In an education world where parents make all the decisions and administration knows less about teaching than the students, teachers can use all the help they get. While I wait for Assistants R Us to open in the Denver area so I can take some of the burden off my wife's high school English-teaching shoulders, educators of all kinds might be able to take some solace in Planbook from Hellmansoft. Designed and developed by Jeff Hellman, a 9th grade physics and science teacher, Planbook aims to do away with the clunky ways of writing lesson plans with paper by providing tools to plan, attach files, print, publish and search the digital way. Teachers can plan out lessons for one or multiple classes for the week, month or year, attach files the students will need for homework and publish it all to the web via FTP or to a local folder. Students, parents and administrators alike can then view the site, the daily lessons and download the files at their leisure. Still need paper versions? No sweat - Planbook can print out customized reports for students and administrators, great for handing out or posting in class.
Since I am the farthest thing from a teacher, my wife graciously offered to give this software a whirl and share her thoughts. To be honest, after a minute or two of poking around, she was absolutely thrilled. She was impressed with Planbook's feature set and how easy it was to start writing plans for multiple classes. She loved the publish-to-web idea since her school already provides some digital records for parents to check from home, but I am sad to report that there was one killer deal-breaker that took the bounce out of my wife's step - Planbook is Mac-only. Now my wife is a Mac user through and through, but her school lives in the Windows world making Planbook ineligible for consideration.
[Update: Jeff Hellman stopped by to comment that he's one step ahead of me; he actually is working on a Windows version and hopes to enter beta this weekend. This could certainly boost Planbook's appeal in Windows and mixed-OS environment and for teachers who live on both sides of that fence between the home and office.]
If you or your teaching friends are fortunate enough to work on the Mac side at school, I (via my wife) definitely recommend you take a look at Planbook. Even as a 1.0 product it sounds like Hellman has hit most of the large nails right on the head, and more interest and support can only make a good product get better over time. Check out the Planbook site for more information, including an example published Planbook, as well as IM support and a Yahoo! Groups link. Individual licenses are $30, while volume licenses begins at up to 10 teachers for $100, going all the way up to 65+ teachers for $300. As a bonus, the volume license allows teachers to use Planbook on both their home and work computers.