As 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!
Let’s just set aside the fact that I am struggling to stay organized and ahead of the game as a part time teacher, and that this year I will only get to see my students once or twice a week, and at 2 (or hopefully 3!) different schools. Instead, let’s focus on the monumental challenge of incorporating technology into that teaching and into my own organization and planning.
It’s August, and high time I start organizing my life for teaching this year. So I began by thinking about how I would track what I was teaching to who and when. Sounds easy right? In the past I have used a binder as a daybook at one school. This year is different though. First of all, I will definitely be teaching at two different schools, and maybe more. So do I create a different daybook for each school or do I lug my daybook around to each school. OR, do I get with the program and use my iPad as a daybook. Bingo. iPad.
Okay…. so which app should I use? Today I started browsing the apps available that will help me create a digital daybook. Last year, and in years past, I have dabbled with a few. When I was working in an LTO as a planning teacher, I used my laptop (pre iPad days) and downloaded Planbook. It was decent, but really hard to set up, and not flexible in any way. Last year, I tried LiveBinder on my iPad. I liked that I could create my own daysheet as a pdf and add notes to it, but it didn’t really meet all of my needs.
When I create a physical daybook, I set it up with my schedule and then just write in the days as I go. I add my lessons in pen, and write reflections after I teach. I do this because it is usually a week, or sometimes more before I see those students again and continue with the lesson or the unit in question. So the most ideal thing for me to do would be to write my own app and customize it the way I want. But how in the world do you do that?