Tag Archives: lesson plan

It’s challenging…

…but planning helps!

Over the years I have spent a lot of time working with teachers helping them to embed digital technologies into their practice. I have also collaborated with colleges and universities and seen the strategies they use to embed digital. In an earlier post I described my journey and the approaches I have used for support and strategy. In this series of articles I am going to look at the process that many teachers use for teaching and learning and describe tools, services, but also importantly the organisational approach that can be used to embed the use of those tools into practice.

One of the challenges of embedding digital tech into teaching and learning is making the assumption that teachers are aware of and are able to utilise the digital tools available to them and understand which tools work best for different situations and scenarios.

Gaining that understanding and confidence isn’t easy and often requires a paradigm shift in approaches to using technology and the digital tools and services available. Just because a member of staff has been given the training in how to use the tool or service, it doesn’t mean they know how best to use that tool or service to enhance teaching and learning, and for what function or process of the learning activity the tool would support or enhance.

When I was teaching at City of Bristol College, one of the main reasons I started using and embraced technology was to aid planning my curriculum and lesson planning. The way it actually started was using technology to save time. By using, initially, a word processing package and then a DTP package, I would write and design assignment briefs, handouts and workbooks. The reason for using technology in this way was so I could reuse them the following year. Making them digital meant I could edit and update them if needed.

I also started using a presentation package (Freelance Graphics) to create presentations. There were no digital projectors back then, so these were printed onto acetates in black and white and shown via an OHP. This for me was much better than hand writing onto acetates, again for updating and changing.

Though I did write basic schemes of work for the curriculum at that time, it started to make sense to me to start creating a more detailed scheme of work.

When I noticed the web in the late 1990s I realised that hyperlinks could mean I could create a digital (though back then we called it electronic) scheme of work with live links to the digital resources I had created. It didn’t take much to then add lesson plans to the scheme of work with live links to the presentations, handouts and other resources.

A final step was to start adding extra resources and links, in order to allow for a learner to go to the web site and differentiate their learning journey.

I didn’t initially use digital technologies to plan, but what those digital technologies allowed me to do more effectively was to both plan better, but also link everything together. The process also allowed me to easily and quickly adjust resources and plans as and when required.

It got to the stage where I would plan a whole year in advance and have everything ready for all my lessons and courses.

When I spoke about this to people (outside my college) the response I usually got was I plan the night before and there is no way I could plan more than a week ahead. Their explanation was that they couldn’t know how a lesson would go in advance and therefore couldn’t plan more than one lesson in ahead. At the time I did struggle with a response, but now reflecting on this, I realised that I had in fact planned flexibility into my plans. Combined with links to all the resources and additional stuff, it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t cover everything in a lesson, or if the lesson was cancelled (snow closure for example). It was also later that I recognised as a teacher that though I had a responsibility for my curriculum, it wasn’t my job to teach the whole of the curriculum, it was responsibility to ensure my students learnt the curriculum. Some of this would be through teaching, but some could be through reading, or other learning activities. Some would be formal and some would be informal. Resources could be digital, but they could also be analogue.

Of course back then we didn’t have a VLE, so I “created” a VLE, well it was a website with some additional tools (such as a discussion forum). As I had used digital tools for planning and content creation, it wasn’t a huge job to transfer everything to the website. I do remember buying Adobe Acrobat so I could create PDFs more easily, especially I was using a bizarre range of software to create stuff.

A VLE today makes the whole process of planning much easier and I have written before about this in my series, 100 ways to use a VLE.

100 ways to use a VLE – #25 Scheme of Work

100 ways to use a VLE – #26 Lesson Plans

The main conclusion I came to was that planning was really critical to the success of my curriculum and my teaching. Also technology made the whole planning process easier and quicker.

So what tools are you using to plan your curriculum and your lessons?

Image Credit: Lesson Plans by hurricanemaine CC BY 2.0

100 ways to use a VLE – #26 Lesson Plans

When I first started teaching, a fair few years ago, I didn’t see the point of lesson plans, they were onerous things that only needed to be done if you were been observed or during an inspection.

As I gained more experience of teaching I came to realise the value of lesson plans in supporting the process of learning and importantly making life easier for me.

My lesson plans were never inflexible and didn’t stop me changing when things needed changing. They were there for support not as a constraint. They were flexible and elastic enough, so if there were issues with topics or subjects I could change or add as and when required.

Along with lessons plans were resources, links and further reading. These gave me extension activities or additional resources if the learners needed further coverage. Each lesson plan had an aim and learning objectives. Clear indicators of what we were trying to achieve in that lesson with measurable objectives that would indicate if learning had taken place. Within the framework was signposts to other modules or units, as well as other topics in the module I was delivering.

At the time we didn’t have a VLE so I put all these resources on a website, some as HTML, but most in a PDF format. This enabled learners to access the plans, the resources at a time and place to suit them. Though at that time it was less at a time or place to suit them as home internet access was quite rare. Most would either access in college or from the workplace, though some did have the Internet at home. All who did use it told me how useful it was to them.

Some teachers I know do not agree with this, and plan only a week in advance at most. As I knew I had a lot of stuff to cover, I would plan for a whole academic year in advance. The flexibility I built in ensured that if things didn’t go quite to plan then I could accommodate those changes. Planning only a week in advance is leaving a lot down to chance, especially if you don’t have a scheme of work in place to ensure full coverage of the syllabus for the course.

Today the VLE is an ideal location for those lesson plans, the framework for a module. A place to store the resources, embed the links and signposts to the resources form the lessons and additional resources to extend the subject to those wanting more.

Some people argue that learners shouldn’t have access to the lesson plans. Well maybe not the detail, but certainly they should know the aims and objectives of the lesson. Access to the resources is also useful if not essential.

On most VLEs it is possible to “hide” resources from learners, by hiding the detail, but showing the core, learners will have a better idea of what they were suppose to be learning in each lesson.

If learners know where they are, where they have been and where they are going then they are in a much better position and research has shown that this can have a positive impact on retention and achievement.

By placing lessons plans on the VLE you not only make things better for the learner, but you also make planning much easier and faster in subsequent years. This can make life easier, giving you more time to do new things, enhance what you do already and increasing the amount of time you are supporting learners.