A few years ago (quite a few), I noticed school districts were spending LOTS of money–in fact, I received an email last week offering a demo–buying web-based systems that allowed teachers to post their lesson plans. It boils down to accountability from the principal perspective, another indicator or metric to use when assessing performance. Another challenge aside from collecting lesson plans for review includes the actual logistics of tracking when whomever turned in their lesson plans. 

As a teacher, there was always the concern about whether lesson plans were turned in on Friday before 3:00 PM or Monday before 10:00 AM. There appeared to be a discernible stigma–entirely imaginary but no less a spur–for reluctant teachers who failed to get their lesson plans in on time. This is such a contentious issue, in fact, that teacher unions have managed to get lesson plans abolished altogether, which can sometimes push teachers to have–as Plugusin tweeted a short time ago–scripted lessons that any teacher, new or creatively oppressed, can implement in the Curriculum binder, whether electronic or 3-ring black monstrosity that rivals the Bible for the imperiousness of its commandments.

Since the invention of the wiki and its use in schools, it became a no-brainer from my perspective to encourage teachers and their campus administrators to use that as the place to post lesson plans.

Unfortunately, my encouragement incorrectly assumed these points:

  1. Classroom teachers would be able to use the “obviously easy” wiki solution deployed for them.
  2. Lesson plans should be public and available for anyone to review.
  3. Campus administrators would learn how to use the resource and take advantage of it.
  4. After a year of use, everyone would settle in and things would work out.
As you might guess, staff didn’t learn how to use the wiki solution. In fact, they couldn’t use it unless someone was on the campus helping them–like a Campus Instructional Technologist–which a lot of school sites just can’t afford. And, more importantly, not everyone felt comfortable putting their lesson plans “out there” for the world to see, but especially, their peers.
Now, with more finely-grained account management, wiki pages can be private and controlled. But is a wiki setup by the District, even one hosted by a web-based provider, going to work? It all depends on the will of the people and the support they get. In short, it’s about relationships.
I found Jared Reck’s (Google Certified Teacher) account of using the tools available for the job to accomplish lesson plan sharing/review worth reading. Here is his summation of the challenge:

Quick story – my district HAD its teachers print out and hand in on a weekly basis their lesson plans.  Plans are handed to a secretary every Friday, added to a huge pile, as she tries to somehow check off everyone that has handed them in as well as those who have not – then she files them away.  Repeat the next week.  There needed to be a change.

In response to this problem,  Reck is inspired to introduce his solution, not unlike other educators armed with the wiki that will eliminate paper lesson plan books:

I actually created a public GCal with links to each weeks submission forms.  I then had each teacher click the +Google chicklet so that this lesson plan submission calendar was added to their “Other” Calendar list.  The teachers just need to create their lesson plans in GDocs (either from scratch/template or upload) and then publish as a webpage (copying the URL) – then go to the Lesson Plan Submission Calendar – click the appropriate week and fill out the form (pasting the URL).  As the teachers entries come in, their names turn green and those that have not submitted remain red.  It has become so easy for our secretaries to police this process and also keep all lesson plans on file digitally as the colors simplify the process.  If a teacher has not turned in their lesson plan for the specified week, they can email them in one click (see column D of spreadsheet).

The admins. in my district are very excited to implement this process as we move forward with our Google Apps for Education.  It is a perfect application of the power GDocs and GCal can hold – not to mention a time saver for the secretaries that would be collecteing all of the hard copies every Friday.

Check it out and feel free to use it as you wish.

Regrettably, the link results in a message that states the owner has changed the sharing options.

Update 03/14/2010 – Link now works

But for those of you using GoogleApps for Education, is this a solution for handling the logistics of lesson plans being due?

What would you do?
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure