A lesson plan is an intensive and detailed breakdown of a semester or school term by class session (Stewart, 2004). It is a significant piece of work for instructors and presents a great deal of planning. Instructors outline the topics for each class session, identify which learning objectives are being addressed, articulate the methods that will be used in the class, and explain how the learning will be assessed or evaluated. Many instructors also include their lecture notes, directions for activities, topics and questions for discussion, and goals they want to achieve. It is not a document that is given out to students, but rather an internal planning tool for an instructor.
The importance of a lesson plan is that it is a means of improving the teaching skill of the teacher (Pitler, Hubbell & Kuhn, 2012). All the principles relating to teaching are put to use in the class through the lesson plan with whose help activity learning can be done quickly and makes the learning process practical. According to Piskurich (2011), it is the only basis on which supervisors and examiners can evaluate the effectiveness of class teaching. It provides adequate guidance to teachers in using various teaching methods, devices, aids, and other teaching material. Generally, lesson plans make teaching and learning purposeful.
Although it takes time to develop this kind of plan, its benefits to the teaching and learning process are immense. It enables instructors to visualize the semester as a whole, ensure that different learning styles are addressed in their teaching methods, integrate classroom assessments in their activities, prepare students for formal evaluation, schedule homework and other assignments in a timely and meaningful manner, and build in opportunities for variety and relevance in learning. Many instructors believe that the more work they do in preparing for their course, the freer they can be in the class to find teachable moments.
According to Blake, Winsor, and Allen (2011), lesson plans vary widely by the instructor. Some instructors create a brief outline of teaching and learning activities for each class session and include only the necessary materials and time estimates for tasks. Other instructors specify the essential objectives being addressed in each session and even add a sample script or important talking points they want to convey to students during the class. Just as there is no one right way to learn, there is no one right way to teach. Therefore, the more work instructors do to visualize their course’s architecture, the more inviting and transparent it will be to students (Watson, 2011). Rather than discouraging spontaneity in the classroom, the planning process provides the framework or conditions for learning and allows instructors the freedom to listen, provide connections, and teach. Paradoxically, some instructors create their lesson plans, so they do not have to use them. They may refer to it at times, but it is more of a springboard for their work in the classroom.
According to Warren and Cantu (2008), the technology gap between schools and the rest of the world is real, and it is increasing. Whether we like it or not, the increasing pervasiveness and vitality of technology are changing the expectation of children and how they view the world. Schools in the future could look dramatically different from the current ones. Therefore, proper planning and wise implementation of new technology is a vital requirement in the education sector.
According to Pathak (2012), designing a lesson plan has three main aspects. The input part is where the desired changes are determined based on Bloom’s classifications. The process aspect of the design has to do with the achievement of the desired objectives. The teaching processes have to be systemized. The teacher has to arrange the devices, teaching aids, and audiovisual aids so that necessary conditions can be prepared for the learning process. It combines the activities of the teacher and the learner. Finally, the output aspect consists of the actual behavior of the students. They are also called actual learning processes and generally measured using various measurement techniques.
Integrating Technology into Lesson Planning
In response to demand for better delivery in the classroom, scheduling flexibility, and experience with current technologies, most instructors, are now turning to the use of technology to prepare lesson plans, and are incorporating technological resources as they would other resources. There are many ways that instructors can make effective use of technology in designing lesson plans and to support the teaching and learning process. These are important whether the teaching is happening online or in a traditional classroom. For many instructors, this means integrating relevant and engaging Web sites into their preparations. The Internet has undoubtedly opened the flood gates to materials that instructors and students did not have access to before.
Many other applications exist that may be used by the teacher during the early lesson planning stage. They include word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools, and web browsers. A combination of these categories of applications may also be used for the delivery of content in class. While presentation tools are used to project content, web browsers may be used by the students to carry out independent research on topics assigned by the teacher as well as to collaborate with other learners in remote places. This must, however, must be appropriately guided by the teacher.
