Digital or Analog? How to Find Your Own Best Lesson Planning Practice

I have a confession to make: I’m a stationery addict.

There, I said it. And yes, there is such a thing as having favorite pens or feeling that a pen simply isn’t the right one for a specific day.

Even so, I also have warm feelings for all things digital and more often than not I tend to use both analog and digital tools every day and for different purposes.

Ever since I learned how to write, I have used this skill on a daily basis. From journalling in a diary before going to bed, to writing lists and things I need to remember in a calendar.

The exact form has varied a bit over the years, but mostly I’ve stuck to analog pen and paper – at least until recently.

Back in 2017 or so, I finally purchased something I had thought about getting for myself for a long time: an iPad with a keyboard and pencil. Before getting my own device, I had tried using a different kind of stylus on an iPad from work so I knew there were already things I liked with that setup.

First Impressions Using Digital Note Taking

Being a pen and paper girl means that I’m used to brainstorming on paper first and then moving things into a digital format. The same thing with taking notes at a conference or similar: analog notes and then rewrite them into a digital format.

Using a stylus and tablet together came with a whole new time saver for me: the ability to take handwritten notes and at the same time keep my notes safe AND easy to find again with a simple search. Usually, I start by writing down the date for the conference I’m at, so this helps a bit as well.

The first time I used my own device to take notes was at a conference with teachers from several different schools and I remember being surrounded by fellow bullet journalists (that I just had to say hello to), as well as sitting next to a gentleman who apparently noticed what I was doing and seemed to like the brainstorming and color-coding of my notes. He even asked me to send them to him after the session!

Now, brainstorming on an empty piece of paper, preferably with graph paper for some reason, is my go-to. But doing the digital version of this has its advantages as well.

Pros of Digital Lesson Planning

One good thing with storing my thoughts around planning, as well as lesson plans digitally, was the simple fact that they didn’t get lost so easily. Sure, I could still make a draft on a piece of paper and often I still do, but since I sometimes continue planning from home – it was actually nice not having to carry extra things in my backpack at the end of the day.

Another thing was the lazy part of not having to rewrite things if they needed to be moved. This is much simpler to do in a digital setting. For me to move things from one lesson to another or from one week to another is definitely faster using a keyboard and some shortcuts, compared to having to rewrite parts of my planning or erase unwanted parts.

Some may even argue that it could be a way to save resources by switching from using paper and more towards using digital tools. I’ll admit that it is a nice thought, but I don’t think that way of thinking is entirely correct. At least not if you take into account how digital tools are produced in the first place, as well as the fact that the information has to be stored somewhere and this place, in turn, needs power. Who knows the source for the electricity actually being used?

Cons of Digital Lesson Planning

What are the downsides of sharing things online then? Well, in a way the information is more vulnerable than before. This mostly has to do with the limitations that can arise when you get to work one day and the wifi for some reason is slow or not working at all. Those are the days when you wished you had your planning in physical form as well and of course you can print it out and carry it with you if you wish.

Other downsides? Well sitting in front of a screen with access to the rest of the world at your fingertips can be distracting even for the best of us. Sometimes, even though it has to do with work or planning lessons, random web browsing happens and steals the focus from the document at hand.

There are many different ways to share your lesson plans if this is something you decide to do. Mostly it comes down to what systems you are comfortable with and those accessible to both you and your students.

Some Examples

Over the years I have tried a few different ways, so I would like to think that my lesson plans have evolved a bit in the process. The different ways I have used are:

  • Sharing a Word document using the digital platform available.
  • Sharing a link to a Google document.
  • Using the planner tool inside each course in my digital platform.

For several years now the digital platform I’ve used has been Itslearning, but I have used some other platforms as well. The simplest way for me was always to give the students a version of my lesson plan made in Word, so this is where I started.

Together with this, I have also either had a teacher copy of the Word document or a more extensive plan in my OneNote. This last semester we also started using Microsoft Teams, but moving plans between two platforms were really just copying from one to the next.

Conclusion

So which is better then? Analog or digital? The simple answer is it depends. It depends on what kind of teacher you are and how comfortable you are with either medium. It also depends on what kind of students you have and what works best for them.

The goal, after all, is to be able to show what is planned in the course. And it is usually of greater importance that this information is clear and easy to understand, the way it is presented comes second.

If you wish to include more things than just text, then digital planning is probably the more likely path. If you stick to just text-based information then both ways should work, but your students probably prefer one over the other if asked.

My experience is that students usually like to know a bit ahead what is planned, but at the same time it is important not to overwhelm them with information.

Give information, but don’t give it away all at once. Making smaller chunks usually works better.

We’re now at the beginning of a new school year and I’ll admit that my first attempts to plan a course are still on a regular notepad for now. I also know that within the next day or two I will move it to my trusted companions: OneNote for safekeeping and Itslearning for distribution to students.

If you wish to read more about how you can use OneNote to plan your lessons as a teacher, I’ve made a post about it here and here.

So to answer the question: should you go digital or analog?

The answer is really it depends. It depends on you, your students, and ultimately what resources you have at your disposal. Personally, I use a hybrid of analog and digital, and this shifts entirely based on my needs.

And that is the charm of it, it doesn’t have to be either-or, black or white. As long as you are somewhat consistent with how you present your information to everyone involved then you should be fine.

How are you preparing for the new semester in the light of Covid-19? Will you change anything when it comes to your lesson plans or will you stick to trusted methods?

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