PlanBook: A Strong Lesson Planner for the Weekly Calendar

Today I noticed that PlanBook 2.06 has been released for the Macintosh. It’s also available in a Windows version (which I haven’t tested yet, but hope to). If you like to use the computer to organize your ideas, I recommend it!

The key focus of PlanBook is on weekly calendaring. I tend to think this way, as a college teacher, and my course plan always is conceptualized right from the get-go on a weekly system. This excellent “lesson plan” generator allows teachers to organize courses in a ‘weekly calendar’ mode, while remaining flexible enough to keep individual class units in the foreground, through color coding and filtering systems. You can schedule classes, enter lesson information, link up entries to files, and print professional looking reports. While there are many software-based teaching tools, this one really fills a gap because few are about the actual organization of learning units, and most are instead focused on grading or student communication.

I don’t usually keep lesson plans the way that most people do; I organize my files by thematic clusters, and chart my plans on the syllabus, rather than in some private binder or lockstep chart. But I still found this software useful post-facto, because it allowed me to keep track of what I did every period. After a class, I would go into PlanBook, type out what I was able to cover in class that day, and save it for future reference. Later, I found myself going back to this ‘journal’ to both track what I wanted to quiz students on, and also plot out revisions to my future course calendars.

The interface is relatively easy to use, once you figure out the routine ways of keying in information for each course. Although I haven’t tested the Windows version, I know that it ‘fits’ the Mac paradigm well, and is intuitive enough to use in a customized way, depending on how you work. It is easily adaptable to different school calendar systems (like a 6 period school day or a two week rotation). This, I think, is one of its numerous appeals.

Software like this needs to be approached as a tool for organizing and planning. Most faculty might want this to plot out a course, week by week. It lends itself toward processing ideas in this way, and can help keep you organized. But many will likely say they can do this the old fashioned way, with pen and paper.

But I see the side benefits of doing this on a computer with dedicated software: you can run searches for, say, every time you’ve taught a particular text; you can build a good archive of lessons for assessment purposes; you can print out or e-mail your lesson plans to a substitute teacher from home; or you can simply publish your homework calendar for students to view online. Yes, PlanBook can publish your lesson plans to the web, and I think this is a very strong component of the software, especially if you don’t already have access to a campus Content Management System.

There’s not much more to say about it: it works, it helps, and it rocks. Verdict: A+!
PlanBook is a great way to “process” your calendar and I recommend you give it a try — especially if you HAVE no routine system of your own for course planning yet. Visit Hellmansoft to download a demo.

Published by

Michael Arnzen

Professor of English, Seton Hill University.