Darn Lesson Plans … Damn Them I Say

Cat on laptop
Image by dougwoods via Flickr
When I was a class teacher, lesson plans used to be the bane of my life; I hated them! I hated writing them and I would waste, I mean spend, so much of my time writing them. Of course, when I first started teaching, we didn’t have computers so we used to handwrite our plans. Writing plans by hand took time, of course, as you can imagine. So when computers came along, you’d think things would get easier, wouldn’t you? Don’t be silly! People thought that using a computer would be quicker and neater than handwriting your plans. As it was quicker, you’d have more time, time to spend writing other things, like schemes of work, reports, or even more lesson plans. Using a computer certainly made my lesson plans neater; if you had seen my handwriting, you’d understand! As for time, though, using a computer took just as long as writing by hand. What people seemed to overlook is that it wasn’t the writing of the plans that took the time, it was the thinking;- thinking about what to do, how to do it and choosing resources. Once you had identified these, the writing them down took no longer than typing them on a computer. In the early days, a teacher would have to type each lesson plan from scratch. As word-processing developed, along came templates and the teacher found she could simply add text into a lesson-plan template. This was designed to make the task of creating lesson plans a bit easier but it did mean that your thinking and planning had to be constrained into the format of the template used. So at the turn of the century, teachers and schools would find that they had tens, dozens, hundreds of lesson plans all written on the ubiquitous Word program and all lying around on sheets of paper! Then people started thinking, wouldn’t it be nicer and tidier to start collecting and collating all these lesson plans. This led to a boom in the market for ring-binders and hole punches which staff would use so that they could store all their nicely typed lesson plans. All of that may have seemed fine for the 1990s but nowadays we seem to think that we needn’t print off our lesson plans, we can read them on screen, we can store them electronically. In addition, we often find it useful to have active hyperlinks in our lesson plans so that we can call up and run digital resources quickly, easily and directly from within our plans. We also seem to think it is ‘greener’, more environmentally friendly, not to print our plans but to display them on screen. In this way we do not waste paper or printer ink and reduce our ‘consumables’ cost (while perhaps ignoring the cost of electricity in running our laptops!) Why is it, though, that when we go around schools, we still see lesson plans being drawn up using a program that is principally designed to create documents to be printed on paper? Why does the pagination in our word-processing program still fit A4 or Letter sizes, does this matter? Equally, should we be concerned about how to orientate between portrait and landscape layouts? If our work is not going to be printed, why do we concern ourselves with these tools? Surely, at the start of the 21st Century there must be a better way for teachers to plan lessons! I have seen a few schools use spreadsheets for lesson planning and some use a mind- or concept mapping tool for planning. Neither of which are ideal, though they appear to work well for some circumstances. I believe there is a better way. I believe also that the first example of a better way can be seen in a program called Learning Score. It is a program that allows teachers to link directly to digital resources, to allocate time to them within a lesson and to call them up directly on a computer. It allows time also to be allocated for non-digital work within a lesson. It also allows for such time to be adjusted according to the differentiated needs of groups or individual learners. I will not go into all the merits of Learning Score here, this post has gone on too long already and I have mentioned the program elsewhere on this blog. I would , though, urge all teachers or edtech leaders to examine the program. I will admit that the program has not yet made the impact on schools that I feel it could/should but I guess that is because not enough have yet tried it out. By way of a final thought. In these days of personalised learning and learning transformation, should we not be showing the learners how to create their own lesson plans? Rather than follow the traditional route of having lesson plans that are teacher created and teacher led, could we not hand lesson planning over to the pupils to encourage them to take on the responsibility for their own learning?