EvoLesson is the brainchild of an acquaintance who manages teachers in the IDEA School Network. His work involves handling teacher's workloads, lesson plans and taking to steps to improve the student-teacher relationship. A major part of his job is to ensure availability of quality resources and methods available to teachers for planning lessons. During his time teaching and managing, he came up with the idea to develop a web app that helps teachers plan lessons more efficiently, in a more organized manner, compared to what the currently available online test banks and lesson plan sources allow for.
Lesson planning is one of the most time consuming and time consuming aspect of a teacher's job. At an average, seasoned teachers spend up to 8hrs per week, and the number jumps to 15hrs a week for new teachers to plan lessons.
In addition to the time it takes to plan lessons, the work flow involved scattered steps and no logical progression to assembling information. The online resources for assignments, test banks and other such tools served more or less as a word processor more than having valuable information.
Eventually, the goal was to reduce the time spent planning lessons, and create a more efficient, streamlined resource.
The current work flow involves the following steps:
Write Lesson Plan Find Assessments to match Lesson Plan Write new Daily Objective Find Standard that it falls under.
The problem with this approach is that it works in a reverse funnel structure. What this means is that the teachers are required to pick the content that has the most constraints first, and then gradually work their way to the content with the least constraints.
In this flow, the lesson plan determines the assessments, and so on so forth, with the Standard being selected last. The biggest pain point is that the Standard are set at a state level, so a teacher starts out selecting/creating content, eventually to realize that there's no Standard that it falls under.
Our improvised approach was to have the teacher's start by picking the most important constraint first - the Standard. Since these are set by state, selecting this determines the rest of the content and made for the most effective starting point.
Select Standard Create/Select Daily Objective Find appropriate Assessments Plan lessons to achieve Daily Objective.
The benefits to this reorganization were immediate and clear- the teachers struggle less with tweaking their work to fit a State Standard. By having them start at choosing a State Standard, all the next steps that were determined by the Standard fell into place and made the time spent planning lessons much lesser.
The New Teacher is a fresh college graduate and enthusiastic about entering the teaching work force. They are up to date on teaching methods and aware of what is most effective with children. They are also the ones that are most open to customizing their teaching method to suit the student and like to try new kinds of assignments that go beyond that of essay type answers. But because of their inexperience, the New Teacher is still learning the tips and tricks involved in quick lesson planning.
The New Teacher is technologically adept and thrives on fast and easily accessible information. Their documents are more digital than physically printed.
The Seasoned Educator has taught for a few years and definitely well versed with the quick way of planning lessons. They are usually slave to their methods and habits. Experience has taught the most efficient way of teaching and abide by them. The Seasoned Educator is bound to recycle lesson plans and tests from previous years, and not customize beyond what's required.
As far as technological adeptness goes, the Seasoned Educator is mediocre. They have lived through the days of Windows 95 and are not the most current with new technology. They definitely like their documents printed and the digital world gets overwhelming fast.
The Administrator monitors all the teachers and steers the "ship". They've been an educator for a long time and have earned this position. They're firm believers in hard work and are usually open to discussing ways to improve teaching methods. The performance of the teachers reflects directly on the Administrator and staying current with the lesson plans is a crucial part of the job.
They are open to anything that helps make their job easier. Because of the number of teachers the Administrator oversees, a number of hours are spent individually to assess and guide the lesson plans and class performance.
After reassessing the current work flow for teachers and improvising it, the next step was to establish a succesful action sequence. To do this, wireframes were developed and shown to test users to use as paper mockups. The app has been developed for Macbook and/or iPad usage.
The feedback was positive. The users could understand what needed to be done where and why the information that appeared at each step was relevant. The primary goal for the user test was to validate the reassessed work flow. The following features and aspects are what proved to be successful:
The calendar is where it all begins. It's the first step towards planning what will be taught when. Here, the teachers are able to view the Standard, and whether daily objectives has been set or not, for period of a month or by week. The weekly views show the Standard, Daily Objective, and summarized assessments, and attachments (maps, figures, homework sheets, etc.).
By clicking on a calendar cell, the user enters lesson planning mode where they can set up a new lesson, or edit an existing one.
The Lesson Planner guides the user through the required steps with the help of visual cues. The most important aspect of this feature is that the data shown at every progressing step is pre-filtered according to the user's previous choice. For example, if a user was to select Standard 1A: Neolithic History, the Assessments would show results related only to this standard. In addition to pre-filtered results, the user has freedom to create new content to suit their needs better. User created content becomes accessible by the entire user base. We received very favorable feedback on this functionality. This is where the user becomes invested and engaged in to the app.
The success of this feature comes from an easy navigation side bar, that also serves as a progress tracker. Along with the filtered results, the teachers found the guidance from the app itself to be fairly helpful in cutting down lesson planning time, and thought it to be easy to operate.
The Lesson Planner breaks down the planning process in smaller, easier to manage chunks. A secondary sidebar guides the user through any additional information that needs to be entered. For example, on the step 3, Lesson Planning tab, a teacher needs to pick 3a) an introduction, 3b) guided practice, 3c) independent practice and 3d) closing. Each tab displays information determined by the choices made in steps 1 and 2.
The Lesson Planner as a feature, condenses all the resources into one, filtered, searchable location that a user can complete in a hop, skip and jump.
The last step of Lesson Planner is the Review section. Here, users are able to format the document as they need, and finally export and download as a Word doc, or PDF.
The Admin Dashboard will allow the principal to review all the lesson plans that a teacher has prepared, add comments and give feedback, and be able to review a teacher's class, as it's being taught, at the touch of a button.
The following comments were received during user tests:
EvoLesson continues to be in development and is going through user testing. The positive feedback has encouraged us to keep working on it. The continual user testing is shedding light on how to make the app more efficient and is determining what kind of onboarding and/or training will be required. The goal is to make the app so intuitive, that onboarding should seem excessive.
EvoLesson is currently seeking funding to acquire content. Since it is a user sourced platform, usage and retention will increase greatly by having some content ready for a small user base to use, and add to.