As teachers we have to manage large amounts of data. There are lots of different ways to organise lesson planning and record keeping from paper based planners and mark books to computer based solutions. As more and more of us have a laptop on our desks all the time it becomes more practical to have our data stored electronically.
Some teachers use tools such as Google Calendar to organise their planning and spreadsheets (e.g. Excel) are popular for registers and marks. These are good solutions and have benefits like the ability to access your planning from anywhere if you use web based tools like Google Calendar. The down side is that while these are good solutions, they are separate and it is difficult to connect the different bits of data together.
A few years ago I went looking for a better solution for organising my planning and marking and came across a program called Teachers Personal Information Manager (TPIM) and I (and several of my colleagues) have been using it ever since. This program is written by a teacher and is based very much around the sort of information that teachers need to have to hand every day in the classroom.
TPIM brings together into one place not just lesson planning, registers and marking, but also timetables, seating plans, student details, contact details, to do lists and post it note style reminders. Because all this is managed together in one program, the data can be linked together. For example the timetable automatically populates the lessons for each day in the planner and if a student is marked absent from a lesson and you set a homework task then their abesense will be noted in the grade sheet.
TPIM stores its data in a special Access database, so it can easily be backed up (the program will do it for you if you want) and if you use more than one computer you can take the database with you on a USB memory stick and open it in any copy of the program. It makes sense to start a new database each year with your timetable and classes. Data can be imported from and exported to Excel for class lists and existing grades etc.
There are several parts to the program which can be opened simultaneously as windows within the main outer window. Here are some brief details of the main sections.
When you have set up your timetable (1 and 2 week timetables are supported) and entered your term dates, planning sheets are created for every lesson you will need to teach. You can view your planning either as a summary of your day, e.g. lessons 1 to 5. Or as an overview of all the lessons for one class for the week.
Daily planning view
A lesson can be opened from the summary view, giving you areas to state objectives, plan starters, main activities, plenaries, homework tasks, use of teaching assistants, resources needed (you can link files to a lesson, which can be opened from the program) and evaluate the lesson. Lessons can be exported to Word as cover sheets (with a register included) or as summary sheets for several lessons.
Register and mark sheets
When you have set up your class lists and timetable a register is created for each lesson you will teach. by default you can enter symbols to mark a student present (/ or \) and absent (o), but other codes can be added. For example I have codes for when students have a music lesson or are involved with some other in school activity.
Notes can be attached to pupils for each lesson, for recording specific incidents or information. A pupil summary is then available to see a record of a pupil over a series of lessons. Other information is available like percentage attendance for each pupil. An individual pupil’s data can be looked at in isolation (by hiding all other rows) so for example you could show a parent only their child’s data at a parents evening (this also works with grades).
The mark sheets work in a similar way and can be selected from the classes initial data view.
Initial class data view
You can create several mark sheets, so you could for example have one for home work, one for class work and another for test results. Data can be imported from and exported to Excel spreadsheets. Data columns can have a date attached and the program will inform you if a pupil was absent on that date, making it easy to keep track of who received homework or missed tests. You can sort data by any column and perform locical queries.
Seating plans, calendar and reminders
TPIM will automatically generate seating plans for your classes from the class list. You can then arrange the class as you want and change desk sizes, colours etc. Seating plans can be exported or viewed from the program via a projector. If you teach the same class in different rooms, you can create multiple seating plans for the same class.
The program includes a calendar which can import from Microsoft Outlook and Excel as well as export to Excel or Word. The layout is a fairly typical with weekends and holiday in different colours to weekdays. You have a choice between a daily view or a working week view alongside the monthly summary.
With the reminder function you can set reminders complete with notes and the option to repeat the reminder daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. TPIM will pop up a message, play a sound or open a file or program for you. It’s a great feature if you occasionally forget when you are on duty, or when you should be at a meeting.
There are various other features and lots of little touches that make life easier for a busy teacher. For more details or to download the 30 day fully featured trial visit TPIM’s website. The program currently costs £40 for a single teacher license or £375 for a site license for all teachers in a school. Once purchased you will get free updates for as long as the author continues to work on the program.
The author Chris Farmer is a teacher and uses the program himself. Over the few years I have been using TPIM it has had regular updates and improvements. I recommend it to any teacher who is looking for an easier way to organise their planning and marking. For any Maths teachers I recommend having a look at his other software too, particularily Ten Quick Questions Pro.