An App to Avoid

October 26, 2013

It is not often I review something negatively. However in my recent browse of the App Store for new teacher apps, I came across another grade book app which has annoyed me so much in testing it that I feel I should notify you about it so you can avoid it.

As you may know, I collect a lot of planning and grade book apps (especially when they are on sale or have free 'lite' test versions).

So when I came across 'Lazy Teacher' (which had a free lite version) I thought I would see what it was like – even though I found the name slightly offensive.

When I opened the app to experiment with setting up some test classes, I was surprised to find that it was almost identical to Teacher Kit, an app I use all the time.

This is the first time I have come across a grade book app that is practically identical to another. If this was a piece of homework I was marking then I would be speaking to the pupils involved about plagiarism!

By now another (very irritating) thing had been happening. Every time I tapped on something; to start a new class, add a pupil to the class, change a setting; a pop up would appear.

I am assuming that this doesn't happen in the real app, but it doesn't make me want to spend money on this as it was extremely annoying.

After trying out 'Lazy Teacher' for a bit I concluded that 'Teacher Kit' was much better (and offered the app for free, with an in-app purchase if you wanted the reporting tools).


Teacher Kit Update

October 19, 2013

This week one of my most used apps received a very useful update. I use Teacher Kit every day at school, it is my register, mark book and behaviour monitor for each class.

The update came with an optional in app purchase to allow you to generate reports, it cost £1.99 but I think it is worth it.

Now when I open my class, I am given a breakdown of the class performance (attendance, grade book and behavior).

You can generate a much more detailed report by tapping on the report button at the top of the screen.

Instead of tabs to access the different areas in each class, you now have to tap a menu button at the top (slightly more long winded, which is annoying).

But the feature that I liked the most was the ability to generate individual reports on pupils (very useful for the upcoming parents evening!). For obvious reasons I have hidden all the pupils details!

I am quite interested to see how useful the data analysis becomes as the year progresses, especially as we are only 1/2 a term in.

Getting Ready for the New Term

August 31, 2013

The new academic year starts on Monday (pupils start back on Tuesday), so I have been doing some of the little admin tasks that I need to do to be ready to teach my new classes. I am sure that my way of doing things is not the most time efficient, but I haven’t worked out an easier way of doing it yet.

So I thought I would show you the process I go through. Some things I can’t show due to data protection, but I will describe the stages I go through.

I like to have the photos of my pupils in my register as it helps me to learn lots of new names quickly. Also my pupils use email as their main communication tools with me, so I need to know who is sending me the email, hence my slightly long winded process.

It all starts at school, where I use our pupil management software to download my class lists with photos of pupils. We use iSams, but many other school use which can do the same thing. I then right click on each of my pupil photographs and ‘save picture as’ to save into my documents (I file these by year group).

Then I open my school outlook and I add each pupil to my contacts (this is not as many as it seems, as many of them are already there!). I add the pupil photograph to each ‘contact card’. I also have a similar structure in place for all the teachers in my school as well.

Now that all of my pupils are in my outlook contacts (which is useful when they email me as their picture comes up!), I can start setting up my register.

I have mentioned before that I have been trying out Teacher Kit, as I have enjoyed using it for the past few terms I have decided to keep using it (at least until the promised Teachers Attaché update happens). But before I could start setting up my classes for this year, I needed to archive the data from the previous academic year. So this is how you do it:

When you open each class you have some buttons to tap in the top right corner, one of them is the export button. When you tap this you can decide what data you would like to export for this class, and how you wish to export it. I chose everything and exported via email. This meant that the data was emailed using CSV format to my school email, so I could save it.

I then deleted each class (after checking that the data had arrived).

This left me with an empty Teacher Kit. So now I could start adding my classes.

When you add a new class you have a variety of ways of adding the students. One of them is to add from contacts, which is useful when I have my school outlook synced to my iPad. So I can quickly search for a pupil from my contacts and they are added to the class with their picture already attached.

It took me about 1/2 hour at school adding pupils to my outlook with their pictures and another 1/2 hour at home to add my classes into my iPad. Although I did leave a full 24 hours for the data to sync between my school outlook and my iPad.

Some other features that Teacher Kit has that I find very useful are:

Being able to have customisable student fields.

Customisable attendance fields (the music lesson one is very useful). But most importantly

being able to set up my own grading fields (my school as an unusual method of grading work!).

So I am ready to greet my new classes on Tuesday, and hopefully the photographs will help me to distinguish between the various Oliver’s and James’ that seems to be ‘the’ name of the year (almost all of my classes have at least 2 of each!).

Next week I hoping to feed back on how easy it is to set up Edmodo with my senior school classes. Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly…..

Yet Another Planner

March 23, 2013

As one of my pupils said on Friday ‘my RM project feels like my baby,and now I’ve got to give it up’. It was deadline day on Friday and all of my pupils had to submit their GCSE project (which is worth 60% of their final grade). This project is the biggest body of work they have had to assemble for any of their subjects and they get a bit panicky towards the end. When I have finished sorting out their made products and put them on display, I’ll post a picture so you can see the sort of things we make.

