Saturday, February 18, 2012

Finding the "perfect" attendance/grading App?

There are a few projects I have in mind for my iPad.  Any ideas and suggestions are more than welcome!

- First, to take it with me on trips to gather info, take pictures/short movies and record interviews with people from the area I visit. I didn’t have an iPad before getting it a couple of days before my trip to Argentina, so I believe I didn’t take full advantage of its capabilities. I definitely need to look more into acquiring apps and experimenting with them. So, I’ll say the first try was good, but could have been better. I took some pictures, filmed a bit while traveling and talked to people and recorded it. I’m planning on using all that in material I develop for my Spanish classes. Meanwhile if you want an idea of what I’m talking about, go to My next one will hopefully be a little bit more sophisticated ;-)

The next step in that area is taking it with me to the El Salvador Alternative Spring Break Trip for the whole group to use to capture video/interviews, take pictures and post on a blog while we are there. Once we are back we’ll use the material for classes, presentations and students’ projects.

- My second idea is to find the “perfect” attendance/grade keeping app … well, I’m learning the hard way there’s nothing perfect! Since I have used GradeKeeper on my Mac (desktop) in the past and I didn’t like it very much because I found it a bit limiting, I decided to try with different apps for the iPad. The first challenge was deciding which ones to get, there are MANY, too many! The other issue is the time it takes to get used to them and make them work smoothly so they really help rather than make you waste time. 

First I decided to download a free one called TeacherPal. Information is easy to import and it is extremely simple to use, but it’s too basic. I didn’t like the fact that you can’t do too much, you can’t change the way you see the class roster (it’s always with the pictures, you can’t do list view or anything else), when you click on a student picture and try to resize it, it doesn’t work (a bug, I guess). If you just add the picture without touching anything, it puts it into the little frame, but careful or it freezes. The grade keeping part is too basic and doesn’t allow you to improvise too much. The most annoying problem is that it freezes the whole time, wether you are dealing with pictures or attendance or grades, it doesn’t matter. My advice: If you are looking for a free and simple app, it’s OK, but don’t expect too much and be patient.

The second app I decided to download is called GradeBook Pro. It looks very cool and “Pro”, but I still haven’t been able to successfully import a list of students as a .csv file. I’ve followed all the steps (even got some help from Kelly), but there must be something in the file, hidden somewhere, that the app doesn’t like and I have to redo everything manually. I have to admit that our LCInfonet lists are not the easiest thing to work with, or download, so I can’t blame it all on the app. I tried typing the students’ info in an .xls doc, saved it as a .csv and it went very smoothly, but it didn’t save me any time! I entered another class manually directly in the app and it also worked great, but it didn’t save me any time! So that was my first frustration. Another slow process was to get the students’ pictures from LCInfonet, you have to save one by one since there’s no way I know of to download them as a list or group. Once they were in a folder it was somewhat easy to import them to the iPad and attach them to the corresponding student. I have to admit it’s taking me some time to learn how to use it, but so far I like it. I’m using it every class to register attendance and to keep grades and it’s working fine. It doesn’t freeze as the other and I like the capabilities I see so far. I have to find out if it has a corresponding program for a desktop computer to keep things in both places and be able to use them both. Meanwhile I’m exporting docs and emailing them as backups. I forgot to mention that I’m using Dropbox and iTunes to go back and forth with docs.

I have a third project, but that one is for later.  More soon …

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