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Summary:

Many schools foot the bill to get good Macs into their teachers’ hands. Mac developers know this and there are many different educational apps that teachers and students can use to make learning better. Pass this review along to your educator friends and let them taste […]

Many schools foot the bill to get good Macs into their teachers’ hands. Mac developers know this and there are many different educational apps that teachers and students can use to make learning better. Pass this review along to your educator friends and let them taste a little bit of the good life.

Overview

The tagline for Planbook is “Making one part of your day a little bit easier…” Planbook by Jeff Hellman is a digital planbook, and a little more.

Useful Features

One of the best uses of this program is a digital file folder. I do so much on the computer because it the only part of my life that is organized. Below is a screenshot of the main interface. You can click it to see a bigger picture.

It is very easy to add lesson plans. You just click on the day, and a drawer opens that allows you to enter in plans, homework, public/student information, and upload files or attach web addresses. You can divide it up by class. Many teachers don’t make actual lesson plans, but this program makes it so easy and useful, why wouldn’t you?

The demo version allows you to make up to 20 lesson plans; everything else is fully functional. I did that for a little, deleting the first lesson to make another, etc., but then, after a while, I realized that it would be better to just pay the $30 to buy it. It is very intuitve, easy to use, and responsive. It doesn’t bog the computer down, either.

Some other features include the ability to run weekly and lesson reports that you can give to your administrators, students, students’ parents, or just to post on the wall. You can also add as many files and links as you want so you don’t have to worry about all your filing cabinets overflowing.

The best feature though, is that you can use publish your files to FTP, .Mac (which I don’t have), or to a local folder. The really great thing about this is that I can publish all the lesson plans to my website and then I just direct kids there when they are absent or lost a paper. It is a great tool for teachers because the calls from parents, complaints from kids, or anything that slows down the teaching process gets really annoying. I know there are a lot of other systems out there, that teachers use to keep their makeup work process easy and accessible, but this system works the best of the four I have tried. When kids leave on vacation, and I don’t have the lesson plans ready, I can just tell them to check the website while on vacation (like their going to do any work anyway!) and then it is their and their parents’ responsibility.

This is also especially useful for when a teacher needs a substitute. All you need to do is call in for your sub and have the secretary print out the directions for class that day.

Below is a picture of what it looks like on the web:

I love that all the handouts are on there. You can also change the themes so that it looks different. You can even make your own theme, if you know CSS.

Speaking of handouts, you can print a list of all the handouts you have given throughout the year and sort it by class, name of handout, whether or not it was published, the description, and the link address. In addition, you can tag each lesson plan so that you can link each plan to a standard that the kids must know. When they don’t learn something they should, you can find lesson plans that will help them learn certain standards.

Opinion

It is pretty apparent what my opinion of this software is. I love it. I do have a few suggestions, though, that would make it better. But first, I digress: Apple has the Apple Design Awards but I don’t think that they have anything for exceptional customer service or excellent tech support for developers who go above and beyond. If they did, this developer should win that award.

Jeff Hellman is a teacher. He does this in his spare time. Earlier this year, when I first bought it, I had a hard time publishing the lesson plans to the web. It was really frustrating, and I emailed Jeff, and he helped me out within a couple hours. It was the fastest customer service I have ever received. On his website, he mentions that people lost data when they upgraded to Leopard. He says

As a teacher/developer, my goal is to save my users’ time. If your planbook file loses its data, I’m not saving you time and I’m probably making you miserable. Data integrity is my number one priority and this is why the data loss bug that several users reported on Leopard was so disconcerting to me.

He runs a Yahoo Group that discusses problems, and you can tell that he reads every single post that someone puts on there. Each time I have had a question or concern, he has responded.

Jeff really cares about making a quality product, and that is a great thing.

Here are my meager suggestions:

  1. An RSS feed for the new updates so parents (or administrators, if they are like that) can see what needs to be done each day. Or, it would be neat if the program could email some information on each day’s lesson plans to the parents so they wouldn’t have to check the site every day. The email would also help teachers who don’t have a domain name or a .mac account.
  2. The dialog box for uploading files should go to the last folder used. When you attach a file, the dialog box opens up to your home folder every time. This can get kind of annoying since I have a folder that contains all my handouts. If I add more than one file to a lesson plan, it is inconvenient to go through all my folder hierarchy to get to that one file I need.

These two additions are really the only things that I have been bothered by since using this program. Everything else has been resolved so fast by Jeff Hellman, that I don’t remember the problems.

