Sunday, September 8, 2013

Google Drive Gradebook Experiment...

Tomorrow is the first day of school, with students, here in New York City. Since it is that time of year it is also the time of year for dusting off the ol' grade book (and plan book).

A little background:

  • I am the computer teacher
  • I see 22 classes a week
  • Roughly 700 students
  • No school-wide grading platform
  • Our central NYCDOE registration/attendance/data system generates Excel sheets with all student information so any platform I use I think about the data originating from Excel as I'd rather copy & paste as opposed to manually entering 700 names...

Each year I try to test out different ways of managing my grade book, efficiently. I'm always looking for ways to improve. In the past I have used:

  • Excel workbooks - yes, plural, one for each class (early in my career, not a smart move)
  • Excel workbook - one file with multiple sheets for each individual class (smarter than the original - I learn from my mistakes)
  • Numbers workbook - no real reason, just wanted to stop using Excel - structured it the same way, 1 file with multiple sheets
  • Numbers workbook w/iCloud - aiming for some remote access & syncing - this was in the early ways of the platform. The Numbers file was fine locally but the cloud syncing was in its infancy and a bit clunky
  • Numbers workbook w/Dropbox - better cloud solution but on my iPad I had no editing capability (unless I opened in iOS Numbers, edited, and then sent back to iOS Dropbox... a bit clunky)
I have also tested out a few iOS native apps, but in general they are a bit tough to use with 700 students across 22 classes...

  • TeacherKit
  • iTeacherbook

Look like great apps, but getting 700 names in doesn't seem to be so easy

With all of these solutions I set up a numeric daily grade with an ending column, "Daily", that averages them. There are also individual columns for specific assignments, and a "Work" column of the average. An "AVG" column at the end averages the "Daily" and "Work" fields to get me an overall average. Since we are on a 1, 2, 3, or  4 grading system I then make a judgement call for the final, report card, grade.

This year I am going Google Drive Spreadsheet. 1 file containing 22 sheets, one for each class. We are a Google Apps for Education school and have been using the full suite extensively for years. Giving Drive a try as a central hub for all my class grading seems like a logical choice to try at this point. Honestly I would have tried it sooner, but it wasn't until middle of last year that Google added Spreadsheet editing to their iOS app.

I'm going this route for 2 main reasons:

  • I can access & edit my grade book from anywhere, including & especially my iPad
  • The Mavericks/OS10.9 and iOS 7 iWork cloud upgrades have not been released yet, and I like to start the year with a fresh platform (I will run a duplicate grade book on Mavericks/iOS7 once they are available to test the iCloud/iWork capabilities)

I am looking forward to the editing capability on my iPad, I hope that increases the efficiency. No "offline" editing capability on the iPad is a concern, but hopefully I wont be trying to update my grades when I'm without wifi (no wifi generally means golf and/or vacation...)

It will be interesting to see how it goes. I am looking forward to the OSX and iOS updates because I love the iWork suite and would love to have iWork available with similar access/syncing as Google Drive, but I'm also excited to see how standardizing on Drive works for me this year...

(as a related side note, I've moved my plan book from Pages to Google Drive too - there are already some issues, but that is for another post...)

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