Dynamic Composition of the Lesson Plan
With the help of web-based technology, the lesson can be generated to cater to the different learning needs of the learners (Mizoguchi, Dillenbourg & Zhu, 2006). Ordinarily, the majority of students are accustomed to expressing their learning needs in terms of keywords. The students can, therefore, be provided with a user interface to enable them to reveal their learning needs in terms of keywords during the learning process. At the same time, the student should be able to use the semantic information regarding the application domain to obtain results that are not possible in traditional information retrieval. In addition to keywords, the learners should be able to specify other constraints, such as difficulty level. In this way, learners are able to actively drive the selecting and organizing of learning materials to meet their own learning needs. To accomplish this, the lesson planner may need to adhere to five simple steps.
First, web applications for use in the classroom should be designed to automatically process queries and annotate them with possible semantic information to expedite the search for learning outcomes in a large and well-established repository. To eliminate linguistic ambiguity, the profile of learners, including personal information and background knowledge, must be taken into account and used to select relevant information (Metcalf & Metcalf, 2010). Additionally, the search context and popularity of terms can also be used to give hints for selecting the proper information during a search process. Secondly, applications should make it possible to search the learning objectives repository for relevant learning outcomes based on the keyword matching of the learning outcomes content and metadata to the query generated. Third, it must be possible for the student to identify the target topics by mapping the learning objectives in the search results to the issues in the knowledge map. The simplest way will be to ensure that the learners are to follow the links preset by the instructors if there are links from learning objectives to topics. Alternatively, the learner should be allowed to use topic clustering to find the mapping topic based on the metadata of returning learning outcomes. Fourth, the learning syllabus should be represented as a sequence of semantically interrelated issues that a learner can follow to address his or her focused learning needs.
Taking the mapping topics as anchor nodes, the learning syllabus should be generated based on the graph traversal approach according to topic relationships. Considering that different learners have different backgrounds and preferences, the property types of nodes should not be treated as equally relevant. As a result, learners’ profiles should be taken into account to select and sequence the crucial topics while ignoring unfocussed semantic relationships. For example, if a learner is interested in a problem, it is essential to provide him or her with the prerequisite that is not well comprehended. Finally, learning outcomes should be appropriately sequenced. Once the learning syllabus has been made ready, each topic should be substantiated with at least one learning outcome. Pedagogical rules are used to select and sequence the learning outcomes about the same problem based on their metadata description. Additionally, explanations should be given about the quality of learning outcomes to ensure that the results are selected expertly. The metadata can be specified by designers during the authoring process or computed based on the learner’s feedback.
Ideas for Using Technology in the Classroom
Everyone who uses computers, software, or other technology will experience problems from time to time. A constant challenge for the teacher intending to use technology in lesson planning is to find the best ways to help students use technology resources available to them. Teachers need to become proficient at a variety of technical tasks related to instructing students. Where students do not have the knowledge, resources, or skills to complete assignments successfully, the teacher must be in a position to guide them properly.
Generally, teachers must be comfortable with the technology they intend to use in the classroom if they are to succeed in their delivery. Where necessary, a teacher should start small and slowly add on to his or her repertoire of skills. Although there are many ways to use technology in the classroom, designing lessons that combine students and technology requires some special considerations. The teacher must have a clear purpose for using technology, and this must be effectively communicated to the learners. It is also essential to ensure that the equipment to be used is working correctly, and have a backup plan in case of equipment failure. As noted by Thompson (2012), technology should be used to engage students in real-life applications of their learning. Students who participate in activities that take them beyond the boundaries of their classroom are likely to find their learning relevant to their needs and interests. To realize better results, the teacher should make sure that the lesson has an end product to keep the learners focused. Where learners have to hand in a report or disk, for example, they are more likely to stay focused. If students are required to print documents, the teacher must make sure that the printer to be used is working and that the learners have enough paper to complete the printing tasks. Also, the teacher should set rules and expectations for students when they are working with computers or other equipment.
