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FORUM: Digital Teacher Planners - an Enabling e-Learning event

“Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle.” James Surowiecki

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Digitising data means you can input ‘stuff’ once, re-use, tweak, modify share and even co-construct with others - all without re-inventing the wheel. Having good systems and templates enables us to organise all kinds of things and having links to calendars/diaries allow us to organise those things over a period of time.

Pile of papers

So if we applied this thinking to teacher planning, how might this look? How can we take the existing paper-based planners and make them more efficient for the purposes of teaching and learning. Can we make these available and adaptable for others to use/share/tweak/add to as well (teachers/students)?
The article outlines 10 benefits for using digital planners for teachers:

10 benefits of digital planners

“The future of teaching surely needs to involve a community-based approach to content creation. Consider the potential of organizing and pooling our best content onto a common, yet customizable platform.” http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/10-benefits-of-digital-planning-tools-for-teachers/ 

Where is your thinking at? Are you tired of using a paper-based planner? Are you thinking about using digital tools (GAFE, Office 365, OneNote, iUgo) or are you currently trialing a system of your own? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to add a comment below and share a little bit about you and your circumstances:

  • Your name
  • Your role
  • Your school
  • Your experiences with digital planners
    • what you use, what works for you and why
    • whom you share planning with (if you happen to do so) 

Also join us as we chat with Tam Yuill Proctor (St Andrews College) sharing her experiences planning with OneNote and Bernice Swain (Lyttleton School) talking about how GAFE tools can help with digital planning in the following live event.

smiley LIVE WEBINAR: Digital teaching planners, 17 March 2016 @ 3:45-4:45 pm

More and more teachers are moving away from the traditional paper-based teacher planners towards digital solutions such as Google Docs and Office 365. In this webinar we will hear from classroom teachers who have used various digital systems in their planning. They will discuss how they have gone about their planning; why they chose the digital platform they are using; and share their experiences. This webinar will be supported by a thread in the Enabling e-Learning | Teaching group and hosted in Adobe Connect with Tessa Gray andNathaniel Louwrens. REGISTER NOW!


Also see: 


Image sources: Flickr, Creative Commons


  • Tony Cairns (View all users posts) 03 Mar 2016 5:39pm ()

    Hi I am Tony Cairns, teacher at Wellington High School, I used excel for planning in 2007 - 2009, and shared this publically with all students parents and staff, (Excel allows copying and easier movement of lessons from cell to cell and day to day as wella s colour coding)

    used Google calendar in  2010 - 2013 and that again was totally public and was easier than Excel as it allowed the setting up of reminders, meetings, events, hangouts and integration with school, subject Level 1, level 2 and Level 3 Assessment calendars.

    I published 2 year blocks of junior and senior classes for each year 2007 - 2013, It is easier in Google calendar to transfer lessons in and out of years, Two year planning allows all subjects classes, topics and events to be planned in an orderly and time sensitive wy. it does require a lot of updating as event change over two years but means you can be sure all areas are covered.

    I also use the black book planners and colour code all events in them  - in the last 3 years 2014 - 2016 i use hundreds of small post-it notes in the black planner to allow me to move events around easily. 

    I actually prefer the black book planner as it is easier to enter data BUT it cannot be shared, updated annotated or used by others to meet, share and plan so Google calendar is the best. I have weekly 1 hour Faculty meetings, Faculty PD, Year 9 meetings, Y11 meetings, Y13 meetings, Integrated Group learning (we call it tukutahi) and daily15 minute morning catch ups for school and year level.

    I would like all teachers in all areas in all schools to share all their planning, scheduling and resources so we can pick what works from round new zealand. i would like templates for schedules to be app able so they can be a module plug and plan insert into calendars. I would like all teachers to have online meetings and online hangouts to facilitate planning and learning. I would like all internals to be digital, online moderated, marked and cross marked in groups online as there is a great deal of variation between, teachers, classes, subjects, schools regions and topics. i would like free turnitin software for all essays and assignments for all students to cut down on copy and pasting - this could be automatic through a google classroom portal turn it in link up - and be available free to all students so they could check their own work in draft for plagiarism and copying.

