Teaching With Gadgets

How Technology Can Help Today's Teacher

Monday, January 23, 2006

Planning Your Day....

Sorry about the brief break with my post - it's been a busy one at the school!

When I saw the first Palm Pilot back in early 1997 I knew that I had to have one. It was this amazing device that would do far more than I ever imagined. I had to convince my wife to allow me to buy one so I needed some justification for the price at the time.

The first thing that I had ever used a mobile device for, in the classroom, was planning. I'm actually surprised that more teachers are not carrying around a PDA with them. With the staring price point being $149 ($99 US) for the Palm Z you would think that more teachers would be adding it to their arsenal.

The built in datebook on any Palm or Windows Mobile PDA will do wonders for your teaching practice. Both PDAs will allow you to assign your appointments to categories so that if you need to print them out according to a category (your day plan as opposed to meetings) then you can. I still see many teachers carrying around a binder or dayplanner. All of that stuff fits nicely into my 6 oz. PDA.

While both Windows Mobile and Palm PDAs come with nice built in calendars (the Palm PDA actually allows you to colour code appointments according to category), there are many third party calender programs. My two favourites: Pocket Informant (Windows Mobile) and Datebook 5 (Palm PDA). Both give you a trial and more functionality than the built in applications.

As a teacher I get my timetable at the beginning of the year. I then create each of my subject periods as recurring appointments on the PDA (you can also do this on the Tablet PC using Outlook or whatever calendar program that you like). In the note field of each appointment I set up information that will always be the same. Think of this like your lesson planning template. You will want to state the objecive, materials, procedure, etc. of your lesson. I leave areas to list all of these. After creating these for the first time I synchronize the PDA with both my tablet and my Mac computer. I can now do my planning on any of these devices and synchronize it with the rest.

The note field on any datebook program is key. One thing that is great about Windows Mobile is that your note field has unlimited length and allows drawings, pen entry, etc. These will then transfer over to Outlook (which comes with every Windows Mobile device). However, the Palm does allow for 32K notes and this is more than enough to state objectives, materials, procedure, etc. for your lessons. Each time I enter information for a lesson, the PDA will ask me if I want to make the change to all appointments or only the selected one. This is great! I usually select just one appointment and begin typing it up.

If I need to print I simply synchronize the PDA with my computer and print out of my calendar program (Outlook or Entourage). On a Mac I can even print to a PDF file and send it to the school if I am ill.

The PDA allows me to have all of my lesson plans with me at all times. I can work on them whenever and wherever I am. If someone asks me about a particular lesson, I can look it up. One thing that Windows Mobile allows you to do is to assign MULTIPLE categories. For example if I have Language Arts class from 9:00 until 10:00 I create the appointment. The categories are: dayplan and science. If I want to view my dayplan only, this appointment will show up in the filter. If I want to look at only my science lessons it will show up there too! What a brilliant way to organize!

That's the first, and easiest, use for a PDA in teaching. Just a reminder that for a Tablet PC owner all of this applies and then some. Tablets use the same software that you use on your desktop computer. Next time we'll discuss the Contacts application and how you can have student information at your fingertips.