The primary concern when designing lessons that incorporate technology should be the content of the lesson and not the use of the technology itself. It is also the responsibility of the teacher to monitor the learners very carefully. For example, if the students are required to research a topic on the Internet, the teacher should make sure that everyone is on the task and that no one is busy checking email or distracted in any way. The teacher should show learners how to research efficiently. By showing the learners how to narrow and define a topic before exploring, the teacher will avoid behavior problems arising from students who are frustrated when they can not immediately find the information they need.
While many problems can arise with technology in the classroom, there are also many solutions. With strong determination, a teacher can easily overcome the different issues associated with the use of technology. One of the most common problems is a shortage of equipment. To address this problem, a teacher may need to get students to work in groups, rotate among tasks, work before or after school, or collaborate with teachers in other disciplines or grades on shared projects. On the other hand, it is essential to make sure that teachers are motivated enough to carry on with the changes. Many factors can interfere with a teacher’s delivery of instruction. For example, teachers who are stressed, too tired, to plan appealing lessons, or not quite in tune with the needs and interests of their students are likely tom lack a smooth flow of instruction. However, with a bit of awareness, common sense, and planning, these pitfalls can be avoided. Effectively training the teachers is one way to ensure that they are happy and comfortable using technology.
Although technology offers teachers numerous opportunities to deliver effective services in learning environments, efforts to provide them with needed technology skills have been unsuccessful for many reasons. Teachers need to develop several competencies to make the connections between good content, pedagogies that support understanding and retention, classroom management strategies, and appropriate use of hardware, peripherals, content, and tool software. Attempts to focus on any one of these in isolation have been unsuccessful because it is in making the connections between them that teachers get relieved. Unlike commercial enterprises that encourage a team approach to meet challenges, most educators plan and teach without the benefit of collaboration with their peers. Most administrators are ill-prepared to evaluate the integration of technology and are uncomfortable promoting something they do not understand. Expensive, unreliable computers, complicated software applications, intermittent Internet access, poor fix and repair policies, and training that fail to make the connection to what teachers do in the classroom, further hinder well-intentioned efforts.
Despite the numerous challenges, however, there is abundant evidence that the integration of technology into the teaching practice has indeed been the impetus for achieving significant student gains. They have fostered critical thinking and problem-solving skills, teamwork, international collaborations, and the mutual exchange of ideas, deeper understandings of content knowledge, and improvement in teacher and student technology competencies. Students can transfer and apply their knowledge and skills to independently extend the use of technology throughout their work. Students with access to technology input information from a variety of sources and can demonstrate their competencies via a multitude of media that best suit their learning style. High school students, who are social by nature, have become actively involved in their learning and eagerly embrace the online collaborative learning environments. Students independently explore topics of interest and have become self-directed learners. Test score continues to increase, and many of the schools that were initially cited for poor performance have been removed from the list of schools in need of improvement.
However, the most significant impact of this effort has been the widespread improvement in teachers’ technological skills, their attitudes toward technology integration, their ability to use inquiry to foster understanding, and the overall transformation of their approach to teaching. As noted by Warren and Cantu (2008), however, most teachers are not yet using technology in their education in such a way that their students are integrating it and experiencing it in class.
Blake, S., Winsor, D. L. & Allen, L. (2011). Technology and Young Children: Bridging the Communication-Generation Gap. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Inc.
Metcalf, D. & Metcalf, D. J. (2010). Succeeding in the Inclusive Classroom: K-12 Lesson Plans Using Universal Design for Learning. New Delhi, India: SAGE Publications.
Mizoguchi, R., Dillenbourg, P. & Zhu, Z. (2006). Learning by Effective Utilization of Technologies: Facilitating Intercultural Understanding. Fairfax, VA: IOS Press.
Pathak, R. P. (2012). Educational Technology. New Delhi, India: Pearson Education India.
Piskurich, G. M. (2011). Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R. & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Stewart, D. A. (2004). Effective Teaching: A Guide for Community College Instructors. Washington, DC: American Association of Community Colleges.
Thompson, J. G. (2012). First Year Teacher’s Survival Guide: Ready-To-Use Strategies, Tools & Activities for Meeting the Challenges of Each School Day. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Warren, W. J. & Cantu, D. A. (2008). History Education One Hundred One. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Watson, S. (2011). Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.