    I would like all lessons to be available online (where appropriate in an opt in module) so all teachers could review revisit and revise their own and other lessons to see how better to teach (Singapore has this model - and it was featured by Andreas Schleicher in the festival of education seminar in wellington  - tho alas only a handful of teachers were there to see it  - BUT i did video all the FOE talks and they are available online.

    Cheers Tony Cairns

    ps i am doing a Master's in Education specializing in eLearning so these topics are very interesting to me

  • Kate Friedwald (View all users posts) 08 Mar 2016 8:41pm ()

    Hi all

    Tony I love your big picture thinking, wouldn't it be amazing if teacher planning was that transparent and freely available to all educators throughout the country!  I have found that most teachers who do plan digitally are usually more than happy to share their planning with others for the use as templates etc, I know for one mine has gone far and wide over the years.

    I have recently moved out of the classroom where I taught Year 5/6 along with being e-learning leader at Wairakei School in Chch. I actually missed the traditional black paper based planner altogether (much to my disappointment after being excited through teachers collage).  I initially used word for all planning and excel for anything data related and quickly moved to GAFE which I have and continue to find extremely helpful.  To begin with this was solely on my own, the planning wasn't shared with anyone (we hadn't adopted GAFE as a school yet and were operating on a single cell set up).  As time went on and interaction with others increased files became shared and eventually collaborative.  Within 3 years we moved completely to using GAFE as a school with the majority of staff comfortable using it for collaborative planning.

    Long Term Plans, Unit Plans, Group Plans, Week Plans, Recording, Reporting, Class Profiles, Meetings etc were all done through GAFE.  At a most basic level this allows any and all staff to check what others are up to at any given time and makes finding planning for relievers etc more efficient.  The real benefit came however as we moved to an ILE and could start to work together on doc, sheets etc.  I also shared a lot of planning with students and had specific docs set up to house their learning and accountability for tasks.

    Love the digital planning world !

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 16 Mar 2016 9:45am ()

    Hi all, thank you Tony and Kate for your sharing here.

    I would think your need for sharing digital planning in a secondary context is invaluable Tony? I’d love to know more …

    • Have your systems been hard to set up and manage?
    • Any screenshots or examples to share?
    • Is it life easier for you and other teachers?
    • Does it enable your students to have some consistency between faculties/subjects?

    Also Tony, your ideas/requests for collaborative planning and sharing of resources makes sense in a digital age – when most people are relieved to find support online and are willing to share themselves, like  you’ve mentioned Kate. smiley

    Kate your story is indicative of the many stages/phases we might move through to become more collaborative in our planning/teaching. It takes time to adopt/adapt, thanks again for sharing.

    There are moves on the horizon in NZ. Accessibility is the key, hence the rise in Massive Open Online Courses. NZQA is looking into digitizing assessment practices and some teachers (like those from Halswell School) are using Google docs and Google hangouts for collaborative planning purposes. However NZ teachers continue to do amazing things within pockets in their own schools/contexts. You’re right Tony, it would be fantastic to see more nation-wide sharing. No doubt these kinds of practices would work well for students as they travel between schools too?

    Collaborative teaching in a year 7–8 innovative learning environment

    P.S, I think there was a shared teaching space (NZ) with templates and resources for teachers, but I can't remember where this is. If anyone knows of something similar, please feel free to share?

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 18 Mar 2016 10:05am ()

    Yesterday we hosted an engaging webinar on Digital Planners. A big thank you to Tam Yuill Proctor (St Andrews College), Bernice Swain and Helen McEwen for sharing their expertise with us. We also want to acknowledge the lively chat and feed-in from participants like Tony and Kate from this thread. 

