Chris Drage welcomes a harmonious approach to multimedia lesson planning
About five years ago, an ICT-fluent teaching assistant I worked with came up with an innovative 'scheme of work come planning document' for science – digital rather than on paper, with hyperlinks to the resources. So teachers could share objectives with learners and link straight to resources and activities – ideal for introductory lessons and whole-class activities via her whiteboard.
Lauded as a brilliant and forward-looking, it was never pursued due to the pressures of time, conservatism (small ‘c’) and school resources. A shame. In fact I'd never seen another interactive planning tool with such potential until I came across John Davitt's The Learning Score, which brings the whole concept bang up to date.
The Learning Score uses the metaphor of a music score to show the planned activities for a lesson, along with any multimedia attachments, as a graphical timeline. Whole lesson plans can be saved, along with all the embedded resources and annotations, to be used again at a later date, or to be worked on and shared with colleagues.
Developed by author, educator and inventor John Davitt, The Learning Score grew out of a desire to provide teachers and learners with a modern, flexible, technology-friendly and pedagogically rigorous approach to lesson-planning that is suitable for the classroom in the 21st century. It's a simple, multimedia-based lesson planning tool that displays the range of planned activities for a lesson as a graphical timeline. It allows you to embed resources you plan to use – PDF documents, video, audio, websites – and make them all visible in the plan. Whole lessons can be saved together with their resources and annotations which is very useful for sharing within departments or even for supply teachers to pick up.
The key to the success of any software that aims to enhance the teaching and learning process is how easy and reliable is it in use. The Learning Score can be downloaded from the Tribal website and installed on standalone or networked machines. Indeed, using it in conjunction with networked (shared) drives might be the most productive and useful way to employ it in a school.
The Learning Score opens in Edit mode by default. Here you can set your score properties and add key information about your lesson. For example, give the lesson a title, a main objective and expand the objectives by dragging the module item “Objectives” under the Activities tab on to the 'track'. You can set the length of the lesson or session (in minutes or hours) and this will then be represented as a timeline at the top of the Learning Score screen. From here on in you create your lesson.
Although the author describes the software as akin to a music score it is, in fact, far closer to video editing than anything else I have seen. So if you can manage Windows Movie Maker or Pinnacle Studio 12 you’ll find The Learning Score easy to understand and utilise. The ‘tracks’ have titles like: ‘Grouping’, ‘Activity’, ‘Media’, ‘Review’, ‘Extension’ by default, and you can change the titles according to your requirements. You can have a maximum of six tracks in your lesson plan and these correspond to ‘module tabs’ in the module store at the bottom of the screen.
You create lesson plans by dragging and dropping items from the relevant module tabs onto the appropriate place on the timeline – very similar to video editing software. You can then adjust the length/timing to your requirements by dragging the arrow on the right of each module item.
To start creating your score, you work out the rough flow of the lesson, and select the group type from the Groups module tab at the bottom of the screen for the first activity and drag it on to the start of the ‘Grouping’ track. Next you select a type of activity which describes this first activity, and place it on the track.
The resources you plan to use are now placed appropriately on the track(s) and these can include images, web links, audio clips, files, documents and movies. Notes can be added by dragging the ‘Annotation’ module item on to the relevant places on the score. ‘Review’ items indicate where you will do any formative assessment; you may also want to add some additional items as extension activities for those who need stretching or consolidation work. From a tab at the top of the screen you are able to enter ‘Play’ mode in order to try your score prior to any further editing.
As with video editing software there’s a scrubber in order to try out various parts of the total score. You can start the timer by selecting the timer button. The timer icon will then begin to move in real time.
From edit mode a score can be saved and/or printed. A score will be saved, with all the linked resources. The printout appears as a text summary, allowing you to see all your notes and timings. This output can be useful for audits and inspections. "Export for web" enables the plan to be accessed via a website or learning platform. The key question is whether or not integrating The Learning Score with a school’s existing modus operandi will offer a step forward.
As a multimedia alternative, or complement, to conventional paper-based plans, The Learning Score provides a medium for planning, delivering, sharing and reviewing lessons through multimedia – surely a modern, time-saving approach. It will help to engage pupils in lesson planning and delivery and it can certainly be used for building personalised programmes for individual learners. Even if partially employed, The Learning Score should extend and add value to existing lesson plans within a school.
Is it easy to use? Deceptively easy. If you are able to create a short movie using DVE software you will immediately feel at home with The Learning Score. Give it a try. You might find – as many teachers are – that suggestions and ideas jump out at you as you explore the various ideas in the structured storehouse at the bottom of the screen. Thoroughly recommended!
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 5
The Learning Score
Software (Mac or PC) for creating and sharing highly visual, multimedia lesson planning, £35.25
Tribal, Lincoln House, The Paddocks, 347 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge, CB1 8DH.
Tel: 01223 470 480
Tax: 01223 470 481