at my finger tips.

And most importantly, it doesn’t matter what technology tools I prefer to use in my classroom, because the fast pace of these innovations is fostering a mindset of testing things out and seeing what works. There will always be new and better things available to me and to my students. But taking that plunge into something new and exploring it together is an authentic learning process that will be repeated over and over in my life and in the lives of my students.

As a teacher, I can lead my students into responsible digital citizenship, by being a responsible, innovative, and inspiring digital citizen myself. And that is now my major career goal.

Click here to see a presentation I made summing up my experience at the Google Apps for Education Summit