    The event was more about showcasing digital tools teachers are using for planning as well as sharing affordances, possibilities and challenges with some of the tools. The invaluable part of this live event was the examples shared. This really helps to provide an opportunity for the rest of us to learn more these processes. Any more examples to share would also be invaluable wink!

    Here's the presentation below (with live links) and the recording can be accessed directly hereFor more recorded webinars, go to Webinar Recordings.

  • Nina Boyes (View all users posts) 18 Mar 2016 3:38pm ()

    For those wanting some support around how to use OneNote (as well as other Microsoft Office 365 products) to support teaching and learning,  you can get FREE PLD from your local Microsoft Teacher Ambassador. Please contact annet@microsoft.com to enquire about a visit.  

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 06 Mar 2018 4:01pm ()

    Laptop computer Welcome back to revitalising this rich thread on digital teacher planners for 2018. What a great chance to share effective and hopefully time-saving ideas for something we do all the time - planning for teaching and learning.

    The NZ Teaching codes and standards have guidelines for teachers to:

    Design for learning • Select teaching approaches, resources, and learning and assessment activities based on a thorough knowledge of curriculum content, pedagogy, progressions in learning and the learners.

    Design for learningGather, analyse and use appropriate assessment information, identifying progress and needs of learners to design clear next steps in learning and to identify additional supports or adaptations that may be required. 

    This can be made a lot easier if data gathering, analysis and planning is digitised and collaborative. For example, increasingly schools are finding ways to design authentic learning tasks that have synergies and overlaps between curriculum areas. Teachers designing for student inquiry will also find the need to:

    Teaching standard Use an increasing repertoire of teaching strategies, approaches, learning activities, technologies and assessment for learning strategies and modify these in response to the needs of individuals and groups of learners. (Teaching Standard).

    Teaching is not an isolated task;


    • If teachers want to use assessment strategies/data to help plan for teaching and learning , then making this information available across the school using tools like student management systems could help.
    • If teachers want to plan in a cross curricula manner, then a digital format for tracking students’ access to the curriculum, finding gaps and overlaps might help.
    • If teachers are want to team-teach or teach collaboratively in innovative spaces then collaborative  tools like Hapara Dashboard and Google Apps can help to, enable learners to learn from one another, to collaborate, to self-regulate and to develop agency over their learning. Our Codes Our Standards

    What works for you and your colleagues? We’d like to see more examples of shared collaborative planning. If you have any digital tools or systems that help make collaborative planning and teaching more open and seamless in your school, please feel free to add them here >>>


    Also, keep an eye out for the upcoming Spotlight webinar:

    smiley Digital planners for teachers, March 9, 00.00am - 11.59pm

    Digital Planners webinar

    More and more teachers are moving away from the traditional paper-based teacher planners towards digital solutions such as Google Docs and Office 365. In this webinar recording we will hear from classroom teachers who have used various digital systems in their planning. They will discuss how they have gone about their planning; why they chose the digital platform they are using; and share their experiences.

    Image source: PXHERE.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 09 Mar 2018 1:33pm ()

    We hope you're enjoying today's Spotlight webinar, Digital planners for teachers?

    Spotlight webinar 

    Tell us what you thought of this webinar and would you'd like to know more about?

  • Annette Vartha (View all users posts) 02 Apr 2018 9:19am ()

    I've been using Planbook since 2014 and haven't looked back.  My husband  who also teaches has been using it for around three years too.   I have found it to be easy to use - as a typist I can quickly type in notes and I input teacher observations using italics within the planbook.  I love that I can quickly access all my previous years and search and find a document or lesson I remember from the past.  I can also share it with another teacher.  It is visual and I can colour code.  I put in images of holidays/events to cheer things up a bit My planning looks tidy and organised!   There are different views - I can create a  list of lessons for a particular class; view monthly; or weekly.  I make my planner go from Monday-Saturday and use the "Saturday" column as my notes and reminders section.   It is the same cost or a little less actually than a conventional planner.  I couldn't imagine ever going back to a written planner....!  

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