Review by Jeff Knutson, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014

Countdown for Teachers

Calendar tool loaded with 2nd-8th CCSS, but some features fall short

Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2-8
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Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Sharable, digital calendars benefit teachers and schools; this one offers pre-loaded CCSS for 2nd-8th.

Cons: Many teachers will miss clear user guides/tutorials, and may find certain tasks difficult.

Bottom Line: With other services that provide easier functionality and more options, this may not make your favorites list.

As with most things new, your CCSS roll-out unit (or year), will probably warrant some tweaking. Use Countdown to make your projected calendar, and then adjust with real-time edits and use a section in the lesson plan to make notes to yourself. Alternatively, you could share a copy of the calendar with yourself, saving it with “next year” in the title, and fine-tune this one as a record for the future. But, because edits in your original calendar wouldn’t automatically populate, this choice might be best at the end of a unit.

The sharing option allows a teacher to send a calendar to another Countdown user. Mentors to new teachers could helpfully make and share calendars with mentees. Though feedback can’t be shared electronically, the calendar itself can later serve as a starter for conversations about practice. The co-planning feature (not available for this review) might provide an option for teachers within a school to edit one calendar.

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Countdown for Teachers is a digital calendaring tool that offers pre-loaded Common Core standards information for grades two through eight. Creating an account is free, but requires teachers to identify their school. From the home menu, teachers can create new calendars and edit saved ones -- additionally, they can access shared calendars. With a district-level paid option, teachers can create calendars that align to district pacing guides.

Teachers will find instructions via mouse-over and pop-up, but no step-by-step guides or video tutorials. Generally, users begin by selecting a calendar (or starting a new one), choosing a CCSS standard, and then dragging component objectives onto a specific day. Lesson plans can be added through the “day” view (though the template is not adjustable). Files and links can be added here, and also added by unit via the “Overview” button. Read-only calendars can be shared to other users.

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Access to pre-loaded CCSS (grades 2-8), and their component objectives, is a valuable resource for teachers. Math objectives are helpfully color-coded by type. Teachers beginning to implement CCSS will want to sketch out a timeline for a year or unit. Calendars can be adjusted for unexpected days out or simply edited to reflect real class coverage. Unfortunately, there’s no built-in reflective, “for next time” option.

Generally, teachers may find the site more plodding and less intuitive than hoped. This means more time learning how to use the tool (and finding work-arounds), and less time actually accomplishing the tasks of sequencing and planning. The site would be easier for newcomers with a few quick tutorials. Teachers could work more effectively viewing more information on one screen, and being able to make changes – like adding new objectives – with fewer clicks and wait-time.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Unfortunately, yearlong calendar development continues to be chore-like with this site. The interface is a little clunky, the features periodically frustrating, and the automatic messages aren’t particularly uplifting.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Clear timelines for covering grade-level CCSS will benefit both educators and kids. This tool allows objectives to be plugged into a calendar and counts the number of uses. Still, awkward or missing features limit classroom impact.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The calendar tool is pretty straightforward, and information via mouse-over or pop-up help. But with no tutorial videos or step-by-steps, many users will feel adrift.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jeff Knutson Common Sense Education

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
August D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ridgewood Elementary School
Eureka, CA
Not quite the organizational magic bullet I was looking for.

I appreciate the idea of "social scheduling" and it's implications for long-tern organization and collaboration, but right off the bat I ran into problems since the site only lists standards for grades two through eight. Too bad for kindergarten and first (as well as high school), I suppose. Adding these grade level standards seems not only easy, but an obvious oversight. Also, as mentioned above, the inability to enter custom items on a calendar will make Countdown a less than useful product for many. Hopefully, the count down for upgrades to make this site a go to source for organizing our busy professional lives won't be too long.

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