Inside scoop on curriculum, teaching and product improvements
We want to change the way you plan

Planning good lessons is extremely difficult - hats off to you! It's a little sad that in an age of such technological advancement, we cannot say "I want to teach about World War II" and instantly have excellent ideas and techniques to inspire us. Free or paid resources - nothing rescues us time-strapped teachers in need to meet those specific students' or school goals.

We are about to change that, for good!

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We are building a completely new way to plan lessons; an exponentially better solution to anything out there. Using what we have learned from teachers and administrators in the past 4 years, we are taking a teacher-centric stab at this problem. And in the process, we are solving for the curriculum AND instruction problem, together. Our results so far? Extremely promising!

But why another lesson planning tool? How is this related to the rest of OpenCurriculum? And haven't we already tried to solve this problem?

Why another lesson planner?

We asked ourselves this question too many times. There are enough free lesson planning tools in the market that work just fine. You put stuff on templates, and then on a calendar, and even attach resources to them. Makes planning easy, right? Turns out: not much.

Initially, we weren't convinced that a tool for planning did much good. After all, it's the challenging process of thinking through your lesson, your different students needs, your style of pacing, the larger unit, lessons tried by other good teachers, your state standards (and its philosophy), your district needs, etc. that makes planning time-consuming, lonely, and painful.

It turns out these are exactly the problems lesson planning tools aren't solving for teachers. Why? We think its because these are complex problems with no easy answers. They are also heavily tied to specific content, and can't be solved in an agnostic manner through the search engine experience. It's also very hard to balance flexibility with control in design.

As we realized later, these problems excite us! And we have been solving bits and pieces of these all this while. Putting them together and taking the experience to the next level was eventually a no-brainer for us.

Hasn't OpenCurriculum built a lesson planning tool before?

We did! We made a very ordinary attempt two years ago. We shut it down a few months after launching it. I'll admit it was rather average - and despite spending a huge amount of effort bringing it to life, we realized it was not really helping teachers the way we now realize we can.

In short - it was very procedural. Choose a template, fill some boxes (get some default non-unique pointers on filling each box), save, and share or make changes. It was slightly better than using Google Docs for making a lesson, but really, it wasn't all that much helpful to teachers.

It's taken two years to understand how to put the pieces together in the correct way, and we can't wait to show you what we have.

What does it look like? I've had some ideas but not sure what you guys are thinking.

We are midway through bringing the product to life, and it will take a couple of more months to bring something early under public light. That said, this is probably the best time to reach out to us and discuss ideas. We can show you what we have and hear from you on your thoughts. Your ideas could be hugely influential in the months to come.

We'd love to hear from you if you are interested in talking more. You can reach out to me at varun [at] opencurriculum [dot] org. Don't hesitate. We'll be waiting for your email!

What content-areas / subjects / disciplines does the planner work for?

Because we are taking a very thoughtful discipline-specific approach (as opposed to an agnostic one), we will be rolling out one content-area for a specific set of grades at a time. We are preparing to serve the CCSS ones before others. International focus is really important for us, so we will also be experimenting with different education boards' curricula.

How is this related to or different from 'OpenCurriculum For Districts' and all your tools for curriculum mapping and building libraries / repositories?

At the heart of all of these planning, mapping, and organizing tools that we have brought to life so far is the lesson and activity planning piece. It's also the most complicated. So far, we conveniently outsourced the problem: use PDF or Word or Docs or blog or wherever your ideas flow naturally.

However, this meant that the curriculum produced was fragmented and ended up in multiple formats and media. This is a huge curse for the advancement of teaching and learning, as these systems don't talk to each other. It was finally time to solve this problem too, so it seamlessly connects to all the other pieces.

We are aspiring for this planning tool to complete our toolkit for designing and publishing curriculum. Whenever a teacher has an idea for a lesson or an entire "curriculum" (whatever that means to you), building it on OpenCurriculum would become the single best way to do it.

Varun Arora
Varun Arora is the Founder and Executive Director of OpenCurriculum