I’m a teacher. I’m a Mac user. One thing I constantly strive for is a way to be more efficient in the classroom, to find ways to manage more class lessons in less time.
Macs are big in schools, but don’t always come with the software we need to teach. If you teach, or know someone who does, make sure they try Planbook.
Teachers, maybe more than any other profession, know that each day has only so many hours. Schools tend to cram in plenty of extra, and time consuming, paperwork and activities.
Planning—no, effective planning—becomes essential for success with students and personal peace of mind. Planbook helps by letting teachers organize daily plans for multiple classes.
The Planbook interface is basic and pretty much like a paper plan book and quite similar to iCal. Planbook can handle daily schedules from standard six period days to two week rotations.
Even adjust schedules for changes such as holidays, cancelled days, or anything else that interferes with scheduling.
Teaching is often a love of labor, though we tend to labor for our love. That’s why people in my profession tend to use Macs, tend to look for utilities which make the day-to-day schedule and detail grind a bit easier to manage.
Planbook’s Schedule component lets you enter up to 20 different courses. That’s extreme, but it happens. Name each course, choose the start and end dates for each. Half semester, quarterly semester, whole years, summer schedule.
Then, choose the specific days to be in the classroom. It even schedules days off. Teachers will understand the scheduling terminology options; repeat, weekly repeat, A/B block, and so on.
For teachers who don’t teach the same courses each day, Planbook lets you assign each type of day in the schedule.
No teacher gets away with working only on school days. Non-school days, including holidays, can be entered into the schedule. Vacations, too.
Once schedules are set up, enter lesson data. Create a lesson, enter and edit in one of seven text areas. Lessons are kept separate for better organization, but all contain a Title, Teacher Information, Homework Assignments, and both Student and Public information.
Teachers can also use three user definable customized entry fields specific to special needs. These information fields can track supplies requirements, lesson objectives, guest speakers, and more.
Can you say spell checking? That’s one of the better built-in features, along with basic text formatting; bold, italics, underline, different fonts and colors.
My favorite feature is handouts. Paperwork is a battle for the class room teacher. If it’s not assignments it’s forms. Planbook gives teachers a central location to manage both—or anything else related to a lesson or schedule.
Import and attach PDF files, Word document files, spreadsheets, whatever—including Keynote files, MP3 audio files, even movie clips.
Teaching in the 21st century also means using the web as a learning resources. I have hundreds of URLs in my bookmarks. But a URL doesn’t always tell what’s behind the link.
Planbook stores URLs, too, along with a description of the content of the web page. That makes it easy to share links with students and attach appropriate links to lesson plans.
If you utilize a digital projector attached to your Mac in the class room, then Planbook lets you pull up lessons, files, and web links right on the screen.
Sure, pretty much everything can be printed from Planbook. But in this day and age being able to share information on the web is a must. Planbook publishes information in one of three very basic ways—local to your Mac to share as a file, FTP to a server to share with others, or to MobileMe.
Again, that makes it easy to share files and information and to publish the Planbook.
Planbook also utilizes Apple’s WebKit (the engine that runs Safari) so you can create a custom theme for your published plan book. Three types of pages are supported—a monthly index, the main Planbook index, and your actual lesson plan.
Set up lesson plans and schedules with keywords and organize into groups of folders. That makes it easy to track various lessons.
If you’re a teacher in a school system with both Macs and PCs, rejoice even more, since Planbook is both Mac and PC compatible. The software’s cost is modest and features heft discounts beginning at 11 licenses.
I have half a dozen must have applications and utilities in my class room. Planbook is one to try and one to buy.