Anyway, back to this week. For the last 10 weeks I have been trialling a new teacher planner with one of my classes. My year 9 class have a 10 week rotation between the different Engineering subjects, so it seemed the ideal opportunity to try something out without having to commit.

This new planner is called iTeacherBook and it is from the same company that made iStudiezpro which is useful student planner (quite a few of my pupils use it).

The main page looks just like a calendar. As you can see I took the picture from next week, but only because every other day had a pupils name on it (and I thought it wise not the tempt the data protection act!). On the day when I teach the class, I automatically get a register on the right side of the screen when the lesson is due to start. The left side of the screen has all my appointments for the day (it populates from my iPad calendar). So I can see that it would be easy to set up all my classes and have the timetable view I wanted (just).

The class was very easy to set up, and you can see your individual classes under the ‘planner’ tab at the bottom of the screen.

What I found frustrating was the setting and marking of homework. When you set a homework in the app, it automatically goes through five stages.

  1. Assignment created
  2. Available to students
  3. Submitted by students
  4. Already graded
  5. Given back to students
But you have to manually tab each homework between the stages. It’s only a little thing, but it really annoyed me.
Unlike Teacherkitwhich I have been trialling for a while, I find it very difficult to assign average grades to my pupils in iTeacherbook.
So will I be switching my other classes over?
Not while iTeacherbooks only advantage is a calander view, and Teacherkit is generally better and easier to use.

Planning – Online!

August 11, 2012

I'm not going to be here for the next few weeks as I am off on holiday (I haven't left the country in 6 years, to say I am excited is an understatement!) but regular posting will resume on the 30th August (dependant on jet lag, we land on the 28th). Anyway back to this week….

I told you about an app called Teacher's Attaché that I have been using as my main planning tool since Christmas in a previous post. Although it has been very good, I wanted to be able to use something that I could also access on my computer, as typing on the iPad is not as easy as using a keyboard.

I am also expanding my blog so that I look into Web 2.0 tools as well as apps that are helpful for teachers.

There are several online planning tools you can use, some you have to pay for, some are free. Frustratingly, most of them are centred around the American education system, and have very prescribed lesson plan formats. I will explain a few of the free ones, and show you which one I have decided to trial for the Autumn term.

First we have PlanbookEdu. Their basic plan is free but if you want spellcheck, exporting to PDFs etc. and the ability to attach files to your plans; then you have to pay $25 a year (about £16). You set up a 'Planbook' for the year and set up your classes and lesson times. You can then write lesson plans and assign to classes. To be honest, I found the layout very frustrating to use. It may be that I didn't give it enough time to learn how it works, I wanted something I could pick up much faster.

Then I looked at LessonPlanIT, but I dismissed this quite fast because I couldn't see how it worked, I wanted a guided tour before I committed to registering.

I finally settled on Learnboost, which you can also install as a Chrome extension (if you use Chrome). It's free, works on any platform through a web browser. And most importantly, I liked the layout.

I could import my pupils using CSV files, and I liked the way the 'dashboard' showed my list of classes and schedule for the day. Most importantly it had a detailed demo account that I could play around with before committing to signing up.

Setting up my classes was easy, and I could easily change the start and end times for my lessons.

The class layout enables me to track marking, reporting and attendance. If I wanted to I could even share this information with pupils and parents by setting up parent and pupil accounts. I can decide which information I want included in my lesson plans, so if I don't want to include the American standards then I don't have to!

I am going to trial this planner in the Autumn term, and will report back after I have tested it properly.


and in the beginning……

January 14, 2012

After much searching and reading on various forums, blogs and helpful guides. I have come to the conclusion that there is not much out there to help a teacher decide on how to best use their iPad 2 in the classroom.

I am not an expert in any way, I tend to employ the ‘well lets give it a go’ approach, so I though I would document my attempt to set up my new iPad as my main teaching tool.

Before getting my iPad, I had done a lot of research into potential apps to replace some of my everyday tasks. The most important of which is documenting my lesson plans, setting and marking homework, and pupil attendance.

So here we go,

20120114-122921.jpgTeacher’s Attache is my replacement for my paper planner. It enables me to register pupils, plan lessons and link it to the class. Link the materials for the lesson through Dropbox. I can set homework (and it reminds me on the day the homework is due), mark (both assigning grades and making notes – very useful for GCSE) and it gives me the average for the class over time, also works out the pupil average as well.

The app does take a while to set up, but probably not much longer than it normally would to set up my paper planner. You can import your classes using CSV files, which can include their email address. The only disadvantage so far is there isn’t a field for SEN information or tutor group, but the developer has told me that they are hoping to include it in their next update.

I will add more app review/explanations as I use the iPad more.

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