November 1, 2012
Teachers Talk - Technology in the Classroom – It’s Not Just For Students
Danielle Rochford, Prairie Adventist Christian eSchool, Lacombe, AB

We’ve heard it repeated over and over.  We’ve raised funds and sacrificed in other areas to make it happen.  What is it I’m talking about?  Well, technology in the classroom, of course.  What teacher wouldn’t want to employ the newest techniques and technologies in order to benefit their students?  Somehow along the way, however, teachers themselves have been overlooked.  So often our focus is on technologies that benefit our students and we don’t always consider ones capable of assisting ourselves in becoming more effective educators.
This year, I was introduced to teaching in an online environment.  I quickly realized I had so much to learn.  For the first few months, I had days where I felt as if I was barely keeping my head above water.  It was during one of these moments that I decided it was time to search for a better way to organize myself.  I was thrilled to find a number of different programs and applications that helped to reduce the time spent grading and planning, and helped me to become more eco-friendly.      
I began my search using the App Store on my iPad looking for something to help me move in the direction of creating paperless assignments.  I was introduced to an app called “GoodReader” and it quickly became an instrumental tool that allowed me to download student assignments (from my email or Dropbox) in PDF format, grade them using a stylus or my finger, and email them back, all from directly within the application.  Shortly after, a colleague pointed me in the direction of an online grading program called Engrade.  This program provides a gradebook, attendance record, seating chart as well as discipline record all in an extremely user-friendly interface.  The most impressive feature of this program is the ability to provide great communication with parents and students since they always have real-time access to their grades as well as missing assignments.
The final program I came upon was quite by chance and I am so glad I happened upon it.  PlanbookTM , a digital daybook, allows you to organize your entire lesson plans on an interface that will feel familiar if you have used such things as paper planbooks or calendar programs such as Outlook.  It helps to schedule and save time by keeping you organized.  With Planbook,TM you can schedule anything from a simple 6 period school day to a 2-week rotation.  It very easily adjusts for holidays and cancelled school days, such as snow days, with just one click of a mouse button.  Additionally, PlanbookTM allows you to attach files and links to your plans, and easily print or email your plans, a handy feature if you unexpectedly fall ill.  Two features that really stand out are the ability to reuse your plans, eliminating the need to recreate all your hard work as with paper-based planbooks, and to also define and track learning outcomes providing a distinct record of lesson plan – outcomes correlations.
The great thing about PlanbookTM is that it has even greater depth.  The creator of this exciting program, available for both MAC and PC, has gone a step further and included PlanbookConnect.  This free online service allows you to share your lesson plans, assignments, files, and links with students and parents.  Imagine a situation where you have a student absent from class.  Typically, we will make up a list of missed assignments for the student, diligently going through our daybooks, making sure we don’t miss a detail.  With PlanbookConnect all your students have immediate access to the lessons planned for the day as well as all the resources and handouts they may need.  Indisputably, this is a tool that has the potential to save a great deal of time for any teacher.
Continuing to grow and learn is not only the job of our students but of our teachers as well.  In today’s society of ever increasing strides in the field of technology, it is important that we remember to take advantage of all it has to offer.  Not only for what it can do to increase knowledge and understanding for our students, but also for what it is capable of doing to aid us in our development as professionals.  The more we are able to access and implement these new programs and applications that continue to be developed for students and teachers alike, the better equipped we are to facilitate student learning.