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  1. I’m so glad you reviewed this software! I’m a HUGE fan of Jeff’s work and of him as a developer. I came across this software mid school-year last year, and jumped in with both feet. When it moved from beta to release, I purchased it immediately – and I’ve never looked back! Both the Yahoo Group and Jeff’s devotion to making awesome software for teachers is an exemplar for the rest of the developing world! It’s incredible! It’s easy to use. It makes life easier for me. It works in just the way you’d expect it to. And if it doesn’t, Jeff will probably be updating it, like, tonight… Kudos! Check out my site to see how it integrates with iWeb. Click on [Lesson] to see Planbook’s publishing in action.

  2. I love this programme. It’s made my life as a trainee teacher so much easier, every time I show someone my planner by opening my laptop, and immediately can find all my powerpoints, websites and worksheets they want to know if its available for windows.

  3. Jeff Hellman Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    Thanks so much for the review and comments. I’m glad that Planbook is helping make a really hard job easier for you all.

    For the record, the Windows version of Planbook 1.0 is complete. It’s a bit different than the Mac version. I haven’t officially released it yet because I need to sit down and write the Help files for the application, and I don’t really have time for that until my students are done with their AP Chemistry tests next week. If you have interested Windows users, point them to my web site (www.hellmansoft.com) or directly to the Google Group for the windows version: http://groups.google.com/group/planbook-for-windows

    Thanks again!
    Jeff

  4. Steve Hickey Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    I agree with all the positive sentiment regarding this application. It has now become an essential tool that I can not imagine living without. Students, parents and administrators have all been impressed with what it offers them as well. Other teachers at my school are now using the application and the school has budgeted for a site license for next year for the whole school. The more you use this program the more uses for it become apparent.

    I will always need a mac as I can not drop this application!

    Steve

  5. Tristan Forsyth Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    I too love this programme…its one of the few educational softwares that I actually use consistently day in and day out (and I have been using it for a while as well which says a lot for me as I tend to buy and the forget after a week or two as it gets too difficult)

    The beauty of planbook is its adaptability. As an Aussie, 99% of the educational admin software out there is aimed at the American educational system which is fine and dandy for them but not so good for me!!

    My only criticism is that you cannot (at the moment) have a weekly view in your published site which lists all of your classes for the week that you can click on to go to the individual description. Knowing Jeff though (and his very quick response time and marvelous efforts), this feature is not too far off!! A built in mark book would be a godsend (so I only have to have one programme open on my desk) as well but thats not the aim of the software.

    I love Planbook….plain and simple!! (Jeff’s a legend as well but I dont know him well enough to say I love him as well!!!!)
    lol

    thanks again Jeff, you deserve all the kudos and publicity we can generate for you

  6. Belen Ramirez Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    As a new teacher, Planbook has really helped me to be more organized and stay on track with our schools pacing guides. I love that anyone can access my plans online and see where we are in the curriculum and that students and parents can access the class page and get handouts or see what they missed during absences. This program is amazingly easy to use, but at the same time not simplistic in its features!

    Planbook has made my life a lot easier as a new teacher and I think anyone out there looking for an easy to use, but very useful planning program would really enjoy using Planbook.

  7. Generally speaking, I find Planbook quite useful; however, there are some bugs that I have reported to no avail. First, the scroll arrows do not always function as they should. Second, and this is quite important, if I wish to print my plans weekly, I am unable to do so. Planbook does not continue on to a second page if a particular lesson is lengthy. This also makes it difficult to send my plans to my supervisor, since part of the plan is missing.

  8. Jon-

    I’ve already emailed you back about this….I would like to point out that your email was responded to within 2 business days. While I’m usually faster than this, it’s my first week of school for the new year and I got a bit behind.

    The scroll arrows will be fixed in 1.3.3.

    The weekly report is a greater challenge- as indicated by e-mail, I’ll work on allowing you to change the font size to fit more on the page. The daily lesson report is also an option that won’t truncate lessons regardless of how long they are.

  9. Hi Jeff,
    I am having trouble with different saved files, some created with auto backup and some saved manually. I would like to be able to access all of my lesson plans without having to open more than one file such as 2008-9 but right now, some plans are on files I created and some are on others. And some files have the preferences I set up such as names for the “custom” fields while other files have only the default settings. Is there a folder they should all reside in? I’ve tried using the “copy lesson plan” and pasting it in a window of another open file but that didn’t work. I know there is an “index” file but I’m not really sure how to keep things so they are all within one file/calendar. Also the help feature in planbook is not very comprehensive. Is there a good manual available? I think the program is awesome despite my confusion. I’m just very wary of putting a lot of lesson plans into something I haven’t figured out yet. Principals don’t want to hear “I can’t find the plans for this month”. Thank you, Don

  10. Kathleen Whittier Sunday, August 9, 2009

    Hi

    Your planbook sounds awesome, however, I am looking for a planbook for the iphone. Can you create one, I can’t believe there isn’t a planbook app. Please consider making an app that we can download from the apple store so that I can keep all my plans on my iphone.
    Kathleen

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