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.


Edmodo Quizzes

October 12, 2013

I like to use quizzes as a way of assessing how much theory work my pupils have remembered during our FPT projects (that stands for Focussed Practical Tasks and is a project in which there is no designing, just making something so you can learn how materials and machines work). We have now been working on a metal folder for the last few weeks, so it was time for a metal theory quiz. Normally I would have used my school intranet, which has a quiz function, but this was the ideal opportunity to try the quiz function in Edmodo.

Writing the quiz was very easy, they have a variety of question you can use. Most of them are self marking.

I liked the idea of the fill in the gaps question, but the pupil don’t get a word bank (which in my case was ok).

Written answer question have to be marked by you, but it doesn’t take very long.

I have a test pupil account, so I could take the test as a pupil. I found it very easy. The only question I found slightly difficult was the matching question as it was quite hard to drag the boxes around.

You can set a time limit on the quiz which is helpful is reducing ‘internet cheating’ (when a pupil taking an unsupervised online quiz searches for the answer).

The only disadvantage I found was that you couldn’t include picture in the quiz itself, you can upload files but then pupils have to view the file before answering the question. I wanted to use picture in the matching game (so pupils could match the picture of the tool to the correct name).

The pupils who have taken the quiz so far have told me that they liked it, and they found it easier than the intranet quiz (which they have taken with other teachers).

Now I need to find a reason to try out the ‘poll’ function!


Wow, Thank You Apple!

October 5, 2013

Instead of a post about what I am doing in my classroom, I wanted to share with you something that happened last weekend that made me appreciate my Apple products that little bit more (I promise I am not one of those Apple evangelists).

My daughter is soon to turn 13, like most teenagers she is very attached to her technology. Last year she spent months saving up her allowance, birthday money, Christmas money as well as working odd jobs to earn extra so that she could buy herself an iPod touch. So finally in January 2013 she was to purchase it, and since then it seems like it has become surgically attached to her.

Just to give you an idea of how much it is used, here is a short list of some of the apps she uses on a regular basis (and not just to surf the internet or listen to music):

  • iAWriter – she is writing her second ‘novel’ on this (and is determined to be a published author)
  • Crunchyroll – where her current obsession with Japanese Culture and anime can be fulfilled.
  • iStudiez Pro – so that she can keep track of her homework.

She is unbelievably careful with her iPod, keeping in a zipped pocket of her school blazer and in a case to protect it. However through a series of horrible coincidences her iPod managed to fall out of this protection and bounced off the flagstones outside her school. Fortunately it only dented one corner of the iPod, but this happened to be the corner where the power button was.

From that moment on her iPod kept trying to randomly shut down, or take screen shots whenever she pressed the home button. So we decided to make out first ever trip to the ‘Genius Bar’ at an Apple store to see if it could be fixed.

The Apple store ‘Genius’ took one look at her iPod and said ‘that can’t be fixed, you need a new iPod’. My heart sank because I knew we couldn’t afford one and while he went to speak to his manager I explained to my daughter that she might just have to cope with a broken iPod for a while longer.

Imagine my surprise when he returned holding a new iPod, handed it to her and said ‘here you are try not to break this one’. Now I realise that they are probably going to refurbish her old iPod and sell it, but by giving her a new iPod for free to replace one that she had broken was amazing.

So we used the money I had set aside for repairs to buy her a better case for her new iPod.

It’s a Speck Geoskin which she chose for the simple reason that it protects the buttons.

And in case you wondered, we had backed her iPod to iCloud before we went, so when we set up her new iPod we used this back up to it up. So all her apps were back, with all ther data. Even her background picture was in place. It’s so nice when things work!
So thank you Apple, you have made my daughter (and by extension, me) very happy!

Edmodo UK Group

September 28, 2013

Firstly apologies for a very short post. I have been horribly ill this week with a delightful head cold that has decided to take my voice. It is not fun trying to teach when you can barely speak – fortunately my pupils have been lovely about it.

This week on Edmodo Mr Ashton started up a UK Edmodo group as somewhere UK teachers can discuss ideas (mainly because a lot of the ideas being discussed on Edmodo are very American and tend to revolve around the 'common core' which we don't use).

So if you are on Edmodo and would like to join the group then the group code is t2mesx.

I have also set up a training group called (appropriately) 'Test Zone'. Not only do you get a badge for joining an Edmodo training group (although not if you're the one running it) but I thought it would be a good place to try out some of the features of Edmodo before unleashing them on pupils. If you would be interested in joining then please tweet me.

So now I will go and take more Lemsip and crawl back into bed…….

 


A New Resource for GCSE (and iOS7)

September 21, 2013

I wanted to show you 2 things this week, one is linked to the release of iOS 7, the other is a new resource I have made for my GCSE pupils.

As you may be aware in iOS 7 you can view your calendar from the lock screen. I thought this could be quite a useful new feature, especially since I have been trialling using my calendar as a lesson planning resource. Here is a screen shot of my calendar from my lock screen showing my lessons and activities for part of the day.

It is quite useful being able to see a quick overview of the lessons for that day, although only being able to see the next few hours was a bit frustrating. I have put the lesson synopsis in the location field.

The resource I wanted to show you is specifically for my GCSE pupils. During the controlled assessment my pupils have to assess their designs against Social, Moral, Environmental and Sustainability issues. This is something my pupils find very difficult, primarily because they find it hard to think of issues that relate to their projects.

So I made them some cue cards. The questions came from the textbook and the pupils themselves. Then I came up with some example answers. The cue cards now live on my stationery trolley, so they can be used whenever they are needed.

I thought that other D&T teachers would find this useful, so I upload my file to the shared Edmodo group and also to the shared D&T Dropbox folder.


Edmodo – Marking Work

September 14, 2013

Now that my pupils are on Edmodo, I have had the first round of preps handed in through it. Almost all of my pupils successfully 'turned in' their prep via Edmodo (some got a bit confused and emailed it to me instead). I thought you might like to see how the marking process works. In order to protect my pupils I have blurred out their names and avatars.

In the notification centre at the top of the screen, I can see how many assignments have been turned in for me to mark. I can click on this link and will take me to the list of assignments, but I prefer to do it by class.

In the assignment I can see who has turned in their work (they are blue). When I click on each pupil I can preview their work (by clicking on the annotate button – shown with the red arrow) or download their work. Then I give it a mark (I did mine out of 10), rate it with a smiley face (which I find very annoying) and include a comment if I wish. The mark I allocate is automatically added to my grade book.

In the grade book as well as seeing all the grades I've given, I can also award badges. These appear on the pupils profile page and it's really easy to create custom made ones.

Here you can see that Harry has received a badge for an excellent mood board. You can also see that pupils can set up limited things on their profile. They can choose a favourite quote, add in how they like to learn and a career goal.

Edmodo gives you a series of badges you can award, but it's quick and easy to start building up a bank of custom badges specific to the way you mark.

Something else I quite liked was being able to see how many pupils had turned in their assignments on the assignment itself.

Plus all your assignments appear in your Edmodo planner (pupils will find it appears in their planner as well, which is useful if they have more than one teacher using Edmodo).

I thought that my older pupils would find the badges 'childish', but they got quite excited when I awarded the first batch. Some asked me (quite indignantly) why they hadn't been given a badge, I explained that they are given for going above and beyond the work set. So it will be interesting to see if what happens when the next set of prep is 'turned in'!

 


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