Archive for the ‘Tools’ category

Consolidating webspace

Sunday, 13 January 2008

bashing education is no longer…well, as far as a separate site, I’ve just deleted the wordpress.com blog and moved all the entries over here to vergilscoffee.com. (And, perhaps, you can imagine why).

My hopes for bashing education will still live and I figure that instead of having special sites for special topics really doesn’t make too much sense (especially because I wasn’t generating a lot of content on bashing education anyway).

So, I’m doing what many other are: consolidating all the stuff we have out there and trying to put it in one place–one Miscellaneous place, if I may–and let you the reader stumble upon and find stuff here.

Stikkit to Lesson Plans

Friday, 7 December 2007

(And my apologies to Stikkit for the lousy title).

I’m as interested as the next teacher who likes the technology stuff to get organized. Lesson planning is no exception.

Most of us began our scripting of beautiful lesson plans with those really nice spiral-bound Lesson Plan books that even gave us some overview of the basics of a lesson plan and perhaps, a refresher of Bloom’s taxonomy. And so, each year, I would faithful chart out my beginning days of the trimester during the beginning of the year meetings and feel good that I had “planned out” or “organized” my classes. I had a plan and I had a book to keep those plans in.

Then, like many other types of organizers, I would miss a day and then a week. I would scratch down an outline of the day in my composition book or on a sticky note only to neglect my faithful Lesson Plan Book.

Enter the power (and distraction) of the computer and the internet and now we’re faced with countless possibilities in managing the shape of how our classes will look, feel, act, and move. Many mimic the paper version of the Lesson Planner Book that we grew up with; others will add lots of Standards-based features. In the end, I really could not take any of those programs seriously.

Most of last year, I used Dave Winer’s OPML editor. In a sense, I used the outlining feature because it was simple, fast and very flexible. It was fairly transferable to other programs and was very easy to create sub plans. I really liked that there were both a Mac and a Windows version of the program so that I could work from home and at school on my plans.

But because of some glitch with my computer, I really couldn’t use the OPML editor this school year. So, I went back to the paper Lesson Planner Book, but still longed for an easier way to keep track of my day-to-day plans (for I would sometimes forget to update the plans in the book). I found myself writing daily plans on sticky notes.

Because I’ve listen to Merlin Mann on other podcasts, I checked out Stikkits awhile ago and then didn’t see the value for yet another sticky note metaphor. A week ago, when trying to decide to organize my student publication class, I returned to Stikkit and decided to take it for a spin in organizing my stuff through a favorite metaphor (who doesn’t love the sticky note? Sort of a twitter on a piece of paper).

And though I went with a wiki for organizing my student publications class, I found that Stikkit is really smart and cool and easy to use.I won’t take much time explaining how to use the site as I would encourage to start playing around and look at the online help; create some Stikkits and see what happens to those notes.

Stikkit Lesson PlanningI like Stikkits for lesson planning because it does remain flexible and “thinks” through some of my items and cross references certain items to todo things or time-sensitive stuff. I have an overall shape for my classes (the big picture) along with the pacing of the weeks (what I want to accomplish). Lesson plans, as I see it, are the outline to carry out that shape or intent of the day–it’s a set list that you may have for a gig; it’s the songs with a few transitions and key changes and perhaps a few words to help move the performance along. For me, it’s not necessary to mark down all of the details (that seems to come in other documents); for me, the plan is enough information that I or someone (such as a sub) could work their way through the class. (If I’ve done my job right, students already have an idea of the pacing of my class).

So I’ve using Stikkits for that past few days and I think I’ve found my lesson planner. From this example, I list my classes and use the todo key term (-) to indicate something to check off. The rest of the example is enough information, in an outline form, to help prompt me through my classes. Some feature that I really like are the tagging feature (which, for right now, I just put at the bottom) and the Discussion tab, which I use for my own reflection on the day or ways that I could use Stikkits more effectively.

My only misgiving with the program as a lesson planner is printing: it’s not very clean and there’s extra stuff (the side bar, for example) that shows up on the printed page. The only really reason why I need to print out my lesson is in case I need a substitute teacher. In that case, I plan on doing a copy/paste into a word processor for formating prettiness (and clarity for the sub). (Update: I’m ill today and I tried this, and it works great: I just copied from Flock [a Firefox-based browser] and pasted into a new OpenOffice doc and the result was very pretty: all formating transfered as it should).

One of my favorite things about Stikkits is that I find out how dang simple it is and yet how that simplicity can be very powerful; I learn something new almost everyday. I could see how I really don’t need GoogleNotebook nor GoogleCalendar because through the strong sticky note metaphor, I can keep all my notes in one place. And, if you’ve done some GTD stuff or training, then you will find how Stikkits fit right well in managing tasks.

I’ll give up an update in a week to let know you know what I’ve learned (and, if I’ve kept up with Stikkits).