A teacher and a plan book go together like peanut butter and jelly. The problem with a traditional plan book is that it is one more thing to carry around or lose. I’ve been searching for a digital plan book for years, and I think I finally found the right one. Planbook by Hellmansoft is a plan book for your Mac (it works on Windows, too) that is easy to use and affordable. The developer, Jeff Hellman, has done a great job in making this a fully useable digital plan book. I guess being a teacher himself had a lot to with that.
First, Planbook has the look of a tradition paper handbook. The interface is great, and could not be any easier to understand.
You can view you plans in a weekly or daily view, and you can also view one class at a time or all of your classes. A monthly view would be a nice addition. The main interface screen also has a search field for finding specific lessons by keyword, and a handy calendar that helps with navigating through the year.
One really nice feature is an input window for entering holidays, which then automatically appear in the plan book as that date appears. Of course, different schools have different start and end dates, and plan book allows you to enter these dates for your school. This then becomes the range of dates in the book.
Entering data is a piece of cake. You double click where you want to enter a plan and a side panel slides out. You can enter your plan information here.
You can even attach a full lesson plan file to the entry and, one of my favorite features, is you can attach files to the entry. These files can be visuals or handouts that go with the lesson. This is a great way for keeping yourself organized. Instead of searching your hard drive for a file you need for a lesson, just attach it to your plan. My only problem here was that I could not attach certain file types. The version I tested had file type limitations to the “Browse and Attach” a file feature. I have been told that this will be fixed in the next update. For now, dragging and dropping any file type onto a lesson works to solve this issue.
Another fantastic feature of Planbook is the ability to publish you plan book online for students, parents, administrators, substitutes, etc. to see. It is published in a standard online calendar view, similar to a published iCal calendar.
When you publish your plan book you have to option of which information to publish. You can even choose form a variety of themes for your published plan book. One of Hellman’s published planbooks can be seen here: http://hellman.sciteacher.com/assignments/Physical%20Science/March2007.html. Publishing can be done via FTP or to your .Mac account. I’d really like to see .Mac syncing so that you could sync your plan book between a school computer and a home computer.
I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention some of the other great Planbook features, but you can see how great it is yourself by downloading the fully functional demo. The only limit in the demo is how many lessons you can enter per class (20). After trying it, you’ll probably agree that Planbook is a great replacement for the traditional paper plan book. I’ll be using it this coming school year!