A colleague sent me a link to LessonNote recently and suggested that I check it out. LessonNote bills itself as “the best tool for documenting the flow of a lesson and its impact on students.” Available for free on iPads, LessonNote allows educators and administrators to take notes and document the interactions that occur during a lesson. After setting up a seating chart that reflects the classroom, a user simply clicks the timer and starts recording their observations. Since all of the observations are time stamped, an observer can go back through the events that occurred during a lesson and review them. The app can help to show interactions between students and the teacher and provide a lens for improving the lesson.
The app is really easy to use. Most of the functions seem to be designed to work with a touch of a finger or with a stylus. When taking notes, for instance, there is no virtual keyboard that appears to facilitate writing. The only option is to physically write a note in the space provided. While this functionality may better reflect the dynamics of a classroom and the fast-paced nature of observations, it is limiting. Besides the note taking function, the app also allows observers to detail the interactions the interactions that occur in a class be drawing lines between seating chart icons. An observer can easily show which students a teacher has called upon and also document discourse chains that occurred during the lesson. The app can detail when an instructor has moved from whole class interactions to individual work or to collaborative work. Each change in classroom organization is recorded in the event history to show the overall lesson transitions. Observers can take photos at different points within a lesson to provide a visual overview of what was occurring at that moment. While the overall functionality may sound complicated, the features seamlessly work together in an intuitive fashion.
Part of my role at my university is working with pre-service teachers during their field experiences and helping them develop as teachers. LessonNote would be a powerful tool for conducting observations and providing data during post-observation conferences. The app also offers a subscription-based, Pro version which offers added features (exporting notes, etc.) that could be beneficial for some faculty and administrators.
But the app is not limited to those individual working in teacher education. The app would be a great way for any educator to document student work during a collaborative lesson and be able to review the overall interactions that occurred. The app would also be useful for groups of educators who are working in a professional learning community to conduct ongoing lesson studies. Colleagues could use LessonNote while observing each another teaching and provide documentation for the improvement of lessons to better support student learning.